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Leaker Snowden's father says son not a traitor

June 28, 2013 at 11:10 AM   |   Comments

MOSCOW, June 28 (UPI) -- The father of secrets leaker Edward Snowden says his son may have broken U.S. law, but isn't a traitor.

"At this point I don't feel that he's committed treason. He has in fact broken U.S. law, in a sense that he has released classified information," Lonnie Snowden told NBC's "Today" Friday. "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 said he told Attorney General Eric Holder, through his lawyer, his son will probably return home if the Justice Department promises not to hold him before a trial or subject him to a gag order.

He also said he wants his son to choose the location for a possible trial.

Edward Snowden's whereabouts are unknown. The former National Security Agency contractor is being sought for leaking top-secret documents concerning the government's widespread surveillance programs.

Lonnie Snowden said he hasn't spoken to his son since April.

In Moscow, the Russian Parliament invited Snowden to help find out if any U.S. Internet firm gave information about Russians to the U.S. government.

"We invite Edward Snowden to work with us and hope that as soon as he settles his legal status, he will collaborate with our working group and provide us with proof of U.S. intelligence agencies' access to the servers of Internet firms," Russian Sen. Ruslan Gattarov said Thursday.

Russia's upper house of parliament decided Wednesday to establish a working group to investigate Snowden's claims, RIA Novosti reported.

He fled to Moscow from Hong Kong and reportedly is in the transit area of Moscow's Sheremetyevo International Airport. Earlier this week, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Russia was under no legal obligation to turn over Snowden to the United States.

Gattarov, appointed to lead the group, told RIA Novosti it would draw legislators, diplomats, prosecutors and communications officials as members. He said preliminary results should be available in October.

Meanwhile, Kirill Kabanov, a member of Putin's Human Rights Council, said he asked his colleagues to consider approaching the Russian government about granting political asylum to Snowden, 30, RIA Novosti said.

Ecuador's foreign minister had said Snowden, whose U.S. passport has been revoked, requested political asylum in his country. On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro was quoted as saying Snowden was "almost sure" to get political asylum in his country if he filed a formal request.

During his visit to Senegal Thursday, U.S. President Obama said the United States would not engage in "wheeling and dealing" over Snowden's extradition.

Meanwhile, Ecuador said it won't be bullied by Washington over whether to grant asylum, The Wall Street Journal reported.

"Ecuador does not accept pressure or threats from anyone and it doesn't bargain with its principles or sovereignty," President Rafael Correa said at the inauguration of a public-works project in Los Rios province.

The South American country also reiterated it didn't provide Snowden with travel papers that could help his global journey to evade espionage charges.

In Quinto, Political Affairs Secretary Betty Tola told reporters a "safepass" for temporary travel, issued to Snowden by the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, was genuine but not valid since the person who issued it lacked the authority to do so.

A copy of the document was obtained by U.S. Spanish-language broadcaster Univision and shown in a news broadcast and on its website late Wednesday.

"Any document on this matter does not have any validity and is the exclusive responsibility of who issued it," Tola said. "To grant or deny asylum is essential to the sovereignty of our country."

In Washington, U.S. State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said giving Snowden asylum would create "grave difficulties for our bilateral relationship."

"If they take that step, that would have very negative repercussions," he said.

Ecuador also complained its U.S. trade benefits, which are up for congressional renewal in July, were being used as "blackmail."

The Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act allows Ecuador to export more than $1 billion in trade to the United States free of tariffs.

U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez, D-N.J., said he would lead an effort to block renewal of trade preferences for Ecuador if it granted asylum to Snowden.

"If Snowden is granted asylum in Ecuador, I will lead the effort to prevent the renewal of Ecuador's duty-free access under GSP [the World Trade Organization's Generalized System of Preferences] and will also make sure there is no chance for renewal of the Andean Trade Promotion and Drug Eradication Act," his statement said.

Ecuador would lose at least 40,000 jobs if the trade preferences are not renewed, Ecuadorean Ambassador to the United States Nathalie Cely said last year.

© 2013 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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