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Father of NSA Whistleblower Edward Snowden Says Son Is Not a Traitor

June 28, 2013 at 12:00 AM EDT
Lonnie Snowden, the father of the former CIA contractor Edward Snowden, came to the defense of his son on NBC News, saying his son is not a traitor. Edward, whose U.S. passport has been revoked, is believed to still be in the transit area of a Moscow airport, out of sight since leaving Hong Kong. Ray Suarez reports.

JEFFREY BROWN: And we update the story of Edward Snowden, as a family member of the former intelligence contractor defended him on national television this morning.

Ray Suarez reports.

LONNIE SNOWDEN, Father of Edward Snowden: You know, at this point I don’t feel that he’s committed treason.

RAY SUAREZ: The father of former CIA contractor Edward Snowden told NBC News today his son is not a traitor.

LONNIE SNOWDEN: He has, in fact, broken U.S. law, in the sense that he has released classified information. And if folks want to classify him as a traitor, in fact, he has betrayed his government, but I don’t believe that he’s betrayed the people of the United States.

RAY SUAREZ: Lonnie Snowden also told Attorney General Eric Holder he believes his son would voluntarily return to the U.S. to face espionage charges if the Justice Department promises not to hold him before trial or subject him to a gag order.

Snowden himself remains out of sight. His passport has been revoked by the U.S., and he’s reportedly still holed up in the transit area of a Moscow airport; he arrived there six days ago after leaving Hong Kong. The U.S. has asked Russia to extradite Snowden to the U.S. for trial. On Tuesday, President Vladimir Putin said no.

PRESIDENT VLADIMIR PUTIN, Russia: We can hand over foreign citizens to countries with which we have an appropriate international agreement on the extradition of criminals. We do not have such an agreement with the United States.

PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA: You don’t have to have an extradition treaty, though, to resolve some of these issues.

RAY SUAREZ: President Obama said yesterday that Snowden and the untold amount of classified material he’s yet to disclose still poses a threat.

PRESIDENT OBAMA: I continue to be concerned about the other documents that he may have. That’s part of the reason why we’d like to have Mr. Snowden in custody.

RAY SUAREZ: Today, the Washington Post reported that federal investigators believe USIS, the contractor responsible for screening Snowden for his security clearance, misled the government about its background checks. Snowden has applied for asylum in Ecuador, but yesterday its president said there’s a hitch.

PRESIDENT RAFAEL CORREA, Ecuador: Mr. Snowden is not on Ecuadorian territory so, technically, we cannot process his asylum request yet. If he is allowed to go to Ecuadorian territory, well, that’s something that we haven’t considered. We would probably evaluate it, but, right now, he’s in Russia.

RAY SUAREZ: The Washington Post also reported that following the attacks of September 11, the National Security Agency cultivated relationships with phone companies and Internet providers to obtain domestic records.

And, today, 26 U.S. senators sent a letter to Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, asking him to publicly disclose information about the duration and scope of the NSA surveillance program.