NSA whistleblower Snowden charged with espionage
MOSCOW, June 22 (RAPSI) - US federal prosecutors have filed a criminal complaint against NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden alleging the theft of government property as well as two espionage charges – the unauthorized communication of national defense information and the willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person, according to a copy of the complaint published Saturday by The Washington Post.
Edward Snowden dominated international headlines this month after claiming responsibility for having leaked top-secret documents to The Guardian, detailing the National Security Agency’s (NSA) capacity to access the systems of such major US companies as Google, Facebook, and Apple. Google, Facebook, and Apple have all denied having provided direct or backdoor access to their servers.
He fled to Hong Kong prior to publicly identifying himself, but has remained mostly in hiding since. In an interview with The Guardian conducted from Hong Kong, Snowden expressed his desire to seek asylum in a country that shares his values. According to Snowden, “The nation that most encompasses this is Iceland. They stood up for people over internet freedom. I have no idea what my future is going to be.”
Icelandic parliamentarian Birgitta Jónsdóttir came out in support of Snowden shortly after he outed himself, vowing in a statement issued on behalf of the International Modern Media Institute (IMMI) to offer assistance and advice in his reported efforts to seek asylum in the Nordic country.
After the initial leak, Snowden went on to expose various other types of intelligence, including claims to The Guardian that the NSA had intercepted communications from Medvedev’s delegation during the 2009 G20 summit in London, as well as claims during an interview with the South China Morning Post that the US had been hacking into Chinese computers for years.
When asked during an open Question and Answer session for The Guardian why he had chosen Hong Kong “to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities,” Snowden made clear his concerns about his prospect of a fair trial in the US.
In Snowden’s words: “First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That's not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it.”
In fact, the US government itself had not openly declared him a traitor. Treason is a notoriously difficult crime to prove under the strongly worded US law, which states: “Whoever, owing allegiance to the United States, levies war against them or adheres to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort within the United States or elsewhere, is guilty of treason and shall suffer death, or shall be imprisoned not less than five years…”
The Washington Post reported Saturday in an article accompanying the complaint that the US had asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden. The Guardian reported Saturday that Hong Kong legislators had reached out to the government of mainland China to “intervene” in the case.