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Defiant Snowden promises more leaks, rejects claims he is a Chinese spy

Rogue US intelligence tech Edward Snowden issued a defiant rebuke to his critics in Washington on Monday and warned more leaks were on the way, declaring: "Truth is coming and it cannot be stopped."

world Updated: Jun 18, 2013 17:25 IST

Rogue US intelligence tech Edward Snowden issued a defiant rebuke to his critics in Washington on Monday and warned more leaks were on the way, declaring: "Truth is coming and it cannot be stopped."

The 29-year-old former contractor for the National Security Agency dismissed allegations he was a traitor or a Chinese agent, and insisted he had exposed a dangerous US global surveillance network that threatens the privacy of millions.

US President Barack Obama's administration has protested that the programs exposed by Snowden's leaks were vital to protecting US citizens from terrorism, but the revelations have triggered an embarrassing global debate.

Read more: Secret data gathering "transparent", defends Obama

Snowden, who fled last month from his job at an NSA base in Hawaii to Hong Kong carrying with him a cache of secret documents, is unrepentant, and he vowed to expose more details about how US agents spy on private emails.

"More detail on how direct NSA's accesses are is coming," he said, in an online interview hosted by The Guardian newspaper, repeating his allegation that US federal agents have access to private users' Web traffic.

Protesters blow wistles as they march to the US consulate during a protest in support of Snowden in Hong Kong. AFP

The government has opened a criminal probe into Snowden's acts and partially confirmed his allegations by defending the programs to access Internet data and phone records, saying that they have thwarted dozens of terror attacks.

Read more: Yahoo! says it has received thousands of US requests

The degree to which US agencies have direct access to private communications stored on servers operated by private Internet giants has proved to be one of the more controversial aspects of the revelations.

This picture shows protest in support
of former US spy Edward Snowden
in Hong Kong. AFP

Firms like Google and Facebook say they provide information only when presented with a court order, and deny that they have effectively given the NSA "back door" access directly to their data banks.

But Snowden repeated his claim that almost any intelligence analyst with access to the NSA signals intelligence database could target almost anyone's emails or phone metadata and that warrants are rarely audited.

"They can enter and get results for anything they want," he said.

Know: Who is Edward Snowden?

"Phone number, email, user ID, cell phone handset ID (IMEI) and so on. It's all the same. The restrictions against this are policy-based, not technically-based, and can change at any time," he said.

Snowden alleged that Americans' communications were collected and consulted on a "daily basis," with analysts having access to all details associated with a targeted email address, such as IP addresses, raw data, content, headers and attachments.

"They excuse this as 'incidental' collection, but at the end of the day, someone at NSA still has the content of your communications," he added.

The young technician, who left behind a comfortable life and a girlfriend in Hawaii, has been attacked in Washington for fleeing to Hong Kong instead of voicing his concerns about the scope of the program through official channels.

Read more: FBI relies on secret US surveillance law, records show

But he insisted that he would not have got a fair hearing at home.

"All I can say right now is the US government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me," he said.

Some in Washington have suggested Snowden chose Hong Kong because he was working with US rival China, but he dismissed this as laughable.

"This is a predictable smear that I anticipated before going public," he said. "Ask yourself: If I were a Chinese spy, why wouldn't I have flown directly into Beijing? I could be living in a palace petting a phoenix by now."

Read more: No chance of fair trial in US, says Snowden

Rather than working for China, he said, he was attempting to safeguard the privacy of the millions of non-US citizens around the world who could see their emails and private data hacked by US agents acting with little oversight.

"Suspicionless surveillance does not become okay simply because it's only victimizing 95% of the world instead of 100%," he said.

And he had harsh words for the US politicians who have criticized him.

"Being called a traitor by Dick Cheney is the highest honor you can give an American," he said, accusing former president George W. Bush's conservative vice president of "deceitfully engineering" the Iraq war.

A banner supporting Edward Snowden is displayed at Central, Hong Kong's business district. AP

"If they had taught a class on how to be the kind of citizen Dick Cheney worries about, I would have finished high school," Snowden said, poking fun at his own relative lack of formal qualifications.

Since Snowden surfaced in Hong Kong, he has released details of several US snooping programs. In the latest, he embarrassed the British government on the eve of the G8 by revealing that it had bugged leaders at a previous summit.

First Published: Jun 18, 2013 13:56 IST