Snowden charged with espionage

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 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 is an integral part of the U.S. government’s 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.

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 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.

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

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.

More in Local News

District takes steps to secure school campuses

Safety measures have been enhanced at Hawthorne and Silver Firs elementary schools in Everett.

Hard work is paying off for Mariner High senior

Mey Ly has excelled in school since moving here from Cambodia; she also serves as an intrepreter.

County under flood watch; back-to-back storms promise heavy rain

The National Weather Service issued a flood watch Monday for… Continue reading

1 arrested after SWAT team moves in on Marysville house

The incident was connected to an earlier robbery.

Yes to turn signal — eventually

Adding a right-turn signal at 112th St. and 7th Ave. is turning out to be a bit more complicated.

A federal court considers Everett’s bikini-barista case

Does the city’s dress code suppress free speech — or deter crime? A judge asked tough questions of both sides.

Is the state Transportation Commission irrelevant?

A report says the citizen panel often is ignored, and its duties overlap with the Transportation Department.

No easy exit from Smokey Point shopping complex

There’s just no easy exit on this one. A reader called in… Continue reading

Most Read