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NSA leaker Edward Snowden charged with espionage

By Pete Yost

Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:06 a.m. HST, Jun 22, 2013

WASHINGTON » The Justice Department has charged former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden with espionage and theft of government property in the NSA surveillance case.

Snowden, believed to be holed up in Hong Kong, has admitted providing information to the news media about two highly classified NSA surveillance programs.

A one-page criminal complaint unsealed today 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 U.S. 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 U.S. and Hong Kong excepts political offenses from the obligation to turn over a person.

Hong Kong had no immediate reaction to word of the charges against Snowden.

The Espionage Act arguably is a political offense. The Obama administration has now used the act in eight criminal cases in an unprecedented effort to stem leaks. In one of them, Army Pfc. Bradley Manning acknowledged he sent more than 700,000 battlefield reports, diplomatic cables and other materials to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks. His military trial is underway.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, welcomed the charges. "I've always thought this was a treasonous act," he said in a statement. "I hope Hong Kong's government will take him into custody and extradite him to the U.S."

Michael di Pretoro, a retired 30-year veteran with the FBI who served from 1990 to 1994 as the legal liaison officer at the American consulate in Hong Kong, said "relations between U.S. and Hong Kong law enforcement personnel are historically quite good."

"In my time, I felt the degree of cooperation was outstanding to the extent that I almost felt I was in an FBI field office," said di Pretoro.

The U.S. and Hong Kong cooperate on law enforcement matters and have a standing agreement on the surrender of fugitives.

However, Snowden's appeal rights could drag out any extradition proceeding.

The success or failure of any extradition proceeding depends on what the suspect is charged with under U.S. law and how it corresponds to Hong Kong law under the treaty. In order for Hong Kong officials to honor the extradition request, they have to have some applicable statute under their law that corresponds with a violation of U.S. law.

In Iceland, a business executive said Friday that a private plane was on standby to transport Snowden from Hong Kong to Iceland, although Iceland's government says it has not received an asylum request from Snowden.

Business executive Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson said he has been in contact with someone representing Snowden and has not spoken to the American himself. Private donations are being collected to pay for the flight, he said.

"There are a number of people that are interested in freedom of speech and recognize the importance of knowing who is spying on us," Sigurvinsson said. "We are people that care about privacy."

Disclosure of the criminal complaint came as President Barack Obama held his first meeting with a privacy and civil liberties board as his intelligence chief sought ways to help Americans understand more about sweeping government surveillance efforts exposed by Snowden.

The five members of the little-known Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board met with Obama for an hour in the White House Situation Room, questioning the president on the two NSA programs that have stoked controversy.

One program collects billions of U.S. phone records. The second gathers audio, video, email, photographic and Internet search usage of foreign nationals overseas, and probably some Americans in the process, who use major providers such as Microsoft, Google, Apple, and Yahoo.

Associated Press writer Jenna Gottlieb in Reykjavik, Iceland, contributed to this report.

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TLehel wrote:
Haha these fools are so mad. Suck it NSA
on June 21,2013 | 01:37PM
saywhatyouthink wrote:
Traitor and defector.
on June 21,2013 | 02:12PM
Fred01 wrote:
No surprise. Let the system work it out. He is no doubt guilty, but you may swallow your words when Obama or his republican successor grants a pardon.
on June 21,2013 | 08:07PM
kolohepalu wrote:
Good. Snowden is the Kardashian of the intelligence world, hoping that he'll make enough of a stir out of nothing that someone will make a movie about him. Worthless.
on June 21,2013 | 02:10PM
cojef wrote:
Feel for this guy, cause he is in big trouble for sure. Organization doing bsckground check, missed the boat on this guy. His background certainlt didn't look to good, meanin habit of flitting from to job, not completing something started, indicating lack of maturity. Only thing going was his smarts in the internet technology, like some nerd.
on June 21,2013 | 02:37PM
buttery wrote:
I am not afraid of the agency. I am concerned about some of the individuals working for the NSA. What will make it a bad program are individuals that may misuse it.
on June 21,2013 | 03:08PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
You mean like Snowden?
on June 21,2013 | 04:48PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
Meanwhile we find out today that the US has been using CIA and special forces on the ground in Syria to help the rebels. That's not what our government told us. One more in a growing string of revelations about government over reach. Lots of lies coming out but the focus seems to be demonizing this guy - the messenger.
on June 21,2013 | 03:09PM
NanakuliBoss wrote:
This messenger said nothing about using CIA on the ground in Syria. Did we miss something or do you need to get back on course?
on June 21,2013 | 04:51PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I'm assuming you are just saying that to try and be cute. Look, what we have been witnessing is a continuing pattern of over reaching acts of government, one of which is the discovery that the NSA has been inhaling all calls, emails, internet and other private communications of American citizens for future analysis and use. The latest "secret" now disclosed is that - voila! - we have actually had American troops (SpecOps) and other government employees on the ground inside Syria manipulating an event that is not our kuleana. Did you know we had soldiers and CIA guys in Syria? Meanwhile, instead of focusing on the abuses to the 4th Amendment and focusing on how we have been lied to about policy, we focus on the one guy who actually did something to wake up Americans to what was going on.
on June 21,2013 | 04:58PM
mitt_grund wrote:
Maneki_Neko is right. News just broke that CIA is assisting in training opposition forces. The Company is always present, though they never admit it.
on June 21,2013 | 05:52PM
hanalei395 wrote:
The guy has a big mouth. He's embarrassing the U.S.
on June 21,2013 | 06:51PM
aomohoa wrote:
As usual I don't agree with you,
on June 21,2013 | 06:58PM
hanalei395 wrote:
This dummy didn't get the OBVIOUS sarcasm.
on June 21,2013 | 07:13PM
aomohoa wrote:
I completely agree with you, Wake up America. There is no transparency.
on June 21,2013 | 06:57PM
kuroiwaj wrote:
Good, the DOJ has charged Mr. Snowden with espionage even as more information about our Administration is being brought forward that weakens their case. Now, we find out that the NSA can spy on Americans without FISA court approval. I continue to believe Mr. Snowden is an American hero.
on June 21,2013 | 03:15PM
hawaiikone wrote:
I hesitate to describe him as a hero, but on the surface it seems as though he felt the public should be made aware of what's being done without their knowledge. For that we should all be grateful.
on June 21,2013 | 03:44PM
Maneki_Neko wrote:
I agree. Just think of all the things we have found out about what our government was doing in secret because of Wikileaks, Snowden and others. It's a shameful thing to fins how our rights have been so abused and yet we sit quietly.
on June 21,2013 | 05:00PM
aomohoa wrote:
Most American are so busy with their own lives they don't think about what is really going on with our government, and the CIA. They don't even want to know.
on June 21,2013 | 07:00PM
mitt_grund wrote:
Now if Snowden is smart, he has already gotten on a tour bus to mainland China, or is making his way to the Iceland taxi. Otherwise, the CIA, not to be thwarted, will soon "violate" his rights and take him out with a shot between the eyes, or a drone hit from the air. Right, he's no longer in the U.S., so he can be taken out by a drone. Those Hong Kong streets and hotels are usually packed, so there will be collateral damage of a couple hundred or so. Hey, but they're only Chinese. No different than taking out nearby innocent Pakistanis and Afghanis, women and children, right? So, why worry. SHHH-HHHBOOM!
on June 21,2013 | 06:06PM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Booz Allen Hamilton needs to be held partially responsible as it was their employee and they did a very sloppy job of screening him.
on June 21,2013 | 03:53PM
mitt_grund wrote:
The name "Booz" should be an indication of the degree of attention they give to internal security.
on June 21,2013 | 05:53PM
den1718 wrote:
What is interesting is the last three guys who is giving these classified information all have Hawaii ties. Maybe they can start a Hoolaulea club in jail.
on June 21,2013 | 03:53PM
hon2255 wrote:
Put him in Guantanamo with the rest of the puke heads. Give him a taste of water boarding, I volunteer to give him the first go round , Mr Traitor.
on June 21,2013 | 04:09PM
aomohoa wrote:
I thought we didn't use water boarding any more? And so much for our president shutting down Guantanamo, like he promised. He is not a hero but he is far from a traitor.
on June 21,2013 | 07:03PM
Slow wrote:
Snowden, no matter what his motivation, has shown courage beyond my comprehension. He had to have had a sense of the capabilities of the monster and still he chose to face it down...Tiananmen Square.
on June 21,2013 | 05:19PM
bully106 wrote:
this weenie needs to fry. he may have thought he saw not so nice things but he had no right to do what he did. no pity for this babooze! and what happened to treason?
on June 21,2013 | 05:51PM
aomohoa wrote:
Oh,so our amendments rights are really up to the government and not the people?
on June 21,2013 | 07:06PM
honokai wrote:
A sad day for Hawaii people. We are all too busy to stand up for our brother.
on June 21,2013 | 06:51PM
sailfish1 wrote:
He is NOT my brother. You want to stand up for him go ahead - all talk no action.
on June 21,2013 | 08:57PM
honokai wrote:
That is correct.
on June 21,2013 | 09:35PM
HD36 wrote:
If they're in the US, and they're dumb enough not to use a pay phone or a prepaid disposable cell phone, they'll probably blow themselve's up.
on June 21,2013 | 08:59PM
cshaffer wrote:
Thank you Mr Snowden for bring to our attention Big Brother's efforts to take away our constitutional rights. Big Brother's intention is to strip away all our constitutional rights. After our rights are taken away Big Brother will strip away all the wealth. Just like the Germans did to the Jews during World War II. In my opinion Big Brother want to create a society like that in North Korea. Big Brother is worried about anarchy by "We the People" that would stop Big Brother's plan. All the Big Brothers that want to arrest Mr Snowden are the real terrorist to our constitution rights
on June 21,2013 | 09:00PM
honokai wrote:
The whole thing makes me wonder what they are teaching people in school these days.
on June 21,2013 | 09:39PM
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