TODAY   |  June 22, 2013

Criminal charges filed against Snowden

The U.S. government has charged Edward Snowden with espionage for leaking information about the national security agency’s surveillance program. NBC’s Kristen Welker reports.

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>> espionage charges. authorities don't know where he is. kristen welker is at the white house with more on that. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning. the complaint was filed in alexandria, virginia. they say it was a matter of time before he was charged. some called him a traitor. others a hero. this morning, he is a wanted man. federal prosecutors filed charges against him for leaking documents. it is believed the 30-year-old is hilding out in hong kong .

>> the u.s. and the authorities in hong kong has been going back and forth making sure whatever charges are filed conform to the extradition treaty the u.s. has with hong kong .

>> reporter: a complaint shows prosecutors charged him with stealing government property and violating two espionage charges. each carries a maximum ten years in prison. glen greenwald was the first to report it. he spoke to chris hayes .

>> he felt it was a noble act justified under theories of disobedience.

>> a contractor with the nsa, he leaked the information on june 6th . a few days later, he came forward, revealing himself as the leaker saying he was in hong kong .

>> you can't come forward against the world's most powerful intelligence agencies and be free from risk.

>> reporter: he quickly went back into hiding. how a high school drop out gained access to the government's top secretsecrets.

>> it is astonishing that such a person had access to the kind of information he had access to and more over was able to download that information. that has got to be fixed.

>> reporter: according to nbc news justice correspondent, pete williams , u.s. officials asked officials in hong kong to arrest edward snowden. once it happens, the u.s. will begin the process of trying to extradite him. snowden says he will oppose that. it will take months and be governed by chinese law . back