As revelations about the NSA continue to trickle out from the haul of secrets leaked by Edward Snowden, including unsurprising confirmation that the U.S. spies on frenemy nations like China, so do elaborate condemnations of his actions. “I think it’s one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security interests of the United States,” said former vice-president Dick Cheney yesterday on Fox News Sunday, before floating a theory that Snowden is actually a Chinese spy. “I’m suspicious because he went to China. That’s not a place where you would ordinarily want to go if you are interested in freedom, liberty, and so forth.” (He’s not entirely wrong, but it’s complicated.) “It raises questions whether or not he had that kind of connection before he did this.”
China, predictably, denied the accusations, calling the claims “completely groundless” and urging the U.S. to “pay attention to the international community’s concerns and demands and give … the necessary explanation” of the NSA programs. Any opportunity to scold America is welcomed.
Cheney suggested that China would “probably be willing to provide immunity for [Snowden] or sanctuary for him in exchange for what he presumably knows or doesn’t know.” Whether or not it’s part of his safe-haven strategy, Snowden did reveal info about U.S. spying on Hong Kong to the South China Morning Post over the weekend. “The primary issue of public importance to Hong Kong and mainland China should be that the NSA is illegally seizing the communications of tens of millions of individuals without any individualised suspicion of wrongdoing,” Snowden said. “They simply steal everything so they can search for any topics of interest.”
He may be winning some people over. On Monday, the state-run Chinese tabloid the Global Times, which does not speak officially for the government, said that giving up Snowden to the U.S. would be a “face-losing outcome” for both China and Hong Kong. “Unlike a common criminal, Snowden did not hurt anybody. His ‘crime’ is that he blew the whistle on the U.S. government’s violation of civil rights,” said the paper, according to the Guardian. “Extraditing Snowden back to the US would not only be a betrayal of Snowden’s trust, but a disappointment for expectations around the world. The image of Hong Kong would be forever tarnished.”