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mr-absentia

How China’s surveillance state was a mirror to the US for whistle-blower Edward Snowden

South China Morning Post, 17 Sep. 2019

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«In his book Permanent Record, published on Wednesday, the former US spy agency contractor who now lives in exile in Russia, detailed how he fled to Hong Kong and then Moscow after creating one of the most serious security breaches in American history.

Snowden, who was a technician subcontracted to the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency for seven years, said he began to have suspicions about secret post-September 11 US surveillance programmes after he was asked in 2009 to brief a conference in Tokyo on how Chinese spy agencies were targeting the US intelligence community.

Preparing for the briefing, Snowden said he became aware that China’s surveillance of private communications was “utterly mind-boggling”. He was initially “so impressed by the system’s sheer achievement and audacity that I almost forgot to be appalled by its totalitarian controls”, he said.

He then began to feel disturbed when he realised that America, an internet and software power, might have done similar things to its people and the world.

“There was simply no way for America to have so much information about what the Chinese were doing without having done some of the very same things itself, and I had the sneaking sense while I was looking through all this China material that I was looking at a mirror and seeing a reflection of America,” he said.

“What China was doing publicly to its own citizens, America might be – could be – doing secretly to the world.”»

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