The federal government has formally charged NSA leaker Edward Snowden with espionage and theft of government documents.
Snowden has been charged with three violations: theft of government property and two offenses under the espionage statutes, specifically giving national defense information to someone without a security clearance and revealing classified information about “communications intelligence.” Each of the charges carries a maximum of 10 years in prison. Officials said charges against Snowden were delayed because the United States and authorities in Hong Kong have been going back and forth to make certain that whatever charges the U.S. filed would conform to the extradition treaty with Hong Kong. The U.S. has filed a “provisional arrest warrant,” formally asking the police in Hong Kong to arrest Snowden. Because the FBI has no jurisdiction outside U.S. borders, U.S. prosecutors must ask local police to make the arrest.
The charges begin an extradition process with China which is expected to take several months. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has reportedly been in contact with Snowden’s lawyers in an attempt to help him seek asylum in Iceland.