Snowden's Latest Reveal: U.S. Has Been Hacking China For Years

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
June 12 2013 3:09 PM

Snowden's Latest Reveal: U.S. Has Been Hacking China For Years

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A woman uses a tablet computer as she sits in a tricycle taxi at an road intersection during rainfall in Beijing on June 5, 2013

Photo by Ed Jones/AFP/Getty Images

OK, now the South China Morning Post is getting closer to its previously promised "explosive details on US surveillance targets." Here's the independent Hong Kong paper with its latest revelation from its mystery interview with Edward Snowden, which it has been rolling out in bits and pieces all day:

Snowden said that according to unverified documents seen by the Post, 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.
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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.
"Last week the American government happily operated in the shadows with no respect for the consent of the governed, but no longer. Every level of society is demanding accountability and oversight."

You can check out the full story here. 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.

Read more on Slate about the NSA’s secret snooping programs, and follow @JoshVoorhees and the rest of the @slatest team on Twitter.

Josh Voorhees is a Slate senior writer. He lives in Iowa City. Follow him on Twitter.