WASHINGTON – Federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint charging self-proclaimed
The charges filed under the Espionage Act were unauthorized communication of national defense information and providing U.S. classified intelligence to an unauthorized person.
The complaint was filed under seal June 14 in U.S. District Court in Alexandria, Va., and made public Friday evening by government officials. An accompanying affidavit in support of the charges, prepared and signed by
The complaint now launches what could become a complex, drawn-out extradition process to return Snowden, a former U.S. intelligence handler who turned 30 on Friday, back to the Washington area for prosecution.
A government official, speaking anonymously because the case is still under investigation, said U.S. officials hoped the charges would be enough to satisfy authorities in
The official added that a more formal, federal grand jury indictment against Snowden probably would follow this summer. "We're just getting underway," the official said.
"I hope Hong Kong's government will take him into custody and extradite him to the U.S.," said Nelson, who has been outspoken on the Snowden case.
[Updated at 10:10 p.m.: The Hong Kong government had no immediate reaction to the charges against Snowden, the Associated Press reported. The news service also reported that some Hong Kong lawmakers said the Chinese government should make the decision on whether to extradite Snowden. Although China grants the former British colony a high degree of autonomy, Beijing is allowed to intervene in matters involving defense and diplomatic affairs, according to the AP.]
Snowden recently began leaking classified material to the Guardian and
The leak of the material sparked a firestorm, with allegations from both Republicans and Democrats that the Obama administration had gone too far in its secret eavesdropping networks. But the president and others defended the programs, saying this kind of secret data collection was needed to alert U.S. national security officials about potential terrorist plots at home and abroad.
Many top U.S. officials, including Atty. Gen.
Snowden, in a video message, asserted that he had leaked the material and that he believed it was in the nation's interest to know the reach of U.S. intelligence gatherers.
Meanwhile, the Guardian, using more leaked information from Snowden, reported that British spies were running an online eavesdropping operation so vast that internal documents say it even outstrips the United States' international Internet surveillance effort.
The paper, citing British intelligence memos, alleged that British spies were tapping into the world’s network of fiber-optic cables to deliver the “biggest Internet access” of any member of the Five Eyes — the name given to the espionage alliance composed of the United States,
That access could in theory expose a huge chunk of the world's everyday communications — including the content of people's emails and phone calls. The Guardian said the information flowing across more than 200 cables was being monitored by more than 500 analysts from the NSA and its British counterpart.
Also Friday, an