Snowden, 29, leaked to the Washington Post and to The Guardian (U.K.) a cache of documents exposing the NSA’s wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment through the dragnet surveillance of phone records and monitoring of Internet traffic.
The Washington Post reports that U.S. officials have requested that Hong Kong detain Snowden on “a provisional arrest warrant.”
According to the criminal complaint filed by the federal government against Snowden in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, the former NSA networking contractor will be charged with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person.”
The last two counts are violations of the Espionage Act of 1917.
The Washington Post story on the filing of the espionage charges against Snowden reports that the district court chosen by the Justice Department because Snowden’s former employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, is headquartered within that jurisdiction and it is “a district with a long track record of prosecuting cases with national security implications.”
With the formal filing of the charges against him, Snowden becomes the eighth person to be charged under the Espionage Act by the Obama administration.
Another former government employee, James Hitselberger, was working as a linguist for the U.S. Navy when he became the seventh to be charged under the nearly-century-old law.
President Obama has targeted each of these men — including Edward Snowden — for their efforts to expose government corruption. In fact, the others charged with espionage are targets of an apparent vendetta against whistleblowers in direct contradiction of the president’s promise to protect them.
In 2008, then-president-elect Obama declared, "We need to empower federal employees as watchdogs of wrongdoing and partners in performance. Barack Obama will strengthen whistleblower laws to protect federal workers who expose waste, fraud, and abuse of authority in government."
Not that politicians have a habit of keeping campaign promises, but President Obama’s policy of zealously pursuing, prosecuting, and punishing those who report abuses in government is remarkable for its relentlessness.
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Photo of banner supporting Edward Snowden: AP Images