Ex-CIA staffer whistleblower Edward Snowden has revealed fresh details of US surveillance to a Chinese newspaper. He has vowed to fight any extradition attempt from Hong Kong. Snowden spoke from the secret location as his whereabouts remain unknown.
The interview to the South China Morning Post is the first time whistleblower Edward Snowden has spoken to the press since disclosing his identity as being behind highly sensitive leaks revealing details of the US’s NSA spy program.
“Today, he reveals: more explosive details on US surveillance targets, his plans for the immediate future, the steps he claims the US has taken since he broke cover in Hong Kong, his fears for his family,” the newspaper claims, however not giving particular details.
The revelations generated headlines across the globe, prompting both praise and condemnation.
“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” Snowden said.
The whistleblower also said that the US has hacked computers in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009. Snowden estimated that the NSA has conducted approximately 61,000 cyber-attacks, with targets spanning the globe. The Hong Kong news outlet did not disclose how that number was formulated, though.
“We hack network backbones – like huge Internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,” Snowden said.
Snowden confessed to leaking classified information from Hong Kong, to which he fled on May 20 from Hawaii. A former technical assistant for the Central Intelligence Agency, Snowden’s last occupation was as a defense contractor at Booz Allen Hamilton.
He earlier said he chose Hong Kong because this city has “a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”
Snowden was last seen Tuesday while checking out of a Hong Kong hotel, according to witnesses. However, his location remains unknown.
“People who think I made a mistake in picking HK as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” the Post cited him as saying.
Snowden earlier said he was also considering asylum in Iceland, while Russian authorities said they would consider granting him political asylum if requested.
Justice Department officials have reportedly begun the process of charging Edward Snowden with leaking classified National Security Agency documents, but no extradition request has yet been filed.
Snowden has vowed to fight any extradition attempt by the US government.
“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate. I have been given no reason to doubt your system.”
Despite the Fugitive Offenders (United States of America) Order, extradition agreement between Hong Kong and US (being implemented since 1998), with both sides obliged to extradite individuals wanted as felons, there are loopholes in the treaty that may let Snowden avoid extradition to his homeland, experts say. According to lawyers, if there are extradition requests from the US, attempts to return Snowden back home may take months and could be blocked by Beijing, the Post reports.