McLEAN, Va. (AP) — The father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden, frustrated by his inability to reach out directly to his son, on Tuesday wrote him an open letter, extolling him for “summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny.”
The letter was written jointly by Lon Snowden and his lawyer, Bruce Fein.
It comes a day after Edward Snowden issued a statement through WikiLeaks ripping the Obama administration for leaving him “stateless” and revoking his passport. Snowden is in Russia and has been seeking asylum in multiple countries.
Snowden’s father has expressed concern that WikiLeaks supporters who have been helping his son seek asylum may not have his best interests at heart. The father has said he’d like his son to be able to return to the U.S. under the right circumstances. Wikileaks is an anti-secrecy website that has published several documents deemed classified by governments.
In the letter, Fein and the father tell Snowden that “(w)hat you have done and are doing has awakened congressional oversight of the intelligence community from deep slumber” and “forced onto the national agenda the question of Whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause. … You are a modern day Paul Revere: summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government.”
On Friday, Lon Snowden told NBC News that his son had technically broken the law but was not a traitor and was motivated by legitimate concerns about the programs. He also expressed frustration that WikiLeaks may not be giving his son the best advice. WikiLeaks has been helping Snowden apply for asylum in a variety of countries. Snowden has applied for asylum in Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries, according to WikiLeaks,
Lon Snowden and Fein have been trying to arrange for the younger Snowden to be able return to the U.S. under circumstances that they believe would guarantee fair treatment and a fair trial, including a promise that he would not be detained prior to trial and would not be subject to a gag order. Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency systems analyst, released sensitive documents on U.S. intelligence-gathering operations.
Fein said in a phone interview Tuesday that he received a call Saturday, after Lon Snowden’s televised interview, from Wikileaks founder and publisher Julian Assange. In it, Assange purported to deliver a message from son to father asking that elder Snowden keep quiet. Fein, meanwhile, said he is continuing to work to establish a direct link between father and son that does not require WikiLeaks as an intermediary.
The letter Tuesday was written by Fein but signed by both he and Lon Snowden. It goes on to say: “Irrespective of life’s vicissitudes, we will be Unflagging in efforts to educate the American people about the impending ruination of the Constitution and the rule of law unless they abandon their complacency or indifference. Your actions are making our challenge easier.
We encourage you to engage us in regular exchanges of ideas or thoughts about approaches to curing or mitigating the hugely suboptimal political culture of the United States. Nothing less is required to pay homage to Valley Forge, Cemetery Ridge, Omaha Beach, and other places of great sacrifice.”
Fein said he hopes the letter can help focus the public on the debate that Snowden initially hoped to foster when he leaked details about the surveillance programs. That debate over the proper role of surveillance in American society “is being obscured by the debate on where to seek asylum.”
The asylum debate, meanwhile, is one of keen interest to Assange, who has said repeatedly that he expects to face criminal charges in the U.S. and has been seeking asylum from Ecuador.