You choose, we deliver
If you are interested in this story, you might be interested in others from The Journal Gazette. Go to www.journalgazette.net/newsletter and pick the subjects you care most about. We'll deliver your customized daily news report at 3 a.m. Fort Wayne time, right to your email.

U.S.

  • Arizona execution renews debate over methods
    SAN FRANCISCO – A third execution by lethal injection has gone awry in six months, renewing debate over whether there is a foolproof way for the government to humanely kill condemned criminals, and whether it’s even worth
  • Video shows smiling American bomber in Syria
    BEIRUT – An al-Qaida-linked group fighting in Syria has released video of the first American to carry out a suicide attack in the country’s civil war, showing him smiling and saying he looked forward to going to heaven.
  • California to have 4 governors in 4 days next week
    How many governors does it take to run the state of California? Next week, the answer’s four.  Three different acting governors will fill in for Gov.
Advertisement

US charges NSA leaker with spying, seeks arrest

Officials believe Snowden hiding in Chinese territory

Snowden

– Federal prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a trove of documents about top-secret surveillance programs, and the United States has asked Hong Kong to detain him on a provisional arrest warrant, according to U.S. officials.

Snowden was charged with espionage, theft and conversion of government property, the officials said.

The complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, a jurisdiction where Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered and a district with a long track record of prosecuting cases with national security implications.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Snowden flew to Hong Kong last month after leaving his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii with a collection of highly classified documents that he acquired while working at the agency as a systems analyst.

The 29-year-old intelligence analyst revealed himself June 9 as the leaker in an interview with the Guardian and said he went to Hong Kong because it provided him the “cultural and legal framework to allow me to work without being immediately detained.”

Snowden subsequently disappeared from public view; it is thought that he is still in the Chinese territory. Hong Kong has its own legislative and legal systems but ultimately answers to Beijing, under the “one country, two systems” arrangement.

The leaks have sparked national and international debates about the secret powers of the NSA to infringe on the privacy of both Americans and foreigners.

President Barack Obama and other federal officials have said they welcome the opportunity to explain the importance of the programs and the safeguards they say are built into them. Skeptics, including some in Congress, have said the NSA has assumed power to soak up data about Americans that was never intended under the law.

There was never any doubt that the Justice Department would seek to prosecute Snowden for one of the most significant national security leaks in the country’s history.

By filing a criminal complaint, prosecutors have a legal basis to make the request of the authorities in Hong Kong. Prosecutors now have 60 days to file an indictment, probably also under seal, and can then move to have Snowden extradited from Hong Kong for trial in the United States.

Snowden, however, can fight the U.S. effort to have him extradited in the courts in Hong Kong. Any court battle is likely to reach Hong Kong’s highest court and could last many months, lawyers in the United States and Hong Kong said.

The United States has an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and U.S. officials said cooperation with the Chinese territory, which enjoys some autonomy from Beijing, has been good in previous cases.

The treaty, however, has an exception for political offenses, and espionage has traditionally been treated as a political offense. Snowden’s defense team in Hong Kong is expected to invoke that part of the extradition treaty with the United States, which states that suspects will not be turned over to face criminal trial for offenses of a “political character.”

Snowden could also apply for asylum in Hong Kong or attempt to reach another jurisdiction and seek asylum there before the authorities in Hong Kong act.

The anti-secrecy group Wikileaks has held some discussions with officials in Iceland about providing asylum to Snowden. A businessman in Iceland has offered to fly Snowden to his country if he is granted asylum there.

Advertisement