HONG KONG — The decision by a former contractor to divulge classified data about the US government’s surveillance of computers in mainland China and Hong Kong has complicated his legal position but may also make China’s security apparatus more interested in helping him stay there, law and security experts said Friday.
The South China Morning Post, a local newspaper, reported Friday that Edward J. Snowden, the contractor, had shared detailed data showing the dates and Internet Protocol addresses of specific computers in mainland China and Hong Kong that the National Security Agency penetrated over the past four years.
The data also showed whether the agency was still breaking into these computers, the success rates for hacking, and other operational information. Snowden told the newspaper that the computers were in the civilian sector. But Western experts have long said that the dividing line between the civilian sector and the government is blurry in China.
State-owned or state-controlled enterprises still control much of the economy, and virtually all are run by Communist Party cadres who tend to rotate back and forth between government and corporate jobs every few years as part of elaborate career development procedures. In Dublin on Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder said national security had been damaged as a result of leaks about the NSA surveillance programs, and that the United States will punish the person who is responsible. No charges have been filed.
In a separate development, the British government warned airlines around the world not to allow Snowden to fly to the United Kingdom. The travel alert said carriers should deny Snowden boarding because ‘‘the individual is highly likely to be refused entry to the UK.’’