30-year-old American Edward Snowden, a contract employee at the National Security Agency, is the whistleblower behind significant revelations that surfaced in June 2013 about the US government's top secret, extensive domestic surveillance programmes. Snowden flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii in May 2013, and supplied confidential US government documents to media outlets including the Guardian.
Snowden tells of '5 eyes' spy network, as second video from Hong Kong interview released
US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand, Canada have deep intelligence connection that goes beyond sharing data, whistle-blower says
Deep co-operation in intelligence-gathering went beyond sharing information between national security agencies, whistle-blower Edward Snowden said, as a second video from an earlier interview emerged on Monday.
The United States, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Canada were collaborating on "Five Eyes", a major monitoring programme to strengthen the sharing of surveillance information across their borders, he told a German newspaper.
Snowden revealed more information about government cyberspying and covert surveillance in an interview with security software and encryption expert Jacob Appelbaum, published by German news magazine Der Spiegel on Sunday.
He also claimed the US National Security Agency worked with Israel on the Stuxnet worm, which was used in a cyberattack on an Iranian nuclear facility.
Intelligence agencies aided one another on persons of interest on a "don't ask" basis of mutual understanding, he said.
On Monday, a second video of Snowden was released by the Guardian, part of an interview that was conducted on June 6 in a hotel room in Hong Kong. In it, the whistle-blower said the US would accuse him of aiding the enemies after he leaked information about the National Security Agency's surveillance programme.
"The government is going to launch an investigation... they are going to say I've committed grave crimes, violated the Espionage Act," Snowden said in the video, predicting US response to his revelations.
Video: Edward Snowden tells the Guardian: "The US government will say I aided our enemies"
In the Der Spiegel interview, Snowden was asked what major programmes were active today and how international partners aided the NSA. He replied: "The partners in the 'Five Eyes' sometimes go even further than the NSA people themselves." He cited the Tempora programme headed by Britain's Government Communication Headquarters as an example, saying it "sucks" all kinds of information.
The revelations have brought a legal challenge by privacy advocates in London against British intelligence-gathering from Prism, run by the NSA.
The court action also attempts to slap an injunction on Tempora, which according to The Guardian newspaper, collects millions of phone records, e-mails and Skype conversations from deep-sea internet cables relaying traffic in and out of the country.
John Bassett, a senior fellow at the Royal United Service Institute, an intelligence and security think tank, told the BBC that British government funding on issues of cybersecurity had gone on "existing programmes … designed to get a really strong grip on global situational awareness".
He hinted that the threats Britain faced in particular required the penetration of other countries' computer systems.
Appelbaum said he spoke to Snowden two months ago, before he revealed himself to be the source of one of the biggest leaks in US intelligence history, and before Snowden broke cover in Hong Kong.
At the time, the German internet expert was approached by documentary-maker Laura Poitras to determine the former intelligence analyst's claim he was working for the NSA. The journalists did not know they were speaking to Snowden, with whom they were communicating by encrypted e-mails.
According to Der Spiegel, Appelbaum came to the attention of American authorities after his involvement in the disclosure of WikiLeaks information.
Charles Mok, a lawmaker representing the information technology sector, said he did not know what to make of the new revelations.
"With it getting more and more internationalised it seems like different alliances, different conspiracies certainly would have the effect of different people in countries being aware [of what is going on]," he said.
"What they have been trying to do is get as much information as possible … but on the other hand more countries [are] involved in sharing information. If we are a target, we are one of the hundreds of targets."
A spokesman for the Australian Department of Defence said: "Australian agencies operate in strict accordance with Australian law."
The British consulate in Hong Kong said: "We do not comment on security or intelligence."
The US Department of Justice, New Zealand Security Intelligence Service and Canadian Security Intelligence Service could not be reached for comment.