Leaker Snowden says U.S. hacking of China huge
HONG KONG — Edward Snowden, the self-confessed leaker of secret surveillance documents, claimed on Wednesday that the United States has mounted huge hacking operations against hundreds of Chinese targets since 2009.
The former contractor, whose work at the National Security Agency gave him access to highly classified U.S. intelligence, made the assertions in an interview with the South China Morning Post. The newspaper said he showed it “unverified documents” describing an extensive campaign to obtain information from computers in Hong Kong and mainland China.
“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,” he told the newspaper.
Snowden claims the NSA has engaged in more than 61,000 hacking operations worldwide, including hundreds aimed at Chinese targets. Among the targets were universities, businesses and public officials.
The interview was the first time Snowden has surfaced publicly since he acknowledged in interviews with The Washington Post and Britain's Guardian newspaper on Sunday that he was responsible for disclosing classified documents outlining extensive U.S. surveillance efforts in the United States.
Senior American officials have accused China of hacking into U.S. military and business computers. Snowden's claims of extensive American hacking of Chinese computers tracks assertions made repeatedly by senior Chinese government officials that they are victims of similar cyber-intrusions.
Snowden's claims could not be verified, and U.S. officials did not respond immediate to requests for comment.
In the interview with the Morning Post published online late Wednesday, Snowden said he stood by his decision to seek asylum in Hong Kong, a semiautonomous city, after leaking documents about a high-level U.S. surveillance program.
“People who think I made a mistake in picking Hong Kong as a location misunderstood my intentions,” he said in the interview. “I am not here to hide from justice; I am here to reveal criminality.”
He added, “I have had many opportunities to flee HK, but I would rather stay and fight the United States government in the courts, because I have faith in Hong Kong's rule of law.”
By speaking with Hong Kong's oldest English-language newspaper, Snowden seemed to be directly addressing the city he has chosen as his safe harbor. And by disclosing that he possesses documents that he says describe U.S. hacking against China, he appeared to be trying to win support from the Chinese government.
Snowden said in his interview that he has “been given no reason to doubt [Hong Kong's] legal system.”
“My intention is to ask the courts and people of Hong Kong to decide my fate,” Snowden said.