Are the NSA leaks a form of Chinese espionage?

posted at 8:03 am on June 10, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Over the next few weeks, we’ll all be trying to make sense of the revelations about the NSA’s surveillance programs, and the motives of at least one man apparently behind them.  Edward Snowden unveiled himself as the source to the Washington Post and the Guardian in the UK, but Snowden wasn’t a seasoned intelligence agent or analyst, but a 29-year-old IT expert without any other advanced education.  His choice of asylum in the wake of the leaks — Hong Kong — as well as Snowden’s explanation of it raised even more eyebrows.  CNN interviewed intelligence expert Bob Baer, who pointed out all of the flaws in Snowden’s argument about the supposedly deep commitment to free speech in China (via Legal Insurrection):

“Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence,” Baer said. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case.”

“On the face of it, it looks like it is under some sort of Chinese control, especially with the president meeting the premier today,” Baer said. “You have to ask what’s going on. China is not a friendly country and every aspect of that country is controlled. So why Hong Kong? Why didn’t he go to Sweden? Or, if he really wanted to make a statement, he should have done it on Capitol Hill.”

According to Glenn Greenwald, Snowden said he chose Hong Kong because “‘they have a spirited commitment to free speech and the right of political dissent,’ and because he believed that it was one of the few places in the world that both could and would resist the dictates of the US government.”

That’s simply absurd.  China’s regime of surveillance on Internet activity far exceeds that of the US — and it’s also helpful to remember that some of these same companies under fire for cooperating with the NSA here were also cooperative with Beijing on their surveillance programs.  There may be places where Snowden might find asylum where the government actually does resist that kind of surveillance — Snowden mentioned Iceland, for instance — but Hong Kong isn’t one of those places, and China is far worse than the US.

On the other hand, it’s also one place where the CIA probably can’t get to Snowden:

“We’ll never get him in China,” Baer said. “They’re not about to send him to the United States and the CIA is not going to render him, as he said in the tape, is not going to try to grab him there.”

“It almost seems to me that this was a pointed affront to the United States on the day the president is meeting the Chinese leader,” Baer said, “telling us, listen, quit complaining about espionage and getting on the internet and our hacking. You are doing the same thing.”

Of all the oddities in this story, the China connection is the oddest.  It prompts questions about how involved China has been in forcing this leak, although that would raise other questions, such as what benefit China might get from it.  The US, after all, tracks terrorists that might threaten China, such as the Uighers, a few of whom had been in Guantanamo.  However, Beijing might also be worried that the NSA could penetrate its hacking attempts or use this platform for returning cyber-warfare attacks, which was one of the big issues in the Obama-Xi meeting this week.  That’s a pretty large coincidence, too.

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

On the other hand, it’s also one place where the CIA probably can’t get to Snowden:

BINGO.

He’s no dummy. He knows that he could be offed by an Obamadrone.

Myron Falwell on June 10, 2013 at 8:10 AM

Hey, no matter Snowden’s motives. No matter China’s motives. Let’s have that Fourth Amendment debate the rat-eared despot said he welcomed.

At the very least, President rat ears is a hypocrite considering what Senator rat ears said while campaigning in 2007 and 2008. Let him square what he did with what he said back then.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 8:10 AM

Not a big believer in coincidence.

TimBuk3 on June 10, 2013 at 8:13 AM

You have to remember Greenwald is an open information absolutist, who believes U.S. intelligence gathering is one of the main sources of the world’s evil. That puts him to the left of your average hack pro-Obama Democrat, who thinks U.S. intelligence gathering is one of the main sources of the world’s evil only when Republicans control the White House. So while conservatives may share common cause with Greenwald at the moment over outrage about the scope of the NSA program, their answers to the problem are far different from Greenwald’s, who would prefer the U.S. dismantle its intelligence-gathering system entirely.

As for Snowden, he comes across as a confused ‘liberaltarian’, who came of age a decade ago believing the attacks against the Bush Administration and who put some hopes in Obama, but who also shared much in common in his feelings about American foreign policy with Ron Paul. He’s probably not a spy, but more in the ‘useful dupe’ category, who’ll find out over the next year or two that his current friends don’t love him anymore, now that he has no more gifts to give them.

jon1979 on June 10, 2013 at 8:16 AM

The US, after all, tracks terrorists that might threaten China, such as the Uighers, a few of whom had been in Guantanamo.

Yeah, I’m sure China of all places is concerned about that; they wouldn’t hesitate to erase entire cities on their own land if they really had to in order to erase a threat.

So if they have a chance to get a mother-lode of secret data from the U.S. in exchange for maybe having to absorb an attack from some Uighers, I doubt they put much thought into it.

Bishop on June 10, 2013 at 8:17 AM

CNN interviewed intelligence expert Bob Baer, who pointed out all of the flaws in Snowden’s argument about the supposedly deep commitment to free speech in China

Baer forgets who we are talking about and what they all think about China. Klugman and Barky and the whole of the dem party used to pine for the US being more like China … very publicly. The left thinks China is the bee’s knees – well, ever since their beloved Soviet Union fell apart.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 10, 2013 at 8:17 AM

Keep in mind that friendly governments, like Australia/UK/Germany/Israel, have these leeetle beeety things called “extradition treaties.” They also have a lot of cooperation with the CIA. Hong Kong has a history as a British colony, and may be more likely to drag their feet in response to a request from the PRC for Snowden. Hong Kong is about the best place he could flee to at the moment.

Sekhmet on June 10, 2013 at 8:18 AM

The Chinese connection. Perfect, takes the heat off the Obama machine. We can all get mad at the Chinese together. It’s all China’s fault.

Viator on June 10, 2013 at 8:18 AM

He’s no dummy. He knows that he could be offed by an Obamadrone.

Myron Falwell on June 10, 2013 at 8:10 AM

ObamaCare would probably get him, first.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 10, 2013 at 8:19 AM

If Snowden was working for China, and this was espionage, it makes liars out of all those Congresscritters and Obama-lovers who often praise China as having superior ways to their own country. And that we should be more like China.

Well, they got their wish: Obama and his NSA are obviously very much like whatever secret police the Chinese government uses.

Liam on June 10, 2013 at 8:21 AM

The other possibility is he went to HK to contact the PRC and sell/give them the info but backed out and then contacted the press.

kcewa on June 10, 2013 at 8:21 AM

Have you noticed that the media-left hive has adopted the NSA affair as their pet scandal among the half dozen other Obamascandals?
.
It has the effect of diverting attention of the much more sinister , ugly one of the regime using the IRS to target and punish its political opponents as well as Benghazi, et.,al.
.
It also has the added benefit the ‘Bush started it and did it’ meme that’s aimed to get Choomie off the hook on this and diminish the other abuses in the public mind.

Dr. Carlo Lombardi on June 10, 2013 at 8:23 AM

Has Tom Friedman been heard from yet?

Wethal on June 10, 2013 at 8:25 AM

We can all get mad at the Chinese together. It’s all China’s fault.

Viator on June 10, 2013 at 8:18 AM

Nope. Sorry I expect China to be doing this kind of stuff not the effing NSA. They have some ‘splainin’ to do before I really care about China. I have yet to hear this administration tell me how this isn’t a violation of the Fourth Amendment. The secret is out there, it is time for the filthy rat-eared traitor to justify spying on Americans by their own government which BTW is illegal.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 8:25 AM

Well, they got their wish: Obama and his NSA are obviously very much like whatever secret police the Chinese government uses

If NSA=MSS you couldn’t have posted the message you just posted.

kcewa on June 10, 2013 at 8:27 AM

It really shouldn’t be overlooked that Hong Kong would be a one flight jump for Snowden coming from Hawaii. Sometimes the answer isn’t international espionage.

Louisvillian on June 10, 2013 at 8:28 AM

I don’t think Snowden leaked at the behest of China. He’d be in Beijing instead of Hong Kong if he were. I sincerely think Snowden believed he’d be safe enough to make the interview with Greenwald if he placed himself politically in between Hong Kong and China. It is probably the safest place to go, from which you would be unlikely to be arrested, rendered, and shut up before making the interview. Snowden’s a spook, remember. He’d know this. If he went to Beijing, he would have had more forced out of him than he wanted to tell.

Sekhmet on June 10, 2013 at 8:29 AM

Let the spin begin.

The newspaper interviewed the guy before the Chinese visit…the newspaper published the information…so the newspaper is working for the Chinese, too???

And why would the Chinese let it be known that they had NSA info…why not just be quiet about it and keep spying?

Obama and his secret police are spying on Americans for political purposes.

albill on June 10, 2013 at 8:30 AM

We may not be China but things continue this way and the lines will truly blur.

What the NSA is doing is an outrage, never mind Snowden.

Our government is way past out of control and it needs to be reined in.

If possible.

Sherman1864 on June 10, 2013 at 8:33 AM

Nothing happens in Hong Kong without the puppet masters in Beijing’s blessing. If the allow Snowdon to stay and give him asylum, it will be with the tacit approval of the real rulers of HK in Beijing.

simkeith on June 10, 2013 at 8:34 AM

Our government is way past out of control and it needs to be reined in.

If possible.

Sherman1864 on June 10, 2013 at 8:33 AM

I’d rather just have a national divorce and be rid of these leftist worms and their Vichy Right useless idiots. It’s the only way that an American nation can be restored, anyhow. This nation – the American Socialist Superstate – is toast.

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on June 10, 2013 at 8:37 AM

Young single guy, living in Hawaii. Seems like a bit of a nerd with an ego problem (much like Manning). How much that he stumbled into a Chinese honeypot?

BohicaTwentyTwo on June 10, 2013 at 8:37 AM

that would raise other questions, such as what benefit China might get from it

This is from a March 7 article in Foreign Policy about the NSA helping american companies fight Chinese cyber warfare:

In the coming weeks, the NSA, working with a Department of Homeland Security joint task force and the FBI, will release to select American telecommunication companies a wealth of information about China’s cyber-espionage program, according to a U.S. intelligence official and two government consultants who work on cyber projects. Included: sophisticated tools that China uses, countermeasures developed by the NSA, and unique signature-detection software that previously had been used only to protect government networks.

kcewa on June 10, 2013 at 8:40 AM

There are a number of possibilities here, to name three:

1. He is a CIA plant to shift attention away from our government and on to the Chinese. Making things about a foreign threat has always been a way to get people to surrender their liberties.

2. He is a committed lefty that believes Obama is a traitor to the lefty cause and that the Chicoms really are the good guys. We saw a bunch of this type during the cold war.

3. He’s not the leaker at all, just some mentally ill person.

All we know about him is that he’s some face in the news we’re being told is central to this thing somehow.

claudius on June 10, 2013 at 8:41 AM

Hello, I’ve said time and again this guy is no hero!!

bluegill on June 10, 2013 at 8:41 AM

Has Tom Friedman been heard from yet?

Wethal on June 10, 2013 at 8:25 AM

He has.

Myron Falwell on June 10, 2013 at 8:42 AM

I’m with Jon1979. There is something of the naive idealist in Snowden. However noble his cause in re to the Fourth Amendment, he appears to be a useful puppet whose motivations should be viewed with some skepticism.

However, Jed Babbin raises some provocative questions in this morning’s TAS.

So why all the fuss about PRISM? With the FISA court overseeing intelligence gathering, there should be no prospect of abuse. But two facts make PRISM troubling.

First, there were reportedly over 1,800 FISA court orders last year authorizing a variety of intelligence gathering. I would not say that the court should start denying these orders, but we have to ask: if judges are going to authorize a blanket order such as the Verizon order, are they requiring enough information from the FBI and NSA to really justify them?

Second, according to news reports, we are sharing the intelligence PRISM gathers with foreign intelligence agencies including Britain’s GCHQ, its equivalent of NSA. That’s very good because, as it usually works, we would be receiving equally valuable anti-terrorist intel from them and benefiting from it. But what other governments are getting that information? Even within NATO, none should. Mr. Obama has a lot of “friends” among other nations’ leaders who aren’t at all worthy of that trust.

And, unfortunately, neither is he. Mr. Obama assured us on Friday that nobody is listening to our phone calls, that federal judges were overseeing these intelligence collection operations, and that they were only a “modest encroachment on privacy.” In truth, it probably doesn’t even rise to that level of importance. But he has no credibility left to tell us.

Obama’s trust gap is too wide. He’s smiling and saying “trust me.” Why should we? Richard Nixon only mused about siccing the IRS on his enemies. Obama has done it. His attorney general routinely lies to us and to Congress. It’s his cabinet members — and subcabinet officials — who use phony emails to hide official business from Congress and the press. And so on.

The well of trust every president has when he’s elected has run dry for Obama. There might have been a time when Obama could have been worthy of our trust, but he forfeited it so long ago nobody can even remember when it happened.

I think that I want to suspend judgment until all of the facts are in.

onlineanalyst on June 10, 2013 at 8:43 AM

No matter who is involved, I think the NSA and “Big Data” just ran up against the theory of chains.

That is to say, a chain is only as strong as it’s weakest link.

The more links, the more potential for a catastrophically weak link.

As the program grew, there was simply no way to keep it under wraps.
This was bound to happen sometime.

Jabberwock on June 10, 2013 at 8:44 AM

Young single guy, living in Hawaii. Seems like a bit of a nerd with an ego problem (much like Manning). How much that he stumbled into a Chinese honeypot?

BohicaTwentyTwo on June 10, 2013 at 8:37 AM

The timing of this story breaking just ahead of the lazy rat-eared despot and the Chinese president is interesting.

The fact he is in China now is interesting.

But what is more important now? The leaker or what the leaks reveal about government snooping on its own citizens? I would maintain that the administration has abused the Patriot Act and they need to be held to account for violating our civil rights.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 8:45 AM

Hold on here. First, America is in need of a serious pruning.

Second, I am a white male who is tired of being punished and blamed by minorities, women, etc. The DOJ basically said it was OK if Black Panthers ran voting precincts. MSM, the ACLU, etc. basically said that it is OK for a racist like Rev. Wright to teach, promote and preach hatred against white Americans, but a white Reverend can’t do the same against black Americans. TUCC got plenty of Gov’t grants (etc.) and tax-exempt status for pushing the racist Black Liberation Theology dogma…tax payer expense, of course. Obama has gotten passes on his past, his racist statements, his misogynistic statements towards white women, his Affirmative Action education, etc.

Third, Obama has used the DOJ and IRS as a political tool against anyone and any group on his daily growing “Enemies List,” and now we find out that he is also using some PRISM spy thingie against political opponents…BTW, where was PRISM’s use prior to Boston Bombing?

Sorry, but I fear America’s Left and our own Government more than the Chinese…

Karmi on June 10, 2013 at 8:47 AM

Let’s have that Fourth Amendment debate the rat-eared despot said he welcomed.

Happy Nomad on June 10, 2013 at 8:10 AM

Yes! What ties all the Obama scandals together is abuse of power. Obama’s assault on our Constitution and individual rights has taken us to the brink of totalitarianism. Let the sun shine down upon this ugly mess. Let the debate begin.

petefrt on June 10, 2013 at 8:51 AM

We should really start to worry now that the Chicom connection has been revealed and we have dear leader trying to deal with Xi on our behalf, petty little politicians playing their games of gotcha with each other, an IRS waiting to pounce on our medical info, crooks galore, a media that couldn’t find the truth with a pack of bloodhounds and an economy that doesn’t know where 9M jobs have gone. We need to vote out every lying, cheating, 3 monkey politician in ’12 and maybe start to recall some right now.

Kissmygrits on June 10, 2013 at 8:53 AM

“Hong Kong is controlled by Chinese intelligence,” Baer said. “It’s not an independent part of China at all. I’ve talked to a bunch of people in Washington today, in official positions, and they are looking at this as a potential Chinese espionage case.

Funny how they all arrived at the same conclusion: it’s China’s fault.

This scandal shifts the public’s attention off of Benghazi and the IRS illegal searches & harassment of political opponents. Quite convenient.

There are interesting components to Snowdon’s actions. Snowdon is no dummy. He may be altruistic in his beliefs and consequently naive, but–whether he is aiding the Chinese or not–he chose with forethought of self-preservation.

The timing is interesting though….what a coincidence that Obama is meeting w China’s President and the leaker leaked about US surveillance on its own citizens. Maybe Snowdon is a pawn for the Chinese? Will it take a foreign power to expose Obama & his regime? The media, however, is pushing the meme of punishing the leaker to avoid the public’s wrath on this federal govt data mining and Big Brother oversight. Never mind that this “indispensable” program couldn’t get the easy catches of the Tarshnov brothers or Ft Hood shooter. I hope people begin to wake up and that veil over Obama is lifted. It may not happen until Kim Kardashian and Kate Middleton have their babies. *sigh*

conservative pilgrim on June 10, 2013 at 9:01 AM

Add to the list, how many more Snowden’s are out there? The NSA is probably huge, see their new facility in Utah, so they would need a lot of analysts to look through our phone calls, emails, skype visits with Aunt Martha and finish our sentences for us. Looks like they vetted the Tea Party better than their new hires.

Kissmygrits on June 10, 2013 at 9:01 AM

People are making too much of a deal out of the fact he went to Hong Kong… there really isn’t anywhere else that’s in 1st world conditions that would be worth running away too. Moscow maybe…

ninjapirate on June 10, 2013 at 9:01 AM

What if Daniel Ellsberg of Pentagon Papers fame had defected to the former Soviet Union, just as he sent leaked his manuscript to the New York Times in the early 1970s? By the way, Ellsberg supports what Snowden has done and his “escape” to Hong Kong. Also, in 2012 Snowden donated $500 the campaign of Ron Paul.

http://www.ibtimes.com/nsa-whistleblower-revealed-edward-snowden-donated-500-ron-pauls-2012-presidential-campaign-does-nsa

SC.Charlie on June 10, 2013 at 9:02 AM

Snowden did not want to be bagged, tagged, and extradited back to the US before he could talk to Glenn Greenwald about PRISM. He also didn’t want bamboo shoved under his fingernails until he talked about a whole lot more than PRISM. From Hawaii, Hong Kong was the best place he could go.

Sekhmet on June 10, 2013 at 9:19 AM

Peter King and other Republicans can’t wait to get their clutches on him. Really tells you all you need to know about the modern GOP. No different than the Dems, desperately clinging to their big government.

MadisonConservative on June 10, 2013 at 9:21 AM

Also, in 2012 Snowden donated $500 the campaign of Ron Paul.

http://www.ibtimes.com/nsa-whistleblower-revealed-edward-snowden-donated-500-ron-pauls-2012-presidential-campaign-does-nsa

SC.Charlie on June 10, 2013 at 9:02 AM

…and? It surprises you that someone who would go to this extent to unveil government tyranny would support someone who purports to stand against government tyranny?

MadisonConservative on June 10, 2013 at 9:22 AM

Snowden did not want to be bagged, tagged, and extradited back to the US before he could talk to Glenn Greenwald about PRISM. He also didn’t want bamboo shoved under his fingernails until he talked about a whole lot more than PRISM. From Hawaii, Hong Kong was the best place he could go.

Sekhmet on June 10, 2013 at 9:19 AM

Bingo. He’s not in Beijing. This would be like someone going to Alaska to reveal something about another country. Yeah, Alaska is part of the US…but they pretty much do what the hell they want. Same with Hong Kong.

MadisonConservative on June 10, 2013 at 9:26 AM

As for Snowden, he comes across as a confused ‘liberaltarian’, who came of age a decade ago believing the attacks against the Bush Administration and who put some hopes in Obama, but who also shared much in common in his feelings about American foreign policy with Ron Paul.

This guy is nothing more than a friendless, dupe who thinks he is smarter than everyone else. He is a traitor.

He may have contributed to Ron Paul but he also joined the army in 2003. He was discharged after he broke both legs in a training accident so he’s not a libertarian but a confused, misfit that is begging for attention.

Vince on June 10, 2013 at 9:30 AM

Peter King and other Republicans can’t wait to get their clutches on him. Really tells you all you need to know about the modern GOP. No different than the Dems, desperately clinging to their big government.

MadisonConservative on June 10, 2013 at 9:21 AM

The modern GOP is not conservative but they are definitely different than the dems. Snowden is a traitor whether or not the government overreached with their “data mining.”

Vince on June 10, 2013 at 9:34 AM

The NSA is probably huge, see their new facility in Utah, so they would need a lot of analysts to look through our phone calls, emails, skype visits with Aunt Martha and finish our sentences for us. Looks like they vetted the Tea Party better than their new hires.

Kissmygrits on June 10, 2013 at 9:01 AM

I was in the Army Security Agency in the late ’60s and early ’70s. I was vetted by the FBI and had a top secret, crypto security clearance. The military security services report to the NSA and have for decades. The NSA is most definitely huge but it’s not something evil.

It’s like guns. Guns don’t kill people, the person that controls the weapon kills people.

Vince on June 10, 2013 at 9:40 AM

How does Snowdon expect to live in Hong Kong?

$200,000.00 in that city won’t last long…even the crate apartments are expensive.

workingclass artist on June 10, 2013 at 9:43 AM

Are the NSA leaks a form of Chinese espionage?

Nope. But those claims are the start of the methodical destruction of this guy’s reputation and credibility by the united states intelligence agencies.

Note to NSA/CIA: It doesn’t work when we know you’re going to do it.

triple on June 10, 2013 at 9:48 AM

“We’ll never get him in China,” Baer said. “They’re not about to send him to the United States and the CIA is not going to render him, as he said in the tape, is not going to try to grab him there.”

If it needs to be said, we are also not going to do him with a drone when he’s in Hong Kong. Too dense, too well defended by air.

slickwillie2001 on June 10, 2013 at 10:39 AM

The Vichy RINOs have been working all night on how to spin this story to protect the interests of the corrupt ruling class. I was wondering why no opinion piece on these revelations was posted yesterday at Hotair- only the Quotes of the Day roundup.

Keep digging, Ed. Some of us have been onto you for a while now. Others will soon open their eyes.

sartana on June 10, 2013 at 10:44 AM

Sekhmet on June 10, 2013 at 9:19 AM

Bingo. He’s not in Beijing. This would be like someone going to Alaska to reveal something about another country. Yeah, Alaska is part of the US…but they pretty much do what the hell they want. Same with Hong Kong.

MadisonConservative on June 10, 2013 at 9:26 AM

Yup, exactly. Who has the power and benefits PR wise from helping him the most? China or Russia. It gives him protection from La Cia etc.. Not that the Chinese won’t grab him either.

The CNN guy asking why Snowden didn’t go to Sweden is a laugh riot. Uh, Sweden? What, are they going to trump up rape charges on him to extradite him back to the USA?

oryguncon on June 10, 2013 at 11:23 AM

Good read–http://newsbusters.org/blogs/noel-sheppard/2013/06/09/911-whistleblower-snowden-defected-china-whatever-he-knows-they-likel

Bullhead on June 10, 2013 at 11:31 AM

Why choose Hong Kong? That’s easy; he’s an IT person and he can get well-paid work in HK fairly easily and pay his way in life, and he isn’t likely to be extradited in a hurry.

YiZhangZhe on June 10, 2013 at 12:23 PM

An NSA IT expert has never heard of Sina Weibo?

OxyCon on June 10, 2013 at 1:34 PM

Why choose Hong Kong? That’s easy; he’s an IT person and he can get well-paid work in HK fairly easily and pay his way in life, and he isn’t likely to be extradited in a hurry.

YiZhangZhe on June 10, 2013 at 12:23 PM

Yeah, like if the mainland China requests that the HK hand him over to them, what would Hong Kong do, defend his freedoms against the PRC armies :) And why would that be? HK is China, period, it’s not a sovereign country, despite their “one country, two systems” shtick….and at the end of the day, what China wants, China does, and they will be the only ones to decide what to do with Snowden…heck, they might even extradite him after all…

jimver on June 10, 2013 at 3:56 PM