21 June 2013, Guardian: GCHQ taps fibre-optic cables for secret access to world's communications
21 June 2013, WP: U.S. charges Snowden with espionage
14 June 2013, WP: US District Court, Eastern District VA: USA v. Edward J. Snowden (Criminal Complaint) (PDF)
7 November 2007, WP: A Story of Surveillance
JUNE 21, 2013
Ex-Contractor Is Charged in Leaks on N.S.A. Surveillance
By SCOTT SHANE
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. But Mr. Snowden is likely to be indicted, and additional counts may well be added. In addition to the theft charge, the two charges under the Espionage Act include "unauthorized communication of national defense information" and "willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person." Communications intelligence is the technical term for eavesdropping and other electronic intercepts.
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 attempt to extradite him is likely to produce a long legal battle whose outcome is uncertain. The extradition treaty between the United States and Hong Kong includes an exception for political offenses, and Mr. Snowden could argue that his prosecution is political in nature.
Hong Kong has limited autonomy, but matters involving national security and foreign policy are controlled by the Chinese government in Beijing. Regina Ip, a former Hong Kong secretary of security and a current legislator, said Saturday that Hong Kong authorities had "no choice but to comply" with an arrest warrant and that "our police will go and find Mr. Snowden."
However, Ms. Ip said, Mr. Snowden could delay any extradition by claiming his is "a political offense," or he could apply for asylum, "and those cases can take 10 years."
Last week, hundreds of people turned out in the rain for a protest outside the United States Consulate in Hong Kong demanding that officials not cooperate with any American extradition request. The Global Times, a mainland newspaper controlled by the Communist Party, called an extradition of Mr. Snowden an "inconceivable option" in a recent commentary.
The charges against Mr. Snowden, first reported  by The Washington Post, 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.
Mr. Snowden, who turned 30 on Friday, fled to Hong Kong last month, carrying four laptops, after leaving his job at the N.S.A.'s eavesdropping station in Hawaii. He has given hundreds of highly classified documents to The Guardian, the British newspaper, which has been publishing a series of revelatory articles  about American and British eavesdropping, and a smaller number to The Post.
Mr. Snowden's disclosures have opened an unprecedented window on the details of surveillance by the N.S.A., including its compilation of logs of virtually all telephone calls in the United States and its collection of e-mails of foreigners from the major American Internet companies, including Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and Skype.
Mr. Snowden, who has said he was shocked by what he believed to be the N.S.A.'s invasion of Americans' and foreigners' privacy, told The Guardian that he leaked the documents because he believed the limits of surveillance should be decided not by government officials in secret but by American citizens.
American intelligence officials have said his disclosures have done serious damage to national security by giving terrorists and others information on how to evade the intelligence net.
Mr. Snowden's supporters, including some associated with the antisecrecy organization WikiLeaks, have approached officials in Iceland on his behalf to inquire about whether he might be granted asylum there. Iceland's Ministry of the Interior, however, said in a statement that he must be in the country to file an asylum application.
An Icelandic businessman with ties to WikiLeaks, Olafur Vignir Sigurvinsson, has told reporters that he has private aircraft on standby, prepared to fly Mr. Snowden to Iceland. But the American charges and detention request may short-circuit any attempt to reach Iceland.
Glenn Greenwald, the Guardian columnist who received most of Mr. Snowden's leaked documents, blasted the Obama administration over the Espionage Act charges on his Twitter feed. "How is leaking to a newspaper and informing one's fellow citizens about secret govt behavior 'espionage'???" Mr. Greenwald wrote.
In the latest installment  of the Snowden disclosures on Friday, The Guardian reported that the N.S.A.'s British counterpart has tapped into hundreds of fiber-optic communications lines and is sharing a vast quantity of e-mail and Internet traffic with American intelligence. Under a program called Tempora, the British agency, known as G.C.H.Q., has been able to tap into 200 of the approximately 1,600 high-capacity fiber cables in and out of Britain and aspires to be able to tap 400 lines at once, harvesting a staggering amount of information, the British newspaper reported.
The documents said that G.C.H.Q., which has worked very closely with the N.S.A. for decades, may store the content of the communications flowing over the cables for three days and the so-called metadata -- information about who is contacting whom at what time -- for 30 days. During that time, analysts from both G.C.H.Q. and the N.S.A. are able to search the stored data for information of interest.
The disclosures of the G.C.H.Q. initiative, called "Mastering the Internet," immediately raised a question among privacy advocates: whether the N.S.A. might be able to obtain information about Americans from G.C.H.Q. that it is prohibited by law or regulations from collecting itself.
An N.S.A. spokeswoman, Judith Emmel, said the agency does not use foreign partners to evade American restrictions. "Any allegation that N.S.A. relies on its foreign partners to circumvent U.S. law is absolutely false," she said. "N.S.A. does not ask its foreign partners to undertake any intelligence activity that the U.S. government would be legally prohibited from undertaking itself."
Ms. Emmel said the N.S.A. "is unwavering in its respect for U.S. laws and policies" and has "a rigorous internal compliance program" as well as oversight from Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
One document released by Mr. Snowden lent some support for the Obama administration's insistence that the N.S.A. is tightly controlled. In a confidential briefing, The Guardian reported, a G.C.H.Q. legal adviser declared: "We have a light oversight regime compared with the U.S."
The latest documents in the gradual unveiling of what is already the most revealing window on the N.S.A. and its major international partner in their history describe a previously unknown reversal of roles for the two agencies. Historically, the N.S.A. has dwarfed G.C.H.Q. and the three other eavesdropping agencies in the so-called Five Eyes intelligence-sharing network -- those of Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
But in one of Mr. Snowden's documents, N.S.A. officials say that G.C.H.Q. now "produces larger amounts of metadata collection than the N.S.A." and is working with the American agency to process the torrent of data. The Guardian quotes a secret report as saying Britain now has "the biggest Internet access in Five Eyes."
That assertion is especially remarkable in light of the evidence that the N.S.A. already had extensive access to Internet data. In 2006, Mark Klein, a former AT&T technician, revealed the existence of a secret room  controlled by the N.S.A. at a major Internet hub in San Francisco, where the agency appeared to divert a large amount of traffic.
In addition, an N.S.A. training slide previously disclosed by Mr. Snowden directed the agency's eavesdroppers to collect Internet messages from two sources: "collection of communications on fiber cables and infrastructure as data flows past" and Prism, an N.S.A. program that gathers information from major Internet companies like Microsoft, Apple, Google, Facebook and Skype.
The Guardian posted only a few snippets of the latest documents, but one may prove embarrassing for the N.S.A. director, Gen. Keith Alexander, who has spoken repeatedly in the last two weeks of the agency's careful protections for Americans' privacy.
The slide posted by The Guardian quotes General Alexander during a June 2008 visit to Menwith Hill Station, the N.S.A.'s major listening post in North Yorkshire, England.
"Why can't we collect all the signals all the time?" the N.S.A. director was quoted as saying. "Sounds like a good summer project for Menwith."
An American official who would explain the remark only on condition of anonymity said: "General Alexander's comment was a quip taken out of context -- nothing more."
Charlie Savage contributed reporting from Washington, Gerry Mullany from Hong Kong and John F. Burns from London.