WASHINGTON (AFP) - United States (US) authorities have filed espionage charges against rogue intelligence technician Edward Snowden and asked Hong Kong to detain him, the Washington Post reported on Friday.
Citing US government officials, the report said that a sealed criminal complaint had been lodged with a federal court in an eastern district of the US state of Virginia and a provisional arrest warrant had been issued.
Snowden was charged with espionage, theft and "conversion of government property" - the criminal misuse of government property - according to the Post. Federal officials would not immediately confirm the report.
Snowden's employer, Booz Allen Hamilton, a private company that seconded him to work as a contractor for the National Security Agency in Hawaii, is based in Virginia and prosecutors there often handle security cases.
The 29-year-old technician fled Hawaii on May 20 and flew to Hong Kong, an autonomous Chinese territory, from where he proceeded to leak details of secret US intelligence programs to international media outlets.
The leaks embarrassed US President Barack Obama's administration, which was forced to defend US intelligence agencies practice of gathering huge amounts of telephone and Internet data from private users around the world.
Following reports of the sealed complaint all eyes will turn to Hong Kong and Beijing to see whether they will comply with the provisional warrant and hold Snowden.