SVA discuss the Snowden leak case

GCHQ 'Snooped' On G20 Foreign Politicians

Potentially embarrassing leaked documents from US whistleblower Edward Snowden claim the UK spied on G20 politicians in 2009.

British spies eavesdropped on foreign diplomats at the 2009 G20 summit in London, according to documents leaked by a former US government intelligence analyst.

Edward Snowden, who has been in hiding in Hong Kong since he gave an interview to The Guardian newspaper, claims that British spies monitored phones and set up fake internet cafes to intercept the communications of foreign delegations.

Mr Snowden's revelations represent a massive diplomatic embarrassment for the US and UK governments.

The American authorities are yet to make a request for his extradition from the former British colony which is now under semi-autonomous Chinese jurisdiction.

A former Royal Hong Kong Police intelligence commander has told Sky News that authorities from the US, Hong Kong and China know his location.

Steve Vickers, who is now CEO of SVA, a specialist risk and security consultancy, said he would be picked up soon.

"I have no doubt that the government knows where he is right now. The Americans know where he is right now. They will be able to pick him up very quickly," he said.

"This has been a good place as a platform for him outside of US control to make his statement.

"But in the bigger picture it has been a very unwise place because sooner or later he will be extradited I am sure and he will face a savage sentence in the United States."

The G20 revelations, which cannot be independently verified, are bound to cause tension at today's G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Many of the alleged targets of eavesdropping will be at this week's meeting.

The idea that spying of this nature could take place at international political summits is not a big surprise. However, leaked evidence which apparently proves the practice will be a diplomatic embarrassment.

Sky News understands that the drip-drip of leaks will continue for some time. Mr Snowden is thought to have passed a wealth of "evidence" to The Guardian last weekend before he went into hiding.

The authorities in Hong Kong have refused to comment on whether they will agree to a US extradition request if it comes.

In a vague statement, Hong Kong's leader, CY Leung, said: "When the relevant mechanism is activated, the Hong Kong government will handle the case of Mr Snowden in accordance with the laws and established procedures of Hong Kong."

There is an increasing movement of support for Mr Snowden in Hong Kong. At the weekend a gathering of up 500 people marched to the government headquarters on the island demanding that he not be extradited.

Hong Kong prides itself on its relative freedoms compared with its Chinese masters over the border. The Snowden case has provided a focus for campaigners to highlight what they see as a slow erosion of their own freedoms.

"We hope he is not going to be extradited. We want to give Mr Snowden our support because he is just speaking the truth and telling the world what's happening," one protester told Sky News.

"We the innocent public should be behind him and I hope other world cities will do the same to show solidarity," she said.

The case therefore puts the Hong Kong authorities in a tricky position. The longer the US leaves it before asking for his extradition, the stronger the support will be not to hand him over.

"He has not broken the law in Hong Kong. He is here legally on a 90-day tourist visa," Mr Vickers said.

China is the big unknown in this case. The central government in Beijing can, in certain circumstances, block extradition requests in Hong Kong.

China has remained silent on the issue to date. At one level, Mr Snowden's revelations conveniently confirm what China has long suspected: that America routinely hacks into its computers.

"The Chinese are the overall winners here. They have gone from being the evil criminals of cybercrime to being the victims," Mr Vickers told Sky News.

But if they block his extradition, it would put significant tension on US-Chinese relations at a time when the two countries are trying to improve them.

However, in a possible hint at China's stance, an editorial in the Global Times newspaper, published by the pro-communist People's Daily, said he should not be handed over.

"It would be a face-losing outcome for both the Hong Kong government and the Chinese Central government if Snowden is extradited back to the US," the editorial said.

"Unlike a common criminal, Snowden did not hurt anybody. His 'crime' is that he blew the whistle on the US government's violation of civil rights. His action supported "human rights" as defined in the UN Charter, and has been applauded worldwide.

"Washington must be grinding its teeth because Snowden's revelations have almost overturned the image of the US as the defender of a free internet."

The editorial will be seen by some as highly hypocritical given China's stance on political freedoms and human rights, but it nonetheless is likely to reflect government thinking.