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  (Source: Reuters)
Sources say leaker has left Hong Kong

Edward Snowden, the man who let loose secrets on U.S. National Security Agency spying, has escaped the grasp of U.S. authorities bearing down on Hong Kong, flying on Sunday from Hong Kong, China to Moscow, Russia.  The flight comes just days after the self-proclaimed "whistleblower" was charged on two counts of espionage.

I. Icy Chinese Let Snowden Flee to Russia

On Friday U.S. authorties released a criminal complaint dated June 14, which formally charged Mr. Snowden with two offenses -- unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.

Both charges fell under the auspice of the Espionage Act of 1917 (18 U.S.C. § 792).  The use of the Espionage Act is not terribly surprising -- the Obama administration has charged more than twice as many whistleblowers with Espionage Act offenses as all the previous administrations before him (since the Act was passed in 1917) combined.  Both charges carry 10 years in prison, for a maximum sentence (if served consecutively) of twenty years, plus fines.

But the question remains whether the U.S. will be able to catch Mr. Snowden who appears intent -- at least for now -- in avoiding extradition and U.S. charges.

Hong Kong
Hong Kong officials let Mr. Snowden fly to Moscow without detention. [Image Source: Reuters]

U.S. prosecutors failed to serve a provisional arrest warrant in the Chinese nation, according to Chinese officials.  Much to the Obama administration and its Congressional allies' chagrin, a Chinese government spokesperson wrote:

Mr Edward Snowden left Hong Kong today (June 23) on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel.

The US Government earlier on made a request to the HKSAR Government for the issue of a provisional warrant of arrest against Mr Snowden. Since the documents provided by the US Government did not fully comply with the legal requirements under Hong Kong law, the HKSAR Government has requested the US Government to provide additional information so that the Department of Justice could consider whether the US Government's request can meet the relevant legal conditions. As the HKSAR Government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong.

In a coincidentally timed editorial by the state-run Xinhua news agency, editor "Mengjie" attacks U.S. spying efforts, writing:

In the past few months, U.S. politicians and media outlets have thrown out Internet spying accusations one after another against China, trying to make it as one of the biggest perpetrators of Internet spying activities.

And those claims were even highlighted during a highly anticipated summit between Chinese President Xi Jinping and his U.S. counterpart Barack Obama held earlier this month in California, which had been designed to help the world's two biggest economies to build a new type of major power relations.

All this has seemed to go relatively well until the revelation of the U.S. National Security Agency's PRISM surveillance program.

According to Snowden, the U.S. government has engaged in wide-ranging dubious spying activities not only on its own citizens, but also on governmental, academic and business entities across the world.

After landing in Moscow, Mr. Snowden reportedly was picked up by the Ecuadorian ambassador.

II. Ecuador Confirms Asylum Request

Mr. Snowden has filed an asylum request, which Ecuador is considering, according to Ecuador's foreign minister:  
Currently Ecuador is providing asylum to Wikileaks executive editor Julian Assange, who is holed up at the Ecuadorian embassy in Britain.  The country has become a popular destination for foreign whistleblowers, due to its willingness to fight extradition requests.

Edward Snowden
Edward Snowden, NSA whistleblower [Image Source: Reuters]

It is thought that Mr. Snowden might reach to Ecuador by way of Cuba or Venezuela -- states which are hostile to U.S. requests.  However, early reports that he had boarded a plane to Cuba proved false.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney seemed optimistic that the Russians might prove more cooperative than the Chinese regardin extradition.  He's quoted as saying, "We have a strong co-operative relationship with the Russians on law enforcement matters.  We have known where he is and believe we know where he is now."

III. Republicans Attack Each Other Over Snowden Statements

Meanwhile as the mystery regarding Mr. Snowden's whereabouts grows, the leaks are exposing divisions in the Republican party, among those who largely embrace a common agenda with Democratic President Barack Obama, and those who represent a true counterpoint.

Rep. Peter King (R- N.Y.) -- a fiery critic of Mr. Snowden -- on Monday lashed out against colleague Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky), commenting, "I think it is important for the American people to realize that this guy is a traitor, a defector, he’s not a hero.  And I heard Senator Rand Paul this morning actually compared Snowden to General Clapper. What’s happened to our country? This is a traitor, and for anyone to be comparing him to a U.S. military hero is absolutely disgraceful."

Also breaking is revelations concerning the Government Accountability Office's (GAO) "Boundless Informant" tool, which tracked NSA internet spying requests.  The tool's statistics, leaked by Mr. Snowden, reveal that the U.S. captured 97 billion pieces of information (including so called "metadata").  While much of this information was harvested in Iran (14 billion) and Pakistan (13.5 billion), a substantial portion (2.9 billion) was captured domestically.

IV. DNI -- Caught in a Lie to Congress?

The 2.9 billion seized messages in the U.S., do not include the data from seized telephone records (which is likely a much larger set).  Reportedly the U.S. is seizing 99 percent of telephone metadata, allowing it to track its citizens' locations on a daily basis and check up on who they're calling.  The information profiled by Boundless Informant includes seized emails and chat logs from "computer networks".

Boundless Informant
Boundless Informant reveals that the NSA has a pretty good idea how much spying is going on, even though it claims it doesn't. [Image Source: Guardian]

The information appears to expose that James Clapper, the director of national intelligence (DNI) lied to Congress.  Questioned by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) who asked, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"

Director Clapper responds, "No sir."

James Clapper
Director Clapper, seen here with President Obama, appears to have lied to Congress while under oath. [Image Source: AP]

Refusing to produce documents to Congress can lead to contempt of Congress charges (2 USC § 192), which carry a sentence of up to a year in jail, plus up to $1,000 USD in fines.  So far no charges have been raised against Mr. Clapper.

In response to the growing criticism, President Obama seemingly blamed Congress, saying only Congressional oversight can prevent abusive spying.  He comments, "These are the folks you all vote for as your representatives in Congress and they are being fully briefed on these programs."

Obama administration
Obama blames Congress for the spy programs. [Image Modifications: Jason Mick/DailyTech]
Ironically, though, members of Congress like Sens. Paul, Wyden, and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) have complained consistently about the NSA not providing them sufficient briefings.  In a letter last year to NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, Sens. Wyden and Udall wrote, "the intelligence community has stated repeatedly that it is not possible to provide even a rough estimate of how many American communications have been collected under the Fisa Amendments Act, and has even declined to estimate the scale of this collection."

Ironically it appears that the agencies indeed had this information via Boundless Informant, but simply chose to lie to Congress to keep up their charade of ignorance.

Sources: South China Morning Post, Hong Kong [gov], Reuters, Guardian

Comments     Threshold

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RE: Blame and Ignorance
By retrospooty on 6/24/2013 6:43:44 PM , Rating: 1
Your preachin to the choir with me. I know both sides are full of shit and are essentially the same. I guess what makes me ill is I actually thought Obama would be different. The only thing he changed was his stance on "change".

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By StevoLincolnite on 6/24/2013 11:57:07 PM , Rating: 2
You should vote for Ron Paul next time around.
Sure he has some *strange ideas* (Like the gold standard)
But at-least he sticks up for the constitution and the people.

Failing that, ship him over here to Australia and we will have him.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By Omega215D on 6/25/2013 12:57:27 AM , Rating: 3
Ron Paul looks to be getting up there in age so I'd go with Gary Johnson.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By phxfreddy on 6/25/2013 8:44:05 AM , Rating: 2
Rand Paul or Ru Paul. Any Paul is better than Dear Leader Obamao!

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By BRB29 on 6/25/2013 9:36:49 AM , Rating: 4
Idiots like you are why we have bad leaders.

OMG anything is better than the current. Let's put them in office without actually making sure it's the right decision. Everybody complains and just go for the next quick fix.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By Reclaimer77 on 6/25/2013 3:42:12 PM , Rating: 3
Well usually it's not true. But in this case, yes, nearly anyone would be a better President for this country than Obama.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By BSMonitor on 6/25/2013 4:48:57 PM , Rating: 2
George W Bush

Bubble boy!

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By Reclaimer77 on 6/26/2013 9:57:01 AM , Rating: 2
Even Bush was a better president than Obama thanks for making my point.

Obama aparently thinks Bush was a pretty kickass president, because he hasn't rolled back or changed a single damn thing he's done.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By BRB29 on 6/26/2013 12:08:32 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, everyone is hating on the government because of the economic meltdown.

Most of our deficit increase was from the Iraqi War that Bush refused to end.

The rest of the deficit came from Bush lowering taxes and increasing government spending.

You can find all this information from official websites to textbooks.

Bush followed Reagan's philosophy of "deficit spending doesn't matter" made famous back in the late 70s(also the same time period Newt Gingrich came to power because of it). Cheney believes the same. Bush promised a smaller government to win election but ended up doing the opposite.

History will repeat itself again and again unless people wise up.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By KoS on 6/28/2013 5:12:09 PM , Rating: 2
Who controls the purse strings? Who votes for war? Who can defund it at any time? Only Bush?

Ya it was all Bushs fault.

You seemed to leave out all the deficit spending Obama has done. Which if memory serves me right, you can combine all the spending done by previous Congress/Admintrations and it wouldn't match the spending done by the current crew in office.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By sorry dog on 6/28/2013 10:50:50 PM , Rating: 2
Most of our deficit increase was from the Iraqi War that Bush refused to end. The rest of the deficit came from Bush lowering taxes and increasing government spending. You can find all this information from official websites to textbooks.

Which "official" websites or textbooks?

I was under the impression that transfer payments make up the vast majority of government spending. It depends on the source but it's basically 2/3rd of government spending, and it's expected to increase even more as boomers start to qualify SS and medicare. Also, the high unemployment rate and put a lot of pressure on SSI disability.
Dont get me wrong...I don't think we got a whole lot for our money in Iraq (not to mention the human cost), but saying the war(s) are the proximate cause for the US budget being upside down is pretty much false.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By superflex on 6/25/2013 3:46:02 PM , Rating: 2
...and you voted for who in 2008 without a proper vetting?

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By EricMartello on 6/26/2013 4:53:39 AM , Rating: 2
The reason we have leaders who can't lead is a reflection of what people are allowing to happen by burying their heads in the sand and/or participating in groupthink rather than doing any kind of real research on political candidates, the surrounding issues and related materials themselves.

How many times to you hear people say "I don't care about politics" or "They're both bad so I'll just pick the one I think is less bad."

People make ignorant, idiotic statements because the scope of their concern is for themselves. People have grown incredibly selfish and many attempt to live their lives falsely believing they are special flowers destined for greatness, too self important to worry about the state of the nation (and that's just the way DC wants it).

When the amount of dollars raised and spent determines who gets to run for office and essentially who gets to win, you can ascertain that most of the population is going to side with whoever has more compelling TV commercials and speeches. They're more concerned with what to think rather than thinking critically.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By JediJeb on 6/26/2013 2:22:15 PM , Rating: 2
How many times to you hear people say "I don't care about politics" or "They're both bad so I'll just pick the one I think is less bad."

The more I talk to younger people and see interviews asking them questions current to politics the more I see those things are accurate. Makes you wonder if the reason they lowered the voting age years ago was to capture just that set of votes, the ones that will go along with what the popular media says is good.

Maybe what we should do is raise the minimum voting age to 40 and lower the maximum age allowed for an elected official to run to 40. That way we would have older wiser people voting for younger more open minded leaders.

RE: Blame and Ignorance
By BSMonitor on 6/25/2013 10:09:59 AM , Rating: 2
It doesn't matter whether he is different or not. He was elected by the Democratic party and nothing can inhibit the next round of elections. Certain "change" risks too much for the next Congressional or Presidential election and at ALL COST they must stay in the White House/Congress.

Both parties primary function is to achieve and maintain a majority for their guys...

"We are going to continue to work with them to make sure they understand the reality of the Internet.  A lot of these people don't have Ph.Ds, and they don't have a degree in computer science." -- RIM co-CEO Michael Lazaridis

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