US charges whistleblower over leaks
Former intelligence analyst Edward Snowden has been charged by US authorities after leaking details of a secret surveillance operation.
The development came as allegations emerged that British eavesdropping agency GCHQ has stored huge amounts of internet data by accessing fibre-optic cables.
The 30-year-old whistleblower, who is believed to be holed up in Hong Kong, could face up to 30 years in jail after he was charged with theft, espionage and theft of government property.
It is not known if the US government has made a formal extradition request to Hong Kong, while the Hong Kong government has so far not reacted to the charges.
They came as the Guardian reported that GCHQ is able to tap into and store internet and communications data from cables for up to 30 days so it can be analysed under an operation codenamed Tempora.
The Cheltenham-based agency would not comment on intelligence matters but insisted it was "scrupulous" in complying with the law.
The newspaper said there were two principal components to the agency's surveillance programme, called Mastering the Internet and Global Telecoms Exploitation. It claimed the data was shared with the organisation's US counterpart the National Security Agency (NSA).
BT, one of the country's main fibre-optic network providers, said it could not comment on national security issues.
The information is the latest leak from Mr Snowden, the former NSA contractor responsible for a string of disclosures about US intelligence operations. The American has admitted providing information to the news media about two highly classified NSA surveillance programmes.
A complaint filed at a US federal court said Mr Snowden engaged in unauthorised communication of national defence information and willful communication of classified communications intelligence information. All three offences he is charged with carry a maximum 10-year prison penalty.