The US Department of Justice has filed criminal charges against Edward Snowden, the young whistleblower who revealed details of the US governments' massive secret surveillance operations.
The charges against Snowden include espionage, theft, and conversion of government property.
The Washington Post reported Friday night that the Obama Administration is preparing an extradition request to the Hong Kong authorities.
The Guardian is reporting that legal experts say that any attempt by the US to extradite Snowden from Hong Kong for espionage could take years and be blocked by China.
The US criminal complaint was filed with a federal court in the Eastern District of Virginia and a provisional arrest warrant had been issued, officials said.
Mr Snowden was also charged with 'unauthorized communication of national defence information' and 'willful communication of classified communications intelligence.'
Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence. The complaint is dated June 14th but it was made public only on Friday by the Washington Post.
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Snowdens current whereabouts are unknown.
Julian Assange, founder of the Wikileaks, issued a statement supporting Mr Snowden.
"The US government is spying on each and every one of us, but it is Edward Snowden who is charged with espionage for tipping us off," said Mr Assange.
Anyone have interest in a criminal investigation to discover which "officials" leaked news of the sealed indictment? http://t.co/iIuvk78Q0D
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) June 21, 2013
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Meanwhile, the petition to the Obama White House to pardon Edward Snowden has surpassed the 100,000 signature benchmark need to receive an official White House response.
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