Slatest PM: Figuring Out What Snowden Could Be Charged With

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 12 2013 5:26 PM

Slatest PM: Figuring Out What Snowden Could Be Charged With

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In this handout photo provided by The Guardian, Edward Snowden speaks during an interview in Hong Kong. Snowden, a 29-year-old former technical assistant for the CIA, revealed details of top-secret surveillance conducted by the United States' National Security Agency regarding telecom data.

Photo by The Guardian via Getty Images

Josh Voorhees Josh Voorhees

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. 

Snowden's Latest Reveal: South China Morning Post: "[Edward] Snowden said that ... the NSA had been hacking computers in Hong Kong and on the mainland since 2009. None of the documents revealed any information about Chinese military systems, he said. One of the targets in the SAR, according to Snowden, was Chinese University and public officials, businesses and students in the city. The documents also point to hacking activity by the NSA against mainland targets. Snowden believed there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, with hundreds of targets in Hong Kong and on the mainland. 'We hack network backbones – like huge internet routers, basically – that give us access to the communications of hundreds of thousands of computers without having to hack every single one,' he said."

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Instant Analysis: Three quick things to note: One, we're seeing Snowden take increasing control over the story now that his name and past are very much public. Two, while it's unclear how much play the latest revelation will get back home in the United States (we tend to like our spying scandals focused on spying on Americans, after all), it is clear that Snowden has a PR strategy that is centered on extending both the reach of the story to other countries, and its general shelf-life. And three, it's worth watching how the revelation plays in the larger debate over his possible extradition to the United States.

Possible Charges: New York Times: "Snowden’s decision to stay in Hong Kong came as a person with knowledge of the Hong Kong government’s work on the case said local government lawyers, working with United States government lawyers, had identified 36 offenses with which Mr. Snowden could be charged under both Hong Kong and American laws. ... [A]ny attempt by the United States to extradite Mr. Snowden would have to cite offenses that violate the laws in both countries, are punishable by jail terms of a year or more and meet the terms of that agreement. One of the 36 offenses involves the release of official secrets, which is illegal in Hong Kong and the United States, said the person familiar with Hong Kong government efforts, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the delicate legal and diplomatic aspects of the case. Mr. Snowden could delay extradition proceedings by requesting political asylum in Hong Kong. But he will almost certainly be taken into custody and jailed as soon as he files for asylum, because he would no longer qualify as a visitor to Hong Kong, the person said."

NSA Says Program Stopped Dozens of Threats: CBS News: "The widespread surveillance programs exposed to the public last week have helped the National Security Agency stop dozens of terrorist threats, the NSA chief told Congress Wednesday. 'It's dozens of terrorist events that these have helped prevent,' Army Gen. Keith Alexander, the NSA director and head of U.S. Cyber Command, said before the Senate Appropriations Committee. He said the exact number was classified but that he's working to publicly release those figures over the next week. Alexander was testifying before the committee in a previously scheduled hearing on cybersecurity, but his appearance marked the first time an NSA official publicly testified before Congress since news broke that the agency is collecting all of Verizon's U.S. phone records, as well as internet content from non-U.S. internet users abroad."

Google Talks: Washington Post: "Google on Wednesday pushed harder to downplay its role in a secret national surveillance program, detailing for the first time how it typically hands over data to federal officials. Surprisingly, the global innovator uses decidedly simple and low-tech methods, including the delivery of information by hand or by transferring files from one computer to another. ... That could include putting data onto a memory disk or external hard drive, or printing out the requested information for a federal official, Google said. FTP, or file transfer protocol, is a commonly-used method for exchanging information between servers with an extra layer of security. The company’s disclosure of how it handles National Security Agency requests might skirt its obligations to keep secret data requests. So far, in public, the company has fiercely maintained that it has never heard of a secret NSA Internet surveillance program called PRISM, first revealed last week by The Washington Post and the Guardian newspapers."

More coverage of the NSA leaks from Slate

Happy Wednesday, and welcome to The Slatest PM. Follow your afternoon host on Twitter at @JoshVoorhees and the whole team at @slatest.

Castro Pleads Not Guilty (For Now): Cleveland Plain Dealer: "Accused kidnapper and rapist Ariel Castro, who police say kept Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus and Michelle Knight captive in his West Side home for a decade, pleaded not guilty this morning to 329 separate crimes, including two aggravated murder charges. ... After the hearing, attorney Craig Weintraub, who also is representing Castro, said some of the charges against Castro 'cannot be disputed,' but that Castro needed to plead not guilty for the process to proceed.  Weintraub said the defense team is seeking a resolution that would eliminate the need for a trial. But that would likely require prosecutors to drop the aggravated murder charges and the possibility of a death sentence."

Update From Istanbul: Reuters: "Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party ordered protesters out of an Istanbul park on Wednesday, while making a limited concession in the form of an offer to hold a referendum on redevelopment plans that caused nearly two weeks of riots. Huseyin Celik, deputy chairman of the Justice and Development (AK) Party, said hundreds of demonstrators still camped in Gezi Park, which adjoins Taksim Square in the heart of Istanbul, must leave immediately. Police fired tear gas into thousands of people gathered on Taksim late on Tuesday, sending them scattering into side streets, before bulldozing barricades and reopening the square to traffic for the first time since the troubles began. But a ramshackle settlement of tents pitched in Gezi Park in the corner of the square, in what began as a peaceful campaign over plans to build there, were left largely untouched as skirmishes raged around them."

Lung Transplant: Associated Press: "A 10-year-old girl whose efforts to qualify for an organ donation sparked debate over how organs are allocated was getting a double-lung transplant Wednesday after a match with an adult donor was made. Sarah Murnaghan, who suffers from severe cystic fibrosis, was receiving her new lungs Wednesday at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, family spokeswoman Maureen Garrity said. Murnaghan's relatives were "beyond excited" about the development but were "keeping in mind that someone had to lose a family member and they're very aware of that and very appreciative," Garrity said. No other details about the donor are known, including whether the lungs came through the regular donor system or through public appeals."

FEMA Denies West Additional Aid: NBC News: "The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied additional aid to the Texas town devastated by a massive fertilizer plant explosion in April that leveled homes and could be felt as far as 80 miles away, Gov. Rick Perry's office confirmed to NBC News Tuesday Perry's office said it received a letter from FEMA administrator Craig Fugate saying that the devastated town would not receive funds from the agency. FEMA said in the letter that the damage from the explosion 'is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration,' according to the Associated Press."

A Few More Quick Hits From Slate's Blogs—

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