PRISM scandal

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Edward Snowden, leaker of NSA documents.

PRISM scandal (棱镜门)

PRISM is a clandestine electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) since 2007. PRISM is a government codename for a data collection effort known officially as US-984XN.

Under the highly classified program, NSA and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been tapping directly into the central servers of nine U.S. internet companies, extracting audio, video, photographs, e-mails, documents and connection logs that enable analysts to track a person's movements and contacts over time. Participating technology companies reportedly include Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube and Apple.

The program's existence, leaked by 29-year-old Edward Snowden, former CIA technical assistant and current employee of the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, was first reported by The Guardian on June 5, 2013 and then by the Washington Post June 6. Snowden said that by leaking the information he hoped to inform citizens about how 2001's Patriot Act is used to gather private information. Though the Obama Administration insists PRISM is a necessary weapon in the fight against terrorism, the program has sparked international outrage and concern for privacy.

The Mira Hotel in Hong Kong's Tsim Sha Tsui said that Snowden had checked into the hotel and stayed for more than a week before checking out on June 10, 2013. Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Chief Leung Chun-ying said June 15 that Hong Kong's government would handle the case in accordance with established laws, if the U.S. government requests help.

Speaking at a hearing before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee on June 13, FBI Director Robert Mueller defended the classified surveillance program and vowed to hold the leaker responsible for the disclosure.

Ben Rhodes, Obama's Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications, said June 14 that President Obama would defend the use of PRISM at the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland June 17 and 18.

White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough declined June 16 to enter into the debate over whether Snowden is a hero or a traitor. McDonough did say that he has been unaware of Snowden's whereabouts since Snowden checked out of his Hong Kong hotel June 10.

On June,16, 2013, The Guardian cited documents provided by Snowden that Britain's electronic intelligence agency monitored delegates' phones and tried to capture their passwords during G-20 summit held there in 2009.

On June 17, spokeswoman for China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs Hua Chunying dismissed claims of Snowden spying for the Chinese government. She said the claim is "completely ridiculous."

On June 17, Snowden denied the allegation that he is a Chinese spy in an online chat with The Guardian from a secret location in Hong Kong.

On June 18, the Icelandic government confirmed that it has received an informal approach from a middleman who alleged that Snowden wants to seek asylum in the country.

On June 19, Secretary for Security TK Lai of Hong Kong said Snowden case is highly complicated and he hoped the public would understand the administration cannot disclose or discuss any details of the case.

On June 23, Snowden took off from Hong Kong's airport at 10.55am and was en route to Moscow's Shermetyevo International Airport. The Hong Kong government later confirmed that Snowden had left Hong Kong "on his own accord for a third country through a lawful and normal channel". "The HKSAR government has yet to have sufficient information to process the request for provisional warrant of arrest, there is no legal basis to restrict Mr Snowden from leaving Hong Kong," the statement said.

On June 23, Snowden arrived in Moscow from Hong Kong on a commercial flight and the Ecuadorian ambassador in Moscow was waiting for him at the Sheremetyevo airport, according to Russian media reports. Ecuadorian Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino said that Snowden has sought asylum in the south American country.

On June 24, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said at a press conference in Beijing that the central government respects the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) government's lawful handling of the case of Snowden.

On June 25, Russian president Vladimir Putin revealed that the surveillance whistleblower Snowden remains in a Moscow airport, ending the widespread speculation on his whereabouts.

Edward Snowden (M) in Russia

On June 30, the foreign policy chief of the European Union (EU) Catherine Ashton said that the EU has requested the U.S. to give an explanation for the 'bugging' reports. The German news magazine Der Speigel reported that the National Security Administration of the U.S. conducted not only online surveillance of European citizens, but also appears to have specifically targeted buildings housing European Union institutions.

On July 1, Russian Foreign Ministry confirmed that Snowden has asked for political asylum in Russia.

On July 2, Snowden dropped his asylum application to Russia after he learned that Russia set a condition that he should stop his anti-U.S.

On July 2, Wikileaks said in a statement that Snowden has sent asylum requests to 21 countries, including Russia, India, Austria, Bolivia, Brazil, Cuba, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Nicaragua, Norway, Poland, Spain, Switzerland, Venezuela and China. Finland, India, Switzerland and Norway have declined his request, while other countries haven't given clear decisions.

On July 3, Bolivia accused the United States of ordering European countries to block President Evo Morales' flight from their airspace and accused European governments of "aggression" by thwarting the flight. Bolivia's president's flight was rerouted and delayed overnight in Austria, allegedly because of suspicions that he was trying to spirit NSA leaker Edward Snowden from Moscow to Latin America.

On July 4, Icelandic Parliament discussed a proposal to grant immediate citizenship to whistleblower Edward Snowden. Only six members of minority parties were in favor of the proposal. The Parliament has a total of 63 members.

On July 5, 2013, both Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega said, in separate speeches from their respective countries, that their governments would be willing to grant Snowden “humanitarian asylum.” On July 6, Bolivian President Evo Morales announced his country will offer humanitarian asylum for Snowden if asked.

On July 12, at a meeting with human rights activists Snowden said he was seeking temporary asylum in Russia until he can travel safely to Latin America, where three countries have said they might take him in.

On July 24, U.S. House of Representatives narrowly defeated an amendment of the Defense Authorization Act that would restrict surveillance of the American public by the National Security Agency (NSA).

On July 25, a U.S. Senate panel approved an amendment to State Department funding bill aimed at pressuring Russia and other countries against giving asylum to Snowden.

On July 31, the Obama administration officially declassified three files to offer details to the NSA's phone surveillance program, before Senators grilled intelligence officials about the program in a hearing.

On Aug. 1, Snowden left the transit zone of a Moscow airport and officially entered Russia after authorities granted him asylum for a year.

Edward Snowden holds the Sam Adams award for integrity in intelligence, with former US government officials Coleen Rowley and Thomas Drake, ex-US officials Jesselyn Raddack and Ray McGovern, and (second right) UK WikiLeaks journalist Sarah Harrison.

On Aug. 6, Snowden had been officially registered as resident in Russia. He had not found a job so far, Interfax quoted Anatoly Kucherena as saying.

On Aug. 7, President Barack Obama canceled his planned meeting with Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin in Sept., with the White House citing lack of progress in bilateral relations.

On Oct. 12, 2013, the Interfax news agency reported that Edward Snowden had met with his father Lon Snowden in Russia. "Their meeting has already taken place. It was very emotional," the Interfax news agency quoted an unnamed source as saying. The meeting's time and place were not disclosed for security reasons, said the insider. Edward Snowden's father arrived in Moscow early on Oct. 11 with a multi-entry visa. And the first verified photograph of Edward Snowden in Russia has appeared hours after Snowden's father landed in Moscow, showing the NSA whistleblower meeting four former US government officials who presented him with an award for "integrity in intelligence".