The United States has charged Snowden under the Espionage Act for revealing secrets that he had access to as a contractor for the National Security Agency. “Integrity must trump blind loyalty,” countered Coleen Rowley, a former FBI agent who was at the meeting, thought to be Snowden’s first with visitors.
The encounter and the separate arrival of his father suggested that Snowden remained under the tight control of Russian authorities. He has not been seen since he left Sheremetyevo International Airport on Aug. 1.
The four Americans told their story Thursday in a 15-minute program on the RT channel, which is financed by the Kremlin and broadcasts its point of view. Snowden’s father, Lon, met with reporters in the company of Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s Kremlin-connected attorney, and sped from the airport to an appearance on the main Russian television channel, also controlled by the Kremlin.
“I’m Mr. Kucherena’s guest,” Lon Snowden said, “and I’m very thankful for his hospitality, and I’m going to follow Mr. Kucherena’s advice — and that will determine where my day leads.”
Lon Snowden acknowledged that Julian Assange and the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks had helped arrange his travel here, and the four Americans said Sarah Harrison, an Assange aide, remained with Snowden in refuge.
Kucherena declined to reveal any details about a meeting between father and son, saying that security concerns were paramount and suggesting that the United States might somehow take action if it knew Edward Snowden’s whereabouts. “We need to understand he is America’s most wanted man,” the lawyer said.
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the U.S. reaction “is the same it’s always been — Mr. Snowden needs to return to the United States to face these charges.”
The Sam Adams award was announced in July but presented in person Wednesday. It honors Snowden as a whistleblower, a description that the United States deems wrong. U.S. officials contend that whistleblowers reveal information after efforts to go through official channels are ignored. Snowden, they say, made no such efforts before leaking secrets, forfeiting whistleblower protections.
Thomas Drake, a former NSA executive who became a critic of the agency, said Snowden spoke truth to power.
“Russia, to its credit, recognized international law and granted him asylum,” Drake said, asserting that U.S. officials drove Snowden into Russia’s arms by making him stateless. The United States points out that Snowden remains a citizen even though his passport was revoked and that he should return home to answer the charges against him.