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Ai Weiwei says U.S. surveillance reminds him of China

Chinese activist Ai Weiwei has had his share of experience with heavy-handed treatment by the government, having been detained for 81 days by China's secret police in 2011. Now the Beijing-based artist says another country reminds him of China: the United States.

In a column in the Guardian this morning, Ai harshly criticizes the U.S. government for the NSA's PRISM Internet surveillance program -- a program the Guardian has been at the forefront of reporting on over the past week.

"Privacy is a basic human right, one of the very core values," Ai writes. "There is no guarantee that China, the US or any other government will not use the information falsely or wrongly. I think especially that a nation like the US, which is technically advanced, should not take advantage of its power. It encourages other nations."

In another comparison that Americans are unlikely to appreciate, Ai adds, "In the Soviet Union before, in China today, and even in the US, officials always think what they do is necessary, and firmly believe they do what is best for the state and the people. But the lesson that people should learn from history is the need to limit state power."

Praise for Edward Snowden, the leaker behind the PRISM story who was last seen in Hong Kong, has been widespread in China.

"This is the definition of heroism," wrote one Chinese blogger. "Doing this proves he genuinely cares about this country and about his country's citizens. All countries need someone like him!"

"This young fellow truly is a human rights warrior!" declared the well-known nationalist writer Wang Xiaodong. "He has now fled to Chinese territory, and must be protected. We must withstand U.S. pressure, and make a contribution to world human rights!"

Ai doesn't mention Snowden explicitly in his column, but the Chinese dissident may very well feel the same way.

Ed Jones/AFP/GettyImages

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The NSA's PRISM slides get a makeover

When the Washington Post and the Guardian revealed the existence of the NSA intelligence-gathering program PRISM last week, they both relied on a set of horrifically bad slides reportedly prepared by the agency and presented to a group of senior analysts. As I wrote at the time, the slides continued the U.S. government's tradition of generally awful PowerPoint slides.

But now, Emiland De Cubber, a presentation designer, has done the NSA the favor of redesigning the slides. Have a look for yourself below. I'd say it looks more than good enough for government work.