Edward Snowden Charged With Espionage By US Government

from the and off we go dept

This isn’t a huge surprise, but the Washington Post is reporting that US federal prosecutors have filed a sealed criminal complaint against Edward Snowden charging him with espionage under the Espionage Act, along with theft and conversion of government property — and have asked Hong Kong authorities to detain him. Just this morning, we were discussing the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers, prosecuting six different whistleblowers under the Espionage Act, twice the number of all other presidential administrations combined. Now we’re up to number seven apparently. Update: The complaint has been unsealed (also embedded below).

Did Snowden break the law? Possibly — but charging him with espionage is ridiculous, just as it has been ridiculous in many of these cases. Snowden wasn’t doing this to “aid the enemy” but to alert the American public to the things that the administration itself had been publicly misleading to downright untruthful about. His actions have kicked off an important discussion and debate over surveillance society and how far it has gone today. That’s not espionage. If he was doing espionage, he would have sold those secrets off to a foreign power and lived a nice life somewhere else. To charge him with espionage is insane.

In terms of process, the Washington Post explains:


By filing a criminal complaint, prosecutors have a legal basis to make the 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.

Snowden, however, can fight the U.S. effort to have him extradited in the courts in Hong Kong. Any court battle is likely to reach Hong Kong’s highest court and could last many months, lawyers in the United States and Hong Kong said.

It also notes that while the US and Hong Kong have an extradition treaty, there is an exception for “political offenses.”

While this certainly was not unexpected, it’s still a disappointing move from the administration. The crackdown on whistleblowers does not make the US look strong. It makes our government look weak, petty and vindictive in the face of actual transparency. It’s shameful.



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Comments on “Edward Snowden Charged With Espionage By US Government”

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95 Comments
Anonymoussays:

Under seal? Yah, right, can’t have the public knowing what the particulars are.

This whole thing is going to be a kangaroo court if they ever get their hands on him.

Obama has abused the Espionage Act to the point it is worthless for the original intent it was to be used for. Snowden did not aid the enemy. Snowden told the public what it’s government refuses to acknowledge; that it is breaking the spirit of our laws. The embarrassment factor is not aiding the enemy. The government would not have to worry about embarrassment were it not continually doing things against it’s citizens best interests.

Anonymoussays:

Extradition versus deportation

From p.2 of the Washington Post article (linked above):

Snowden, however, can fight the extradition effort in the courts in Hong Kong.

But, as other articles have pointed out in recent weeks, extradition is not the only option the US has here.

An article in USA Today quoted a former FBI official saying that the US has the option of revoking Snowden’s passport, and requesting that Hong Kong deport him back to the US.

?U.S. explores criminal charges against Snowden?, by Kevin Johnson and Zach Coleman, USA Today, June 10, 2013

Tom Fuentes, a former FBI assistant director who once headed the bureau’s international division, said that authorities essentially have two options in seeking Snowden’s arrest and return to the United States: a revocation of his U.S. passport or extradition.

Both options, Fuentes said, would require U.S. authorities to first file criminal charges against the leak suspect and secure the cooperation of Hong Kong officials.

To revoke Snowden’s passport, the Justice Department would have to issue a criminal complaint and present it to the State Department for purposes of voiding the suspect’s passport. Notice of the revocation, meaning that the suspect would then be illegally in the country, would be sent to Hong Kong authorities who could then deport him back to the U.S.

G Thompsonsays:

Re: Re: Extradition versus deportation

Actually this idea oabout passports is a myth. It is NOT illegal to be inside any country without a passport if you had entered the country legally in the first place (Snowden has). If a passport is revoked it only means you can not enter via international passport controls another country though you can still apply to enter as a refugee, asylum seeker, etc etc. A passport is only a identifying document that is easiest to use.

The problem here is that passports are not what people think they are, they are only a part of the process of entering, staying and traversing multiple territories. Other things like Visa’s especially also come into play.

The USA in this instance is basically going to find themselves pissing up a rope, and show themselves if they revoke his passport that they are vindictive and also that legally he cannot then enter the USA due to his USA passport being revoked.. oops.. so deportation from HK can not even occur.

Actually I suspect with the amount of international outrage from all levels that the leaking of these documents has driven towards the US Govt that asking for extradition from the HK Govt might be the least of the USG’s problems, especially since the treaty can be overridden not just by the ‘political asylum’ defense but also directly by the intervention of the Chinese Government itself… which is probably more likely. Personally I’d recommend the guy start talking to the Chinese govt and offer his services there is no way he will ever be able to enter the USA or any so called ‘friendly to the USA’ nations anymore ever and it seems based on current norms that China might be a place with strangely more freedom and better opportunities for him.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Extradition versus deportation

The filing of espionage charges and the pressure to extradite him from HK assures that he can not stay there. Given that he can not stay in HK or return to the US the only places he has a chance of evading jail is in a country that is not frendly to the US. Do I hear a big welcome to China, North Korea, Mongolia, Russia, or the Ukraine?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Iceland
Not likely:
1. How is he going to get there?
2. The country is to small to resist US demands to turn him over. If they do not comply a company of marines is sufficient for persuasion.

HK can resist because it is now part of China with the additional feature that HK is not under Chinese law unless China wants HK to be which in this case China may be very content to have plausible denial-ability. If he becomes too hot to handle in HK China can always send him to Mongolia where again China would have denial-ability.

Under any circumstances though he is not returning to the US as to do so equals sound proof box in a psychological ward for the rest of his life. Better for him to defect and spill everything than come back.

Anonymoussays:

Hey Mikey,

Does it just not occur to you that since you’re making a legal claim such as your claim here that this is not espionage that you should back it up with an actual discussion of the law?

Seriously. That’s fine if you don’t think it’s espionage. But it’s bullshit to just arrive at that conclusion based on faith rather than looking at the actual law and doing the analysis.

Can you actually back up your assertion, or is this just more faith-based FUD?

I’d love to see your legal basis for saying this is not espionage. And if you have no such basis, I’d to see you admit that you don’t.

But we know that you can’t be that honest.

Besides, you?re too busy blocking TOR exit nodes, desperately trying to keep anonymous dissidents from criticizing you, right?

crashoverridesays:

This is clearly not a whistleblower case. As the facts continue to come out its pretty obvious that Snowden was a pawn of the Chinese government. He was fed documents by the Chinese government in order to create such an embarrassment and distraction as to to prevent Obama from discussing Chinese spying efforts as planned. Their are many publically stating how one of the USA most gaurded and top secret programs was not available to such a low level tech a 29 year old dropout.

Eponymous Cowardsays:

Re: Re:

Has it not occurred to you that these stories are out there as a character assassination to discredit what he has released by making the story about him and not the NSA spying programs? Also how does him being a dropout merit any type of impeachment on his credibility for the fact that he was hired by the CIA, the NSA, and then Booz Allen Hamilton contradicts the implication of his being a “29 year old [loser]” you try to make. Either that, or if he really is a loser you unintentionally bring up a valid point that our covert agencies and contractors are idiots for hiring someone of his calibre and set themselves up for this fiasco. Either way you’re not really making the valid point you think you’re making!

Anonymoussays:

Hey Mikey,

Does it just not occur to you that since you’re making a legal claim such as your claim here that this is not espionage that you should back it up with an actual discussion of the law?

Seriously. That’s fine if you don’t think it’s espionage. But it’s bullshit to just arrive at that conclusion based on faith rather than looking at the actual law and doing the analysis.

Can you actually back up your assertion, or is this just more faith-based FUD?

I’d love to see your legal basis for saying this is not espionage. And if you have no such basis, I’d to see you admit that you don’t.

But we know that you can’t be that honest.

Besides, you?re too busy blocking TOR exit nodes, desperately trying to keep anonymous dissidents from criticizing you, right?

Mike Brownsays:

Re: Re:

What, they didn’t have dictionaries where you went to school?

See the problem here is that we seem to be living in a culture where it’s okay to alter the meaning of words to suit nefarious purposes, like trying to make trumped up charges stick. Copying DVD’s or what have you is “stealing,” pointing out that our government is violating the Constitution is “espionage.” Pretty soon, disagreeing with moronic posts like yours is “hate speech”?

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

Hey Mikey,

Does it just not occur to you that since you’re making a legal claim such as your claim here that this is not espionage that you should back it up with an actual discussion of the law?

Seriously. That’s fine if you don’t think it’s espionage. But it’s bullshit to just arrive at that conclusion based on faith rather than looking at the actual law and doing the analysis.

Can you actually back up your assertion, or is this just more faith-based FUD?

I’d love to see your legal basis for saying this is not espionage. And if you have no such basis, I’d to see you admit that you don’t.

But we know that you can’t be that honest.

Besides, you?re too busy blocking TOR exit nodes, desperately trying to keep anonymous dissidents from criticizing you, right?

Sorry. Mike’s not “doing journalism” just now. As you noted, it is more faith-based FUD. Just like how Aaron Swartz was innocent, Fat Bastard committed no crimes and Bradley Manning did no wrong. This guy is in deep shit. If he isn’t already at the Chinese embassy learning Mandarin right now, he’s fucked.

JMTsays:

Re: Re:

“Does it just not occur to you that since you’re making a legal claim such as your claim here that this is not espionage that you should back it up with an actual discussion of the law?”

I don’t see Mike making a legal claim, I see a statement of common frickin’ sense, something you seem to be drastically lacking in.

And ironically you cannot offer any argument, legal or otherwise, against what Mike’s said. Nothing of any substance, just personal attacks as usual. Pathetic.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Did Snowden break the law? Possibly — but charging him with espionage is ridiculous, just as it has been ridiculous in many of these cases. Snowden wasn’t doing this to “aid the enemy” but to alert the American public to the things that the administration itself had been publicly misleading to downright untruthful about. His actions have kicked off an important discussion and debate over surveillance society and how far it has gone today. That’s not espionage. If he was doing espionage, he would have sold those secrets off to a foreign power and lived a nice life somewhere else. To charge him with espionage is insane.

If you can’t see Masnick claiming that the charge of espionage is baseless in the above passage, I suggest you get it translated into your native language for further study.

Niallsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

It’s called a personal opinion, idiot. He’s allowed to have them, by a crapped-on document called the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

Show us where Mike claims he has legal standing to make a legal statement on the issue and your whinings might actually be intelligible.

Not that it matters, because whatever he says – even if he says the sky is blue – you’ll contradict him.

A Patriot

Snowden is a hero and a patriot in my book. We live in an age where the civil liberties our forefathers fought so hard for are being eroded by the day. Freedom of Press, Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Assembly are mere ghostly images of their original intent. We?ve woken up to an Orwellian Society of Fear where anyone is at the mercy of being labeled a terrorist for standing up for rights we took for granted just over a decade ago. Read about how we?re waging war against ourselves at http://dregstudiosart.blogspot.com/2011/09/living-in-society-of-fear-ten-years.html

Its time to end this.

If they bring him to America, it is our duty to free this man (by force if necessary). I am a Husband, Father to three and a Pastor. I cannot in good conscious continue to see this country go down this path. These revelations are a threat to ALL American’s. The last two administrations have violated the Constitution and bring injustice to any rule of law this once great nation had. It’s not enough for these folks to be impeached or even unelected. ALL of them that were involved need to be brought on charges for violating their oaths of office (which is considered a treasonous act). This is a sad day for America.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Its time to end this.

Maybe it is time for states to exercise their dual sovereignty and step forward to offer asylum from the federal government to him. Obviously, this sort of gesture would be purely, a politically symbolic statement from the states about the overreach of the federal government but if it were to happen, it could be a powerful statement by the people.

The Real Michaelsays:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re: Re: Re: Re: Its time to end this.

What would that accomplish besides the division of our nation by region? Remember, united we stand, divided we fall. The people need to stand TOGETHER and demand change in government, because they’re the ones causing all this trouble to begin with, first by violating our rights in secrecy and then by targeting citizens who expose their dirty deeds.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Its time to end this.

It would be a legal statement by the people of those states in much the same way as many states have passed marijuana legalization laws and have publicly stated that they are not going to devote state resources to enforce the federal statute in direct contradiction to the federal laws against it.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Its time to end this.

I agree that the people need to stand together to demand a change in the federal government. I was merely speaking of using dual sovereignty and states legal systems as a means to make a powerful statement of those demands. Imagine if several states came out and publicly stated that the federal government would receive NO assistance whatsoever from state or local law enforcement should he be found within the borders of that state as officially from a state perspective he had been granted asylum in that state according to the will of the people of that state and their statutory laws. I’m not saying that they would devote resources to opposing the federal government, just provide no assistance.

Anonymoussays:

The definitions of espionage and treason

“Espionage is the crime of spying on the federal government and/or transferring state secrets on behalf of a foreign country. If the other country is an enemy, espionage may be treason, which involves aiding an enemy. The term applies particularly to the act of collecting military, industrial, and political data about one nation for the benefit of another. “

“Espionage is a part of intelligence activity, which is also concerned with analysis of diplomatic reports, newspapers, periodicals, technical publications, commercial statistics, and radio and television broadcasts. In recent years, espionage activity has been greatly aided by technological advances, especially in the areas of radio signal interception and high-altitude photography.”

Reference: http://definitions.uslegal.com/e/espionage/

The United States does more espionage in its’ diplomatic missions than Edward Snowden ever did.

They’re charging the wrong guy with the wrong crime. I’m sure there are a few others we could point at with the far more serious crime of treason, as this definition goes:

“A person commits the crime of treason if he levies war against his state or country or sides to its enemies, giving them aid and comfort. Treason is a crime under federal and some state laws. Treason is made a high crime, punishable by death, under federal law by Article III, section 3 of the U.S. Constitution: “Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Under this article of the Constitution, no person shall be convicted of treason, unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. Treason requires overt acts such as giving sensitive government security secrets to other countries, even if such countries are not enemies. Treason can include spying on behalf of a foreign power or divulging military secrets.

The majority of states outlaw treason in their constitutions or statutes similar to those in the U.S. Constitution. There have been only two successful prosecutions for treason on the state level, that of Thomas Dorr in Rhode Island and that of John Brown in Virginia.”

Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor, but the government can’t understand legal stuff. God only knows if they’ve ever read the Constitution, either.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: The definitions of espionage and treason

Furthermore, since the United States consists of it’s people rather than it’s government, an reasonable argument can be made that the unconstitutional actions of those within the NSA taken against the people of the United States could constitue treason itself.

Ninjasays:

Re: Re: The definitions of espionage and treason

“Treason against the United States shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort.”

Considering the United States exists because of their people and not in spite of them we could conclude that Obama and the current administrator fit under the definition of treason as they are waging war against the American people. Right?

horse with no namesays:

benefits

Whatever benefit that exists in releasing this information to the American public (the whistleblower theory) is lost in the amount that it helps and aids the enemy.

The benefits to the American people are questionable. In simple terms, much of it doesn’t matter, much of it is spectacular but legal, and most of the rest of it leads to congress critters claiming they didn’t know what they approved and heard about already.

For the enemy, it’s confirmation of the methods and systems being used by NSA, a good solid list of things that the NSA claims to have heard, as well as a nice warning to the enemy not to use certain things in the clear that they perhaps though was safe before.

Benefit to the enemies of the US outweighs the benefits to the US public by far. Hence, the charge of espionage.

As for extradition, it is very likely that the US will revoke Snowdon’s passport (they can do that) and Hong Kong of whereever he is holed up will pretty much have to arrest and detain him for not having a valid travel document, and likely expel him from the country on a flight to the US without an extradition hearing.

His only hope is to join the self-exiled Assange in an embassy somewhere. Then you know he’s guilty as they come, because like Assange, he just doesn’t want to have to face justice.

(day 5 of my comments being held for moderation… the Techdirt Censorship campaign continues… and NO, my IP isn’t a TOR exit).

Niallsays:

Re: Re: benefits

Don’t spam then.

Oh look, I responded to a ‘held for moderation’ comment. Effective censorship? Not really.

Espionage is not ‘benefit to enemies of the US’ more than benefit to the people, or else we could just charge Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld with aiding and abetting Al Qaeda by acting as the world’s biggest recruitment agency for them. Espionage is a specific crime – calling this espionage is as accurate as calling infringement ‘theft’.

Also, hiding from a corrupt government is now ‘admitting guilt’? What exactly is Assange ‘guilty’ of? So you believe that the US should never offer (political) asylum to anyone as they are ‘guilty’ back home, especially because they fled to you for safety? Riiight.

CFAA violation

I think what they will ultimately get him on in the end is violation of the CFAA. They could make the case that of “exceeding authorized access”, by plugging thumb drives, or whatever external device onto the computers and downloaded them.

And if he stays in Hong Kong or goes to Iceland, I think that is the one charge they will use to extradite him, even if have to give up the espionage charge

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: CFAA violation

What about the NSA exceeding authorized access of domestic communications data? If you really want to bring the CFAA into it then they don’t get a pass on claiming they “unwittingly gathered some data” that they weren’t supposed to. They exceeded authorized access and should go to jail, directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: CFAA violation

I think the CFAA charge could be used in order to make a deal with Hong Kong, or anyhwhere else he might flee. I think in the end they might make a deal to drop the espionage charges, which would make it easier to extradite him, and get him on CFAA.

You watch, prosecutors will end up, in the end, making a deal not to persue espionage charges, in order to get him back.

Niallsays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Snowden wasn't doing this to "aid the enemy" but to alert the American public t...

Wasn’t it an American journalist at the Guardian?
Isn’t the Guardian available online in the US?

And tell me… how much have the US media been lapdogs of whichever party is in power? It wasn’t US media investigating the falseness of claims of WMD. They all rolled over and said “kick us, Bush, and send our sons and daughters off to die for Haliburton”.

Anonymoussays:

To convey information with intent to interfere with the operation or success of the armed forces of the United States or to promote the success of its enemies. This was punishable by death or by imprisonment for not more than 30 years or both.

that sounds like what he did.

It’s nice Masnick think he knows the law, but really HE DOES NOT..

The Real Michaelsays:

Re: Re:

If our government were only going after our enemies then why would they need to violate every American’s 4th Amendment right in order to do so? Only once we assume that the American people are the enemy does the logic fit the equation. Snowden exposed government treason against the public, whom they’re supposed to work for and protect, not violate, and now they’re out to get him.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re:

Furthermore when a law passed by Congress violates the Constitution the courts have but two choices. Strike down the law or amend the Constitution to allow the law to persist. However, neither has happened because the government claims sovereign immunity or national security in order to kill the case before it can ever make it through the court system. THEY.KNOW they are violating the Constitution and should it be allowed to progress, the law you speak of will likely be struck down. Conflicts in the law are not supposed to be allowed to persist, yet that is exactly what is happening here.

Anonymoussays:

Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: Re:

And as the Constitution is the supreme law of the land, it is highly unlikely that a lesser federal law would be allowed to nullify the 4th amendment which means exactly what I said. If these cases were allowed to proceed, the courts would likely strike those laws down as unconstitutional, and THEY KNOW IT which is why they do everything in their power to kill the cases every time one is brought.

Anonymous Anonymous Cowardsays:

Where is the Fourth Estate?

It is my impression that our government was set up with a certain balance between the branches; Executive, Legislative, and Judicial. The founders also felt it necessary and proper for there to be one more checkpoint in the system, the Fourth Estate, or in other words the press. They felt it so necessary that the press was pointed to specifically in the First Amendment.

It appears to me that our Fourth Estate has totally abdicated their constitutionally protected RESPONSIBILITY. We can argue (possibly forever) as to why they have abdicated this responsibility. Is it money, political pressure, threat of repercussion from agents of the Government, something else, all of the above?

I might point out that not all the press has so abdicated, merely the mainstream press. For me, this issue (along with Bradley Manning and Wikileaks, and the many many other instances of government doing the doublespeak twisting and turning of law to suit their needs) should be the MAIN topic of conversation in the press. ALL of the press. This coverage should not stop until the issues are resolved to the satisfaction of the PEOPLE of the United States.

G Thompsonsays:

Re: Re: NSA has Quantum Computers

Quantum computing has been around for about a decade, quantum tunneling for networks about half that time. Quantum computing for decryption and other cryptography aren’t as good as you and other people think they are and still need over a million years to decrypt high end encryption systems (and are stuffed on one time pass systems) .

Anonymoussays:

I do not see a charge of “Aid the enemy” in his charge sheet..

Stealing Government property

Unauthorised communication of National defence information

Wilful communication of classified info to an unauthorised person.

It is going to be hard, (no impossible) to find him innocent on any of those charges.

Clearly he DID those things, we all know it, so what is his defence going to be.. ?

Saying you did it for the public good is only mitigation, but not a defence. Here he has no defence, unless he wants to claim insanity.

Anonymoussays:

” Snowden wasn’t doing this to “aid the enemy” but to alert the American public to the things that the administration itself had been publicly misleading to downright untruthful about.”

they are not charging him (yet) for that they are charging him for theft of Govm’t property,

Unauthorised communication

and giving classified information who does not have the authority to have it.

NSA Eavesdropping

“…Snowden wasn’t doing this to “aid the enemy” but to alert the American public…”

It is obvioulsy assumed that “the enemy” these whistleblowers are presumed to be aiding, is not “the American Public”, of course.

However, the charges being laid against all of those who “…alert the American public…” say otherwise.

If the American Public is indeed the enemy of the corporate state currently ruling America, then these charges are indeed appropriate.

Angela Gayheartsays:

Spies

As a retired intel analysist I am tempted to fly to Iran today myself. My own government just raided my home for having over a client being helped by my charity that investigates human rights violations. HUMAN CRISIS PROJECT. These claims are more than true about our government. Covering them up and running away don’t help the problem. Standing to fight is the only way to change anything.

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