US authorities are seeking the extradition of Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who leaked the details of US surveillance programmes, from Hong Kong after filing espionage charges against him on Saturday.
The United States has asked authorities in Hong Kong to help them pursue the extradition of Edward Snowden, a former US National Security Agency contractor who exposed secret details of US surveillance programmes, a White House official told CBS News on Saturday.
"If Hong Kong doesn't act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong's commitment to the rule of law," said a senior administration official.
The United States filed espionage charges earlier on Saturday against Snowden, a former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor who admitted revealing secret surveillance programs to media outlets, according to a court document made public on Friday.
Snowden, who is believed to be in hiding in Hong Kong, has been charged with theft of government property, unauthorised communication of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence to an unauthorised person, said a criminal complaint dated June 14.
The latter two offenses fall under the US Espionage Act and carry penalties of fines and up to 10 years in prison.
A single page of the complaint was unsealed on Friday. An accompanying affidavit remained under seal.
The "Washington Post", which first reported the criminal complaint on Friday, said the United States had asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant.
The charges were the government’s first step in what could be a long legal battle to return Snowden from Hong Kong and try him in a US court.
Hong Kong is part of China but has wide-ranging autonomy, including an independent judiciary.
The United States and Hong Kong have “excellent cooperation” and as a result of agreements, “there is an active extradition relationship between Hong Kong and the United States”, a US law enforcement official told Reuters.
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Snowden earlier this month admitted leaking secrets about classified US surveillance programs to the media, creating a public uproar.
He disclosed documents detailing US telephone and Internet surveillance efforts to the "Washington Post" and Britain’s "Guardian" newspaper.
Supporters say he is a whistleblower, while critics call him a criminal and even a traitor.
‘Active extradition relationship’
Documents leaked by Snowden revealed that the NSA can gain access to vast amounts of Internet data such as emails, chat rooms and video from large companies such as Facebook and Google under a government program known as Prism.
They also showed that the government had worked through the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to gather so-called metadata – such as the time, duration and telephone numbers called – on all calls carried by service providers such as Verizon.
US President Barack Obama and his intelligence chiefs have vigorously defended the programmes, saying they are regulated by law and that Congress was notified.
They say the programmes have been used to thwart militant plots and do not monitor the personal lives of American citizens.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-06-22