The media has been abuzz lately with the news of Edward Snowden, a former NSA technical contractor who leaked classified United States’ information to the British news source, The Guardian. While he has recently been given short-term asylum by the Russian government, his future is unknown, with the United States hoping to secure his extradition and his ultimate sentencing on American soil.
And while some may see him as a traitor, and others as a champion of transparency and democracy, it is certain that if he does step foot in the US, he might be facing a host of charges proposed by the government of the United States.
Theft of Government Property
This is certainly the biggest one – under Title 18 of the United States code, individuals are prohibited to “embezzle, steal…or knowingly convert to…the use of another…a thing of value of the United States.” This offense is punishable by up to ten years in prison, or a fine that amounts to the damage caused by the accused. The US government has already charged him with this offense, although it is meaningless until he appears before a domestic court.
Unauthorized Communication of National Defense Information
While this is very similar to the previous charge, this includes the accused transmitting information to foreign agencies or governments that could be used to harm the well being of the United States. This charge also holds a penalty of up to ten years in prison, and is likely what Snowden will face if he returns home.
Willful Communication of Classified Information
Almost identical to the previous charge, this again only has one minor alteration – this charge includes the accused transmitting information belonging to the United States that has been previously deemed classified. This again holds a prison term of up to ten years, and is a probably outcome for Snowden – after all, he did leak information that was classified by one of the most secretive organizations in the structure of the United States government.
Future Possibilities for Edward Snowmen
While these are the only charges that have been filed against Edward Snowden so far, the United States may choose to add on additional ones depending on certain circumstances involving Snowden and his absence. If he ends up using any more classified information as leverage during his stay abroad, this could become another chance for the US government to tack on extra sentences to his already extensive rap sheet.
Currently, though, while the United States has sought to charge him with these offenses, they are powerless until he chooses to return to American soil – either willfully or under coercion. And as the biggest issue involving his return revolves around that of denial to extradite by foreign governments, his future is entirely uncertain.
Edward Snowden – International Media Sensation
As Edward Snowden continues to search for a permanent home overseas, the United States government forges ahead on its quest to return him to America. And if he ever does return to his home country, the charges set against him for his illegal actions could force him to pay the harsh penalty of years behind bars.