WASHINGTON — The FBI tried to enlist the father of National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden to fly to Moscow to try to persuade his son to return to the United States, but the effort collapsed when agents could not establish a way for the two to speak once he arrived, Snowden's father said Tuesday.
"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 Washington Post. "I said, 'Wait a minute, folks, I'm not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.' "
In an interview, the elder Snowden, who lives outside Allenton, Pa., offered a vehement defense of the young man many have labeled a traitor. He said that Edward, who is holed up at an airport in Moscow, grew up in a patriotic family in suburban Maryland, filled with federal agents and police officers, and that he "loves this nation." Asked what triggered his son's decision to leak top-secret intelligence documents, Snowden, a retired Coast Guard officer, said he didn't know. Although Edward had seemed troubled in April during their final dinner together, he said his son had recently put up a "fire wall between himself and his family."
"We had no idea what was coming," he said.
But he pointed to a possible explanation: what he considers misleading statements by U.S. officials about the surveillance methods that Edward revealed. "If you could say there was a tipping point, I would say it was what happened in the last six to nine months of this nation," the elder Snowden said.
Edward, who has been charged in the United States with theft and espionage, is seeking asylum in Russia. U.S. officials have condemned the leaks and said the programs he exposed are legal and supervised by a federal court.
"As a father, it pains me what he did," Lon Snowden said. " … But as an American citizen, I am absolutely thankful for what he did."