Top House Intel Dem: US not spying on Chinese civilians

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He said China, by contrast, is engaged in “probably the biggest theft in the history of the world” through its cyber hacking of U.S. targets.

Ruppersberger said he could envision certain scenarios where the NSA would be justified in targeting Chinese students, although he denied having any knowledge of such cases.

“If it's relevant to the protection of our country, that's one thing,” he said. “It's relevant that students are being trained to cyberattack us. That might be a different story.”

Snowden is now living in Hong Kong and has said he would fight extradition to the United States. He told the South China Morning Post that he traveled to the island not to hide from justice but to expose "the hypocrisy of the US government when it claims that it does not target civilian infrastructure, unlike its adversaries".

Ruppersberger isn't buying it.

He said he Chinese government most likely knows all of Snowden's secrets, including details of the NSA's online spying program that newspapers have not published.

“I'm sure they do,” Ruppersberger said. “Why is he in China right now? You've got to assume that he went to China for a reason — that he went to China for protection.”

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