Story Summary

NSA surveillance

A former CIA employee admits he’s the man who leaked information about U.S. domestic surveillance programs.

Edward Snowden, 29, worked at the National Security Agency. He said he’s seeking political asylum in Iceland.

He left America with highly sensitive documents, and is now believed to be in Hong Kong.

Snowden told the British newspaper The Guardian that the NSA has become too powerful.

The Obama administration is expected to demand Snowden’s arrest and extradition back to America to face charges.

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By Chelsea J. Carter and Susanna Capelouto, CNN

Leaked classified documents show the U.S. National Security Agency and its British counterpart are among the “worst offenders” of mass surveillance without oversight, according to an open letter purportedly written by Edward Snowden and published Sunday by the German magazine Der Spiegel.

EdwardSnowden

The publication of the letter, titled “A Manifesto for the Truth,” comes as leaks by the former NSA contract analyst have roiled U.S.-European relations amid allegations that the NSA and the UK’s Government Communications Headquarters monitored the communication data of some world leaders.

“The world has learned a lot in a short amount of time about irresponsibly operated security agencies and, at times, criminal surveillance programs. Sometimes the agencies try to avoid controls,” Snowden wrote, according to the news magazine.

“While the NSA and GCHQ (the British national security agency) appear to be the worst offenders — at least according to the documents that are currently public — we cannot forget that mass surveillance is a global problem and needs a global solution.”

The letter, published in German by Der Spiegel, was written on Friday in Moscow and provided to Der Spiegel through a “locked channel,” the news magazine said. It was published in German and has been translated by CNN.

Snowden, 30, has admitted in interviews he was the source behind the leak of classified NSA documents, which revealed the existence of top-secret surveillance programs that collect records of domestic e-mails and telephone calls in the United States and monitor the cell phone and Internet activity of overseas residents. He is wanted in the United States on espionage charges.

A recent report by Der Spiegel, citing documents provided by Snowden, alleged the NSA monitored German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cell phone. Some reports also suggest the United States carried out surveillance on French and Spanish citizens.

The allegations have prompted some European countries to call for investigations. It also has prompted congressional hearings in the United States, where some are calling for more transparency and more oversight of American spy programs.

‘Witch hunt’

The letter also accused governments of trying to squash debate about mass surveillance “with a never before seen witch hunt” that threatens journalists and criminalizes the publication of details about the programs.

In the letter, Snowden purportedly writes that his actions were bringing about change.

“The debate they wanted to avoid is now taking place in countries around the world,” the letter said.

“And instead of causing damage, the use of this new public knowledge is causing society to push for political reforms, oversight and new laws.”

Snowden has been in Moscow since June after fleeing from Hong Kong. In August, Russia granted him asylum for one year.

The release of the open letter is the second in a matter of days from Snowden, who released a letter to German authorities through an intermediary.

Last week, Hans-Christian Stroebele, a member of Germany’s parliament, met with Snowden in Russia. Stroebele returned from the meeting with a letter from Snowden to German authorities, which was distributed to the media.

In it, Snowden said he is confident that with international support, the United States would abandon its efforts to “treat dissent as defection” and “criminalize political speech with felony charges.”

“I hope that when the difficulties of this humanitarian situation have been resolved, I will be able to cooperate in the responsible finding of fact regarding reports in the media, particularly in regard to the truth and authenticity of documents, as appropriate and in accordance with the law,” he wrote.

‘Face justice’

The White House did not immediately respond to Snowden’s claims in the letter.

But earlier Sunday, White House Senior Adviser Dan Pfeiffer said on ABC’s “This Week” that there has been no discussion of granting Snowden clemency.

“Mr. Snowden violated U.S. law,” Pfeiffer said. “And our belief has always been that he should return to the U.S. and face justice.”

It was a sentiment echoed by the heads of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

“He had an opportunity — if what he was, was a whistle-blower — to pick up the phone and call the House Intelligence Committee, the Senate Intelligence Committee, and say, ‘I have some information,’” Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said Sunday on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Michigan, said Snowden has to “own up with what he’s done.”

“If he wants to come back and open up to the responsibility of the fact that he took and stole information, he violated his oath, he disclosed classified information — that by the way has allowed three different terrorist organizations, affiliates of al Qaeda to change the way they communicate — I’d be happy to have that discussion with him,” Rogers said on “Face the Nation.”

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The National Security Agency broke privacy rules “thousands of times each year” since 2008, The Washington Post reported, citing an internal audit and other documents.

NSA leaker Edward Snowden — whose ongoing leaks have riled the Obama administration and intelligence community — provided material to the newspaper earlier this summer.

The May 2012 audit found 2,776 incidents of “unauthorized collection, storage, access to or distribution of legally protected communications” in the preceding 12 months, the Post reported in its story Thursday.

“Most were unintended. Many involved failures of due diligence or violations of standard operating procedure,” said the Post article by reporter Barton Gellman. “The most serious incidents included a violation of a court order and unauthorized use of data about more than 3,000 Americans and green-card holders.”

The paper said most incidents involved unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the country.

In one case, the NSA decided it didn’t need to report the unintended surveillance.

In 2008, a “large number” of calls placed from Washington were intercepted due to a programming error that confused the capitol’s 202 area code for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt. The information came from a “quality assurance” review that wasn’t distributed to the NSA overnight staff, according to the Post.

Separately, an NSA new collection method went undiscovered by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for months. The court, which has authority over some of the agency’s operations, ruled it unconstitutional.

Responding to the Post’s story, the NSA said, “A variety of factors can cause the numbers of incidents to trend up or down from one quarter to the next.”

Factors can include implementation of new procedures, technology or software changes and expanded access.

“The one constant across all of the quarters is a persistent, dedicated effort to identify incidents or risks of incidents at the earliest possible moment, implement mitigation measures wherever possible, and drive the numbers down,” the agency said.

The agency released another statement Thursday night defending its programs.

“NSA’s foreign intelligence collection activities are continually audited and overseen internally and externally,” it said. “When NSA makes a mistake in carrying out its foreign intelligence mission, the agency reports the issue internally and to federal overseers — and aggressively gets to the bottom of it.”

Lawmakers on Capitol Hill — who, according to the Post, had been left in the dark on this audit — expressed concern about not being told about it and called for more oversight.

“Press reports that the National Security Agency broke privacy rules thousands of times per year and reportedly sought to shield required disclosure of privacy violations are extremely disturbing,” said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat from California.

Pelosi called for “rigorous oversight” on the “incidents of non-compliance.”

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told the Post in a statement late Thursday night that her committee “can and should do more to independently verify that NSA’s operations are appropriate, and its reports of compliance incidents are accurate.”

Snowden stepped forward publicly in June to claim responsibility for leaking to the media that the NSA had secretly collected and stored millions of phone records from accounts in the United States. The agency also collected information from U.S. companies on the Internet activity of overseas residents, he said.

Snowden fled first to Hong Kong and then to Russia before Moscow granted him temporary asylum despite pressure from the Obama administration to return him to the United States to face charges.

He has been charged with three felony counts, including violations of the U.S. Espionage Act, for the leaks.

 

 

 

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National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s application for political asylum has been approved, and he has left a Moscow airport, Russian lawyer Anatoly Kucherena told CNN on Thursday.

Snowden has legal status in Russia for one year, Kucherena said, but the attorney would not disclose his location, citing security reasons.

On Wednesday night, a lawyer representing Lon Snowden, Edward Snowden’s father, appeared on “Anderson Cooper 360″ and said that Snowden was in good health in Russia and that his lawyer was open to hammering out an ending that would satisfy all.

Attorney Bruce Fein relayed the conversation he had Kucherena.

“There may be a time, where it would be constructive to try and meet and see whether there can’t be common ground that everyone agrees would advance the interest, the United States, Mr. Snowden, Lon, his father, and the interest of Russia in trying to resolve this in a way that honors due process and the highest principles of fairness and civilization,” Fein said.

Kucherena earlier told Russian news agency Itar-Tass that he’d start working on Lon Snowden’s visa application.

“I telephoned him (Edward Snowden) today. We agreed that I would prepare an invitation for his father to visit Russia. I hope that the visa formalities will not be long,” Kucherena said Wednesday.

Snowden has said he is afraid he would not get a fair trial if he came back to the United States.

Snowden leaks again

On Wednesday, Snowden once again made himself a thorn in the side of the NSA.

The British daily The Guardian, which broke news of the NSA programs on the surveillance of phone and Internet metadata after Snowden leaked the information, revealed yet another NSA data collecting scheme.

The report says that according to the leaked documents, XKeyscore allows intelligence agents to see anything you’ve ever done on the Internet. With ease, they can observe your browsing history, searches, e-mails, chats and more, the report says, and it does not require a search warrant.

After the article was published, Snowden came forward as the source.

FBI and Snowden’s father

Snowden’s father told Anderson Cooper that the FBI had wanted to fly him to Moscow to encourage the National Security Agency leaker to come home to the United States.

But Lon Snowden said he backed out because it was not clear he would be able to speak to his son.

When he asked FBI agents if they would be able to set up communications, they hesitated, he said. It made him suspicious.

“I’m not going to get on a flight and go to Moscow and sit on a tarmac to be an emotional tool for you to use against him. I want to first be able to speak to my son,” he told them.

Lon Snowden has said that he wants his son to stay in Russia until he is confident he can get a fair trial in the United States.

“I am not confident at all,” he said.

The multiple guilty verdicts handed to leaker Pfc. Bradley Manning increased his unease, although he says his son’s case is “completely different.”

“I think my son has exercised discretion in the information that he has shared,” he said.

By the numbers

Russian citizens generally support the NSA leaker.

An opinion survey reported by RIA Novosti shows 51% of Russians back Edward Snowden’s actions. The rest either disapprove or haven’t made up their minds yet.

On the question of asylum, 43% are generally in favor of the idea, according to the Levada Center poll.

Snowden patriotic?

A former employee of a government contractor, Snowden leaked to the media that the NSA had secretly collected and stored millions of phone records from accounts in the United States. It also collected information from U.S. companies on the Internet activity of overseas residents, he said.

Lawmakers in Washington have built a criminal case against him.

Fein has objected to the government’s intent to prosecute Snowden.

“The majority of the American people now have voiced grave concerns about the scope of that program. And it seems somewhat odd to be prosecuting somebody for disclosing government wrongdoing.”

He said that Snowden had the courage to spark a conversation that President Barack Obama has called “urgent.”

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EdwardSnowden

Russia has given U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden a document that would allow him to leave a Moscow airport and wait somewhere else in the country while his temporary-asylum request is considered, Russian news media reported Wednesday.

This comes eight days after Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia, where the former National Security Agency contractor arrived from Hong Kong after admitting to revealing sweeping U.S. electronic surveillance programs to the news media.

Since arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport on June 23, Snowden had been unable to leave the airport’s transit area because the United States revoked his passport. He faces espionage charges in the United States.

Last week, a Russian lawyer assisting Snowden said he would receive a certificate showing that the asylum request is under consideration, and that certificate would allow him to legally exit the airport and wait elsewhere in Russia while the request is mulled.

Even with the certificate, it’s still not clear whether Russia will grant the temporary-asylum request — a decision that could take a few months. But if it does, Snowden would be able to live in Russia, and even travel abroad, for at least a year, lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said last week.

Washington has no extradition agreement with Russia and FBI agents who work at the U.S. Embassy there have no authority to make arrests.

If Snowden is granted temporary asylum in Russia, it’s unclear whether he’d try to move elsewhere. He’s previously indicated that he eventually wanted refuge in Latin America. But Kucherena suggested last week that Snowden might take his time in Russia.

“As far as I know, he’s planning to stay in Russia to learn Russian culture, Russian language and (to) live here,” Kucherena told CNN last week.

Russian President Vladimir Putin said earlier this month that Snowden would need to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wanted to stay in the country.

In a subsequent meeting with human rights activists and lawyers at the airport on July 12, Snowden reportedly said he wanted temporary asylum in Russia while awaiting safe transit to Latin America, and added that he would not harm the United States in the future.

The presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia have said their countries would give Snowden asylum, and Nicaragua’s president said he would offer it “if circumstances permit.” But he would need the legal ability to travel there — something that temporary asylum in Russia could give him.

The U.S. government has requested Russia expel Snowden. Absent that, it will watch carefully the route he takes if he tries to reach one of the Latin American countries willing to take him in.

The United States could grab Snowden if any plane carrying him were to refuel in a country that respects U.S. arrest warrants. But he likely will be careful to avoid that scenario.

Nevertheless, the United States has sent provisional arrest warrants to a number of countries where Snowden could either transit or seek asylum, a U.S. official said last week.

CNN’s Jason Hanna, Phil Black and Carol Cratty contributed to this report

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By Phil Black. Laura Smith-Spark and Alla Eshchenko, CNN

American intelligence leaker Edward Snowden met with human rights activists and lawyers Friday in a transit zone of a Russian airport, in his first public appearance since he left Hong Kong last month.

He has asked rights groups to lobby the Russian government to grant him temporary asylum, Russian Human Rights Watch representative Tanya Lokshina said. Snowden also said he wants to move to Latin America once he is able to do so, she said.

A photograph provided by a Russian Human Rights Watch staffer at the meeting shows him sitting behind a desk, looking much as he did when last photographed.

The former National Security Agency contractor is believed to have been holed up in a transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since leaving Hong Kong for Russia on June 23.

The meeting with Snowden began at around 5 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET).

A CNN team at the airport saw about half a dozen people — including Russia’s human rights ombudsman and representatives of Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Russian human rights groups — enter a door marked “Private” in Terminal E. Police and security officers then kept the media at a distance.

Sergei Nikitin, head of Amnesty International’s Moscow office, who was at the meeting, said he was pleased to voice the organization’s support for Snowden in person.

“We will continue to pressure governments to ensure his rights are respected — this includes the unassailable right to claim asylum wherever he may choose,” he said in a statement.

“What he has disclosed is patently in the public interest and as a whistleblower his actions were justified.”

Snowden exposed unlawful sweeping surveillance programs, and states that try to prevent him from revealing such unlawful behavior “are flouting international law,” Nikitin said.

“Instead of addressing or even owning up to these blatant breaches, the U.S. government is more intent on persecuting him. Attempts to pressure governments to block his efforts to seek asylum are deplorable,” he said.

Russian asylum conditions?

WikiLeaks said in a post on Twitter that it would release Snowden’s statement to human rights groups later Friday.

The group, which facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information through its website, has been aiding Snowden in his bids for asylum.

Snowden’s desire to be granted temporary asylum in Russia may represent something of a turnaround.

He last week reportedly withdrew his asylum request with Russian authorities after President Vladimir Putin said he would have to “stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wanted to stay in the country.

“Snowden did voice a request to remain in Russia,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said on July 2, according to the Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

“Then, yesterday, hearing President Putin outline Russia’s position regarding the conditions under which he could do this, he withdrew his request for permission to stay in Russia.”

It’s not clear if a request for temporary asylum would entail different conditions.

Snowden has been technically a free man while in Moscow but has been unable to travel after U.S. authorities revoked his passport when he was charged with espionage.

U.S. accused of ‘unlawful campaign’

A letter purportedly e-mailed by Snowden that invited human rights groups and others to the meeting blasted the United States for “threatening behavior” and carrying out illegal actions against him.

In the letter, posted on Lokshina’s Facebook page, the writer praises the “brave countries” that have offered him support, in the face of what he describes as “an unlawful campaign by officials in the U.S. Government to deny my right to seek and enjoy this asylum.”

He also accuses the United States of “threatening behavior” on an unprecedented scale, citing the temporary grounding of Bolivian President Evo Morales’ plane last week. The jet, which had left Moscow, was forced to land in Austria after other European countries allegedly closed their airspace amid suspicions that Snowden was aboard.

“Never before in history have states conspired to force to the ground a sovereign President’s plane to effect a search for a political refugee,” the letter says.

The writer invited those addressed to join him at Sheremetyevo airport “for a brief statement and discussion regarding the next steps forward in my situation.”

They were instructed to gather in the arrival hall at Terminal F, where an airport staff member would meet them holding a sign labeled “G9.” They should bring the invitation and identification documents “as security will likely be tight at this meeting,” the letter said.

In her Facebook post, Lokshina, the Russian Human Rights Watch staffer, said she received the e-mailed invitation close to 5 p.m. Thursday and acknowledged that she did not know if it was real.

A large group of Russian and international journalists gathered at the airport in anticipation of the meeting.

Latin American asylum offers

Since his arrival in Moscow, Snowden — who faces espionage charges in the United States — has requested asylum in dozens of countries, sparking a surge in speculation about his next steps.

The presidents of Venezuela and Bolivia have said their countries would give him asylum, and Nicaragua’s president said he would offer it “if circumstances permit.”

Snowden has admitted releasing classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs to the media and argues that he did so to expose serious violations of the U.S. Constitution.

He is slammed as a traitor by critics and hailed as a hero by his supporters.

WikiLeaks said in a Twitter post Wednesday that Snowden’s “flight of liberty” campaign was starting, promising further details.

But details about where Snowden is going — and how he’ll get there — have remained hard to come by.

U.S. officials told Chinese officials in Washington this week that they’re disappointed with the way China and Hong Kong handled the Snowden case, saying their actions undermined trust. China said that Hong Kong authorities acted in accordance with the law.

CNN’s Alla Eshchenko and Phil Black reported from Moscow and Laura Smith-Spark wrote in London. CNN’s Marilia Brocchetto and Alexander Felton contributed to this report.

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By Jethro Mullen and Michael Pearson, CNN

In this high-stakes game of hide-and-seek, Edward Snowden appears to have the upper hand.

The exact whereabouts of the computer contractor who leaked secret information about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs are unknown.

Journalists, government officials and social media users around the world are busy trying to pinpoint his location.

Russia, the country where the United States has said it believes Snowden is located, on Tuesday lashed out at suggestions that it was complicit in his travels.

“I want to say, right away, that we have nothing to do with Mr. Snowden, or his movements around the world,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said at a news conference in Moscow.

The White House is demanding that any country that Snowden enters give him up, so he can face espionage charges in the United States.

But Lavrov said that U.S. “accusations” against Russia over Snowden are “absolutely groundless and unacceptable.”

His comments further muddied the waters surrounding Snowden’s mysterious journey.

A flight from Moscow to Havana that Snowden was reportedly set to board took off Monday packed with journalists, including a CNN team, but without the 30-year-old American they were all hoping to interview.

Another Havana-bound flight took off Tuesday with no sign of Snowden aboard.

One person says he knows where Snowden is, but he isn’t telling.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange would only say Monday that the former NSA contractor is “in a safe place and his spirits are high.” The anti-secrecy group says it’s helping Snowden find asylum.

Snowden spent several weeks hiding out in Hong Kong and causing uproar in the United States by leaking classified NSA documents to journalists. He left the semiautonomous Chinese territory Sunday on a flight to Moscow.

Mystery in Moscow

A passenger on the flight from Hong Kong to Moscow told CNN that she saw Snowden on board. But the Russian Foreign Ministry has said he hasn’t entered Russia, implying that he may be somewhere on the transit side of the airport’s immigration process.

Lavrov repeated that stance Tuesday.

“He chose his itinerary on his own,” he said. “He has not crossed the Russian border.”

No journalists in Russia appear to have caught a glimpse of the slender, bespectacled face that has been splashed across TV screens, websites and newspaper front pages around the globe since Snowden revealed himself as the source of the controversial disclosures this month.

After more than 24 hours of confusion and false leads in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport, the Guardian, the British newspaper that first published many of Snowden’s disclosures, asked on Monday, “Was he ever even really here?”

The U.S. government says it believes Snowden is in Russia. And Obama administration officials, including FBI Director Robert Mueller, have been urging the Russian government to send him back to the United States.

The White House is eager to avoid a repeat of what happened in Hong Kong, where authorities let Snowden leave despite a U.S. request for his arrest and extradition. Washington has described that move as a “serious setback” to building trust between the United States and China.

“We are just not buying that this was a technical decision by a Hong Kong immigration official,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday. “This was a deliberate choice by the government to release a fugitive despite a valid arrest warrant.”

Beijing rejected the criticism.

“It is unreasonable for the U.S. to question Hong Kong as a government handling Snowden’s case in accordance with law, and it is groundless,” a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said Tuesday. “The U.S.’ accusation of the Chinese central government is groundless.”

Meanwhile, the Obama administration doesn’t have much leverage with Moscow, according to Matthew Rojansky, an expert on U.S. and Russian national security at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“We really need Russian cooperation, I think, much more in most areas than the Russians need us,” he said.

U.S. diplomatic headache

Washington is also telling other countries where Snowden might end up — notably Ecuador, which says it’s analyzing an asylum request from Snowden — that they should hand him over should he land on their soil. They note that his U.S. passport has been revoked.

“The U.S. is advising these governments that Mr. Snowden is wanted on felony charges and as such should not be allowed to proceed in any further international travel other than is necessary to return him here to the United States,” Carney said.

But CNN legal analyst Jeffrey Toobin said the issue now “is much more of a political and diplomatic matter than it is a legal matter.”

“In an ordinary case, sure, you need a passport to get around,” Toobin said. “But here, where this case is causing increasing embarrassment for the United States, governments that want the United States to be embarrassed are only too happy to waive some of the technical legal rules.”

WikiLeaks says that Snowden has applied for asylum in multiple countries and that legally, Latin America is the best option for him.

He left Hong Kong on Sunday on a “refugee document of passage” issued by Ecuador, Assange said.

But on Tuesday, Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said he didn’t know exactly where Snowden is right now.

The leak controversy

Snowden has acknowledged that he leaked classified documents about the NSA’s surveillance programs to the Guardian newspaper in Britain and to The Washington Post. The documents revealed the existence of programs that collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and monitor the Internet activity of overseas residents.

The disclosures shook the U.S. intelligence community and raised questions about whether the NSA is eroding American civil liberties.

Snowden worked as a Hawaii-based computer network administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor, before he fled to Hong Kong last month with laptops full of confidential information.

He told the Guardian that he exposed the surveillance programs because they pose a threat to democracy, but administration officials said the programs are vital to preventing terrorist attacks and are overseen by all three branches of government.

Carney questioned Snowden’s assertion that he acted in defense of democratic transparency, saying his argument “is belied by the protectors he has potentially chosen — China, Russia, Ecuador.”

“His failures to criticize these regimes suggests that his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the United States, not to advance Internet freedom and free speech,” Carney told reporters.

Snowden’s search

The Committee to Protect Journalists has criticized Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa’s government for pushing legislation that would roll back press freedoms, calling its policies increasingly repressive. But Snowden isn’t looking for “political nirvana,” said Glenn Greenwald, the columnist for the Guardian who broke Snowden’s revelations.

“He’s searching for a place where he can be safe and remain free and participate in the debate, and Ecuador seems to be the place he has chosen,” Greenwald told CNN’s “The Lead.”

In a letter read by Patino, the Ecuadorian foreign minister, on Monday, Snowden compared himself to Pvt. Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier accused of leaking classified information through WikiLeaks. He said U.S. officials have treated Manning inhumanely by holding him in solitary confinement, and he predicted a similar “cruel and unusual” fate for himself if he falls into U.S. hands.

Snowden has continued to drip-feed other allegations about NSA activities to the international news media. He said the NSA hacked into computers and networks in Hong Kong and China, an accusation that undermined U.S. criticisms of Chinese cyberespionage activities.

A Hong Kong paper, the South China Morning Post, reported Tuesday that Snowden took the job at Booz Allen early this year to “collect proof” about the NSA programs before disclosing them to reporters. Snowden told the paper in an interview this month that he intends to release more of the documents he took from the firm.

“If I have time to go through this information, I would like to make it available to journalists in each country to make their own assessment, independent of my bias, as to whether or not the knowledge of U.S. network operations against their people should be published,” the newspaper quoted Snowden as saying.

When he went public as the NSA leaker, Snowden said that he didn’t want to become the story. The focus should remain on the U.S. surveillance programs he had revealed, he said.

But right now, that’s not happening.

His extraordinary and mysterious journey is dominating the headlines. And the world is waiting to see where he materializes next.

CNN’s Phil Black, Matt Smith, Catherine E. Shoichet, Jill Dougherty, Carol Cratty, Nic Robertson and Alla Eshchenko contributed to this report.

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EdwardSnowden

By Jethro Mullen, CNN

The United States is caught up in an intercontinental game of cat-and-mouse with Edward Snowden, the computer contractor who exposed details of secret U.S. surveillance programs.

As Snowden tries to hop from country to country, with help from the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the United States has resorted to issuing stern words calling for his return.

Hong Kong, where Snowden had been holed up for weeks, allowed him to leave for Moscow on Sunday, despite a U.S. extradition request.

Next, he plans to travel to Ecuador to seek asylum, according to WikiLeaks, which is helping him attempt to stay out of Washington’s reach.

At the same time, the U.S. government is attempting to block his path, calling on the countries involved to hand him over. But its clout appears limited, with Snowden expected to travel through a series of nations that have little reason to heed its request.

“We expect the Russian government to look at all options available to expel Mr. Snowden back to the U.S. to face justice for the crimes with which he is charged,” U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said early Monday.

She cited “intensified cooperation” between Washington and Moscow after the Boston Marathon bombings and “our history of working with Russia on law enforcement matters — including returning numerous high level criminals back to Russia at the request of the Russian government.”

But Russian media have reported that the country’s security services have no basis for arresting Snowden. Russian officials didn’t immediately comment on the matter Monday.

Ecuador ‘analyzing’ request

It seems unlikely that Cuba, Venezuela or Ecuador — the other nations on Snowden’s potential itinerary — will be very inclined to send him back to the United States either.

The U.S. government has already asked those three Latin American countries not to admit Snowden or to expel him if they do, a senior Obama administration official told CNN on Sunday.

But Cuba and Venezuela have long had strained relations with Washington. And Ecuador has already given WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange refuge in its embassy in London for a year after he unsuccessfully fought extradition to Sweden in British courts.

Assange say he fears Sweden, which wants him for questioning over sexual assault allegations, would transfer him to the United States.

The Ecuadorian government is “analyzing” an asylum request from Snowden “with a lot of responsibility,” Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said Monday.

“It has to do with the freedom of expression, with the security of citizens around the world, and therefore we have to analyze it deeply,” Patino told reporters in Hanoi, Vietnam.

U.S. warns Hong Kong

As U.S. officials try to figure out how to pin Snowden down, they are also voicing displeasure about the Hong Kong government’s decision to let him leave Sunday after he spent several weeks there leaking a series of classified documents that embarrassed and angered the Obama administration.

The United States publicly announced Friday that it was seeking to extradite Snowden on charges of espionage and theft of government property.

But the semi-autonomous Chinese territory declined to act on the U.S. request for a provisional arrest warrant, saying it needed more information. Without that information, it said, it had no reason to stop him from getting on the plane to Moscow.

“We have registered our strong objections to the authorities in Hong Kong as well as to the Chinese government through diplomatic channels,” Hayden said Monday, “and noted that such behavior is detrimental to U.S.-Hong Kong and U.S.-China bilateral relations.”

Officials in Washington have disputed Hong Kong’s assertion that the U.S. request didn’t fully meet requirements.

“They came back to us with a few questions late Friday and we were in the process of answering those questions,” a Justice Department official said Sunday. “We believe we were meeting those requirements.”

The surveillance controversy

Snowden has admitted he was the source who leaked classified documents about the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs to the British newspaper the Guardian and to The Washington Post. The documents revealed the existence of programs that collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and monitor the Internet activity of overseas residents.

Snowden gave up a comfortable life “in order to bring to light what he believed was serious wrongdoing on the part of our political officials,” said Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian columnist who co-authored the stories. “And he’s now at best going to spend the rest of his life on the run from the most powerful government on Earth.”

The disclosures shook the U.S. intelligence community, raising questions about whether the NSA was eroding American civil liberties.

Snowden told the Guardian that he exposed the surveillance programs because they posed a threat to democracy, but administration officials said the programs are vital to preventing terrorist attacks and are overseen by all three branches of government.

“We have not in a single case had a place where a government official engaged in willful effort to circumvent or violate the law. Zero times have we done that,” Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA’s director, told ABC’s “This Week.”

Snowden was a Hawaii-based computer network administrator for Booz Allen Hamilton, an NSA contractor. Alexander said Snowden “betrayed the trust and confidence we had in him” and is “not acting, in my opinion, with noble intent.”

Greenwald said Snowden has been extremely judicious about what he has revealed.

“I know that he has in his possession thousands of documents which if published would impose crippling damage on the United States’ surveillance capabilities and systems around the world. He has never done any of that,” Greenwald told CNN.

An online petition calling on the White House to pardon Snowden passed the key threshold of 100,000 signatures over the weekend.

The petition, which describes Snowden as “a national hero,” had more than 110,000 signatures early Monday.

The White House says it will respond to any petition on its site that gathers more than 100,000 signatures in 30 days.

CNN’s Alison Harding, Phil Black, Matt Smith, Catherine E. Shoichet, Jill Dougherty, Carol Cratty, Nic Robertson and Alla Eshchenko contributed to this report.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

The U.S. whistleblower who exposed the National Security Agency’s secret domestic surveillance program left Hong Kong.
WikiLeaks tweeted this morning that Edward Snowden left Hong Kong overnight accompanied by WikiLeaks legal advisors on an Aeroflot Airlines flight to Moscow, Russia.

A statement released by WikiLeaks said “He is bound for a democratic nation via a safe route for the purposes of asylum… Mr. Snowden requested that WikiLeaks use its legal expertise and experience to secure his safety. Once Mr Snowden arrives at his final destination his request will be formally processed.”

The Hong Kong government released a statement saying Snowden left the country on his “own accord” hours after the U.S. government asked Hong Kong officials to extradite him.

Hong Kong officials said the documents filed by the U.S. did not comply with requirements in Hong Kong and they had no grounds to keep Snowden from leaving.
Snowden’s final destination is not yet known but there are media reports that Snowden will fly from Russia to Cuba on Monday.
Snowden faces charges of espionage and theft of government property. Snowden has admitted in interviews he was the source behind the leaking of classified documents about the NSA’s surveillance programs.

President Barack Obama, top legislators and national security officials defend the surveillance programs as necessary to combat terrorism and argue that some privacy must be sacrificed in a balanced approach.

By Jethro Mullen and Chelsea J. Carter, CNN

 

U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks around the world for years, apparently targeting fat data pipes that push immense amounts of data around the Internet, NSA leaker Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post on Wednesday. EdwardSnowden

Among some 61,000 reported targets of the National Security Agency, Snowden said, are hundreds of computers in China — which U.S. officials have increasingly criticized as the source of thousands of attacks on U.S. military and commercial networks. China has denied such attacks.

The Morning Post said it had seen documents provided by Snowden but was unable to verify their authenticity. The English-language news agency, which operates in Hong Kong, also said it was unable to independently verify allegations of U.S. hacking of networks in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009.

Snowden told the paper that some of the targets included the Chinese University of Hong Kong, public officials and students. The documents also “point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets,” the newspaper reported.

The claims came just days after U.S. President Barack Obama pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping to address cyberattacks emanating from China that Obama described as “direct theft of United States property.”

Snowden’s allegations appear to give weight to claims by some Chinese government officials that the country has been a victim of similar hacking efforts coming from the United States.

His claims came as Gen. Keith Alexander, the National Security Agency chief, testified at a U.S. Senate hearing that the country’s cyberinfrastructure, including telephones and computer networks, is somewhat vulnerable to attack.

On a scale of one to 10, “our critical infrastructure’s preparedness to withstand a destructive cyberattack is about a three, based on my experience,” he said.

In the Morning Post interview — published one week after the British newspaper The Guardian revealed the first leaks attributed to Snowden — he claimed the agency he once worked for as a contractor typically targets high-bandwidth data lines that connect Internet nodes located around the world.

“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 quoted him as saying.

A “backbone” is part of the inner workings of a computer network that links different parts of that network. It is used to deliver data from one part of the network to another and, as such, could expose data from multiple computers if hacked.

‘Trying to bully’

Snowden, 29, worked for the Booz Allen Hamilton computer consulting firm until Monday, when he was fired after documents he provided to journalists revealed the existence of secret programs to collect records of domestic telephone calls in the United States and the Internet activity of overseas residents.

While he has not been charged, the FBI is conducting an investigation into the leaks, and he has told The Guardian that he expects the United States will try to prosecute him.

Snowden told the Morning Post that he felt U.S. officials were pressuring his family and also accused them of “trying to bully” Hong Kong into extraditing him to prevent the release of more damaging information.

He vowed to resist extradition efforts if it comes to that, saying he “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,” the South China Morning Post quoted Snowden as saying. “I have been given no reason to doubt your system.”

But Hong Kong lawmaker Regina Ip, a former secretary of security for the territory, said Tuesday that while any extradition process could take months, Snowden isn’t necessarily beyond the reach of the United States.

“If he thought there was a legal vacuum in Hong Kong which renders him safe from U.S. jurisdiction, that is unlikely to be the case,” she said.

The newspaper said Snowden has been hiding in undisclosed locations inside the semi-autonomous Chinese territory since checking out of his hotel room Monday — a day after he revealed his identity in an interview with The Guardian.

Snowden told the Morning Post he is not trying to evade U.S. authorities.

“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstand my intentions,” the newspaper quoted him as saying. “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.”

The NSA and the National Intelligence director did not immediately respond to a CNN request for comment.

Asked during a media briefing on Wednesday for comment on Snowden’s latest claims, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jennifer Psaki declined. She said she had not seen the latest Morning Post report.

On the defensive

The revelations have renewed debate over surveillance in the United States and overseas in the name of fighting terrorism, with supporters saying the programs revealed by Snowden are legal and have helped stop terror plots. Civil liberties advocates, however, call the measures dangerous and unacceptable intrusions.

Such criticisms have put Obama and his allies on the issue — both Democrats and Republicans — on the defensive against mounting criticisms from a similarly bipartisan group of critics demanding changes to rein in the programs.

There also is a sharp division among Americans over the issue.

A Gallup poll released Wednesday found that 44% of Americans believe Snowden did the right thing by releasing details about the classified surveillance programs, while 42% said it was wrong and 14% said they were unsure.

The poll for that question had a 6% margin of error.

It also found that more Americans disapprove than approve of the government’s surveillance programs, 53% to 37%. Ten percent had no opinion.

The poll for that question had a 4% margin of error.

Those differences were on display Wednesday when Alexander, the director of the National Security Agency, testified at a hearing into cybersecurity technology and civil liberties.

Officials have been unable to explain controversial data mining programs because they have been classified, Alexander testified.

But Alexander rejected the Snowden’s claim that the NSA could tap into any American’s phone or computer.

“I know of no way to do that,” Alexander said.

But he testified that phone records obtained by the government helped prevent “dozens” of terrorist events.

He would not discuss disrupted plots broadly, saying they were classified. But he did say federal data mining appeared to play a role in helping to disrupt a plot in recent years to attack the New York subway system.

Alexander said information developed overseas was passed along to the FBI, which he said was able to identify eventual suspect Najibullah Zazi in Colorado and ultimately uncover a plot. Zazi pleaded guilty to terror-related charges in 2010.

While not on the roster for Wednesday’s hearing, another administration official in the spotlight is Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, whom Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden has singled out for how he answered questions about the telephone surveillance program in March.

In March, Wyden asked Clapper whether the NSA collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”

“No sir,” Clapper said.

On Saturday, Clapper told NBC News that he answered in the “most truthful or least most untruthful manner” possible.

Clapper told NBC that he had interpreted “collection” to mean actually examining the materials gathered by the NSA.

He previously told the National Journal he had meant that “the NSA does not voyeuristically pore through U.S. citizens’ e-mails,” but he did not mention e-mails at the hearing.

EU questions

Fallout over revelations about the NSA’s intelligence-gathering has reached the European Union’s governing body, where Vice President Viviane Reding raised concerns that the United States may have targeted some of its citizens.

Reding said she plans to raise the issue during a meeting Friday with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder.

“The respect for fundamental rights and the rule of law are the foundations of the EU-U.S. relationship. This common understanding has been, and must remain, the basis of cooperation between us in the area of Justice,” Reding, the EU commissioner for justice, said Wednesday.

“Trust that the rule of law will be respected is also essential to the stability and growth of the digital economy, including transatlantic business. This is of paramount importance for individuals and companies alike.”

CNN’s Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong, and Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Paul Steinhauser, Tom Cohen, Michael Pearson, Doug Gross, Shirley Henry, Brian Walker and Pamela Boykoff contributed to this report.

TM & © 2013 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

 

U.S. authorities are preparing charges against Edward Snowden, the man who outed himself as the source of secret documents detailing government surveillance of telephone and Internet communications, a law enforcement source told CNN on Tuesday.

The filing of charges is not imminent, however, the source said.

EdwardSnowdenSnowden, 29, is a former computer security contractor who acknowledged in a Guardian newspaper interview published Sunday that he gave classified documents about the programs to journalists.

The FBI has been investigating the leaks, but it was unclear Tuesday how far along the agency was.

A federal law enforcement source told CNN on Monday that the investigation will include searches of Snowden’s home and efforts to interview his girlfriend, relatives, co-workers and friends.

The official did not know if the FBI would attempt to contact Snowden overseas and ask if he would agree to a voluntary interview, or if the agency would wait until other evidence had been gathered.

Snowden himself told the Guardian that he expects to be charged under the Espionage Act and said he traveled to Hong Kong in hopes that state’s commitment to free speech would prevent his extradition to the United States.

Snowden has disappeared since giving those interviews in a Hong Kong hotel room. Ewen MacAskill, one of the Guardian journalists who worked with him, said Tuesday that Snowden was still in Hong Kong.

Surveillance debate

Snowden’s disclosures have fueled new debate about the U.S. government’s collection of records of domestic telephone calls and overseas Internet activity in the global hunt for terrorists and criminals.

Civil liberties advocates say the measures are an unacceptable intrusion into citizens’ privacy. But supporters of the programs say they are legal and have yielded evidence that has helped put terror plotters in prison, though many of the details remain classified.

Obama administration officials and leaders of the intelligence committees in Congress say the program undergoes periodic review by all three branches of government, and that the content of Americans’ calls is not being monitored.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Monday that the measures are a necessary middle way between total privacy and unacceptable threat.

Some European lawmakers, however, said Tuesday in a European Parliament debate in Brussels, Belgium, that the Internet surveillance program does not appear to meet European data standards, according to an account published to the European Union website.

“My data belongs to me, that is the cornerstone of European thinking on data protection,” said Manfred Weber, a member of the European Parliament from Germany.

He called the differing U.S. rules for American and overseas data “completely unacceptable.”

Other lawmakers called for sanctions against the U.S.-based companies that have provided customer information to the National Security Agency surveillance program.

But not all of the legislators were ready to condemn the United States.

“Those companies already named and shamed have so far denied acting outside the law,” said British member of parliament Timothy Kirkhope. “Yet here we are already pointing the finger, some of you already expressing anti-American or anti-commission rhetoric.”

The European Commission plans to discuss the issue with U.S. officials at a meeting Friday in Dublin, Ireland, Commissioner Tonio Borg said.

“Programs such as the so-called PRISM and the laws on the basis of which such programs are authorized potentially endanger the fundamental right to privacy and to data protection of EU citizens,” he said.

Uncertainty over next move

Snowden last worked for the computer consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton.

The company fired him Monday after less than three months on the job for violations of company policy and its code of ethics. Despite what he had said was a $200,000 salary, the company said he earned $122,000.

It’s unclear what’s next for him.

Although Hong Kong is part of communist-ruled China, the former British colony has a separate system of government that allows a free press and tolerates political dissent.

But legal experts say Hong Kong’s extradition treaty with the United States could make it hard for Snowden to successfully fight any proceedings against him unless he is able to prove, for example, that any charges against him are politically motivated.

Patricia Ho, a lawyer with Daly & Associates in Hong Kong, whose firm has handled asylum and refugee claims, said that given Hong Kong’s lackluster track record on granting asylum, she was surprised that Snowden had lauded the territory for its commitment to civil liberties.

“Within China itself, Hong Kong has better civil liberties, but I couldn’t see the Hong Kong government granting him asylum given their present practices,” she said.

On Monday, the office of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman tweeted that U.S. officials had broken the law with the surveillance programs, making Snowden a “human rights activist.”

Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told CNN that Russia would consider an asylum request from Snowden, but has not received one.

Advice from Assange

Snowden has told the Guardian that he hopes to seek asylum, potentially in Iceland because of the way it dealt with WikiLeaks, a group that facilitates the anonymous leaking of secret information through its website. The group reportedly once operated from there.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, bottled up in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London since last June, said Snowden should be looking to the southeast, not northwest.

“I would strongly advise him to go to Latin America,” Assange told CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360″ on Monday night. “Latin America has shown in the past 10 years that it is really pushing forward in human rights. There’s a long tradition of asylum.”

Assange sought refuge in the Ecuadorian mission to avoid extradition to Sweden, where he is wanted for questioning over allegations that he raped one woman and sexually molested another. He has repeatedly said the allegations in Sweden are politically motivated and tied to the work of his website.

Assange has said he fears Sweden will transfer him to the United States.

Traveling to another country could become difficult for Snowden if U.S. authorities issue an Interpol “red notice” against him, according to Don Borelli, a former FBI agent and U.S. legal attache overseas.

“Many countries recognize an Interpol red notice as kind of a universal arrest warrant,” he said.

More revelations coming

Glenn Greenwald, one of the Guardian journalists who broke the NSA story, says the newspaper is not finished revealing NSA secrets.

“There are extremely invasive spying programs that the public still does not know about that the NSA regularly engages in or other capabilities that they’re developing,” he said in an interview with CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Monday.

“We are working on stories right at this moment that we think are very valuable for the public to know that don’t in any way harm national security but that shine a light on this extremely secretive though momentous agency,” he said.

Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong; Michael Pearson reported and wrote from Atlanta; CNN’s Matt Smith, Joe Johns, Carol Cratty, Tom Cohen, Brian Walker, Elise Labott and Alla Eshchenko contributed to this report.

The-CNN-Wire/Atlanta/™ & © 2012 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.

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