Snowden's Father Thanks Russians for Protecting His Son

Wednesday, 31 Jul 2013 12:53 PM

By Sandy Fitzgerald

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NSA leaker Edward Snowden's father, who does not believe his son will get a fair trial in the United States, thanked Russian authorities Wednesday for keeping him safe.

Lon Snowden, interviewed by Russian state TV Wednesday, also said the FBI has asked him to travel to Moscow to visit his son, but he won't go unless he knows what the agency's intentions toward his son are, reports BBC News.

In a separate interview with The Washington Post Tuesday, the NSA leaker's father said the FBI had tried to enlist him to fly to Moscow to persuade his son to return to the United States, but the efforts collapsed when agents could not find a way for the two to speak once he got to Russia.

"I said, 'I want to be able to speak with my son. . . . Can you set up communications?' And it was, 'Well, we’re not sure,'" Lon Snowden told The Post. "I said, 'Wait a minute, folks, I’m not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.'"

But Snowden, speaking through a translator in the Russia state TV interview, also had a message for his son, whom he calls "a true patriot."

"Your family is well. We love you," the elder Snowden said. "We hope you are healthy, we hope you are well, I hope to see you soon, but most of all I want you to be safe. I want you to find a safe haven."

He also thanked Russian authorities and President Vladimir Putin for keeping his son safe, and for their "courage and strength and conviction."

Snowden said he was asked several weeks ago to visit his son, who is a fugitive after fleeing to Hong Kong and then to Russia following his leaking classified details about the National Security Agency's phone and Internet surveillance programs to British and U.S. news media sources.

Meanwhile, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on Wednesday declassified several documents pertaining to the phone data collection program, reports NBC News, "in the interest of increased transparency."

The documents released include reports from 2009 and 2011 about the government's "Bulk Collection Program," conducted under the Patriot Act.

Another record being made public includes an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court detailing how data should be gathered and stored.

Also released is an order to Verizon Communications to turn over a vast number of Americans’ phone records, The Washington Post reports.

The documents are heavily redacted in many places, however, and came out as NSA officials returned to Capitol Hill to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee to discuss Snowden's actions and the NSA's surveillance programs.

The leaks, Snowden's father told Russian TV, "made America a more democratic country. Like any mother or father who loves their child, I love my son and I will be forever grateful for what you have done, very much."

Edward Snowden has been stuck at Moscow's Sheremetyevo Airport since June 23, after he traveled there from Hong Kong. He is not permitted to leave, as he has no valid travel documents after the U.S. government revoked his passport.

Snowden has requested temporary asylum from Russia, while hoping eventually to be given refuge in Latin America. However, many countries have rejected his request because of fears of retribution from the United States.

Meanwhile, the Russians are refusing to hand Snowden over, despite assurances from Attorney General Eric Holder that the fugitive will not face the death penalty in the United States.

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