China's army newspaper has branded the United States Internet surveillance program exposed by its former spy Edward Snowden as "frightening," and accused the US of being a habitual offender when it came to network monitoring.
People protest outside the US consulate in Hong Kong and demand that the government protect the whistle-blower who is hiding in the city.[Photo/The Beijing News]
Yesterday's People's Liberation Army Daily hit out at the US for implying that spying on citizens from other countries was justified, and said the PRISM monitoring program had probably been used to collect large amounts of data unrelated to anti-terrorism operations.
"US intelligence agencies are habitual offenders with regards to network monitoring and espionage," the article, attributed to the PLA's Foreign Languages Institute, said.
"There is reason to believe US intelligence agencies, while collecting antiterrorism information online have also 'incidentally' collected a lot of information in other fields."
Under the program, the US National Security Agency can issue directives to Internet firms such as Google or Facebook to gain access to e-mails, chats, pictures, files and videos that have been uploaded by foreign users.
"US President Obama has said that PRISM is not directed at US citizens," the article said. "The implication is that for the purposes of US security, monitoring citizens of other countries is not a problem. This simple, overbearing logic is the frightening aspect of the PRISM program.
"The US government says that PRISM is an antiterrorism program, and does not involve any other matters. But anyone with intelligence expertise can tell this is admitting one's guilt by protesting innocence."
Snowden, who is believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong, has vowed to fight any attempt by the US to extradite him.
Half of Hong Kong's citizens believe the city's government should not extradite him, according to a poll published yesterday, a day after hundreds protested in his support.
The poll in the Sunday Morning Post found 49.9 percent of respondents thought Snowden, who has dropped out of sight in the city after exposing the US surveillance program, should not be sent back if Washington files for extradition.
The survey, by the Center for Communication and Public Opinion Survey at Chinese University, found that only 17.6 percent of 509 respondents favored the move, while 32.4 percent were undecided.
The results come after Hong Kong's first major demonstration on the issue saw hundreds turn out in wet weather on Saturday to rally in support of the 29-year-old outside the US consulate and government headquarters.
Following the rally, the city's chief executive Leung Chun-ying said his government would "follow up on any incidents related to the privacy or other rights of the institutions or people in Hong Kong being violated."
Snowden told the South China Morning Post last week there had been more than 61,000 NSA hacking operations globally, targeting powerful "network backbones" that could yield access to hundreds of thousands of individual computers. There were hundreds of targets in China's mainland and Hong Kong, he said.