Former National Security Agency (NSA) contractor Edward Snowden was charged with espionage, theft and conversion of government property by federal prosecutors, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
The sealed criminal complaint was reportedly filed in the Eastern District of Virginia, where the headquarters of Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, are located.
Snowden has been in hiding in Hong Kong since leaking details about the NSA’s surveillance activities over U.S. citizens’ phone and Internet usage to the British newspaper The Guardian. He told a Chinese newspaper on June 12 that the NSA’s activities also extended into Hong Kong and mainland China.
NBC News reported that authorities in the U.S. took longer to prepare their charges against Snowden in order to make sure they met the criteria of the country’s current extradition treaty with Hong Kong, ensuring that, should local officials arrest him, extradition proceedings against Snowden can begin, a process that could take months.
Attorneys representing Wikileaks founder Julian Assange have reportedly reached out to Snowden’s lawyers to help him find asylum in Iceland.
National Intelligence Director James Clapper, who oversees the NSA and 15 other agencies, told NBC News on June 9 that the agency was seeking a criminal investigation against Snowden.
Update, 7:57 p.m. EST: NBC subsequently reported that the charges against Snowden were filed on June 14 and made public on Friday. U.S. prosecutors also filed a “provisional arrest warrant” asking Hong Kong police to arrest Snowden.