Nightly News   |  June 21, 2013

Federal prosecutors file espionage charges against NSA leaker Snowden

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden is being accused of sharing classified documents with people who were not cleared to receive them. Officials did not describe the charges in detail since the papers have been filed under seal, and are not publically available.  NBC’s Pete Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> time tonight, we learned that according to papers filed by the federal government , edward snowden has been charged with espionage. snowden is the former analyst, former na eer national security agency contractor who went public with the government data-mining tactics and the revelations the disclosure of the information he knows continued right up to today. right now he's living in hiding in asia. as of tonight to, he is wanted back home in this country. we start off with what we know about this tonight. our justice correspondent pete williams is in our d.c. newsroom. pete, good evening.

>> reporter: brian, good evening. officials familiar with the process say that federal prosecutors have filed espionage charges against snowden and at the very early stages of the process to getting back to the united states to stand trial are now under way. the officials did not describe the charges in detail because the papers have been filed under seal in federal court in alexandria, virginia so, they're not publicly available. but they say the charges accuse him of violating federal espionage charges by sharing classified documents with people who were not cleared to receive them. he's also charged with stealing government property. it was only a matter of time before these charges were filed. and, in fact, it's taken all this time because the u.s. and the 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 . so the next step is now for the police in hong kong to arrest snowden at the request of the u.s., though he's been in hiding there. that will then start the formal extradition process in court there, which could take several months to resolve, brian.

>> pete williams with the latest.