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Leaker Snowden alleges NSA hacking on China, world

By Kelvin Chan

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 06:13 a.m. HST, Jun 13, 2013

HONG KONG » For months, China has tried to turn the tables on the U.S. to counter accusations that it hacks America's computers and networks. Now, former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden may have handed Beijing a weapon in its cyber war of words with Washington.

In an interview with the South China Morning Post newspaper, Snowden claims the U.S. has long been attacking a Hong Kong university that routes all Internet traffic in and out of the semiautonomous Chinese region.

Snowden said the National Security Agency's 61,000 hacking targets around the world include hundreds in Hong Kong and mainland China, the paper reported late Wednesday. The Post, Hong Kong's main English-language newspaper, said Snowden had presented documents to support those claims, but it did not describe the documents and said it could not verify them.

Snowden's comments were his first since the 29-year-old American revealed himself as the source of a major leak of top-secret information on U.S. surveillance programs. He flew to Hong Kong from Hawaii before revealing himself, and the Post said he is staying out of sight amid speculation the U.S. may seek his extradition.

Snowden, who worked for the CIA and later as a contractor for the NSA, has revealed details about U.S. spy programs that sweep up millions of Americans' telephone records, emails and Internet data in the hunt for terrorists. American law enforcement officials are building a case against him but have yet to bring charges.

U.S. officials have disputed some of his claims, particularly his assertion to the Guardian newspaper of Britain that he "had the authority to wiretap anyone." He also said he made $200,000 a year, although contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, where he worked before being fired this week, said his salary was $122,000.

Snowden's allegations about U.S. hacking add a new twist to the long-running battle between Washington and Beijing over cybersecurity.

The U.S. been delivering a steady flow of reports accusing China's government and military of computer-based attacks against America. U.S. officials have said recently that the Chinese seem more open to trying to work with the U.S. to address the problems.

Snowden's allegations follow comments last week from China's Internet security chief, who told state media that Beijing has amassed huge amounts of data on U.S.-based hacking. The official held off on blaming the U.S. government, saying it would be irresponsible and that the better approach is to seek to cooperate in the fight against cyberattacks.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokeswoman Hua Chungying today said China is a "major victim" of cyberattacks but did not lay blame.

The reaction was stronger online. Air Force Col. Dai Xu, known for the hawkish opinions he voices on his Sina Weibo microblog, wrote: "I have always said, the United States' accusations about Chinese hacking attacks have always been a case of a thief crying for another thief to be caught."

The Post cited Snowden as saying the NSA has been hacking into computers in Hong Kong and mainland China since 2009, citing documents he showed the paper, which it said it could not verify. It didn't provide further details about the documents.

He said that among the targets was the Chinese University of Hong Kong, which hosts the Hong Kong Internet Exchange, the main hub for the city's Internet traffic. Set up in 1995, it allows all data between local servers to be routed locally instead of having to pass through exchanges in other countries, including the United States.

"We hack network backbones — like huge Internet routers, basically — that gives us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one," Snowden told the Post.

According to Snowden's documents, other NSA hacking targets included Hong Kong public officials, students and businesspeople, as well as targets on the mainland, though they did not include Chinese military systems, the paper said, without providing further details.

A large number of mainland Chinese businesses, including ones that are state-owned, have offices in Hong Kong, a former British colony that passed back to Chinese control in 1997. The People's Liberation Army has a base in Hong Kong and the Beijing central government and foreign affairs department have offices.

The university is also home to the Satellite Remote Sensing Receiving Station, which captures data and imagery used to monitor the environment and natural disasters in a 2,500-kilometer radius around Hong Kong, an area that includes most of mainland China and Southeast Asia.

Staff at the facilities did not return phone calls.

The school said in a statement that "every effort is made to protect" the exchange, which is monitored around the clock to defend against threats.

"The university has not detected any form of hacking to the network, which has been running normally," it said.

At a meeting in California last week, President Barack Obama pushed Chinese President Xi Jinping to do more to address online theft of U.S. intellectual and other property coming from China. Xi claimed no responsibility for alleged cyberespionage and said China was also a victim.

Virginia-based cybersecurity firm Mandiant published a detailed report in February directly linking a secret Chinese military unit in Shanghai to years of cyberattacks against U.S. companies.

In November 2011, U.S. intelligence officials publicly accused China for the first time of stealing American high-tech data for economic gain.

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allie wrote:
Like..we did nto know USA was hacking while China was hacking? This dude is a bore.
on June 13,2013 | 06:47AM
HawaiiCheeseBall wrote:
Brah, we better be hacking China. I would be so disappointed had he said our cyber spies were not trying to hack into China given that the Chinese are pretty much hacking the world.
on June 13,2013 | 08:47AM
hanalei395 wrote:
The U.S. has ALWAYS been hacking China, no secret there. (And "pretty much hacking the world").
on June 13,2013 | 09:25AM
allie wrote:
yup..dat was whut i said
on June 13,2013 | 11:15AM
mitt_grund wrote:
Hmmm. Snowden was based here on Oahu. As a federal contractor employee, did he get COLA? What is current COLA % for Hawaii? 25%? That would come out to approx. $150 thou. Regular overtime at time and a half? Hmmm, total about $200, 000. As for US hacking China. No country is clean when it comes to espionage. That's why there are top secret classifications, so we don't find out about the two-way street of international intelligence. Countries all try to wear white cowboy hats, and try to make the other wearing the black cowboy hat.
on June 13,2013 | 07:15AM
drt wrote:
Federal Contractors don't get COLA, only GS and WG Civilian workers do. Overtime.. possible depends what his contract stated.
on June 13,2013 | 08:24AM
Slow wrote:
Like we didn't know Uncle Sam was spying on us. Not boring, frightening.
on June 13,2013 | 07:18AM
Manoa2 wrote:
I argued w my neighbor an Army Colonel on this and her is how it works. We know there are terrorist cells and home grown jihadists in the US and some communicate to overseas groups using the Internet and cell phones. We do not know who they all are so we cannot get a wiretap or search warrant. So we go to the special secret court that will decide if we can look for these networks using computers-- the computers search all because it is the only wat to find thse networks. They do not look at all email or clls but at those which show connections to terrorists.
on June 13,2013 | 07:33AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
An army colonel would probably not be privy to all the goings on in the NSA. They operate outside the scope of normal military and government. They claim that they do not "listen" in on our private conversations but understand this, they have access to all your information and have skimmed through all of them in their efforts to find clues to their effort to find terrorists. What will stop them from using information for other purposes? Nothing.
on June 13,2013 | 10:02AM
scooters wrote:
Hey, send in Seal Team 6..they'll find this traitor and bring him to justice!
on June 13,2013 | 07:42AM
teotwawki wrote:
No need Seal Team six, Kirsten Beck can capture Snowden all by hermself.
on June 13,2013 | 08:20AM
kennysmith wrote:
i like that person, i also know how to go on a army base with out going thru the main gate to. in uniform. and i got away from it. no one stop me.
on June 13,2013 | 11:01AM
IAmSane wrote:
Thanks for sharing. The FBI is on their way.
on June 13,2013 | 11:08AM
hanalei395 wrote:
You got it. He won't shut up...... He's EMBARRASSING the U.S...... He can't do that.
on June 13,2013 | 11:10AM
IAmSane wrote:
Yep, send a couple of our soldiers into China. What could possibly go wrong?
on June 13,2013 | 11:10AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
They'd beaten by Jabba the Hutt. She is Chinese after all
on June 13,2013 | 11:41AM
Leinanij wrote:
This traitor needs to be locked up and the key thrown away. He is as bad as Benedict Arnold, John Walker, Jr., the Rosenburgs, and Robert Hanssen. We need to keep tabs on terrorists in America and the world and he made that job much harder.
on June 13,2013 | 07:58AM
Fred01 wrote:
You are a traitor to your constitution, and deserve to be locked up.
on June 13,2013 | 10:46AM
jrboi96786 wrote:
Send someone to assassinate him! traitor deserves to die!!!
on June 13,2013 | 08:09AM
copperwire9 wrote:
That's your idea of the 'American way,' is it?
on June 13,2013 | 09:54AM
Fred01 wrote:
You clearly deserve nothing short of death, traitor.
on June 13,2013 | 10:47AM
Goodmedivice wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on June 13,2013 | 10:57AM
Fred01 wrote:
Why do you have so much love for the government?
on June 13,2013 | 12:07PM
johndoe wrote:
It is expected that the Government is watching us. This guy is blowing it for everyone.
on June 13,2013 | 08:13AM
kailua1044 wrote:
It is naïve to think these events don't occur. That being said, exposing internal affairs is bad enough, but to now reveal international activities is beyond reproach and can only be constituted as treason. He is a zero, not a hero. Hang'em high.
on June 13,2013 | 08:46AM
Fred01 wrote:
Perhaps you deserve lethal injection for your anti-American opinions?
on June 13,2013 | 10:48AM
IAmSane wrote:
Okay, take it easy there, Captain America.
on June 13,2013 | 11:14AM
kailua1044 wrote:
anti-American?? perhaps you need a.....
on June 13,2013 | 03:36PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
Instead of shutting his trap, this traitor continues with a new news media, like chapters of his book. This will go on everyday till he's captured. He will make assumptions about things that he had no first hand experiences from. After three months of hire, do you think he knows everything about NSA and it's worldwide operations! No. Low level peons like him do not have access to those info. Get the warrants ready, and get this traitor. Like Walmart, he's selling us out to the Chinese.
on June 13,2013 | 08:48AM
Fred01 wrote:
No, ignorant folks like you, with anti-American opinions, are the sell-outs.
on June 13,2013 | 10:49AM
kailua1044 wrote:
poor fred....
on June 13,2013 | 03:43PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
His next episodes would involve YouTube. Bet you a buck he will use these social medias like a taunting traitor.
on June 13,2013 | 08:50AM
jussayin wrote:
Yup, we can't trust what our own government tells us. And China can't either. Transparency? Yeah right.
on June 13,2013 | 09:06AM
bumbye wrote:
Loose lips sink ships, but he's just saying out loud what we've all known.
on June 13,2013 | 09:21AM
hanalei395 wrote:
What the world already knows.
on June 13,2013 | 10:53AM
allie wrote:
on June 13,2013 | 11:15AM
Psyche wrote:
on June 13,2013 | 09:40AM
Bdpapa wrote:
He just lost any credoibility and honor he ever had.
on June 13,2013 | 09:48AM
nodaddynotthebelt wrote:
It is really sad what our country has become as a result of the terrorist attacks of 911. We now resort to the very same tactics that we called the "Axis of Evil". We have become what we have idealized to be not about. We called the old Russian KGB oppressive. We called Communist China the evil ones who took away human rights. In our zeal to stop terrorism at its tracks we have become the terrorist who instead of threatening safety we threaten the very sanctity of human right to privacy. Nothing is private anymore. They now turn every stone in the hopes of finding a terrorist. When in fact they should turn their own stones and find out what they have become. The terrorists of Constitutional Rights to freedom of speech and all that mattered to our Forefathers.
on June 13,2013 | 09:54AM
lee1957 wrote:
Lots of hyperbole.
on June 13,2013 | 11:26AM
CriticalReader wrote:
OK, the dude must go DOWN! He illustrates the fine line between American whistleblower/potential hero and traitor. He crossed the line.
on June 13,2013 | 10:05AM
Fred01 wrote:
I assume you are Chinese? Because no American patriot would think that way.
on June 13,2013 | 10:50AM
nuuanusam wrote:
Some people in Hong Kong deduced that this dude is looking for a well paid job. He thought that after this fiasco, some Asian mega company will hire him.
on June 13,2013 | 10:23AM
mokebla wrote:
Out of site, out of mind. Can you say aloha with me, :-O!
on June 13,2013 | 10:25AM
Sunny wrote:
I'm not surprised by anything Snowden has revealed.
on June 13,2013 | 10:42AM
gth wrote:
If he thinks China or a Latin American country is better than the USA he may be delisional. Why do you think thousands are dying to come here rather than the reverse.
on June 13,2013 | 10:54AM
den1718 wrote:
Guess it doesn't take much to get a classified secret clearance. No high school degree ? 29 years old. 122,000 a year plus. He knew the real meaning of USA land of opportunity when he stole all of this classified stuff and wants to share it with the world. . Sounds like a Hollywood movie.
on June 13,2013 | 10:56AM
2disgusted2 wrote:
Is he related to the Queen's husband? Isn't Prince Phillip the earl of snow don or something? Or was it Mountbatten?
on June 13,2013 | 11:38AM
loquaciousone wrote:
The Chinese are playing Snowden like a violin. For a smart guy he sure is stooopid.
on June 13,2013 | 11:48AM
hanalei395 wrote:
What the U.S. wants from this stooopid guy .....SHUT UP ! ... Stop embarrassing the U.S. ... Stop talking to the international media ... SHUT UP !
on June 13,2013 | 12:19PM
loquaciousone wrote:
Snowden is a naive you man who got into a grown up game that he was not ready to handle. The amount of people he will hurt will be infinite.
on June 13,2013 | 01:16PM
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