The U.S. has contacted authorities in Hong Kong to seek the extradition of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked information regarding U.S. government surveillance programs, a White House official said today.
Federal authorities have filed espionage charges against Snowden, according to a criminal complaint unsealed Friday. Snowden has been charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willfully communicating classified intelligence.
A senior administration official said today that it would create problems for relations between the U.S. and Hong Kong if Hong Kong does not respond quickly to the request to extradite Snowden.
"If Hong Kong doesn't act soon, it will complicate our bilateral relations and raise questions about Hong Kong's commitment to the rule of law," a senior administration official said.
A senior law enforcement source told ABC News the administration is are confident "Hong Kong will extradite Snowden" based on the strong history of law enforcement cooperation between the U.S. and Hong Kong.
Snowden is reported to have been hiding in Hong Kong since he fled the United States with documents he obtained while working for the NSA in Hawaii, and he has admitted in interviews to leaking information that exposed the U.S. government's surveillance of telephone and online activities.
Hong Kong' Police Commissioner Andy Tsang said today that the case would be dealt with according to the law, and the police released a statement that it was "inappropriate" for them to comment on the case, according to The Associated Press.
Snowden's disclosures to The Washington Post and The Guardian in London confirmed massive government surveillance of telephone and online activity inside the United States.
U.S. officials insist the move has gravely harmed national security, while others have hailed Snowden as a hero shedding light on government overreach.
Snowden has been charged with theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information, and willfully communicating classified intelligence. A government affidavit supporting the charged remained sealed.
ABC News' Pierre Thomas contributed to this report.