US officials have contacted authorities in Hong Kong for the extradition of the former government contractor charged with espionage after he admitted leaking highly classified documents about two surveillance programmes, the National Security Council said.
National Security Agency director Tom Donilon said the request was made to Hong Kong authorities based on criminal charges against Edward Snowden.
The complaint, filed in Virginia on June 14, charges Snowden, 30, with unauthorised communication of national defence information, wilful communication of classified communications intelligence information under the Espionage Act and theft of government property. Each crime carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison.
Snowden has admitted providing information to the news media about two highly classified NSA surveillance programmes.
Disclosure of the criminal complaint came as president Barack Obama held his first meeting with a privacy and civil liberties board as his intelligence chief sought ways to help Americans understand more about sweeping government surveillance efforts exposed by Snowden.
The five members of the obscure Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board met Mr Obama for an hour in the White House Situation Room, questioning the president on NSA programmes that have stoked controversy.
Congressional leaders have accused Snowden of treason for revealing the once-secret surveillance programmes. The NSA collects records of millions of Americans' telephone calls and internet usage as a counter-terror tool.