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NSA whistleblower says he is not in Hong Kong to ‘hide from justice’ and alleges US hacked hundreds of targets in China

Edward Snowden Hong Kong

Edward Snowden told the South China Morning Post that he had no intention of hiding from justice. Photograph: Bobby Yip/Reuters

The NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden vowed yesterday to fight an expected move by the US to have him extradited from Hong Kong, saying he was not there to “hide from justice” and would put his trust in its legal system.

In his first comments since revealing his identity in the Guardian at the weekend, Snowden also claimed that the US had been hacking Hong Kong and China since 2009, and accused the US of bullying the territory to return him because it did not want local authorities to learn of its cyber activities.

As a debate raged over whether Snowden should be praised or prosecuted for his actions, he told the South China Morning Post: “I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American.”

Snowden claimed that the US had hacked hundreds of targets in Hong Kong – including public officials, a university, businesses and students in the city – and on the mainland. These were part of more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, he alleged.

“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 said.

The Post said it had seen a document that, Snowden alleged, supported his claims. The Post said it had not verified the document, and did not immediately publish it.

Snowden said he was releasing the information to demonstrate “the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries”.

A senior Chinese official said last week he had “mountains of data” on cyber-attacks from the US, after Washington turned up the pressure over hacking by China.

Jen Psaki, a spokeswoman for the State Department in Washington, said it was not aware of the hacking claims and could not comment directly, but she rejected the idea that such an incident would represent double standards given recent US criticism of Chinese cyber attacks.

“There is a difference between going after economic data and the issues of surveillance that the president has addressed which are about trying to stop people doing us harm,” she said.

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Jun 12, 2013 10:25

HONG KONG (AFP) – US whistleblower Edward Snowden Wednesday vowed to stay in Hong Kong to fight any extradition bid, and promised new revelations about US surveillance targets, the South China Morning Post reported.

“I’m neither traitor nor hero. I’m an American,” the Hong Kong newspaper’s website quoted him as saying in an exclusive interview.

The SCMP, in a teaser posted online before it publishes the full interview, said the former contractor for the National Security Agency would offer “more explosive details on US surveillance targets”.

Snowden would also discuss his fears for his family and his immediate plans, the newspaper said, after it interviewed the 29-year-old former CIA analyst earlier Wednesday at a secret location in Hong Kong.

“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,” it quoted him as saying.

Snowden vowed to fight any extradition attempt by the US government, the newspaper said, after he came to Hong Kong on May 20 and leaked a global eavesdropping operation by the NSA to the Guardian and Washington Post.

“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,” he said

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