On June 6th, the Washington Post and the Guardian both carried the information Snowden provided as a proof that the US government has been secretly collecting a huge volume of private data about Internet users. This surveillance program has been carried out by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National Security Agency over the last 6 years, which gathers personal data directly from the servers of big Internet companies through emails, video and audio files. While in Hong Kong, China, Snowden said US special agents hacked the information network of China’s Tsinghua University, which houses one of the 6 servers that connects all Internet transmission lines in mainland China. Snowden said the agents also attacked the server of Pacnet in Hong Kong, one of Asia Pacific’s biggest fiber-optic network operators.
Senior US security officials argued that this secret program helped to detect and thwart more than 50 terrorist plots targeting the US and its interests around the world since the September 11 attack. President Obama, meanwhile, called on the Americans to choose between confidentiality and national security. However, what concerns US intelligence agencies most is the volume of confidential and sensitive documents that Snowden is holding. They are also afraid that Snowden had collected more data than initial estimates and that his relations with WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange will increase the possibility that Snowden will continue to distribute such data. In this context, Washington is doing what it can to track down Snowden, abolish his American passport, issue an arrest warrant on him and is asking other countries to deny his entry into their territory.
Snowden’s stories have caused tensions in the US and a rift in relations with other countries, particularly China and Russia, where Snowden has been transiting to seek refuge in a third country. Russia and China have not arrested and extradited Snowden as the US requested and have rejected Washington’s accusation that they had something to do with Snowden’s departure from Hong Kong, China. China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying maintains that Hong Kong allowing Snowden to leave the special administrative zone without arresting or extraditing him to the US was in line with the law. She also asked parties concerned to respect this decision.
The US has lost its footing now that China has sufficient grounds to refute Washington’s accusation that Beijing is the origin of many cyber attacks targeting US government agencies and businesses. The Snowden case has also put more weight on China’s statement that it has also been a victim of cyber attacks. According to observers, this case will cast a shadow on prospects for cooperation in network security between China and the US which had been previously agreed upon by President Obama and President Xi Jinping.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Russia had nothing to do with Snowden leaving Hong Kong and that accusations against Moscow are groundless and unacceptable. Earlier, a Russian human rights official said Washington has no right to ask Russia to arrest or extradite Snowden because he did not commit any crime in Russia and that Moscow had received no announcement from Interpol on the arrest of this American citizen.
The EU, meanwhile, has expressed concern over serious threats facing their citizens from the surveillance program of their partner on the other side of the Atlantic. It is obvious that the Snowden case has been detrimental to Washington’s image and has demonstrated that the US has acted against its criticism of other countries for what it calls violations of the rights of citizens.