Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor whose leak of agency documents has set off a national debate over the proper limits of government surveillance, has been charged with violating the Espionage Act and stealing government property for disclosing classified information to The Guardian and The Washington Post, the Justice Department said on Friday.
Each of the three charges unsealed on Friday carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years, for a total of 30 years.
The charges were filed on June 14 by federal prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia, which handles many national security cases.
American officials said they have asked the authorities in Hong Kong, where Mr. Snowden is believed to be in hiding, to detain him while an indictment and an extradition request are prepared.
The charges against Mr. Snowden are the seventh case under President Obama in which a government official has been criminally charged with leaking classified information to the news media. Under all previous presidents, just three such cases have been brought.
Glenn Greenwald appeared on CNN’s The Lead w/ Jake Tapper today after the news broke to give his thoughts on the charges against Snowden.