Edward Snowden, the man behind the latest massive leak of US intelligence, continues to divide opinion over his fate. After copying top secret documents from the National Security Agency, he flew from Hawaii to Hong Kong, then handed them over to Britain’s Guardian and the US Washington Post newspapers.
From a secret location in Hong Kong, Snowden told reporters, “I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wire-tap anyone, from you or your accountant to a federal judge, to even the president, if I had a personal email.”
But it is unclear whether or not Hong Kong will give the ex-CIA man the protection he needs from extradition.
Hong Kong lawmaker and former secretary for security Regina Ip said, “I think it would be wisest for him to leave Hong Kong because we do have bilateral agreements with the US and we are duty-bound to comply with these agreements. Hong Kong is not a legal vacuum as Mr. Snowden might have thought.”
An extradition treaty has operated between the US and Hong Kong since 1998, but some are still more optimistic about the whistleblower’s chances.
At the University of Hong Kong, Simon Young, Professor and Director of the Centre for Comparative and Public Law said, “Coming to Hong Kong is probably a good decision because not only do we have protections under our extradition law – through the court system and the political offence exception – but we also have strong protections for people making asylum claims.”
By waiving his right to anonymity, Snowden identified himself as the man who blew the lid on how the NSA obtained data from US telecom and internet companies. It raises questions over the security and confidentiality of public data and whether the US authorities are circumventing the law to obtain intelligence.