Mobile Phones Generic iPhone Android Samsung Photo: Ben Grubb
Edward Snowden, who faces extradition from Hong Kong on espionage charges, said the US National Security Agency hacked Chinese mobile phone text messages, the South China Morning Post reported, complicating the American bid to take him into custody.
Mr Snowden said private text messages of millions of Chinese mobile company subscribers had been intercepted by the NSA, the Post reported, citing data provided by Mr Snowden in a June 12 interview. The agency also attacked Tsinghua University's server and accessed computers at the Hong Kong headquarters of Pacnet, which owns one of the most extensive fibre-optic submarine cable networks in the region, the Post cited Mr Snowden as saying.
Hong Kong authorities were asked to detain Mr Snowden, charged with espionage for exposing a secret government electronic-surveillance program, while the extradition request is being finalised, according to two US officials familiar with the matter.
Hacking allegations: Edward Snowden said the NSA hacked Chinese mobile phone text messages. Photo: Reuters
But late on Sunday, Mr Snowden was on the way from Hong Kong to Moscow, heading to a third destination, the Post reported.
''US whistleblower Edward Snowden has left Hong Kong on an Aeroflot flight to Moscow, credible sources have confirmed,'' the newspaper said in a brief report on its website on Sunday. ''Moscow will not be his final destination,'' it added, raising the possibility of Iceland or even Ecuador as Snowden's destination.
The latest hacking allegations could strain relations with China after President Barack Obama pressed Chinese President Xi Jinping this month on alleged Chinese cyber attacks on US companies.
Edward Snowden Photo: The Guardian
''The chances that Beijing will ask the Hong Kong government not to co-operate with the US are quite high,'' said Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong who specialises in Chinese politics.
''Irrespective of whether Mr Snowden will talk directly to the Chinese authorities, he has provided a service to the Chinese government by exposing hacking activities of the US government.''
China, which resumed sovereignty over Hong Kong in 1997, can intervene in extraditions from the region if it relates to China's defence or foreign affairs. A Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman said last week the US should explain the surveillance program revealed by Mr Snowden.
The request for a ''provisional arrest'' warrant for Mr Snowden came as US officials and their Hong Kong counterparts continued regular contact - something that began as prosecutors were working to draft the complaint, one of the US officials said. To have him detained, the State Department will have to make a surrender request under a 1996 treaty with Hong Kong.
The charges against Mr Snowden, a former Booz Allen Hamilton employee who worked with the NSA, include theft of government property. He faces as many as 10 years in prison on the theft count and 10 years on each of two espionage charges.