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Ed Snowden's dad: 'My son broke the law - but he's no traitor'

Lonnie Snowden reckons his son would be willing to come home as long as authorities agree not to detain him before trial.

Image: Kin Cheung/AP

THE FATHER of fugitive US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden has insisted his son was not a traitor for revealing details of secret US surveillance programmes – although admitting he did break the law.

In an interview with NBC News, Lonnie Snowden also said he had told US Attorney General Eric Holder through his lawyer that his son would probably be willing to return home so long as the Justice Department agrees not to detain him before trial or impose a gag order on him.

Snowden also said he wants his son to be able to choose where he goes on trial on espionage charges filed in the wake of the revelations made by the 30-year-old former National Security Agency contractor.

But he admitted he has not spoken to his son since April, long before he started spilling the beans on the surveillance programs. So it was not immediately clear how the father knew of his son’s apparent intentions.

“At this point I don’t feel that he’s committed treason. He has in fact broken US law, in the sense that he has released classified information,” Lonnie Snowden told NBC.

“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.”

Snowden left his job in Hawaii in mid-May and fled to Hong Kong.

He then began issuing a series of leaks on the NSA’s global gathering of phone call logs and Internet data, including in China and Hong Kong. He fled to Moscow this week, and Russia is defying US pressure to hand him over, saying there is no extradition treaty.

Charged by the US, seeking asylum in Ecuador

Snowden, who is being assisted by the anti-secrecy organization WikiLeaks, has applied for asylum in Ecuador. The United States has charged him with espionage.

Lonnie Snowden told NBC he fears his son might be used by WikiLeaks.

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“I love him. I would like to have the opportunity to communicate with him,” Snowden senior said.

“I don’t want to put him in peril, but I am concerned about those who surround him,” he added.

“I think WikiLeaks, if you’ve looked at past history, you know, their focus isn’t necessarily the Constitution of the United States. It’s simply to release as much information as possible.”

- © AFP, 2013

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