The US government has filed charges against Edward Snowden accusing him for espionage, eleven days after he claimed responsibility for leaking details of America’s classified surveillance programmes.
The US reportedly asked authorities in Hong Kong, where the whistleblower is believed to be in hiding, to arrest him while prosecutors begin to seek his extradition.
As The Washington Post reports, charges against Snowden were filed in secret at a court in Virginia and will be followed by a more detailed indictment within 2 months.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice was unavailable for comments but charges have long been expected against the wistleblower.
Edward Snowden, 30, flew from his home in Hawaii to Hong Kong about a month ago and soon afterwards leading publications began distributing leaked details of US spy programmes.
He revealed to public his identity earlier this month, saying: “I can’t in good conscience allow the US government to destroy privacy, internet freedom and basic liberties for people around the world with this massive surveillance machine they’re secretly building.”
He went on, adding: “I really want the focus to be on these documents and the debate which I hope this will trigger among citizens around the globe about what kind of world we want to live in.”
“My sole motive is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.”
He also said he realized that the US would file charges against him and “say I have broken the Espionage Act and helped our enemies, but that can be used against anyone who points out how massive and invasive the system has become”.
After learning the news that the Justice Department has launched an investigation into Edward’s actions, and U.S. officials promised to hold him accountable for the leaks, he said:
“The U.S. 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,”
“The U.S. government is not going to be able to cover this up by jailing or murdering me. Truth is coming, and it cannot be stopped,” the wistleblower added.
Edward went on, adding that the government “immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home,” by labeling him a traitor, and indicated he would not return to the U.S. voluntarily.
“The only thing I fear is the harmful effects on my family, who I won’t be able to help any more. That’s what keeps me up at night,” he said, with eyes full of tears.
The wistleblower said he had not contacted his family or friends since he revealed his identity and admitted that he was the source of the leaks earlier this week.
The results of a Reuters/Ipsos poll published on Wednesday found that 31 percent of citizens saw Snowden as a patriot for leaking details of the programs, more than the 23 percent who viewed him as a traitor. Forty-six percent said they did not know.