McLEAN, Va. (AP) — The father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden said Friday his son has been so vilified by the Obama administration and members of Congress that he is now better off staying in Russia.
Lon Snowden of Allentown, Pa., had been working behind the scenes with lawyers to try to find a way his son could get a fair trial in the U.S. Edward Snowden has been charged in federal court in Alexandria with violating the Espionage Act by leaking details of NSA surveillance.
But in a telephone interview with The Associated Press, the elder Snowden said he has lost faith in recent weeks that his son would be treated fairly by the Justice Department. He now thinks his 30-year-old son is better off avoiding the U.S. if possible until an administration that respects the Constitution comes into office.
"If it were me, knowing what I know now, and listening to advice of sage people like (Pentagon Papers leaker) Daniel Ellsberg ... I would attempt to find a safe haven," Snowden said.
As a military analyst more than four decades ago, Ellsberg leaked the Pentagon Papers, a secret study of America's involvement in Vietnam, to major newspapers.
The elder Snowden said he thinks Russia is probably the best place to seek asylum because it is most likely to withstand U.S. pressure. Edward Snowden applied for temporary asylum in Russia last week.
Lon Snowden, a Coast Guard veteran who has worked on national security issues in his career, said he has tremendous faith in the American people and in the Constitution. He said that in a more subdued environment he feels confident that his son could get a fair trial, and the leak would be considered in context of his son's desire to expose a surveillance program that he and others believe exceeds constitutional bounds.
But he said the Justice Department's efforts to pressure other countries to turn over Snowden, coupled with silence from President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder in the face of denunciations leveled by members of Congress who have labeled Snowden a traitor, have eroded his hope for a fair trial.