Federal prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint against Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old former NSA contractor who leaked documents revealing details of top-secret surveillance programs this month. Officials say the U.S. has asked Hong Kong to detain Snowden on a provisional arrest warrant.

The officials, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to disclose the case, say Snowden was charged with espionage, theft and conversion of government property.

Snowden has been in Hong Kong since last month after he left his job at an NSA facility in Hawaii with a collection of documents he acquired while working as a systems analyst for the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton. He is reported to still be in the city, where he can challenge the request to extradite him in court.

Kristinn Hrafnsson, an Icelandic businessman sympathetic to the pro-transparency group WikiLeaks, said Thursday that he would provide a private plane to fly Snowden from China to Iceland if Iceland’s government would grant Snowden asylum.

— Posted by Alexander Reed Kelly.

The Washington Post:

By filing a criminal complaint, prosecutors have a legal basis to make the detention request of the authorities in Hong Kong. Prosecutors now have 60 days to file an indictment, probably also under seal, and can then move to have Snowden extradited from Hong Kong for trial in the United States.

… The United States has an extradition treaty with Hong Kong, and U.S. officials said cooperation with the Chinese territory, which enjoys some autonomy from Beijing, has been good in previous cases.

The treaty, however, has an exception for political offenses, and espionage has traditionally been treated as a political offense. Snowden’s defense team in Hong Kong is likely to invoke part of the extradition treaty with the United States, which states that suspects will not be turned over to face criminal trial for offenses of a “political character.”

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