For years the U.S. and China have engaged in tit-for-tat reports on the state of human rights in the other country. U.S. State Department reports mention Tibet and China's treatment of dissidents, and Chinese reports mention U.S. treatment of minorities, gun violence and economic mobility in the communist country's bid to expose perceived U.S. hypocrisy on human rights.
China's report on human rights in the U.S. in 2012, released in April, specifically mentions Internet privacy.
"The National Security Agency collects purely domestic communications of Americans in a 'significant and systematic' way, intercepting and storing 1.7 billion emails, phone calls and other types of communications every day," the report alleged. "The U.S. Congress approved a bill in 2012 that authorizes the government to conduct warrantless wiretapping and electronic communications monitoring, a move that violates people's rights to privacy," the reports says, apparently referencing the reauthorization of FISA amendments.
"Why not give him asylum?" an unnamed European diplomat told the Morning Post. "A human rights case in which the Chinese grant asylum to an American - what a master stroke for Beijing."
In addition to Snowden's evident exposure of large-scale surveillance of Americans, he also provided documents showing President Barack Obama may have approved cyberattacks on China. The Guardian reported Friday Obama ordered government officials in October to draft a list of U.S. cyberattack targets. The report came as Obama met with Chinese leader Xi Jinping in California. Earlier this year the U.S. accused the Chinese military of hacking military secrets. "We hack everyone everywhere," a source who may have been Snowden told the Guardian. "We like to make a distinction between us and the others. But we are in almost every country in the world."
In the first bombshell Snowden-enabled report last week, the Guardian revealed Wednesday a secret court order showing the National Security Agency and the FBI sought and received an order to acquire all available Verizon call data on millions of customers for a three-month period beginning April 25. Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said after that revelation that the court order was a regular reauthorization of a court order issued for the past seven years.
The Guardian and the Washington Post published a slide show Thursday describing the NSA's PRISM program. The slides boasted of real-time surveillance capabilities to snoop through emails, searches, documents and chats provided by nine major partnering companies, including Apple, Yahoo!, Google and Microsoft.
The tech companies have all denied participation in the program. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google CEO Larry Page each put out adamant denials. It's unclear if they are lying, if the NSA exaggerated its capabilities in the leaked documents or if the businessmen's words were carefully chosen to mislead readers.
The Guardian reported Saturday the U.S. government collects 3 billion pieces of information within the U.S. each month, a statistic that was inconveniently placed on a map of the world, which the paper reprinted, showing intelligence hauls for other countries.
Although highly embarrassing to the Obama administration, which the president formerly said would be the most transparent in history, the leaks have not harmed security at all, Guardian reporter Glenn Greenwald said during an appearance Sunday on ABC's "This Week."
"Unfortunately, since the government hides virtually everything that they do at the threat of criminal prosecution, the only way for us to learn about them is through these courageous whistle-blowers who deserve our praise and gratitude and not imprisonment and prosecution," Greenwald said in the TV appearance.