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A former CIA employee working as a contractor for the National Security Agency has come forward as the source behind one of the biggest leaks in U.S. history. Edward Snowden, a former CIA technical assistant now working with the NSA through the military firm Booz Allen Hamilton, revealed his identity in an interview with The Guardian of London. Snowden said he exposed top secret NSA surveillance programs to alert Americans of expansive government spying on innocents.
Edward Snowden: “The public needs to decide whether these programs and policies are right or wrong. And I’m willing to go on the record to defend the authenticity of them and say I didn’t change these, I didn’t modify the story, this is the truth, this is what’s happening, you should decide whether we need to be doing this.”
Snowden was speaking from Hong Kong, where he’s been since last month after leaving his home in Hawaii. He says he carefully vetted each document that he released to ensure it was “legitimately in the public interest.” Over the last several days, Snowden’s disclosures to The Guardian and The Washington Post have revealed a number of previously unknown surveillance operations carried out by the NSA. These include the collection of millions of U.S. call logs and a secret program called PRISM that gathers data on foreign Internet users from the servers of nine major firms, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, Yahoo! and Facebook. Other disclosures include a presidential directive laying out the guidelines for launching cyber-attacks, and a data-mining tool called Boundless Informant that details U.S. surveillance on computer and telephone networks abroad.
The National Security Agency has asked the Justice Department to begin a criminal probe into the leaks. On Sunday, the chairs of both congressional intelligence committees, Congressmember Mike Rogers and Senator Dianne Feinstein, said the whistleblower involved should face prosecution. Speaking to NBC News, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said the leak has done “grave damage.”
James Clapper: “For me, it is literally — not figuratively, literally — gut-wrenching to see this happen, because of the huge, grave damage it does to our intelligence capabilities.”
The White House is expected to make its first comments today on Edward Snowden’s coming forward as the NSA whistleblower. Snowden had been staying in the same Hong Kong hotel for the past three weeks, but he reportedly checked out earlier today. In its article disclosing his identity, The Guardian of London writes: “[Edward] Snowden will go down in history as one of America’s most consequential whistleblowers, alongside Daniel Ellsberg and Bradley Manning.”
As Edward Snowden revealed his identity from Hong Kong, President Obama wrapped up a two-day summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in California. Outgoing National Security Adviser Tom Donilon said Obama confronted his Chinese counterpart on U.S. allegations of China-based cyberpiracy.
Tom Donilon: “The specific issue that President Obama talked to President Xi about today is the issue of cyber-enabled economic theft, theft of intellectual property and other kinds of property in the public and private realm in the United States by entities based in China. If there continues to be this direct theft of United States property, [Obama said] that this was going to be a very difficult problem in the economic relationship and was going to be an inhibitor to the relationship really reaching its full potential.”
In response to the cybertheft complaints, Xi said the U.S. has failed to properly address cyber-attacks against China.
Both sides, however, announced they reached common ground on seeking the denuclearization of North Korea. On the issue of climate change, the two leaders agreed to work jointly on reducing hydrofluorocarbons, or HFCs, the potent greenhouse gases used in air conditioners and refrigerators. The White House says the U.S. and China have reached a framework that could reduce up to a year’s worth of current greenhouse gas emissions.
Pakistan has lodged a formal complaint after a U.S. drone strike that killed nine people. A Pakistani government spokesperson said U.S. envoy Richard Hoagland was summoned to Pakistan’s foreign ministry over the weekend.
Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry: “Given the fact that this drone strike has taken place after the installation of the new government, the importance of this particular protest can be gauged from the fact that the prime minister himself gave the instruction and this was delivered at a very high level. And we do hope that the U.S. government would see merit in the protest that the government of Pakistan has lodged and the arguments that we are making that this is counterproductive and violates our sovereignty.”
Friday’s drone strike hit a compound in the tribal region of North Waziristan. It was the first since last week’s inauguration of new Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. In his opening address to lawmakers, Sharif had called for an end to U.S. drone attacks on Pakistani soil.
Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: “This daily business of drones has to stop immediately. Other countries must respect our sovereignty and address our concerns as we respect their sovereignty.”
A Taliban assault on Afghanistan’s main international airport in Kabul has ended with all seven attackers dead. Two were suicide bombers while the rest were gunmen shot dead by Afghan government forces.
The attack came one day after an Afghan soldier shot dead three Americans — two soldiers and a civilian — in an eastern province. It was the latest in a series of so-called “insider attacks” by members of the Afghan forces on the U.S.-led NATO occupation.
Tens of thousands rallied in Turkey on Sunday in the largest anti-government protests since unrest broke out two weeks ago. The movement began as an effort to block the razing of a public park but has since grown into challenging Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan for what opponents call excessively religious and authoritarian tendencies. The largest crowd Sunday filled Istanbul’s Taksim Square, with thousands more in Ankara and the western city of Izmir. Police dispersed the Ankara protest with tear gas and water cannons. Erdogan meanwhile addressed a counter-rally of thousands of supporters upon his return from a foreign trip. Erdogan said his patience is wearing thin with the opposition protests and called for more pro-government rallies next weekend.
Former South African President Nelson Mandela has been hospitalized and remains in what’s being described as “serious but stable condition.” It’s Mandela’s fourth trip to the hospital since December for a recurring lung infection. He is 94 years old.
The Senate is beginning debate on the bipartisan immigration reform bill that would establish a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants while radically expanding border enforcement. In a boost to the bill’s chances of hitting the 60-vote threshold, Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte announced her endorsement on Sunday. On the eve of the Senate debate last week, the Republican-controlled House passed a measure to resume the deportation of hundreds of thousands of undocumented immigrants brought to the U.S. as children. President Obama granted them a reprieve under an executive order last year.
Six people are dead after Friday’s shooting rampage in Santa Monica, California. The suspect, John Zawahri, reportedly set fire to his family’s home and shot dead his father and brother. Police say he then hijacked a car and opened fire on the campus of Santa Monica College, killing three others. Several other people were also wounded. Zawahri was armed with an AR-15 assault rifle, an automatic weapon similar to what was used in the Newtown school massacre. Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said police recovered more than 1,300 rounds of ammunition.
Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks: “If all of the magazines that we collected were in fact loaded fully, something in the order of about 1,300 rounds — and that is an estimation — 1,300 rounds could have been fired had there not been an interdiction and that person neutralized at an appropriate time. I would presume that anytime someone puts on a vest of some sort, comes out with a bag full of loaded magazines, has an extra receiver, has a handgun, and has a semi-automatic rifle, carjacks folks, goes to a college, kills more people, and has to be neutralized at the hands of the police, I would say that that’s premeditated.”
California’s troubled San Onofre nuclear plant is shutting down for good. San Onofre has been idle for over a year following a radioactive leak. The leak led to the discovery of excessive wear in tubing that carries radioactive water. The plant’s operator, Southern California Edison, had maintained it wanted to restart the reactors but on Friday announced the plant would be permanently closed. In a statement, the environmentalist group Friends of the Earth welcomed the news, saying: “The people of California now have the opportunity to move away from the failed promise of dirty and dangerous nuclear power and replace it with the safe and clean energy provided by the sun and the wind.”
And jury selection begins today in the murder trial of George Zimmerman, the Florida man who shot and killed unarmed black teenager Trayvon Martin last year. Zimmerman faces up to life in prison on charges of second-degree murder.