NSA leaker comes forward, warns of agency's 'existential threat'
June 10, 2013 -- Updated 0118 GMT (0918 HKT)
-- A 29-year-old computer technician for a
U.S. defense contractor leaked details of a top-secret American program
that collects vast streams of phone and Internet data, American and
British newspapers revealed Sunday.
"My sole motive is to
inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which
is done against them," the source, Edward Snowden, told Britain's the
Guardian, one of the papers that broke stories on the program last week.
The Washington Post also disclosed Sunday that Snowden was the source on its stories.
Snowden is a former
technical assistant for the CIA and has been working at the National
Security Agency, the U.S. electronic intelligence service, for the past
four years, the newspaper reported. He said he walked away from a
six-figure job in Hawaii for the computer consulting firm Booz Allen
Hamilton and has holed up in a hotel in Hong Kong in preparation for the
expected fallout from his disclosures.
"I'm willing to sacrifice
all of that because I can't in good conscience allow the U.S.
government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for
people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they're
secretly building," he said.
The Guardian reported
Wednesday that Verizon Business Network Services had been ordered to
hand over telephone records detailing the time, location and telephone
numbers involved in domestic calls from April 25 to July 19. An order
from a U.S. court that oversees U.S. surveillance efforts backed up the
demand, the newspaper reported.
Thursday, the Guardian
and the Post disclosed the existence of PRISM, a program they said
allows NSA analysts to extract the details of customer activities --
including "audio and video chats, photographs, e-mails, documents" and
other materials -- from computers at Microsoft, Google, Apple and other
Snowden said the NSA's
reach poses "an existential threat to democracy." He said he had hoped
the Obama administration would end the programs once it took office in
2009, but instead, he said, President Barack Obama "advanced the very
policies that I thought would be reined in."
"I don't see myself as a
hero, because what I'm doing is self-interested," he said. "I don't
want to live in a world where there's no privacy, and therefore no room
for intellectual exploration and creativity."
Will he be extradited?
The first call for
Snowden's prosecution came shortly after his identity was made public,
from Rep. Peter King, the chairman of a House Homeland Security
subcommittee and a member of the Intelligence Committee.
"If Edward Snowden did
in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government
must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin
extradition proceedings at the earliest date," King, R-New York, said in
a written statement. "The United States must make it clear that no
country should be granting this individual asylum. This is a matter of
extraordinary consequence to American intelligence."
Though Hong Kong is part
of communist-ruled China, the former British colony has a free press
and tolerates political dissent under a semi-autonomous government.
Hong Kong's extradition
treaty with the United States has exceptions for "political" crimes and
cases when handing over a criminal suspect would harm the "defense,
foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy" of either party.
James Clapper, director
of the Office of National Intelligence, had no direct comment on
Snowden's admission, but noted, "Any person who has a security clearance
knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified
information and abide by the law."
A law enforcement
official told CNN the United States must charge Snowden before a process
to seek his extradition can begin, adding that any talk of such action
is "jumping ahead" of where things stand in the case.
The Justice Department declined to comment, citing an ongoing investigation into the leak.
Leaders of the intelligence committees in Congress defended the program Sunday.
Dianne Feinstein, the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it helped lead to convictions in two cases:
-- David Headley, who pleaded guilty to conducting advance surveillance for the Pakistani jihadists
who attacked hotels and other targets in Mumbai, India, in 2008, killing 164 people.
"These programs are
within the law," Feinstein, D-California, told ABC's "This Week." And
Rep. Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, told
ABC, "The inflammatory nature of the comments does not fit with what
Dianne and I know this program really does."
"The instances where
this has produced good -- has disrupted plots, prevented terrorist
attacks -- is all classified," said Rogers, R-Michigan. "That's what's
so hard about this."
Clapper: Programs were authorized by Congress
declassified some details of the programs, which it said were "conducted
under authorities widely known and discussed, and fully debated and
authorized by Congress."
U.S. officials said
earlier that phone-call data isn't looked at unless investigators sense a
tie to terrorism, and only then on the authority of a judge. Officials
say analysts are forbidden from collecting the Internet activity of
American citizens or residents, even when they travel overseas. And
Obama tried to reassure Americans about the programs Friday, saying,
"Nobody is listening to your telephone calls."
Clapper's office said
PRISM was created in 2008, targets "foreign targets located outside the
United States" and gets reviewed by the administration, Congress and
judges. And Rogers told reporters Sunday that "there is not a target on
But Glenn Greenwald, the
lead author of the Guardian pieces, told ABC's "This Week" that the
articles show the NSA hasn't leveled with members of Congress who have
expressed concerns about the scope of electronic surveillance. He said
Americans need an "open, honest debate about whether that's the kind of
country that we want to live in."
"These are things that
the American people have a right to know," said Greenwald, a lawyer and
civil-liberties advocate. "The only thing being damaged is the
credibility of political officials and the way they exercise power in
Colorado Democratic Sen.
Mark Udall, who has long called for greater transparency in how the
government collects data on Americans, said the legal authority should
be reopened for debate after last week's disclosures.
"Maybe Americans think
this is OK, but I think the line has been drawn too far towards 'we're
going to invade your privacy,' versus 'we're going to respect your
privacy,' " Udall told CNN's State of the Union.
Udall is a member of the
Senate Intelligence Committee. He and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, have
criticized the scope of the classified programs that allow the
collection of Americans' phone records but have been limited in what
they could say publicly.
Udall told CNN that claims that the monitoring has thwarted terrorist attacks are overblown.
"It's unclear to me
we've developed any intelligence through the metadata program that's led
to the disruption of plots that could have been attained through other
means," Udall said, pushing back on assertions by both administration
officials and Rogers that a specific plot was stopped using the massive
collection of phone records.
'I do not expect to see home again'
The Guardian reported
that Snowden grew up in North Carolina and Maryland. He joined the Army
in 2003 but was discharged after breaking both his legs in a training
accident. He never completed a high-school diploma but learned computer
skills at a community college in Maryland.
He started his career as
a security guard for an NSA facility at the University of Maryland,
then went to work for the CIA in Internet security. In 2009, he got the
first of several jobs with private contractors that worked with the NSA.
In a statement issued
Sunday afternoon, Booz Allen said Snowden had worked for the company for
less than three months. Reports that he had leaked American secrets
were "shocking" and if true, "represents a grave violation of the code
of conduct and core values of our firm," the company said.
Snowden told the Guardian that he left for Hong Kong on May 20 without telling his family or his girlfriend what he planned.
"I do not expect to see home again," he told the paper, acknowledging the risk of imprisonment over his actions.
"You can't come up
against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and not accept
the risk," he said. "If they want to get you, over time they will."
Scenarios for Snowden: Escape, arrest, asylum
Hong Kong (CNN)
June 20, 2013 -- Updated 1048 GMT (1848 HKT)
-- A narrow window of time is
closing quickly for Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency
contractor who has infuriated the U.S. government by leaking details of
surveillance programs after fleeing the country.
As FBI agents gather
evidence against him, the 29 year old is racing to find a permanent
refuge while hiding out in Hong Kong on what's thought to be a 90-day
tourist visa which could expire in early August.
Experts say Snowden's visa is unlikely to be extended, as he would struggle to prove that his planned stay is temporary.
"Once the 90 days are
over, and unless his visa is extended, he's an illegal immigrant here
and could be picked up by the police for overstaying," said Professor
Simon Young, director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law at
the University of Hong Kong.
NSA discloses foiled terror plots
Greenwald: Snowden wants to talk
Edward Snowden: Hide and seek
Is the NSA leaker a spy?
What becomes of Snowden
depends on a number of factors, not least when and if the U.S. submits a
"surrender request" with the Hong Kong government to pave the way for
Snowden's return to the U.S.
Scenario 1: He applies to be a refugee and is spirited out of the city within 90 days
Snowden arrived in the
city on May 20 and took refuge in a hotel where he made his revelations
to the British-based Guardian newspaper before checking out on June 10.
His whereabouts are unknown.
It's not clear whether
he has approached the local office of the United Nations High
Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) -- the office has declined to comment
on individual cases -- but Young said it was one way Snowden could
extend his stay.
"The UNHCR is duty-bound
to determine if he's a mandate refugee. If by some miracle they're able
to do that within 90 days and say that he is a refugee, and secondly
are able to find a place that will take him, then he could be off to
that place," Young said.
a protection officer for the UNHCR in Hong Kong said that Snowden would
not be given preferential treatment. "We prioritize older cases,"
Nazneen Farooqi said, according to the South China Morning Post. Claims
through the UNHCR have been known to take years.
Scenario 2: He finds a country willing to take him
Snowden has already
sounded out Iceland for a potential asylum claim, according to WikiLeaks
spokesman, Icelandic journalist Kristinn Hrafnsson.
Hrafnsson told CNN he
was asked by an intermediary, who he was "100% certain" was acting on
behalf of Snowden, to approach the Icelandic government. Hrafnsson said
he contacted two offices -- the interior ministry and the prime
minister's office -- and the response was less than welcoming.
"They pointed to the
legal code and the understanding, for example, that the asylum seeker
must be in the jurisdiction before he can apply for asylum," Hrafnsson
They pointed to the legal code and the understanding, for example,
that the asylum seeker must be in the jurisdiction before he can apply
Kristinn Hrafnsson, WikiLeaks spokesman
However, he added that
he did not consider what he called the ministers' "informal" replies as a
final answer. "This is a matter not just for the government in Iceland
but also the Icelandic parliament and an important issue to be debated
among the general public."
When asked in a live chat Monday on the Guardian website
he didn't fly direct to Iceland, Snowden said he feared he'd be
intercepted en route so he chose "a country with the legal framework to
allow me to work without being immediately detained."
He added that "Iceland
could be pushed harder, quicker, before the public could have a chance
to make their feelings known, and I would not put that past the current
A number of other
countries have been floated as a possible refugee for the NSA leaker who
has acknowledged that he can never go home.
centered on potential deal with China, however an opinion piece
published Thursday in Communist Party newspaper, The Global Times
suggests that Beijing may be best advised to stay out of it. "China
should make good use of the 'one country, two systems' practice with
regards to Hong Kong, and let the Hong Kong authorities deal with
Snowden in accordance with their own laws," the author wrote.
Another opinion piece in Communist Party paper The People's Daily
suggested that Beijing should side with public opinion. "The
consequences of extraditing Snowden back to the U.S. would be more
troublesome than the alternative, because the local reaction would bring
more trouble to Hong Kong and the Chinese mainland. China's growing
power is attracting people to seek asylum in China. This is unavoidable
and should be used to accumulate moral standing."
Scenario 3: His visa expires and he's arrested by Hong Kong police
If Snowden is still in
Hong Kong when his visa expires, he'd most likely make an asylum claim,
if he hasn't already gone to the UNHCR.
"If he was to make an
asylum claim at that point in time then they wouldn't go ahead with the
overstaying prosecution -- it would be suspended -- and then the asylum
process kicks in," Young said.
If Snowden sought asylum
in Hong Kong, it's likely he'd file a torture claim, based on Articles 1
and 3 of the 1984 U.N. "Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,
Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment," Young said.
However, Jo Renshaw, an immigration lawyer at Turnpin & Miller, said torture claims were hard to prove.
"The threshold for
'cruel, inhuman and degrading' is pretty high particularly when the
country in question is the U.S. It has succeeded in relation to Russian
prison conditions. It is arguable in the light of Bradley Manning but
you would need to find a country which is willing to take on the U.S.
and say that its treatment of prisoners breaches Article 3 of the
European Convention on Human Rights," she said.
The threshold for 'cruel, inhuman and degrading' is pretty high particularly when the country in question is the U.S.
Jo Renshaw, immigration lawyer
Bradley Manning, the
U.S. soldier accused of providing classified information to website
WikiLeaks, has claimed he has been mistreated in custody. In 2011, Manning's lawyer filed a formal complaint
his client had been stripped, denied his glasses and confined to a cell
for 23 hours a day with no pillow, sheets or personal items.
Manning is appearing before a court-martial this week
after pleading guilty to 10 of 22 charges against him and faces up to 20 years in jail.
Scenario 4: He makes a run for it...
Being spirited away on a
plane or a boat might be attractive options for Snowden to escape Hong
Kong authorities, if his visa is about to expire and the U.S. has yet to
make its move.
Young said until the
U.S. files an arrest warrant -- or even a provisional one -- there's no
onus on carriers to report Snowden's presence if he turns up at a
"It may well be that
informally that there are channels 'that these are individuals, if you
do come across them let us know please' but nothing that obligates them
to do this," he added.
CNN asked a number of
airlines whether they've been asked by authorities report Snowden.
Cathay Pacific said in a statement: "For privacy and security reasons,
it would be inappropriate for us to discuss communications, if any,
received from governmental agencies. It would be up to the sending
agency to share the information it deems appropriate." Qantas and Virgin
Atlantic gave a similar response.
If Snowden was able to
make it onto a vessel, U.S. authorities would be limited in their
ability arrest him, even if they were on board, said Dr Zhao Yun,
associate professor at the University of Hong Kong.
"That would be a
violation of the sovereignty of the airline," Zhao said, adding that the
country where the airline is registered has jurisdiction over the
flight. The same applies for ships, except in the case of piracy.
However, he said if the
alleged crime was serious enough -- for example, crimes against
humanity, torture, slavery and hijacking -- universal jurisdiction kicks
"Crimes subject to
universal jurisdiction are considered crimes against all (the entire
world community)," he said, adding "In this sense, I do not think
universal jurisdiction shall apply in (Snowden's) case."
Scenario 5: U.S. issues an arrest warrant and he's detained
This could be the worst
case scenario for Snowden. If the U.S. issues a surrender warrant,
Snowden could be detained by authorities in Hong Kong, after first being
given the go-ahead by the territory's chief executive to arrest him.
Once detained, Young
said Snowden would likely appear in an open court where a magistrate
would decide whether there is enough evidence to commit him to trial.
Based on that decision,
Hong Kong's chief executive would then decide whether to approve the
surrender order and send Snowden back to the U.S.
Under Hong Kong law, the
surrender order could be blocked if it appears that the offense is of a
political nature or if the alleged offender might be punished on the
basis of his or her political opinions.
considerations would be the 1996 treaty between the U.N. and Hong Kong
which takes precedence over the relevant law and includes a clause on
"offenses involving the unlawful use of computers," Young said.
Labels: 1984, CONSTITUTION, NEWSPEAK, ORWELL, WAR