Edward Snowden Tries to Win Allies in Hong Kong

On Monday, Edward Snowden left the Hong Kong hotel he was originally at when he disclosed his identity as the leaker of the details of two NSA surveillance programs. While major media was unable to have found him, he was located and interviewed by the South China Morning Post newspaper. It provided brief excerpts from the interview on its website on Wednesday.

SCMP is Hong Kong’s oldest English-language newspaper. However, SCMP’s site was so hammered by visitors that it crashed, and was unavailable at the time of this writing.

Snowden has been called a hero by some and a traitor by others for his release of documents about two NSA surveillance programs. One involves phone surveillance, and the other, dubbed PRISM, involves tapping data off of the Internet. Snowden, according to the paper, said he was “neither a traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”

Some have called his choice of Hong Kong as his “base of operations” a mistake, since it has an extradition treaty with the U.S. When asked about that, Snowden said:

People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstood my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.

I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law.

My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate.

U.S. authorities have yet to bring charges against Snowden or file an extradition request with Hong Kong. Despite the fact that China now has “possession” of Hong Kong — the treaty was signed before the handoff from the U.K. to China — many view that treaty as being quite clear, meaning that in most cases, Hong Kong must cooperate with U.S. government requests for extradition.

James To Kun-sun, who is a Hong Kong legislator and solicitor, said that even without a formal extradition request, the U.S. could ask local law enforcement to keep an eye on Snowden while the DOJ continues its investigation.

Kun-sun said:

I suspect in this case . . . the FBI tells the HK police, “The request will be very soon,” and [they can] ask police to keep an eye on him.

The NSA’s two programs were outed by Snowden last week. The Verizon Wireless program — which is believed, by most, to include at least all of the U.S. Big Four wireless carriers — involves Verizon reporting the following to the NSA on a daily for all phone calls made by all of its subscribers:

  • Caller phone number
  • Recipient phone number(s)
  • Duration of call
  • Time of the call
  • Location of all parties
  • Other unique identifiers

The second program, PRISM, reportedly allows the government to access data from a number of Internet companies, including Apple, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, and YouTube.

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