Obama mistakenly said Snowden has been indicted

December 20, 2013

President Obama said at a press conference Friday that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden “is under indictment.”

But a senior law enforcement official said that Obama simply misspoke.

Caitlin Hayden, the National Security Council spokeswoman at the White House, confirmed that  "the president was referring to the unsealed criminal complaint filed in the Eastern District of Virginia," not an indictment.

If Snowden had been indicted, that would have meant that the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia had taken the case against Snowden to a grand jury, which has the power to return an indictment. Such an indictment would have been under seal if that had happened. Therefore, the law enforcement official said, it was "incorrect" of Obama to say that Snowden had been indicted.

The former National Security Agency contractor was charged by federal prosecutors in June in the criminal complaint with theft, unauthorized communication of national defense information” and “willful communication of classified communications intelligence information to an unauthorized person,” according to the complaint filed in the federal court in Alexandria. Two of the charges were brought under the 1917 Espionage Act.

 

Sari Horwitz covers the Justice Department and criminal justice issues nationwide for The Washington Post, where she has been a reporter for 30 years. Follow her @SariHorwitz.
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