The chase is on for whistleblower Edward Snowden and the U.S. government.
After legally leaving Hong Kong for Moscow, and despite having his U.S. passport revoked, the former NSA sysadmin and analyst has formally requested asylum from Ecuador after he became convinced that the Hong Kong judiciary might jail him until the U.S. extradition request is considered.
It is unknown whether the Latin American country has granted him asylum, but he has failed to board an Aeroflot plane heading for Cuba for which he allegedly had a ticket and his whereabouts are currently unknown.
According to The Washington Post, the U.S. has charged Snowden with theft, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person, and each charge could entail a sentence of 10 years in jail – 30 if he’s convicted of all.
As the U.S. government is trying to force Western Hemisphere nations to detain Snowden if he lands on their soil and extradite him to the U.S., WIkiLeaks and its attorneys and activists have apparently joined Snowden and are helping him reach his final destination (ostensibly Ecuador).
WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has, in the meantime, released a statement with which he is trying to switch the attention of the public from Snowden to his leaks and the U.S. government actions and reactions. (As a side note, Ezra Klein and Evan Soltas over at WaPo offer an insightful take on this particular problem)
Since Friday, the documents he shared with reporters of The Guardian have revealed another spying scandal – this time in the U.K. It seems that the British spy agency Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) has secretly tapped over 200 fiber-optic cables carrying the world’s phone calls and internet traffic and has been sharing information acquired thusly with the NSA. For those too busy to read it all, here is a short recap of the item by Wired.
Snowden has also shared with the South China Morning Post that back in 2009, the NSA had hacked computers belonging to Pacnet, one of the biggest fibre-optic networks in the Asia Pacific region.
In the meantime, U.S. pundits have expounded on the importance of metadata, have focused on the legal plight of journalist Barrett Brown, have reported how Google had handed over emails of WikiLeaks volunteers to the U.S. government and had apparently wiretapped email accounts of Members of the European Parliament, and have pointed out that NSA surveillance may be legal but that it is also unconstitutional.
It has also been revealed that in 2011, Obama had mandated the creation of an inter-agency Insider Threat Program whose aim was to detect and prevent government leakers, and threatened employees who failed to report security infractions and violations.