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August 12, 2013

Father of NSA Whistleblower Says Plea Deal a No-Go

The father of National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden says he is not interested in a plea deal for his son.

Lon Snowden, in an interview with ABC, said he plans to advise his son to fight in court the espionage charges he is facing after leaking sensitive documents to U.K. publication The Guardian and The Washington Post, revealing the NSA’s wide-reaching surveillance programs.

“I can tell you that I’m not open to it and that’s what I’ll share with my son in terms of a plea deal,” Lon Snowden said. “At this point, what I would like is for this to be vetted in open court for the American people to have all the facts. What I have seen is much political theater. Where my son chooses to live the rest of his life is going to be his decision, but I would like, at some point in time, for him to be able to come back to the U.S.”

Lon Snowden, along with his attorney Bruce Fein, will visit Edward Snowden in Russia in the near future, although he would not confirm a date in order to avoid a media “frenzy.”

“We intend to visit with Edward and suggest criminal defense attorneys who have experience in criminal espionage act prosecutions,” Lon Snowden told ABC.

Edward Snowden was finally permitted to leave Russia’s Sheremetyevo airport, where he was holed up for several weeks, after receiving temporary asylum from the country Aug. 1. He withdrew his request for full asylum last month after Russian President Vladimir Putin said asylum would be granted — but only if he stops “his work aimed at harming our American partners.”

Edward Snowden is to remain is Russia until he is able to travel to Bolivia, Nicaragua or Venezuela, all of which have offered him full asylum. He has said a handful of countries in Western Europe are hindering him from making the journey to Latin America by denying him airspace at the behest of the United States.

Lon Snowden has joined his son in pointing an accusing finger at the Obama administration, saying his son would never receive a fair trial in the U.S.

He pointed to Obama’s press conference last Friday during which the President said Edward Snowden was not a patriot.

“Mr. Snowden’s been charged with three felonies,” Obama said during the press conference. “If in fact he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case.”

Lon Snowden said his son has been deemed guilty by the President and Congress.

“As a father, I want my son to come home if I believe that the justice system that we should be afforded as Americans is going to be applied correctly,” Lon Snowden told ABC. “At this point, when you consider many of the statements made by our leaders, leaders in Congress, they are absolutely irresponsible and inconsistent with our system of justice. They have poisoned the well, so to speak, in terms of a potential jury pool.”

He was also critical of Obama’s promise during the press conference last Friday to make surveillance programs by federal law enforcement agencies more transparent.

Obama has directed his government to work with Congress to “pursue appropriate reforms to our nation’s surveillance programs and the court that oversees them,” according to a White House document.

The four main steps the President has ordered are:

• To pursue “appropriate” reforms to a section of the Patriot Act with the help of Congress in a bid “to give the American people confidence that there are additional safeguards against abuse.”

• Improve the public’s confidence in the oversight conducted by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC).

• Allow the intelligence community to make public as much as possible about its surveillance programs and create a website to “serve as a hub for further transparency.”

• Have a high-level group of outside experts review the government’s intelligence and communications technologies.

Lon Snowden, however, called the moves “superficial.”

“I was disappointed in the president’s press conference,” Snowden told ABC. “I believe that’s driven by his clear understanding that the American people are absolutely unhappy with what they’ve learned and that more is going to be forthcoming… I believe that much of what he suggested is superficial.”

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