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  • Jul 13, 2014
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Kim Dotcom

Kim Dotcom is the founder of Megaupload, a now-defunct file-sharing online service that was registered in Hong Kong. The German citizen also has residency in New Zealand and Hong Kong. In January 2012, Dotcom was indicted in the US and accused of racketeering by facilitating massive copyright fraud. He was arrested in Coatesville, Auckland, New Zealand, during an armed raid and is fighting extradition to the US.

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SECURITY

Hong Kong lawyers for Kim Dotcom fear they may be victims of US cyberspying

Cybersnooping scandal takes a new twist with HK legal firm asking whether its protected communication with clients was intercepted

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 19 June, 2013, 9:26am

The global cyberspying scandal exposed by American whistle-blower Edward Snowden has taken a new twist, with the Hong Kong law firm representing internet entrepreneur Kim Dotcom voicing fears US authorities may have intercepted confidential communication with their client.

Haldanes wrote to the US Department of Justice last week to express fears that its privileged communications may have been intercepted. It sought assurances that this was not the case.

Along with six others, New Zealand-based Hong Kong resident Dotcom is fighting extradition to the US to face charges of copyright infringement, racketeering and money laundering in connection with the file-sharing website Megaupload. All the accused deny the charges.

Haldanes' request to the department coincides with a report from Reykjavik that Iceland had received an informal approach from Snowden for asylum there.

WikiLeaks spokesman Kristinn Hrafnsson told Reuters that an intermediary had approached him on Snowden's behalf.

"On 12 June, I received a message from Edward Snowden where he asked me to notify the Icelandic government that he wanted to seek asylum in Iceland," said Hrafnsson, who is also a journalist in Iceland.

The Icelandic government refused to say whether it would grant asylum to Snowden but confirmed it had received the message from Hrafnsson. Iceland has a reputation for promoting internet freedoms, but Snowden has said he travelled to Hong Kong immediately from the United States as he feared the country of only 320,000 could be more easily pressured by Washington.

Haldanes' questions about covert surveillance will heap more pressure on the Hong Kong government to address claims by Snowden in an interview with the Post last week that the United States has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland for years under the US spy programme Prism.

Last night, in response to questions from the Post, a spokesman for the Department of Justice said: "In accordance with the established practice, the Department of Justice does not see fit to comment on the specific details of individual cases."

Haldanes solicitor Geoffrey Booth said: "We have written to the [department] to ask them if there has been any interception of legally privileged material. We haven't had a reply. It would be useful to know from Mr Snowden if he was aware that this particular type of interception was being practised under Prism."

Dotcom's substantial assets in the city were frozen by Hong Kong authorities in a joint operation with the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in January 2011.

Booth said the law firm was particularly concerned because, while the US response to Snowden's cyberspying leaks now focuses its justification on the grounds that hacking operations help stop terrorist attacks, this was not the case when the scandal first broke.

"Senior US government officials are using the justification of preventing terrorist attacks - which no one can argue with. But they have also used the cybercrime investigations as a justification," he said.

In the early stages of the scandal, US Attorney General Eric Holder said the Prism programme was aimed at "facilitating the acquisition of foreign intelligence information on targets outside the US".

Booth said: "The issue is, have [the US] been eavesdropping on privileged communications between a lawyer and his clients over a matter of alleged copyright infringement? If they have, then this crosses a boundary and needs to be regulated."

 

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17

This article is now closed to comments

Carparklee
Now, we are only talking about the threat brought about by cyber spying. However, if the situation escalate to a 'war-like' level(we can borrow the case of the alleged sabotage of Iranian uranium enriching centrifugate machine or the recent case where North Korea brought down tv stations and some banks in South Korea. ) Under the basic law, defense should be handled by the pla and central government. Physical warfare we know who to count on but what about cyber warfare? Has the basic law already addressed this scenario? Automatically considering the extension of physical warfare definition into the cyberspace and thus jumping into conclusion that it would be pla's responsibility would be immature or even dangerous. But can HK in future handle and manage to defend herself without any additional help as the vicious cyber attack becomes more and more sophisticated? Who to turn to for such kind of cooperation? International 3rd independent organization? UN? our central government? How to balance the protection and degree of autonomous compromise? Is it high time the lawmakers in hk to think about that?
the sun also rises
Now this eloquent is attempting to explain to his countrymen that his country's large-scale cyber-surveillance of Americans and others on this planet is different from those of China's which are spying but his is just hacking---also a crime indeed but is said to be lawfula and legal, How cunning this black president is ! Shame on him !
KwunTongBypass
What has it got to do that the president is black? Double insult to the 'yellow' race?
honkiepanky
China hacked American companies to steal trade secrets. USA is guilty of reading his neighbors' mail; China broke into his neighbor's house and stole his wife's jewelry.
blue
"Except when SCMP self censors so that it will not offend Beijing's Mandarins."

People always accuse the SCMP of self censorship, but I find their claims rather baseless. The SCMP had written some very damning articles about the Chinese gov't and mainlanders in general. I'd agree that a paper like the hk version of "China Daily" certainly practices self censorship though.
bluefirestorm
The five pages of Powerpoint slide revealed by the Washington Post doesn't really define what PRISM is. Even so, at US$20 million per year operating budget, it is hard to imagine how it can be operate 24/7 on the 9 different companies/sites stated in the revealed slides.
Like almost everyone who has had to create, present, and/or sit through PowerPoint slide presentations, we all know how PowerPoint isn't the best tool for crystal clear communication and understanding.
So it is bizarre for the solicitor to be raising this question as if he understood exactly what PRISM is and does!
Unless one is really involved with PRISM, I doubt anyone who looked at those 5 slides can really understand what it does.
honkiepanky
Let me be clear that I oppose both the U.S. lawsuit against Dotcom and the Prism program. But the fact that someone speculates the USA might have done something naughty is not news.
By all means let's criticize the U.S. for real ongoing abuses, of which there are plenty -- no need to resort to hype and speculation.
the sun also rises
'The Prims' program is far from so-called something naughty ! It is an invasion against all other nations' citizens'(including 4 million netizens here in Hong Kong) privacy by hacking into their computers through info./data given by the 9 internet suppliers (under pressure from the secret agencies of course) such as Yahoo,Google,Youtube,Apple,Skype and Facebook plus...Blatant and deliberate hackings done by a nation's secret agency (e.g.the National Security Agency) is equal to another war waged against these nations (even though they are long-time so-called allies of Uncle Sam or close friend of him such as Hong Kong) though these types of war carried no smoke from bombs or cannon balls ! Right ?
KwunTongBypass
while the Chinese Communist party wages a similar war against all of its citizens by fully controlling and censoring all they do with their computers, and over the internet - but of course, this is an internal affair!
ejmciii
If eavesdropping had been undertaken then any evidence sought to be used that was sourced from such eavesdropping should and would be excluded by the court if counsel could show that same was acquired by such means. Presumably counsel has some evidence that its servers were tapped into and information viewed.

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