Story Summary

NSA surveillance of phones, Internet communications

On December 16, 2005, the New York Times reported that, under White House pressure and with an executive order from President George W. Bush, the National Security Agency, in an attempt to thwart terrorism, had been tapping phone calls made to persons outside the country, without obtaining warrants from the United States Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret court created for that purpose under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

In May 2006, Mark Klein, a former AT&T employee, alleged that his company had cooperated with NSA in installing Narus (company) hardware to replace the FBI Carnivore program, to monitor network communications including traffic between American citizens.

In 2009 the NSA intercepted the communications of American citizens, including a congressman, although the Justice Department believed that the NSA had corrected its errors. Attorney General Eric Holder resumed the wiretapping according to his understanding of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act amendment of 2008, without explaining what had occurred.

On April 25, 2013, the NSA obtained a court order requiring Verizon’s Business Network Services to provide information on all calls in its system to the NSA “on an ongoing daily basis”, as reported by  Britain’s The Guardian newspaper.

Data mining

NSA is reported to use its computing capability to analyze “transactional” data that it regularly acquires from other government agencies, which gather it under their own jurisdictional authorities. As part of this effort, NSA now monitors huge volumes of records of domestic e-mails and Internet searches as well as bank transfers, credit-card transactions and travel and telephone records, according to current and former intelligence officials interviewed by the Wall Street Journal.

The NSA began the PRISM electronic surveillance and data mining program in 2007. PRISM gathers communications data on foreign targets from nine major U.S. internet based communication service providers: Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple. Data gathered include email, video and voice chat, videos, photos, voice-over-IP chats such as Skype, and file transfers.

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MOSCOW — U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden is grounded in Moscow’s airport, but his future is up in the air.

A tweet by a Russian lawmaker Tuesday announced that Snowden had accepted Venezuela’s offer of asylum, giving the impression that the American had evaded U.S. authorities again. But the news remains unconfirmed.

The lawmaker who sent the tweet, Russian parliamentary spokesman Alexei Pushkov, deleted the message and followed up by saying he got the news from a media report.


NSA leaker Edward Snowden says, “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua was slated to talk with reporters Tuesday afternoon and could shed some light on the reports.

If indeed Snowden has accepted the Venezuelan offer, it resolves one issue in the Snowden saga, but sets the stage for the next chapter: How will Snowden get from Moscow to Caracas?

Venezuela extended an offer of asylum to Snowden last week, and on Monday President Nicolas Maduro received a formal asylum request from Snowden. The Venezuelan government had been waiting to hear back from Snowden on the president’s offer to finalize the deal.

Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who faces espionage charges in the United States, is slammed as a traitor by critics and hailed as a hero by his supporters.

He remains in limbo more than two weeks after arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport from Hong Kong.

(CNN) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has offered asylum to U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, the state-run AVN news agency reported Friday, without offering details.

The report came shortly after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said he would grant Snowden asylum in his country “if the circumstances permit.” Ortega didn’t elaborate on his announcement, made during a speech in Managua, except to say his country is “open and respectful to the right of asylum.”

“It’s clear that that if the circumstances permit it we will gladly receive Snowden and will grant him asylum here in Nicaragua,” Ortega said.

Meanwhile, an Icelandic lawmaker said Snowden would not get citizenship there, as he had requested, because Iceland’s parliament refused to vote on an asylum proposal before ending its current session.


NSA leaker Edward Snowden says, “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

Birgitta Jonsdottir was among a handful of lawmakers who put forward a bill Thursday urging Parliament to process Snowden’s request. She said Friday that the speaker of the house refused to put the bill on the agenda and the majority in parliament refused to allow a spoken vote on it.

“So it is with great grief I have to announce that Snowden will not be getting any form of shelter in Iceland because the current government doesn’t even have enough spine for the Parliament to discuss Snowden’s request,” Jonsdottir wrote on her blog.

She then praised Snowden, who admitted leaking classified documents about U.S. surveillance programs and faces espionage charges in the United States. Besides Iceland, he applied for asylum in 20 other countries.

Opinion: Some suggestions for Snowden

“I and many others regard him as a hero and have deep respect for him for he has taken great personal risk in order to inform the rest of us about how those in power have lost control of their powerlust and violated their own constitutions against their own citizens,” Jonsdottir wrote.

“Mr. Snowden your courage has been noted and there are millions of people from all backgrounds who honor the risks you have taken for us and we will stand tall with you.”

‘Unbowed’ Snowden seeks new havens

France and Italy on Thursday turned down Snowden’s requests for asylum.

Another country that has seemed supportive of Snowden’s quest for a new home is Bolivia, whose president is now expressing anger at the United States over an incident involving the presidential plane and a rumor about Snowden.

Several European countries refused to allow President Evo Morales’ plane through their airspace Tuesday because of suspicions Snowden was aboard. With no clear path home available, the flight crew made an emergency landing in Vienna, Austria, where authorities confirmed Snowden was not a passenger.

The Bolivians put the blame squarely on the United States for the incident.

“Message to the Americans: The empire and its servants will never be able to intimidate or scare us,” Morales told supporters at El Alto International Airport outside La Paz, where he arrived late Wednesday. “European countries need to liberate themselves from the imperialism of the Americans.”

Morales also said officials should analyze whether to shut down the U.S. Embassy in his country.

“Without the United States,” he said, “we are better politically and democratically.”

Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa joined Morales in criticizing the United States’ role in the situation, and Venezuela’s Maduro blamed the Central Intelligence Agency for pressuring the European governments to refuse to allow the plane through.

Snowden has been holed up at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo International Airport since June 23, when he arrived from Hong Kong.

–Catherine E. Shoichet and Melissa Gray, CNN/CNN’s Ed Payne contributed to this report.



(CNN) — Edward Snowden has applied for asylum in Russia, the state-run RIA Novosti news agency reported Monday, quoting a consular official at the Moscow airport.

However, Russia’s semi-official Interfax news agency continued to report that the head of Russia’s immigration services denied any asylum request had been made.

The confusion reflected the diplomatic tensions over the status of Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who has admitted leaking classified documents on U.S. surveillance programs and is in the international transit area of Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport.

Russian President Vladimir Putin opened the door to Snowden possibly remaining in Russia on Monday, saying he “must stop his work aimed at harming our American partners” if he wants to stay.

Putin had said Snowden should depart the airport for his final destination, wherever it might be.

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden on the move

The United States wants Snowden turned over to its authority.

“We don’t have information one way or another” about an asylum request for Russia, State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said Monday, later adding that Snowden “appears to still be in Russia and our position is the same that he should be expelled and returned home here to the U.S.”

Earlier Monday, President Barack Obama said Snowden traveled to Russia without a valid passport or legal papers, and that he hoped that Moscow would handle the case as it would any other travel-related matter.

Obama confirmed that the United States and Russia have had “high-level” discussions about Snowden, after an earlier report from Russia that the two nations’ top law enforcement officials were working together to resolve the situation.

Snowden has revealed himself as the source of classified documents outlining U.S. surveillance of overseas e-mails related to terrorism, as well as the collection of phone records as a database for further court-approved investigation.

He faces espionage charges in the United States and was seeking asylum from Ecuador. However, Ecuador’s president said over the weekend that it was up to Russia to decide where Snowden travels next.

Snowden was in Hong Kong when his initial leaks were published by The Guardian newspaper in London and then the Washington Post.

He flew to Moscow last month and has been in the transit area, which is international territory, since then.

Snowden says he is leaking the classified information because he believes the U.S. surveillance programs being revealed exceed constitutional limits.

According to the RIA Novosti report Monday, a British woman aiding Snowden handed over documents requesting political asylum in Russia to the consular station of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Sunday night. It attributed the information to Kim Shevchenko, a duty consul at the Russian consular station at the Moscow airport.

Meanwhile, Interfax reported that the head of Russia’s immigration services, Konstantin Romodanovsky, denied such an asylum request had occurred.

–Tom Cohen, CNN/CNN’s Barbara Starr, Miriam Falco, Kathryn Tancos, Alexander Hunter, Claudia Rebaza, Patrick Oppmann, Josh Levs, Catherine Shoichet and Susanna Palk contributed to this report.

National & World News

Where in the world is Snowden?

WASHINGTON – Pleading for asylum from U.S. officials he says want to persecute him, NSA leaker Edward Snowden told Ecuadorian officials that he fears a life of inhumane treatment — even death — if he’s returned the United States to answer espionage charges, the country’s foreign minister said Monday.

Snowden told Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa that it is “unlikely that I will have a fair trial or humane treatment” if handed over to U.S. officials to stand trial, according to a letter from Snowden read by Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino.

While Patino, speaking at a news conference in Vietnam, said the county has yet to decide on Snowden’s asylum request, he questioned whether it was Snowden or the United States that was acting badly in the affair.


NSA leaker Edward Snowden says, “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

He called the surveillance programs revealed by Snowden “a breach of the rights” of people around the world.

“We have to ask, who has betrayed who?” he said.

Snowden left Hong Kong on Sunday. Russian officials confirmed that he had flown to Moscow, where he spent the night at Sheremetyevo airport, according to media reports. It was unclear where he was Monday.

He had been expected to board a flight to Cuba on Monday, Russia’s semiofficial Interfax news agency reported. But a CNN journalist on a flight to Cuba said Snowden did not appear to be in the cabin. Interfax later reported that he did not board the plane and may be planning on taking the next flight to Cuba.

Officials at the airport declined Monday to say whether Snowden remained there.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials cast a wide net seeking his return, telling Russia and Latin American countries that they should hand Snowden over should he land on their soil.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Monday urged Russia to turn Snowden over.

“I would urge them to live by the standards of the law because that is in the interest of everybody,” he said.

For more on this CNN story, click here.

MOSCOW (CNN) — The computer contractor who exposed details of U.S. surveillance programs was on the run late Sunday, seeking asylum in Ecuador with the aid of the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, the organization and Ecuador’s Foreign Ministry announced.

Edward Snowden left Hong Kong after Washington sought his extradition on espionage charges, according to WikiLeaks, which facilitates the publication of classified information.

“He is bound for the Republic of Ecuador via a safe route for the purposes of asylum and is being escorted by diplomats and legal advisers from WikiLeaks,” the group said. A CNN crew spotted a car with diplomatic plates and an Ecuadorian flag at the Russian capital’s international airport.

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.

The Obama administration responded by asking Ecuador, as well as Cuba and Venezuela, not to admit Snowden or to expel him if they do, a senior Obama administration official told CNN on Sunday. And a source familiar with the matter told CNN that the U.S. government has revoked Snowden’s passport.

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was routine to revoke the passports of people charged with felonies. She would not comment specifically on the status of Snowden’s passport but said anyone wanted on a felony charge, “such as Mr. Snowden,” should be stopped from “any further international travel, other than is necessary to return him to the United States.”

Among those accompanying Snowden is former Spanish judge Baltasar Garzon, now the lawyer for WikiLeaks and Assange, according to a statement from the organization.

“The WikiLeaks legal team and I are interested in preserving Mr. Snowden’s rights and protecting him as a person,” Garzon said. “What is being done to Mr. Snowden and to Mr. Julian Assange — for making or facilitating disclosures in the public interest — is an assault against the people.”

Assange sought asylum in June 2012 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 are politically motivated and that he fears Sweden would transfer him to the United States.

There are no charges pending against Assange in the United States. But a U.S. Army private who military prosecutors say leaked a vast cache of classified documents to WikiLeaks is now being court-martialed on charges of aiding the enemy, and he faces life in prison if convicted.

Snowden has admitted he was the source who leaked classified documents about the NSA’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 rocked the Obama administration and U.S. intelligence, raising questions about whether the NSA was infringing on 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.”

“This was an individual with top-secret clearance, whose duty it was to administer these networks,” Alexander said. “He betrayed that confidence and stole some of our secrets.”

He said the super-secret communications intelligence agency has changed passwords and procedures since Snowden’s disclosures — “But at the end of the day, we have to trust that our people are going to do the right thing.”

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. “If his goal were to harm the United States, there were all sorts of things he could have done, from uploading those documents on the Internet to selling them to a foreign intelligence service.”

Snowden left Hong Kong “through a lawful and normal channel,” the government of the semi-autonomous Chinese territory said Sunday. The U.S. government announced Friday that it was charging Snowden with espionage and theft of government property and asked Hong Kong to hold him for extradition proceedings.

In a statement Sunday, Justice Department spokeswoman Nanda Chitre said Hong Kong authorities had informed U.S. officials of Snowden’s departure.

“We will continue to discuss this matter with Hong Kong and pursue relevant law enforcement cooperation with other countries where Mr. Snowden may be attempting to travel,” she said.

Hong Kong said the American request for a provisional arrest warrant “did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law” so it asked for additional information. Because Hong Kong didn’t have enough information, “there is no legal basis to restrict Mr. Snowden from leaving Hong Kong,” the government said.

But a Justice Department official said Sunday that the United States had met requirements and disputed the assertion from Hong Kong’s government.

“They came back to us with a few questions late Friday and we were in the process of answering those questions,” the official said. “We believe we were meeting those requirements. As far as the relationship with Hong Kong goes, this raises questions and we will continue to discuss with authorities there.”

Hong Kong’s lack of intervention came after Snowden told the South China Morning Post that U.S. intelligence agents have been hacking computer networks in Hong Kong and mainland China for years. The territory’s government said it has requested “clarification” about that in order “to protect the legal rights of the people of Hong Kong.”

President Barack Obama, top legislators and national security officials defend the surveillance programs Snowden detailed as necessary to combat terrorism and argue that some privacy must be sacrificed in a balanced approach. In a chat session moderated by the Guardian last week, Snowden said he went ahead with the leak because Obama worsened “abusive” practices instead of curtailing them as he promised as a candidate.

Obama has been receiving updates on the Snowden case from national security aides, a senior administration official told CNN.

(CNN) — U.S. law enforcement officials made thousands of requests for data about Apple users over the last seven months, the company said Monday.

typingApple said it had received between 4,000 and 5,000 requests, covering between 9,000 and 10,000 accounts or devices, from federal, state and local authorities.

Some of the requests were related to national security matters, but most were made by police investigating crimes, searching for missing persons or trying to prevent suicide, according to the company.

Apple’s revelation follows the leaking by American computer analyst Edward Snowden of details of a U.S. government system for monitoring millions of emails, photos, search histories and other data from major telecommunications and technology firms.

Snowden’s leaks have sparked a furious debate about the scale and scope of the National Security Agency surveillance program, which dates back to the days after the 2001 al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington. It has also raised questions about the role tech companies play.

Apple said it first heard of the program — known as Prism — on June 6. Since then, like other tech companies, it had sought U.S. government permission to report how many requests it receives and how it handles them. It said it does not provide direct access to its servers.

“Regardless of the circumstances, our legal team conducts an evaluation of each request and, only if appropriate, we retrieve and deliver the narrowest possible set of information to the authorities,” the company said in a statement.

“In fact, from time to time when we see inconsistencies or inaccuracies in a request, we will refuse to fulfill it.”

Facebook and Microsoft have also published details of the extent of their involvement in recent days. Facebook said it received between 9,000 and 10,000 requests in the last half of 2012, targeting between 18,000 and 19,000 accounts.

Over the same period, Microsoft received between 6,000 and 7,000 criminal and security warrants, subpoenas and orders affecting as many as 32,000 customer accounts.

Apple said there were certain categories of information it was unable to provide to law enforcement officials because it didn’t record them. Such data includes iMessage or FaceTime conversations, which Apple said were protected by end-to-end encryption so that no one but the sender or receiver can see or read them.

“Apple cannot decrypt that data. Similarly, we do not store data related to customers’ location, Map searches or Siri requests in any identifiable form,” Apple said.

Reporting all law enforcement requests together makes it hard to single out those made for national security reasons.

Google, which publishes a transparency report detailing requests from governments worldwide, has said it wants to be able to break out numbers of national security requests separately.

By Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times

WASHINGTON — Former National Security Agency contract employee Edward Snowden used a computer thumb drive to smuggle highly classified documents out of an NSA facility in Hawaii, using a portable digital device supposedly barred inside the cyber spying agency, U.S. officials said.

Investigators “know how many documents he downloaded and what server he took them from,” said one official who would not be named while speaking about the ongoing investigation.

Snowden worked as a system administrator, a technical job that gave him wide access to NSA computer networks and presumably a keen understanding of how those networks are monitored for unauthorized downloads.


NSA leaker Edward Snowden says, “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

“Of course, there are always exceptions” to the thumb drive ban, a former NSA official said, particularly for network administrators. “There are people who need to use a thumb drive and they have special permission. But when you use one, people always look at you funny.”

PHOTOS: 2013′s top political scenes

FBI Director Robert Mueller III said Thursday that he expects Snowden to be arrested and prosecuted in this country.

“He is the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation,” Mueller told a House hearing. “We are taking all necessary steps to hold this person responsible for these disclosures.”

Confirmation of a thumb drive solved one of the central mysteries in the case: how Snowden, who worked for contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, physically removed classified material from an spy agency famous for strict security and ultra-secrecy.

He acknowledged on Sunday that he gave two news organizations details of secret NSA surveillance programs on telephones and the Internet, but did not say how he had transferred the data. He is believed to be hiding in Hong Kong.

Officials said they still don’t know how Snowden got access to an order marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, or a highly-classified directive from President Obama authorizing a military target list for cyber attacks. Neither document would be widely shared, or normally available to a low-level NSA employee.

A larger number of NSA employees and contractors might have access to a PowerPoint slide show on PRISM, which uses online data from nine U.S. Internet and technology companies. Snowden said he provided the slides to the Washington Post and The Guardian.

“There is a certain level of information that is not specific to a mission, but helps people who work there understand how the place functions,” the former NSA operator said.

The Pentagon, which includes the NSA, banned connecting thumb drives and other portable storage devices to classified computers after malicious software was discovered on the military’s classified network in October 2008.

The chief suspect was Russian intelligence, and investigators determined that the malware was introduced through a corrupted thumb drive. The years-long effort to clean up the system was code-named Operation Buckshot Yankee. Many of the external drives on Defense Department computers were disabled.

Two years later, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, an intelligence analyst in Iraq, downloaded hundreds of thousands of classified documents onto thumb drives and computer discs, and transferred the data to the anti-secrecy website Wikileaks.

After that, “there was a lot of focus on this type of insider threat,” the former operator said. “If it is still easy to use a thumb drive, that is a major problem.”

Manning is on trial at Fort Meade, Md., on charges of aiding America’s enemies. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life in prison. He already has pleaded guilty to 10 lesser counts.

In testimony Wednesday, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander acknowledged “grave concerns” about Snowden’s access to so many secret programs and documents.

“In this case, this individual was a system administrator with access to key parts of the network,” he said. “That is of serious concern to us and something that we have to fix.”

 WASHINGTON — The director of the National Security Agency portrayed the secret collection of millions of U.S. telephone records each day as a limited program designed to thwart terrorist plots, saying the agency does not search the data without a reasonable suspicion of a terrorist connection.

Testifying on Capitol Hill for the first time since news reports exposed the NSA program last week, Gen. Keith Alexander said the provision in the Patriot Act that authorizes the collection of so-called business records, including calling records, has helped prevent or disrupt “dozens of terrorist plots.” He said he would provide more details in coming days.

He told the Senate Appropriations Committee that “only a few” intelligence reports a year are based on U.S. phone records – “a handful.”

nsa testimony

Under questioning from Democrats and Republicans, Alexander, who also heads the Pentagon’s U.S. Cyber Command, downplayed any privacy risk from the NSA’s requests for telephony metadata – detailed records of each call but not their contents.

The databank allows the NSA to “go backward in time” to search for possible links in a terrorism investigation, Alexander said.

The agency won’t search the archive “unless we have some reasonable articulable suspicion about a terrorist organization,” he said. “Once we have that, we can see who this guy was talking to in the United States. But if you didn’t collect that, how would you know who he was talking to?”

If an American suspect emerges, that information is turned over to the FBI, Alexander said.

He added: “It’s a very deliberate process. We don’t get to look at the data. We don’t get to swim through the data.”

The NSA has gathered records from U.S. phone companies since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, although the current program began seven years ago after the law was modified.

The Guardian newspaper of Britain last week revealed the secret program, and published an order marked “Top Secret” from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing the collection on a “daily, ongoing” basis. On Sunday, a 29-year-old NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, disclosed that he had leaked the material to the newspaper because he viewed surveillance of Americans as morally wrong.

Alexander argued that the program was legal and appropriate.

“I think what we’re doing to protect American citizens here is the right thing,” he said. “We aren’t trying to hide it. We’re trying to protect America.”

Alexander was asked how Snowden, a computer expert who worked for Booz Allen Hamilton until he was fired Monday, had access to so much classified information.

The NSA outsourced its information technology infrastructure about 14 years ago, he replied.

“As a consequence, many in government have system administrators who have contractors running their networks,” he said. “This individual was a system administrator with access to key parts of the network. This is something we have to fix.”

Alexander later added that “great harm has already been done” by the leaks “and the consequence is our security is jeopardized.” Now, he said, the government has to show “it is doing the right thing” in protecting civil liberties and privacy.

–Ken Dilanian, Los Angeles Times

 HONG KONG (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 claimed Wednesday to the South China Morning Post newspaper.

Among some 61,000 reported targets of the National Security Agency, Snowden said, are thousands 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.


NSA leaker Edward Snowden says, “I can’t in good conscience allow the U.S. government to destroy privacy, Internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”

The Morning Post said it had seen documents but was unable to 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.

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-bandwith 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 together 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.

For the complete CNN story, go here.