Skip to main content

Edward Snowden's father: 'I know my son. I know he loves his country'

By Dana Ford, CNN
updated 10:52 AM EDT, Tue July 30, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Lon Snowden defends his son, who is holed up in the Moscow airport
  • He urges him to stay in Russia "until we have assurances that he would receive a fair trial"
  • "It's not just a matter of what's legal ... It's a matter of what's ethical," he tells CNN

(CNN) -- Edward Snowden's father defended his son's actions Monday and slammed those who would focus on the "sinner" rather than the "sins" the younger Snowden revealed.

"He loves his country. I know my son. I know he loves his country. What he believed is that ... the American people needed to be aware of what their government was doing to them, spying upon them," Lon Snowden told CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Monday night.

Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, faces espionage charges in the United States.

He is currently holed up in the Moscow airport, where he's been confined for weeks.

Snowden: Facts, fictions and fears

Lon Snowden said that he's been able to communicate with his son indirectly and that he believes he's in reasonably good spirits.

He urged his son to remain in Russia "until we have assurances that he would receive a fair trial."

Snowden continues to wait for asylum
U.S.: No death penalty for Snowden

"There has been a clear effort by those who have been threatened politically and/or embarrassed by these revelations to focus on the, so to speak, sinner -- my son who has revealed these -- instead of the sins, the actual revelations. It's clear they don't want to discuss that," Lon Snowden said.

Snowden did not access 'crown jewels' of NSA intel, official says

His son is seeking asylum because he claims he would be tortured and face the death penalty if returned to the United States.

In a letter to Russian authorities last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the Justice Department would not seek the death penalty. He argued that Snowden's arguments for temporary asylum in Russia are without merit.

The death penalty is not an option given the current charges against Snowden, and even if additional charges were filed, the United States would still not seek capital punishment, Holder wrote.

Snowden's father has called on President Barack Obama to order the attorney general to dismiss the criminal complaint filed against his son.

"Our national character, much as with individuals, is determined by what we do when we think that no one is watching, when we think that we won't be held accountable. And it's not just a matter of what's legal, of what's constitutional. It's a matter of what's ethical," Lon Snowden told CNN.

Last month his son admitted to revealing sweeping U.S. electronic surveillance programs to the news media. He left Hong Kong for Moscow on June 23.

CNN's Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
Data mining & privacy
updated 10:25 AM EDT, Sun June 23, 2013
He's a high-school dropout who worked his way into the most secretive computers in U.S. intelligence as a defense contractor.
updated 8:26 AM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
Traitor or patriot? Low-level systems analyst or highly trained spy?
updated 3:27 PM EDT, Thu May 29, 2014
What are the takeaways from Snowden's NBC interview? You might be surprised.
updated 7:52 AM EDT, Fri April 18, 2014
Months after accepting asylum in Russia, Snowden asked Putin about Moscow's own surveillance practices.
updated 12:43 PM EDT, Wed March 12, 2014
A federal judge has refused the Obama administration's request to extend storage of classified NSA telephone surveillance data beyond the current five-year limit.
updated 8:44 PM EDT, Sun March 9, 2014
From his sanctuary in the Ecuadorian embassy in London, Julian Assange said that everyone in the world will be just as effectively monitored soon -- at least digitally.
updated 8:39 PM EDT, Mon March 10, 2014
In a rare public talk via the Web, fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden urged a tech conference audience to help "fix" the U.S. government's surveillance of its citizens.
updated 11:55 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The White House is "very disappointed" that National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.
updated 8:57 AM EST, Tue December 10, 2013
Spies with surveillance agencies in the U.S. and U.K. infiltrated video games like "World of Warcraft" in a hunt for terrorists "hiding in plain sight" online.
updated 7:39 AM EDT, Fri August 2, 2013
Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden both held jobs that gave them access to some of their country's most secret and sensitive intelligence. They chose to share that material with the world and are now paying for it.
updated 10:35 AM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
The NSA's controversial intelligence-gathering programs have prevented 54 terrorist attacks around the world, including 13 in the United States.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Thu August 1, 2013
You've never heard of XKeyscore, but it definitely knows you. The National Security Agency's top-secret program essentially makes available everything you've ever done on the Internet.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Sun August 18, 2013
You may have never heard of Lavabit and Silent Circle. That's because they offered encrypted (secure) e-mail services, something most Americans have probably never thought about needing.
updated 2:54 PM EDT, Wed July 24, 2013
"Any analyst at any time can target anyone. Any selector, anywhere ... I, sitting at my desk, certainly had the authorities to wiretap anyone."
updated 9:56 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
President Barack Obama responds to outrage by European leaders over revelations of alleged U.S. spying.
updated 10:48 AM EDT, Tue April 1, 2014
Browse through a history of high-profile intelligence leaking cases.
updated 10:37 AM EDT, Tue July 2, 2013
Former President George W. Bush talks Snowden, AIDS, Mandela and his legacy.
updated 9:04 AM EDT, Wed June 26, 2013
Edward Snowden took a job with an NSA contractor in order to gather evidence about U.S. surveillance programs.
updated 6:47 AM EDT, Wed June 19, 2013
With reports of NSA snooping, many people have started wondering about their personl internet security.
updated 9:52 AM EDT, Wed August 14, 2013
Click through our gallery to learn about other major leaks and what happened in the aftermath.
updated 4:02 PM EDT, Sun June 9, 2013
What really goes on inside America's most secretive agency? CNN's Chris Lawrence reports.
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT