16 June 2013, 01:11

Protesters took to Hong Kong streets Saturday to show support for NSA leaker Edward Snowden

Protesters took to Hong Kong streets Saturday to show support for NSA leaker Edward Snowden

Protesters took to the streets in Hong Kong Saturday to show their support for NSA leaker Edward Snowden and demand a "thorough explanation" of the secret surveillance program he exposed. Roughly 200 people braved the rain to march to the U.S. consulate, chanting "Free Snowden" and "Arrest Obama." Others carried large posters with pictures under the headline "Big brother is watching you."

Outside the U.S. consulate, demonstrators blew their whistles saying they "were all whistle-blowers today," then handed over a letter to Consul General Steve Young, demanding an end to all surveillance of "innocent internet users" under the NSA program.

"The idea of mass surveillance not only violates the right to privacy and human dignity, but threatens the very fundamental Human Rights of freedom of thought, opinion, expression and association," the letter said.

Crowds at the rally were significantly smaller than the 1,000 people organizers expected, but Snowden has slowly been gaining public support in here, since he flew to Hong Kong, and exposed himself as the whistle-blower behind one of the biggest intelligence leaks in U.S. history.

Earlier this week, he told the South China Morning Post the NSA had been hacking Chinese and Hong Kong computers since 2009, specifically targeting Chinese University, public officials, and students.

The interview raised alarm, and appears to have rallied support behind Snowden who called the surveillance program proof of "hypocrisy of the U.S. government."

Julian Assange admits contact with Snowden

Wikileaks founder Julian Assange says he has had indirect contact with people associated with Edward Snowden, an ex-CIA contractor behind massive leaks over top-secret US surveillance programs.

Former CIA employee Edward Snowden was believed to be staying at this hotel in Hong Kong when he revealed details of top secret US surveillance programs to the Guardian newspaper.

But by Tuesday, Edward Snowden's whereabouts were unclear.

Fugitive Wikileaks founder Julian Assange said he has had some contact with people close to Snowden, but didn't give much away when speaking to Australian television: "We have had indirect communication with his people. I don't think it's appropriate at this time that I go into further details."

In Hong Kong - news of Snowden's flight to the city was front page news.

Voice of Russia, abcnews, Reuters


Edward Snowden: a hero or a traitor?

The outgoing week revealed new details regarding the surveillance scandal in the US. First, the name of the leaker – Edward Snowden – was disclosed, then the US authorities opened a criminal case against the ‘traitor’. Snowden responded by supplying Chinese reporters with a new ‘dose’ of incriminating evidence against US special services.

On Friday Snowden told The South China Morning Post that individuals and organizations in China and Hong Kong had been exposed to surveillance on the part of the US National Security Agency. American special services have carried out more than 60,000 hacker attacks against Chinese company websites in recent years, Snowden revealed.

Furious over the leak, the Department of Justice has opened a criminal case against Snowden. Congressmen and officials call for his extradition to the US. On top of that, it has been revealed that Snowden could have been working for Chinese special services. Rep. Peter King of the Committee on National Security says there are several reasons to suspect this.

While US politicians are demanding punishment for Snowden, ordinary citizens are speaking in his support. The participants in a rally which took place in New York this week demanded that Snowden should be left alone while instances of abuse of office on the part of special services should be subjected to inquiry.

In a move to pass from words to action, the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a lawsuit against the US administration. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are James Clapper, director of national intelligence in President Barack Obama's administration; Keith Alexander, director of the NSA; Chuck Hagel, U.S. secretary of defense; Eric Holder, U.S. attorney general, and Robert Mueller, director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. According to human rights campaigners, the NSA's surveillance of telephone customers violates the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, giving U.S. residents the rights of free speech and association, and the Fourth Amendment, protecting residents against unreasonable searches and seizures. Alex Abdo, who runs ACLU’s Security Project, says the government endorsed the surveillance program without enough grounds to do this.

Meanwhile, the scandal has spilled beyond the US borders. Now, Canadian journalists have found out that in 2011 the country’s defense minister issued a secret order to resume a program on collecting information on telephone customers and Internet users. The scheme similar to the American one was kept secret – even lawmakers knew nothing about it. Human rights campaigners are now demanding that the government report on the use of telephone data. Professor Michael Geist of the University of Ottawa says the program was shut in 2005 over reports about numerous cases of abuse.

Apparently, the surveillance scandal is set to acquire more threatening proportions. Edward Snowden is believed to have taken four laptops with CIA and NSA secret files. Being in possession of such ‘explosive’ data, Snowden could now oust Julian Assange as the US’ arch-enemy. This week Assange described Snowden as a ‘hero’.

The scandal also forced US Internet companies to disclose statistical data on requests from the authorities for user information. Microsoft says it received about 7,000 requests for access to the details of 32,000 users over a period of six months in 2012. Facebook received nearly 10,000 requests over the same period of time. All companies claim, however, that they provide the information they are asked for only on the basis of a special warrant.

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