US reviews security damage from leaks
Photos of Snowden, a contractor at the NSA, and US President Obama are printed on the front pages of local English and Chinese newspapers in Hong Kong.U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration has launched an internal review of the potential damage to national security from leaks about U.S. surveillance efforts, as a group of senators and technology companies pushed the government to be more open about the top-secret programs.
A senior U.S. intelligence official said the review would be separate from a Justice Department criminal investigation into Edward Snowden’s disclosures about the National Security Agency’s (NSA) broad monitoring of phone call and Internet data from big companies.
The review is expected to evaluate whether the leaks have compromised sources or surveillance methods, and will likely look for chatter among intelligence targets to see if the leaks have prompted them to change tactics.
Big technology companies issued a series of pleas on June 11 for the government to lift the veil on national security requests to the private sector. Google sent a letter to U.S. authorities asking that secrecy restrictions be loosened so the company could publish the number and scope of surveillance court requests. “Google’s numbers would clearly show that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made. Google has nothing to hide,” said David Drummond, the company’s chief legal officer.
Warning from Ai Weiwei
Microsoft Corp and Facebook also released statements urging the U.S. government to permit greater transparency on such requests. “Permitting greater transparency on the aggregate volume and scope of national security requests, including Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) orders, would help the community understand and debate these important issues,” Microsoft said in an emailed statement.
Separately, a coalition of privacy advocacy groups sent a letter demanding that Congress halt and investigate the surveillance programs.
In New York, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court challenging the legality of the telephone surveillance program, saying it violates free speech and privacy protections in the U.S. Constitution.
Reporters staked out hotels in Hong Kong in hopes of spotting Snowden, who went public in a video released on June 9 by Britain’s Guardian newspaper but then dropped from sight in the former British colony and has yet to resurface. Russia said on June 11 it would be willing to consider granting asylum to Snowden if he asked for it. However, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said yesterday his nation hadn’t received an asylum request from Snowden.
Snowden said in a video that he wanted to make the public aware of the NSA’s broad surveillance programs, but his disclosures to the Guardian and the Washington Post have sparked a mix of condemnation and praise. “He’s a traitor,” House Speaker John Boehner said of Snowden in an interview with ABC News.
Boehner defended the NSA programs and their congressional oversight, saying Americans are not “snooped on” unless they communicate with a terrorist in another country. But Senator Rand Paul, a Republican popular with the Tea Party movement that campaigns against intrusive government, said he was reserving judgment on Snowden and said such acts of civil disobedience happen when people felt like they have no other options.
Meanwhile, Beijing-based dissident Ai Weiwei warned that revelations about the United States’ wide-reaching surveillance programs could spur China and other countries to expand their own efforts. The high-profile, outspoken artist said America’s behavior was worrying because the country played a leading role in setting Internet norms.