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  • Dec 19, 2014
  • Updated: 12:00am
Edward Snowden
NewsHong Kong

Edward Snowden: US government has been hacking Hong Kong and China for years

Former CIA operative makes more explosive claims and says Washington is ‘bullying’ Hong Kong to extradite him

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 13 June, 2013, 12:50am
UPDATED : Friday, 14 June, 2013, 4:05am

US whistle-blower Edward Snowden yesterday emerged from hiding in Hong Kong and revealed to the South China Morning Post that he will stay in the city to fight likely attempts by his government to have him extradited for leaking state secrets.

In an exclusive interview carried out from a secret location in the city, the former Central Intelligence Agency analyst also made explosive claims that the US government had been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland for years.

At Snowden’s request we cannot divulge details about how the interview was conducted.

A week since revelations that the US has been secretly collecting phone and online data of its citizens, he said he will stay in the city “until I am asked to leave”, adding: “I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the US government in the courts, because I have faith in HK’s rule of law.”

In a frank hour-long interview, the 29-year-old, who US authorities have confirmed is now the subject of a criminal case, said he was neither a hero nor a traitor and that:

  • US National Security Agency’s controversial Prism programme extends to people and institutions in Hong Kong and mainland China;
  • The US is exerting “bullying’’ diplomatic pressure on Hong Kong to extradite him;
  • Hong Kong’s rule of law will protect him from the US;
  • He is in constant fear for his own safety and that of his family.

Snowden has been in Hong Kong since May 20 when he fled his home in Hawaii to take refuge here, a move which has been questioned by many who believe the city cannot protect him.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice, I am here to reveal criminality,” he said.

Snowden said that according to unverified documents seen by the Post, the NSA had been hacking computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland since 2009. None of the documents revealed any information about Chinese military systems, he said.

I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American

One of the targets in the SAR, according to Snowden, was Chinese University and public officials, businesses and students in the city. The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets.

Snowden believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and on the mainland.

“We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” he said.

“Last week the American government happily operated in the shadows with no respect for the consent of the governed, but no longer. Every level of society is demanding accountability and oversight.”

Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries”.

“Not only does it do so, but it is so afraid of this being known that it is willing to use any means, such as diplomatic intimidation, to prevent this information from becoming public.”

Since the shocking revelations a week ago, Snowden has been vilified as a defector but also hailed by supporters such as WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange.

“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” he said, adding that he was proud to be an American. “I believe in freedom of expression. I acted in good faith but it is only right that the public form its own opinion.”

Snowden said he had not contacted his family and feared for their safety as well as his own.

“I will never feel safe.

“Things are very difficult for me in all terms, but speaking truth to power is never without risk,” he said. “It has been difficult, but I have been glad to see the global public speak out against these sorts of systemic violations of privacy.

“All I can do is rely on my training and hope that world governments will refuse to be bullied by the United States into persecuting people seeking political refuge.”

Asked if he had been offered asylum by the Russian government, he said: “My only comment is that I am glad there are governments that refuse to be intimidated by great power”.

The interview comes on the same day NSA chief General Keith Alexander appeared before Congress to defend his agency over the leaks. It was his first appearance since the explosive revelations were made last week. Alexander’s prepared remarks did not specifically address revelations about the Prism program.

Snowden's revelations threaten to test new attempts to build US-Sino bridges after a weekend summit in California between the nations' presidents, Barack Obama and Xi Jinping.

If true, Snowden's allegations lend credence to China's longstanding position that it is as much a victim of hacking as a perpetrator, after Obama pressed Xi to rein in cyber-espionage by the Chinese military.

Tens of thousands of Snowden’s supporters have signed a petition calling for his pardon in the United States while many have donated money to a fund to help him.

“I’m very grateful for the support of the public,” he said. “But I ask that they act in their interest – save their money for letters to the government that breaks the law and claims it noble.

“The reality is that I have acted at great personal risk to help the public of the world, regardless of whether that public is American, European, or Asian.”

The US consulate in Hong Kong could not be contacted yesterday on a public holiday.

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This article is now closed to comments

michael.gardner.10004
"We know all along that US is the biggest cyber thief." - ablewang
The problem of copyright theft is well-known among U.S. companies operating in China.
Ablewang is a joke... Google: China's "50 Cent Army!
bill.booth.399
That is laughable if it is supposed to be secret! It is as secret as who shot Lincoln.
It is and has been a part of the Spy vs Spy game. China may be better at it than we are.
59263scobey
So what?? The Chinese government has been doing that to the USA for years. What is good for the goose, is good for the gander??
lausarbun
CIA, NSA
welcome to liberate us
sudouest
US hacking everyone, including you and me. That is new !
bradfordko
Actually, Wednesday was a holiday in Hong Kong, not Thursday. The dateline reads Friday.
Paradox314
A basic principle of democracy is that all are subject to rule of law. Prior to the development of democracy, the Leviathan (king, queen, dictator, oligarchy) understood themselves to be above the law, free to wreak whatever havoc upon their citizens their whim suggested. Democracy subjugated the state to the law and safguarded the law with a constitution.
Snowden's revelations show the U.S. government to be violating its own laws and the laws of other states in wholesale fashion. How can we not see the dangerous outrage of this? It is appropriate to call the NSA and the agents of government who support it not only as hypocrites and criminals, but also as traitors to the dearest principles of their own Constitution.
I am appalled by the quantity (of I assume Americans) who are baying lowdly for Snowden's blood and supporting American spying in these comments. You do not understand democracy. You do not know your own history. Shame on you!
RinerDaniel
GOOD! I am glad we have been hacking them. I hope we send them STUXNET 3.0. They steal $200-$300 Billion of Intellectual property a year from american companies, according to Jon Huntsman’s analysis, the former Ambassador to China. There is literally no, net benefit of sending jobs overseas, because the value saved on labor gets ripped off anyways.
They hacked into both the DNC and GOP’s personal computers in 2008, as well as stole billions of TOP SECRET classified data and information from the Pentagon about our F-22, and other advanced missiles and vehicles.
I hope we hack and let them know that we are not to be messed with. You don’t get by in this world by just pretending the Chinese, Iranians, Pakistani, Russian, and even Indians won’t hack you. If you know one thing, the Chinese think they are the rightful heirs to the world superpower because they were once the most powerful. The Chinese only care about Rich/poor and Strong vs Weak paradigms. They don’t have the luxury of 1000s of years of Judeo-Christian culture and influence.
I am not trying to make a harsh judgement, this is just the truth. They isolated themselves from the rest of the world and avoided most other cultural influences other than Buddhism and Islamism, so now their prima facie atheist communist CCP members have amassed so much wealth in China for themselves and their family it is reprehensible. If you are opening a business in China, you must give a bribe to the local municipal authorities.
RinerDaniel
GOOD! I am glad we have been hacking them. I hope we send them STUXNET 3.0. They steal $200-$300 Billion of Intellectual property a year from american companies, according to Jon Huntsman’s analysis, the former Ambassador to China. There is literally no, net benefit of sending jobs overseas, because the value saved on labor gets ripped off anyways.
They hacked into both the DNC and GOP’s personal computers in 2008, as well as stole billions of TOP SECRET classified data and information from the Pentagon about our F-22, and other advanced missiles and vehicles.
I hope we hack and let them know that we are not to be messed with. You don’t get by in this world by just pretending the Chinese, Iranians, Pakistani, Russian, and even Indians won’t hack you. If you know one thing, the Chinese think they are the rightful heirs to the world superpower because they were once the most powerful. The Chinese only care about Rich/poor and Strong vs Weak paradigms. They don’t have the luxury of 1000s of years of Judeo-Christian culture and influence.
I am not trying to make a harsh judgement, this is just the truth. They isolated themselves from the rest of the world and avoided most other cultural influences other than Buddhism and Islamism, so now their prima facie atheist communist CCP members have amassed so much wealth in China for themselves and their family it is reprehensible. If you are opening a business in China, you must give a bribe to the local municipal authorities.
xesenta
Americans have the WRONG reaction to all this. This guy is a rat, and a traitor. Would you trust a LIAR who rats on another LIAR? My god - look to British history and older nations who have gone thru this time and again. Today Britain has a stronger identity because we've survived treachery a thousands times! Learn yankees! xx

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