Snowden’s father on ‘Today’: He betrayed his government, but he’s not a traitor

The father of fugitive Edward Snowden told NBC News that he believes his son would return to the United States if he were assured that he would not be jailed before trial or subjected to a gag order.

Lonnie Snowden told journalist Michael Isikoff that he has not spoken since April with his son — who is believed to be hiding in a Moscow airport to evade arrest by U.S. authorities.

Edward Snowden went into hiding in early June, after information he provided about U.S. data surveillance programs was published by The Washington Post and Guardian newspapers. He has said he revealed the information because he feared that the programs were violating the rights of private citizens. He has been charged with leaking classified documents.

The portion of the interview that aired on the “Today” show Friday morning did not explain how the elder Snowden had developed his opinion as to the conditions under which his 30-year-old son might return home.

Lonnie Snowden sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. with his suggestions about how to get his son to return to this country, Isikoff reported. In the interview, he said he knew his son had broken the law but does not think he committed treason.

The flight of Edward Snowden

“He has betrayed his government, but I don’t believe that he’s betrayed the people of the United States,” Lonnie Snowden said.

“I love him. I would like to have the opportunity to communicate with him,” he added.

Lonnie Snowden, a career Coast Guard officer who retired and moved to Pennsylvania a few years ago, told NBC that he did not trust WikiLeaks, the ­anti-secrecy organization that is providing his son with legal and logistical assistance.

“I am concerned about those who surround him,” the father said in the interview. “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.”

Edward Snowden is reportedly seeking asylum from Ecuador. He surfaced in Hong Kong shortly after his leaked information was published, then vanished until he arrived in Moscow last Sunday.

He is believed to have been planning to travel from there to Ecuador, possibly via Cuba. But as a crush of journalists descended on the airport Monday, he did not board the designated Havana-bound flight. He has remained out of public view, as heads of government have verbally jousted over whether he should be extradited to the United States.

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