WASHINGTON -- The United States has contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek extradition of spy program leaker Edward Snowden, formally initiating a process that may be long and contentious.
National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said Saturday that the request to officials in Hong Kong was made based on the criminal complaint against the former contractor, who handed over a trove of documents detailing secret surveillance programs to the media.
The complaint was filed June 14 in the Eastern District of Virginia and unsealed Friday.
National Security Advisor Tom Donilon first disclosed the contact between U.S. and Hong Kong officials in an interview with CBS.
A senior administration official warned Hong Kong authorities not to delay the process.
“If Hong Kong doesn’t act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong’s commitment to the rule of law,” said the official, who asked not to be identified to talk about the sensitive discussions.
Snowden is believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong, where his extradition has become a topic of hot debate. Some view Snowden as a whistle-blower worthy of political protection. Hong Kong, a semi-autonomous Chinese territory, has its own legal system and an extradition treaty with the United States. The treaty makes an exception for political cases.