U.S. seeks Snowden’s extradition, urges Hong Kong to act quickly

NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this file still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6
NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defence contractor, is seen in this file still image taken from video during an interview by The Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong June 6

The United States pressured Hong Kong on Saturday to act quickly on its request to extradite Edward Snowden, a former U.S. National Security Agency contractor charged with espionage for exposing secret U.S. surveillance activities.

“If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law,” a senior Obama administration official told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Sources say Snowden, who has been hiding in Hong Kong, has sought legal representation from human rights lawyers as he prepares to fight attempts to force him back to the United States to face trial.

U.S. National Security Adviser Tom Donilon told CBS News the United States had a “good case” against Snowden and expected Hong Kong to comply with its 1998 extradition treaty with the United States.

“We have gone to the Hong Kong authorities seeking extradition of Snowden back to the United States,” Donilon said.

He added that U.S. law enforcement officials were in a “conversation” with Hong Kong authorities about the issue.

“Hong Kong has been a historically good partner of the United States in law enforcement matters and we expect them to comply with the treaty in this case,” Donilon said.

A senior U.S. law enforcement source said extradition “can, of course, be a lengthy legal process” but expressed optimism that Snowden would be extradited.

The South China Morning Post said on Saturday that Snowden was not detained or in police protection – as reported elsewhere – and instead was in a “safe place” somewhere in Hong Kong.

The paper also quoted Snowden offering new details about U.S. spy activities, including accusations of U.S. hacking of Chinese mobile phone companies.

“The NSA does all kinds of things like hack Chinese cellphone companies to steal all of your SMS (texting) data,” Snowden was quoted by the Post as saying during a June 12 interview.

Documents previously leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA has access to vast amounts of internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies such as Facebook and Google, under a government program known as Prism.

They also showed that the government had worked through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gather so-called metadata – such as the time, duration and telephone numbers called – on all calls carried by service providers such as Verizon.

On Friday, the Guardian newspaper, citing documents shared by Snowden, said Britain’s spy agency GCHQ had tapped fiber-optic cables that carry international phone and internet traffic and is sharing vast quantities of personal information with the NSA.

ESPIONAGE CHARGES

The United States charged Snowden with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorized person, according to the criminal complaint made public on Friday.

The latter two offenses fall under the U.S. Espionage Act and carry penalties of up to 10 years in prison.

Scores of Americans have been sent back home from Hong Kong to face trial under the extradition treaty. But the process can take years, lawyers say, and Snowden’s case could be particularly complex.

America’s use of the Espionage Act against Snowden has fueled debate among legal experts about whether that could complicate his extradition, since the treaty includes an exception for political offenses and Hong Kong courts may choose to shield him from prosecution.

Snowden says he leaked the details of the classified U.S. surveillance to expose abusive and illegal programs that trampled on citizens’ privacy rights.

President Barack Obama and his intelligence chiefs have vigorously defended the programs, saying they are regulated by law and that Congress was notified. They say the programs have been used to thwart militant plots and do not target Americans’ personal lives.

Stephen Vladeck, a professor at American University’s Washington College of Law who studies national security issues, said there is no clear definition of what constitutes a political offense under the treaty.

“My intuition says it’ll be easier for Snowden to argue espionage is a political offense than (the U.S. charge of) theft of government property,” Vladeck said.

The South China Morning Post reported on Saturday that Snowden said he had documents showing NSA had hacked major Chinese telecoms companies to access text messages and targeted China’s top Tsinghua University.

The NSA program also hacked the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which has an extensive fiber-optic network, the paper said.



News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
Local

Trump Plaza in Atlantic City to close, adding…

Trump Plaza booked less than half its rooms in the first quarter of 2014, and had the lowest gaming revenue of any of the city's casinos in May, according to…

National

Debut 'supermoon' hangs in the summer sky

It was the first of three times this year the full "supermoon" will orbit closer to earth and appear unusually large and bright.

National

Exclusive: YouTube weighs funding efforts to boost premium…

By Ronald Grover and Lisa RichwineLOS ANGELES (Reuters) - YouTube has embarked on a new round of discussions with Hollywood and independent producers to fund…

National

Pot farmer charged with starting California wildfire

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A 37-year-old man accused of starting a raging wildfire in Northern California while tending to his marijuana farm was arrested and…

Going Out

NYC's Best Bar: Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club?

Having actually played shuffleboard on the beach on Royal Palm Boulevard in South Florida, we expertly approve this hipster hangout.

Going Out

Cocktail of the Week: The Royal Palms Shuffle

The Royal Palms Shuffleboard Club, in Gowanus, Brooklyn, created this drink to feature Brugal Extra Dry.

Going Out

NYC's Best Bar: Hill & Dale?

Every bar should be the best at something: What's Hill & Dale's angle?

Music

Robin Thicke's 'Blurred Lines' was sexual, but not…

  Robin Thicke has a certified dud on his hands with "Paula," the follow-up album to his multiplatinum "Blurred Lines" and its eponymous title track that…

MLB

Yankees All-Star break report card

The first half of the season rarely went as planned for the Yankees, right down to a massively disappointing injury diagnosis to Masahiro Tanaka in…

NBA

Nets lose Paul Pierce to two-year deal with…

Paul Pierce is taking a gamble on joining a franchise on the rise.

NBA

GIF: LeBron James returns to Cleveland so deal…

To anyone out there who is upset about his decision, this .GIF is for you. Enjoy.

World Cup

A game of two popes: Vatican plays down…

By Philip PullellaVATICAN CITY (Reuters) - With Argentina meeting Germany in the World Cup final, the Vatican on Friday brushed aside talk of soccer rivalry…

Food

Taco Bell goes totally off-script with new breakfast…

Taco Bell is betting that you, or someone you love enough to take there, wants healthier options. At least first thing in the morning. For…

Wellbeing

Sex or drugs, it's all the same to…

Pornography triggers brain activity in sex addicts similar to the effect drugs have on the brains of drug addicts, researchers said on Friday — but…

Lifestyle

Pets: Dogs die in hot cars! Be careful…

Leaving animals in a car even with the windows cracked, even in the shade, can cause heatstroke, which can be fatal.

Home

Bring on the flea market

The editors at Wayfair show us what to do with cute flea market finds.