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403 words - June 11, 2013 | © DiploNews, all rights reserved.
"The unauthorized disclosure of a top secret US court document threatens potentially long-lasting and irreversible harm to our ability to identify and respond to the many threats facing our nation," warned the Director of United States National Intelligence (DNI) James R. Clapper on June 6 following articles published by The Guardian and The Washington Post.
The two newspapers, with the help of alleged whistleblower and former Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) computer technician Edward Snowden - whose codename was "Verax" (from the Latin for "truth teller") - disclosed classified information about the specific methods the US government - the National Security Agency (NSA) in particular - uses to collect communications and obtain foreign intelligence information.
According to official sources, Mr Snowden is highly likely to be extradited from his Hong Kong-based hotel once the US government charged him. His case is being overseen by the Washington D.C. field office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on the request of a two-tier government inquiry. Whatever the repercussions of Mr. Snowden's revelations in the media sphere, the US government seems fully determined to defend its national security interests.
"Discussing programs like this publicly will have an impact on the behavior of our adversaries and make it more difficult for us to understand their intentions," Mr Clapper said. Such programs help to collect "information necessary to thwart terrorist and cyber-attacks against the United States and its allies," the DNI added. Besides the US public opinion seemed supportive of NSA surveillance, even more within the Democrats' ranks.
However, the international backlash over the NSA surveillance program (PRISM) is mounting. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would consider asylum claim from Mr. Snowden who received praise from Wikileaks' founder Julian Assange. Also, France, whose Presidency's computer network has been the target of an unprecedented and very disruptive cyber-attack - between allies - a few days before Mr. François Hollande became President in May 2012, and Germany whose Chancellor Angela Merkel said she will tackle the issue with President Obama in Berlin next week, are very interested in "getting answers from Washington", an official source told DiploNews.
After it voiced more and more loudly its concerns over Chinese cyber-espionage for months, Mr. Snowden's whistleblowing could potentially shift the Obama administration's status from "victim" to "culprit", and gravely decredibilize the whole US posture on cyber-security. Some caution about Mr. Snowden and his accusations actually came from France with lawmaker Jean-Jacques Urvoas who told Le Monde (in french) that "what we presently know doesn't establish yet that there is a scandal," adding however that if there is one, the response should made at the European level.
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