Edward Snowden’s father, in letter, compares son to Paul Revere, assails administration

July 2, 2013

Edward Snowden (Glenn Greenwald, Laura Poitras/The Guardian)

Edward Snowden's father Lon Snowden, in an open letter co-authored with his lawyer, compared his son's leaks to Paul Revere warning of incoming British troops, "summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government."

The letter, released to news organizations, lauded Edward Snowden as following the "honorable tradition" of "brave men and women refusing to bow to government wrongdoing or injustice, and exalting knowledge, virtue, wisdom, and selflessness over creature comforts as the North Star of life."

Much of the letter focused on criticizing the Obama administration, arguing it has revoked Snowden's passport in order to make him "de facto stateless" and to "penalize [Snowden's] alleged violations of the espionage act." Lon Snowden and his lawyer and co-author, Bruce Fein, pledged that they would be "unflagging in efforts to educate the American people about the impending ruination of the Constitution and the rule of law unless they abandon their complacency or indifference." The letter implied that the Obama administration is seeking "planetary domination through force, violence or spying."

In an aside, the letter also compared American politics to "a football game with winners and losers."

According to the Associated Press, Lon Snowden released the open letter because he was "frustrated by his inability to reach out directly to his son." It's not clear why Snowden, who is in Moscow, would be unable to communicate with his father. Also according to the AP, Snowden's father expressed concern that WikiLeaks, members of which have been working closely with Snowden in Moscow and whose founder Julian Assange has advocated publicly on his behalf, may not have his son's best interests at heart.

Here is the letter in full:

Dear Edward:

I, Bruce Fein, am writing this letter in collaboration with your father in response to the Statement you issued yesterday in Moscow.

Thomas Paine, the voice of the American Revolution, trumpeted that a patriot saves his country from his government.

What you have done and are doing have awakened congressional oversight of the intelligence community from deep slumber; and, had already provoked the introduction of remedial legislation in Congress to curtail spying abuses under section 215 of the Patriot Act and section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. You have forced onto the national agenda the question of whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause to believe crime is afoot to vassalage in hopes of a risk-free existence. You are a modern day Paul Revere summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government.

In contrast to your actions, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper responded last March as follows to an unambiguous question raised by Senator Ron Wyden:

"Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?" Clapper testified, "No sire, it does not." Wyden asked for clarification, and Clapper hedged. "Not wittingly. There are cases where they could inadvertently, perhaps, collect, but not wittingly."

Director Clapper later defended his stupendous mendacity to the Senator as the least untruthful answer possible. President Obama has not publicly rebuked the Director for frustrating the right of the people to know what their government is doing and to force changes if necessary through peaceful democratic processes. That is the meaning of government by the consent of the governed. "We the people" are sovereign under the U.S. Constitution, and government officials are entrusted with stewardship (not destruction) of our liberties.

We leave it to the American people to decide whether you or Director Clapper is the superior patriot.

The history of civilization is a history of brave men and women refusing to bow to government wrongdoing or injustice, and exalting knowledge, virtue, wisdom, and selflessness over creature comforts as the North Star of life. We believe your actions fall within that honorable tradition, a conviction we believe is shared by many.

As regards your reduction to de facto statelessness occasioned by the Executive Branch to penalize your alleged violations of the Espionage Act, the United Stated Supreme Court lectured in Trop v. Dulles (1958): "The civilized nations of the world are in virtual unanimity that statelessness is not to be imposed as punishment for crime."

We think you would agree that the final end of the state is to make men and women free to develop their faculties, not to seek planetary domination through force, violence or spying. All Americans should have a fair opportunity to pursue their ambitions. Politics should not be a football game with winners and losers featuring juvenile taunts over fumbles and missteps.

Irrespective of life's vicissitudes, we will be unflagging in efforts to educate the American people about the impending ruination of the Constitution and the rule of law unless they abandon their complacency or indifference. Your actions are making our challenge easier.

We encourage you to engage us in regular exchanges of ideas or thoughts about approaches to curing or mitigating the hugely suboptimal political culture of the United States. Nothing less is required to pay homage to Valley Forge, Cemetery Ridge, Omaha Beach, and other places of great sacrifice.

Very truly yours,
Bruce Fein, Counsel for Lon Snowden
Lon Snowden

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Max Fisher | July 2, 2013