NSA whistleblower picks poor hideout

June 10, 2013

The NSA leaker may not escape U.S. reach, Turkish prime minister plays Islamist card, and Iran’s supreme leader hopes for voter turnout in an election he watered down. Today is Monday, June 10, 261 years after Benjamin Franklin flew his kite in a thunderstorm. Here’s the World Wrap, brought to you by @dwbronner and @clarerrrr.

U.S. National Security Agency whistleblower Edward Snowden, an analyst with a U.S. defense contractor, is seen in this still image taken from a video during an interview with the Guardian in his hotel room in Hong Kong, June 6, 2013. REUTERS/Courtesy of The Guardian/Glenn Greenwald/Laura Poitras/Handout

Snowden bets on Hong Kong. Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former CIA employee who revealed classified information to the Guardian and the Washington Post on NSA surveillance last week, may have made a bad call in fleeing to Hong Kong to avoid prosecution:

The United States and Hong Kong signed their extradition treaty in 1996, a year before the former British colony was returned to China. It allows for the exchange of criminal suspects in a formal process that may also involve the Chinese government. The treaty went into force in 1998 and provides that Hong Kong authorities can hold Snowden for 60 days, following a U.S. request that includes probable cause, while Washington prepares a formal extradition request. Some lawyers with expertise in extraditions said it would be a challenge for Snowden to circumvent the treaty if the U.S. government decides to prosecute him.

Te-Ping Chen writes in the Wall Street Journal that Hong Kong authorities were baffled by Snowden’s choice of hideout. Snowden exposed the details of an NSA program called Prism, which the government used to collect three months worth of call records from Verizon and emails, chat logs and other data from major Internet companies including Google, Facebook, Yahoo, AOL, and others. In a video interview with the Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald dated June 6, Snowden said that he doesn’t “want to live in a society that does these sort of things.” Allegations of spying are problematic for U.S. allied countries, which face concern from citizens that they use U.S. data to circumvent local surveillance law.

Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters in Ankara, June 9, 2013. REUTERS/Umit BEKTAS

“No matter who you are, we will choke you.” Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan took a harsh tone after days of anti-government demonstrations, accusing protesters of disrespecting Islamic traditions and warning that his patience is limited:

[Erdogan] held six rallies on Sunday, a measure of tensions after a week of the biggest demonstrations and worst rioting of his decade in power. Thousands waved red Turkish flags and shouted Allahu Akbar (God Is Greatest) as he accused protesters of attacking women wearing headscarves and desecrating mosques by taking beer bottles into them… In the commercial center Istanbul, tens of thousands flooded the central Taksim Square, where protests began nine days ago when police used teargas and water cannon against a peaceful demonstration over plans to build on a park there. Many see Turkey’s secular order threatened by Erdogan.

Tens of thousands gathered at Gezi Park in a counter-rally on Sunday, calling for Erdogan to step down. A core of protesters continued to occupy Taksim Square on Monday. Erdogan is still Turkey’s most popular politician, but critics say he has become authoritarian in recent years, citing arrests of journalists and anti-government activists as well as restrictions on alcohol sales.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei speaks during the 16th summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Tehran, August 30, 2012. REUTERS/Hamid Forootan/ISNA

Iran’s supreme “accident of history.” Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei says he hopes for high voter turnout on June 14, despite diluting the election by indirectly barring major reformists from running. Days ahead of the election, a Reuters profile explores the unlikely leader’s path to power:

Scholars abroad who have studied [Khamenei] paint a picture of a secretive ideologue who is deeply anti-Western, fearful of Iran’s democratic institutions and paranoid about betrayal. One of his childhood friends from Mashhad sounded a similar theme. “He is a conspiracy theorist and a true anti-American,” said Djavad Khadem, a minister under the ousted Shah. Few Iranians had tipped Khamenei as Khomeini’s heir. He is “an accident of history” who went from being “a weak president to an initially weak supreme leader to one of the five most powerful Iranians of the last 100 years”, Sadjadpour said.

Khamenei, who is Iran’s supreme authority and claims direct power from God, controls vast Iranian funds and has the power to declare war. He is also in charge of the Guardian Council, which oversees elections, and is able in this to direct Iranian politics. Meanwhile, a conservative former parliament speaker, Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel, dropped out of the election, leaving only three non-hardliners left in the running.

Nota Bene: Turkish protesters spend their down time practicing yoga, playing volleyball, and praying together.


Settlement upswing – Recent data shows a spike in the building of Israeli settlements. (BBC)

Business as usual – Clothing exports are up in Bangladesh a month after a building collapse killed hundreds of garment workers. (Quartz)

Severe sentence – China sentences Nobel laureate’s relative to 11 years on fraud charge. (The New York Times)

Bare bikers – Naked cyclists protest aggressive driving, pollution and conservative attitudes in Mexico. (Al Jazeera)

Photographic evidence – Obama is checking your email. (Tumblr)

From the File:

  • Car bombs and a suicide attack kill at least 21 people in two Iraqi towns.
  • Mubarak trial unseals new evidence on crackdown.
  • The U.S. could decide this week whether to arm Syrian rebels.
  • Afghanistan’s human rights commission accuses police of violence against women.
  • A Kuwaiti court sentences a woman to 11 years in prison for insulting the emir.


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