Ex-CIA man says he exposed US spy scheme (Agencies) US National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a US defence contractor, is seen in this still image taken from a video during an interview with the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6, 2013. The 29-year-old contractor at the NSA revealed top secret U.S. surveillance programmes to alert the public of what is being done in their name, the Guardian newspaper reported on Sunday. An ex-CIA employee working as a contractor at the US National Security Agency said on Sunday he was the source who leaked details of a top secret US surveillance program, acting out of conscience to protect “basic liberties for people around the world.” Holed up in a hotel room in Hong Kong, Edward Snowden, 29, said he had thought long and hard before publicizing details of an NSA program code-named PRISM, saying he had done so because he felt the United States was building an unaccountable and secret espionage machine that spied on every American. Snowden, a former technical assistant at the CIA, said he had been working at the super-secret NSA as an employee of contractor Booz Allen. He said he decided to leak information after becoming disenchanted with President Barack Obama, who he said had continued the policies of predecessor George W. Bush. “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under,” he told the Guardian newspaper, which published a video interview with him on its website. Both the Guardian and the Washington Post said last week that US security services had monitored data about phone calls from Verizon and Internet data from large companies such as Google and Facebook. In naming Snowden on Sunday, the newspapers said he had sought to be identified. “The NSA has built an infrastructure that allows it to intercept almost everything,” Snowden said in explaining his actions. “With this capability, the vast majority of human communications are automatically ingested without targeting. If I wanted to see your emails or your wife’s phone, all I have to do is use intercepts. I can get your emails, passwords, phone records, credit cards,” he said. WORKED AT NSA FOR FOUR YEARS The Guardian said Snowden had been working at the NSA for four years as a contractor for outside companies. Three weeks ago, he copied the secret documents at the NSA office in Hawaii and told his supervisor he needed “a couple of weeks” off for treatment for epilepsy, the paper said. On May 20 he flew to Hong Kong. The CIA and the White House declined to comment, while a spokesman for the Director of National Intelligence would not comment directly about Snowden himself but said the intelligence community was reviewing damage done by the recent leaks. “Any person who has a security clearance knows that he or she has an obligation to protect classified information and abide by the law,” said the spokesman, Shawn Turner. The NSA has requested a criminal probe into the leaked information. On Sunday, the US Justice Department said it was in the initial stages of a criminal investigation following the leaks. Booz Allen, a US management and technology consultancy, said reports of the leaked information were “shocking and if accurate, this action represents a grave violation” of company policy. It said Snowden had been employed by the company for less than three months and that it would cooperate with any investigations. A spokesman for Dell Inc declined to comment on reports that Snowden had been employed at that company. In 2009, Dell acquired Perot Systems, a US government contractor that did work for US intelligence agencies. Snowden’s decision to reveal his identity and whereabouts lifts the lid on one of the biggest security leaks in US history and escalates a story that has placed a bright light on Obama’s extensive use of secret surveillance. The exposure of the secret programs has triggered widespread debate within the United States and abroad about the vast reach of the NSA, which has expanded its surveillance dramatically in since the September 11 attacks on Washington and New York in 2001. US officials say the agency operates within the law. Some members of Congress have indicated support for the NSA activities, while others pushed for tougher oversight and possible changes to the law authorizing the surveillance.
Speculation rife in Hong Kong over Edward Snowden’s fate (By Christy Choi and Patrick Boehler) As Hong Kong authorities remain silent on the whereabouts and potential fate of US whistle-blower Edward Snowden, legal and political experts are weighing in on what could happen and the choices available to 29-year-old former intelligence contractor. If Snowden wanted to stay in Hong Kong, his best chance would be to apply for refugee status, under the claim that he could be subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (CIDTP) or punishment if extradited back to the United States, said Patricia Ho, a solicitor with local human rights law firm Daly and Associates – “With the reports about the treatment of Bradley Manning, there’s an arguable case for him facing CIDTP,” said Ho in a phone interview with the South China Morning Post on Monday. Manning, whose trial started last week, has been held in solitary confinement, made to strip naked at night, and checked every five minutes, causing the UN special rapporteur on torture Juan Mendez to formally accuse the US government in 2012 of violating his human rights. “The recent judgment in the Court of Final Appeals with Ubamaka, clearly ruled that anyone facing CIDTP cannot be removed from Hong Kong,” said Ho. Hong Kong does not grant asylum itself, but allows those seeking it to stay indefinitely until they are able to find a country willing to host them. Ho said if it’s a simple application for protection as a refugee, the matter would not end up in the city’s courts, and be dealt as an administrative issue, but that it would likely end up in the courts if the United States files an extradition order. She said if the US government could make diplomatic assurances that Snowden would not face degrading treatment or torture if sent back, they could have Snowden sent back home, but whether or not they would be believed after their treatment of Manning, was another question. Cosmo Beatson, founder of Vision First, an organisation that helps refugees in Hong Kong, said he didn’t think claiming refugee status is a viable option for Snowden. “He’ll have to surrender his passport, and he’d have to stay in Hong Kong until his claim is settled. I don’t see him wanting to give that up if he’s being chased,” said Beatson. He added that since 1992, only four out of 12,500 such claims have been approved. In Hong Kong, a request for asylum would also trump any US extradition requests, said Nicholas Bequelin, a Hong Kong-based senior researcher with Human Rights Watch. Yet, the US has yet to charge Snowden for leaking the information he claims to have provided to the Washington Post and The Guardian, but the US Justice Department has confirmed a criminal investigation into the leaks. Hong Kong and the US have signed an extradition treaty, under which the city is obliged to send Snowden back, barring these humanitarian considerations or policy objections by Beijing. “It is not so much up to the Hong Kong government to do much, after all the Chinese authorities probably have a say in this,” said Joseph Cheng Yu-shek, a professor of political science at City University, referring to a clause in Hong Kong’s extradition treaty with the US, which gives Beijing a veto in extraditions. “If one wants the Hong Kong government to do something, there must be sufficient voice from the civil society,” he said. “Mr Snowden has to articulate his position first. Does he want to stay in Hong Kong, what does he propose to do in Hong Kong?” “Why not give him asylum?” said a senior European diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity. “A human rights case in which the Chinese grant asylum to an American – what a master stroke for Beijing.”
Treaty gives Hong Kong option to reject Snowden extradition to the US (SCMP) Hong Kong could refuse to extradite US whistleblower Edward Snowden if Beijng wanted to keep him, according to a treaty signed between the United States and Hong Kong almost two decades ago. Hong Kong has the “right of refusal when surrender implicates the ‘defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy’” of the People’s Republic of China, according to the US-Hong Kong Extradition Treaty signed in 1997. Snowden chose to seek refuge in Hong Kong because of the city’s “strong tradition of free speech”, he said in an interview with the Guardian published earlier today. He also said that he was concerned about being handed to mainland Chinese or US authorities. The US justice deparment has initiated an investigation into his leaking of a secret US data gathering programme, that has collected records of trillions of online messages and phone calls over several years. US members of congress have already called for his extradition to the US to stand trial. China does not have an extradition treaty with the United States. According to notes on the treaty submitted to the US Senate, the Hong Kong negotiators had insisted on including clauses making it easily possible to deny extradition to the US, arguing that such a clause was essential in obtaining mainland Chinese approval for the treaty. As such, article 3 of the treaty allows the Chinese government to refuse surrendering a person if it thought the surrender “relates to (its) defense, foreign affairs or essential public interest or policy”. Hong Kong can also refuse if the city or the mainalnd have begun proceedings for the prosecution of that person. Hong Kong can reject an application if the city felt that the request was “politically motivated” or that Snowden would be prosecuted for his political opinions. Extradition requests can be made either through the US Consulate Generale in Hong Kong or Interpol, according to the treaty.