Snowden Is Using 'Specific' Evidence of the U.S. Hacking China to Stay Out of Jail

Snowden Is Using 'Specific' Evidence of the U.S. Hacking China to Stay Out of Jail

Edward Snowden, the NSA leaker who has turned the United States intelligence apparatus upside-down, said that he won't be extradited back home without a fight. That fight won't take him to Britain in the meantime, but it does apparently involve letting the Chinese government know that he has information on the United States "using technical exploits to gain unauthorised access to civilian machines" in China. We knew from Snowden's interview this week with The South China Morning Post that he had new information about the U.S. hacking China, but Hong Kong's English-language newspaper reports today that he's got targets, too:

The detailed records - which cannot be independently verified - show specific dates and the IP addresses of computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland hacked by the National Security Agency over a four-year period. They also include information indicating whether an attack on a computer was ongoing or had been completed, along with an amount of additional operational information.

The small sample data suggests secret and illegal NSA attacks on Hong Kong computers had a success rate of more than 75 percent, according to the documents.

If Snowden's information is legit — and there are very few signs that he's been exaggerating his leaks so far — that would make him a person of interest in Beijing for an area of intense interest coming in and out of the country. Beyond China's hacking culture, the U.S. and Chinese governments have accused each other of back-and-forth cyberespionage on government sites, infrastructure, and beyond — and Presidents Obama and Xi made little progress on digital war when they met a week ago. This could be a seriously provocative escalation if Snowden has a backup plan of more leaks as he negotiates his next move, which The Guardian's Glenn Greenwald told The Atlantic Wire he "might" indeed have. Snowden doesn't want the Chinese to surrender him to the U.S. government, which wants to throw him in jail, and these documents — one hint at a time — could be get-out-of-jail free card, at least for a while.

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So what's the Chinese government going to do with the other biggest superpower on Earth's most wanted 29-year-old ex-spy? In a separate report today, the Morning Post cites a top advisor, who suggests that the government doesn't want to exploit Snowden and screw up diplomatic relations as Obama and Xi try to get a long: "China has no interest in turning this into a political case," the foreign-policy advisor told the paper. "This issue is not being handled by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs."

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Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, perhaps the most trusted of all U.S. allies, has banned Snowden from flying there, according to a confidential warning found at a Thai airport, as the BBC reports. Snowden was last seen in Hong Kong, which means that the U.K. is considering that he may be on the move in other parts of Southeast Asia.