Zee Media Bureau
Washington: National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden has been charged with espionage and theft of government property by the Justice Department in the NSA surveillance case.
The criminal charges against the fugitive former NSA contractor were pressed after Snowden confessed to leaking details to monitor phone and internet data, as per a news agency report.
Believed to be hiding in Hong Kong, request to extradite Snowden from Hong Kong will also be reportedly made by the US.
A one-page criminal complaint unsealed Friday in federal court in Alexandria, Va., says Snowden engaged in unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information. Both are charges under the Espionage Act.
Snowden also is charged with theft of government property. All three crimes carry a maximum 10-year prison penalty.
The federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia where the complaint was filed is headquarters for Snowden`s former employer, government contractor Booz Allen Hamilton.
The complaint is dated June 14, five days after Snowden`s name first surfaced as the leaker of information about the two programs in which the NSA gathered telephone and Internet records to ferret out terror plots.
The complaint could become an integral part of a US government effort to have Snowden extradited from Hong Kong, a process that could turn into a prolonged legal battle. Snowden could contest extradition on grounds of political persecution. In general, the extradition agreement between the US and Hong Kong excepts political offenses from the obligation to turn over a person.
It was unclear late Friday whether the US had made an extradition request. Hong Kong had no immediate reaction to word of the charges against Snowden.
(With Agency Inputs)