PRISM snitch Edward Snowden responded to the US government formally charging him with spying on Friday with fresh revelations that the NSA hacked China’s three state-run telcos in a bid to nab SMS data.
In another carefully-timed disclosure, this time to Hong Kong’s Sunday Morning Post, Snowden handed over confidential documents apparently revealing the extensive attacks against China Mobile, China Telecom and China Unicom.
The three have a combined subscriber base of over one billion.
The data also pointed to NSA attacks on Tsinghua University, one of China’s top academic institutions and more importantly the body which plays home to the China Education and Research Network – one of the country’s six network backbones.
As such, it could have allowed NSA operatives to access internet data on millions of Chinese citizens.
US government attackers are also said to have targeted the Hong Kong HQ of submarine cable network giant Pacnet, which counts China’s carriers among its customers and runs an extensive network across the Asia Pacific.
The fresh revelations come just a couple of days after the US formally charged Snowden with espionage, setting in motion his extradition from Hong Kong.
However, the runaway appears to have taken that as a cue to leave the SAR of China and flew to Russia on Sunday. Originally, he was thought to be bound for Cuba, but more recent reports place him in an airport hotel in Moscow, hoping to fly to Ecuador to seek asylum.
The US has already complained that the Hong Kong authorities should have arrested the whistle-blower before he left the region.
A report in the New York Times, citing “people familiar with the matter”, claims Beijing personally intervened in the matter to allow Snowden to leave, thus avoiding a potentially long extradition battle which could have soured relations with the US.
In many ways, Snowden has served his purpose for the Chinese authorities, his revelations a huge embarrassment to Washington and a propaganda coup for Beijing, coming as they did at a time when the US had been ramping up the rhetoric against Chinese state-sponsored hacking of US targets. ®