Edward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower exposing massive data surveillance on U.S. citizens, is now claiming the U.S. has mounted giant hacking operations against hundreds of Chinese targets since 2009.
In an interview with the South China Morning Post, Snowden said “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.”
The newspaper said he showed it “unverified documents” revealing a widespread American campaign to collect data from computers in both Hong Kong and mainland China.
Snowden alleges the U.S. National Security Agency has conducted more than 61,000 hacking operations worldwide, hundreds of which have been aimed at Chinese targets including businesses , universities and public officials.
According to the Washington Post, “senior American officials have accused China of hacking into U.S. military and business computers. Snowden’s claims of extensive U.S. hacking of Chinese computers tracks assertions made repeatedly by senior Chinese government officials that they are victims of similar cyber-intrusions.”
Just days after vanishing from public sight, the South China Morning Post located Snowden, who is now giving more details about his future, and defending his revelation of large-scale surveillance of Americans.
“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” Snowden told the paper, which did not mention how it contacted Snowden nor disclose his current whereabouts.
Snowden said he’d remain in Hong Kong until he was “asked to leave.”
“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions. I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality,” Snowden said.
“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate.”
Snowden indicated he had several opportunities to flee from Hong Kong, but indicated he “would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong’s rule of law.”
Snowden previously stated he sought refuge in Hong Kong for its “spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent.”
The comment sparked debate among legal experts about the prudence of such a decision, since Hong Kong could extradite him back to the United States. The governments of both Russia and Iceland have expressed interest in providing possible political asylum for the 29-year-old former contractor for the NSA if such a request were to be made.
Snowden arrived in Hong Kong from his Hawaii home May 20, just after taking leave from his contracting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which has since fired him.
He told the South China Morning Post he didn’t even dare to contact his relatives or girlfriend since going public with his disclosures.
“I have not spoken to any of my family,” he said. “I am worried about the pressure they are feeling from the FBI.”
The Associated Press noted two FBI agents visited Snowden’s father’s home in Pennsylvania on Monday.
No charges have been filed by American authorities against Snowden at this point, and there has been no request for extradition.
Supporters of Snowden are planning a march for this Saturday that’s expected to pass in front of the U.S. Consulate.
“We call on Hong Kong to respect international legal standards and procedures relating to the protection of Snowden; we condemn the U.S. government for violating our rights and privacy; and we call on the U.S. not to prosecute Snowden,” the organizers said.
Snowden gave a videotaped interview with Britain’s Guardian newspaper over the weekend.
Watch footage of that interview below:
Meanwhile, Britain’s Telegraph is asking today if Snowden’s story is unraveling, based on some facts that had not been checked by the Guardian newspaper.
“Snowden’s backstory is not entirely accurate,” writes Tim Stanley of the Telegraph. “Booz Allen says that his salary was 40 percent lower than thought and a real estate agent says that his house in Hawaii was empty for weeks before he vamoosed. Does the fact that he only worked for three months with Booz Allen and the NSA suggest he was planning a hit and run all along – that he took the job with the NSA with the intention of stealing the documents?”