US charges NSA whistleblower Snowden with espionage, asks Hong Kong to detain him

Image: The Guardian

In a sealed criminal complaint announced late Friday, federal prosecutors have charged Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked a documents about the top-secret Prism surveillance programs, with espionage, theft and conversion of government property. The US government is asking the government of Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant. The sealed complaint was filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, where Booz Allen Hamilton, his former employer, is based. The district has a history of prosecuting national security cases.

From the Washington Post:

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 U.S. 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.

No word yet on whether Iceland will offer him amnesty, or if Icelandic businessman and Wikileaks supporter Olafur Vignir's purported plan to fly him there in a private jet is feasible.

If this Wikipedia entry on Snowden (and related internet discussion) is to be believed, today is his 30th birthday.

(via Micah Lee)


    1. They can’t put the genie back in the bottle, but they can scare the bejeezua out of anyone else who might be thinking about rubbing one out. 

      (There’s probably a better way of phrasing that.)

      1. I’m pretty sure that he was expecting this. He knew what he was getting into. I hope that jet to Iceland has its turbines spooled up.

        1. Snowden may have been prepared for this, but a potential leaker with more to lose (say, a family to provide for) might see how he’s being treated and decide it’s just not worth it.

          1.  Or be all the more revved up at the fresh dumpload of outrageous injustice!  (For great justice!)

      2. But you know… don’t they keep stomping down the whistleblowers and sentencing them to Supermax and, worse yet, vilifying them in the media? And don’t the whistles just keep getting blown? At some point, the DOJ might realize their strategy isn’t working.

        Then again, given their track record on drugs, maybe that light won’t ever come on.

        1. It may well be working to at least some extent. We have no way of knowing how many more war crimes would have been leaked to the public if leakers didn’t have to be terrified of ending up like Bradley Manning.

      1.  Everybody knows what you mean, which is sad.  The fact that there is truth buried in your joke is deeply disturbing.  Where is the outrage here?  Snowden blew the whistle on what he know, but does anybody think that he knew everything?  The sad fact is that most people really don’t care that much.  People are more worried about American Idle than the Constitution.

  1. IANAL (nor spy nor diplomat) can anyone explain why this criminal complaint is “sealed”?  is it the case that we don’t already know why ‘they’ are perusing him?  are we to suppose that we’re missing some critical details?  (sometimes i think the legal system just likes to able to ‘seal’ things)

    1. It’s a sealed complaint, but they’re asking another government to extradite him, based on hidden details?  Good luck with that?   Or are they telling the Hong Kong government the details, but keeping them hidden from the US public?

  2. “In the spirit of transparency on our methods, we hereby submit a sealed complaint that no one is allowed to see.” – US Dept. of  Homeland Irony

  3. Truth is the biggest casualty in the war on terror.  There’s no longer any reason to believe anything the government says.  Just like cops are allowed to lie while conducting an investigation, the government has decided it’s okay to let politicians lie while running the country.

    1. That makes the United States the biggest casualty in the war on terror. It is claimed Islamic fundamentalists hated American liberalism, decadence, and civil liberties. With a single awesome and shocking attack, in the space of a day, a tiny group set in motion forces that would recreate the kind of place a fundamentalist could embrace. Now*that* is how you fight a war of terror. Total cost: about $100k. 
      (Granted, we still have our decadence.)Imagine what the Taliban could do with an NSA or GCHQ. “They see you when you are dancing. They know when you are baked. They know when you’ve had sex or beer, so you better be good or we will kidnap and torture you.” We are creating a Disneyland mall version of that.

      1. “That makes the United States the biggest casualty in the war on terror.”

        The terrorists had won the second the government introduced overreaching laws that effect everyone in the country for the sake of a statistically insignificant threat.

        Same thing happened here in the UK. I don’t remember stop-and-search laws being introduced to combat Irish Terrorism, which was a far more tangible threat than what we have now.

        Also we (the western world) created AND armed the terrorists we’re now (are we still?) fighting.

        Given the right backing music it could be a brilliant comedy.

      2. They see you when you are dancing. They know when you are baked.

        I saw Mommy with her burqa off
        Underneath the mistletoe last night?

  4. As far as the airplane goes, where is it going to refuel? The US government will likely know about it, and will likely intervene. Perhaps a nice trip on a sail boat is the way to go? Or a freighter?

    1.  Those are both slow and easily intercepted in transit, though (or to set up an ‘accident’ that sinks the ship in the middle of the ocean).

        1.  Except that they’d think of that and probably put satellite surveillance on the Hong Kong harbor area to see if they can catch him going onto a sailboat. Then all they have to do is follow it out into international waters.

          1. Surely, Hagbard Celine’s  “Leif Ericson”. Gold’n’Appel Enterprises should be able to  spirit him away from the Illuminati.

            Or alternatively just hole up inside a container full of iPhones and be shipped to …

    2. I don’t know what kind of jet Vignir has, but a Gulfstream G550 has a range of about 12,500 km, and a straight arc from HK to Reykjavik is only 9,727 km. Even the older Gulfstream V can go 10,742 km (which is probably cutting it a little close considering if you come up short you’re in the middle of the North Atlantic.) Three of Bombardier’s four Global models could also easily make it without refuelling.

  5. Meanwhile, DNI Clapper, Gen Keith Alexander, FBI Dir Muller and AG Holder all lied under oath to Congress on the topic of US data collection. They are also all responsible for continuing a 9 year program that is unlawful and operates under unconstitutional general warrants explicitly prohibited by the 4th amendment. 

    When are their criminal prosecutions going to commence? Why is the NSA, FBI, DoJ and CIA continuing a program that is criminally violating the rights of 300m?

    Impeachments and prosecutions for all. Snowden swore an oath to defend the constitution against enemies both foreign and domestic. Unlike the last two administrations he is following his oath. 

    For shame.

      1. That’s the de facto law, not the de jure law ;).  Well actually, I could be wrong on that.

  6. I wonder why he picked Hong Kong?  Did he figure it was safe with China right there and that it had enough English speaking folks that if he had to languish somewhere, HK was as good as any?  That might explain a more obvious choice like Iceland, which while a very nice place to live and easy to get by with English, isn’t exactly safe if the NSA wants to black bag you.

    Another theory I have is that Snowden is just hell bent on being a martyr.  I can’t think of anything more pathetic than fucking China handing over political prisoners after a drawn out legal bout.  China endorsing how your security apparatus works is like the Sudan complimenting your food stamp program or Saudi Arabia talking up the stuff you have done to raise up women.

    The US might get him, but it will be a humiliating victory.

    1. … or the USA for criticizing Chinas human rights violations.

      … eh uh wait … sorry that happened for real ….

    2. Please read for Snowden’s own words on why he decided to go to HK.

      1.  Just read his response to the question of why he decided to go to Hong Kong and it didn’t say anything about why he chose Hong Kong.

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    1. The messenger’s usually unarmed. Who’s going to take a shot at someone who could shoot back?

  7. why would he not find a place with assured assylum BEFORE leaking ?
    like telling the russians his intentions for protection or cuba or something. I’m sure they would have played along.

    he’s gona get busted ‘en route’ I know it

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