US charges NSA leaker Snowden with espionage

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NBC News

(NBC News) - Federal prosecutors Friday filed espionage charges against alleged National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, officials familiar with the process said. Authorities have also begun the process of getting Snowden back to the United States to stand trial.

The officials did not describe the charges in detail because they've been filed under seal in federal court in Alexandria, Va. The documents are not publicly available.

According to officials, charges accuse Snowden of violating federal espionage laws by sharing classified documents with people who were not cleared to receive them.

Snowden 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.

Officials said charges were delayed because the United States and 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.

The next step will be for police in Hong Kong to arrest Snowden. That will then start the formal extradition process in court, which could take several months to resolve. 

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