Edward Snowden: Hong Kong  Can’t Offer Protection

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Permanent Record" by Edward Snowden. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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How did Edward Snowden end up in Hong Kong? What was the reason for him to go there to leak his story to journalists? For Edward Snowden, Hong Kong was meant to be where he took refuge, but what happened?

Hong Kong is the place that Edward Snowden went to when he was ready to blow the whistle on government surveillance. For Edward Snowden, Hong Kong wasn’t an option to stay because of US pressure.

Read more about Edward Snowden in Hong Kong.

Edward Snowden: Hong Kong Plans

In spring 2013, Ed made preparations to meet the journalists outside the US. He had a hard time setting up meetings with them because he couldn’t give them a time or date too far in advance, and they didn’t even know who he was. Ed also had trouble finding a place to meet them. He eventually settled on Hong Kong because it had unrestricted Internet and was independent enough to resist the US.

Snowden, Mira Hotel, and Waiting

Ed was in Hong Kong, but the journalists weren’t. He knew Laura Poitras, who already had some documents, was definitely interested in meeting, but she wasn’t coming until she’d convinced Glenn Greenwald to come too. This was very stressful for Ed—if the NSA figured out what Ed was up to before he could share his documents, the world would never find out about STELLARWIND.

For Snowden, Mira Hotel was home for several days. Ed hid in the Mira Hotel for ten days, not leaving his room because he worried someone would come in while he was gone and set up bugs. He spent this time pleading with the journalists to come and organized the material he was going to give them. He expected people would be skeptical of what he was saying so he worked on the best way to explain it. While he was most interested in how the tech worked, he planned to explain in terms of programs, using a more narrative approach.

Snowden in Hong Kong and in Need of Legal Help

After Ed revealed his identity, two attorneys, Jonathan Man and Robert Tibbo, volunteered to take him on. They helped him get out of the Mira hotel when the press figured out he was staying there. Robert was good at finding safe houses, and Ed stayed with some of his other clients, refugees who had been unable to get permanent residency status. They were lovely, hospitable people and Ed was forever grateful for their help.

Ed appealed to the UN High Commissioner on Refugees, but while the UN tried to get him protection in Hong Kong, the Hong Kong government decided to consider the US’s request for extradition. Ed cleared his computers and prepared to run. For Edward Snowden, Hong Kong was no longer a safe option.

Edward Snowden: Hong Kong Can’t Offer Protection

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best summary of Edward Snowden's "Permanent Record" at Shortform.

Here's what you'll find in our full Permanent Record summary:

  • What Ed Snowden discovered that caused him to completely lose faith in the government
  • How Snowden led the bombshell reports of US mass surveillance
  • How Snowden is coping with his treatment as both patriot and traitor

Rina Shah

An avid reader for as long as she can remember, Rina’s love for books began with The Boxcar Children. Her penchant for always having a book nearby has never faded, though her reading tastes have since evolved. Rina reads around 100 books every year, with a fairly even split between fiction and non-fiction. Her favorite genres are memoirs, public health, and locked room mysteries. As an attorney, Rina can’t help analyzing and deconstructing arguments in any book she reads.

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