The United States has contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek the extradition of alleged National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden in accordance with the U.S.-Hong Kong Agreement for the Surrender of Fugitive Offenders, an administration official said on Saturday.
A senior State Department official confirmed statements that NSA director Tom Donilon made Saturday to CBS News that the request was made to Hong Kong authorities based on the criminal complaint filed against Snowden.
Charges against Snowden were filed June 14 under seal in federal court in Alexandria, Va. -- and only disclosed Friday.
Snowden, 30, has been charged with three violations according to the document: 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."
Snowden, who is a former employee of defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton, told reporters he leaked details about far-reaching Internet and phone surveillance programs to The Guardian and The Washington Post earlier this month. He revealed his identity while in Hong Kong, where it is believed he is still hiding.
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 arrest would start the formal extradition process in court, which will be governed by Chinese law and could take several months to resolve.
The Guardian newspaper, which broke the NSA story through interviews with Snowden, reported Saturday that he claimed the U.S. hacked into Chinese mobile phone companies’ systems to access millions of private text messages.
On Friday, the paper, using documents provided by Snowden, reported that Britain’s spy agency GCHQ accessed the network of cables carrying international phone calls and Internet traffic and was sharing the data with the NSA.