Snowden’s father responds to Obama’s claim his son is not a patriot
August 11th, 2013
12:14 PM ET
6 years ago

Snowden’s father responds to Obama’s claim his son is not a patriot

(CNN) – President Barack Obama’s assertion Friday that Edward Snowden was not a patriot for leaking details about top-secret American surveillance programs was brushed aside Sunday by Snowden’s father.

Lon Snowden - who says he is traveling soon to Russia, where his son has been granted asylum - suggested instead that Edward Snowden had put himself at great personal risk in order to inform Americans about the data their government collects.

“My son has spoken the truth, and he has sacrificed more than either the president of the United States or (U.S. Rep.) Peter King have ever in their political careers or their American lives. So how they choose to characterize him really doesn't carry that much weight with me,” he said on ABC’s “This Week.”

King, a Republican who once chaired the House Homeland Security Committee, has called Snowden a “traitor.”

During a news conference Friday, Obama was asked whether he thought Snowden was a patriot for leaking the surveillance information, which showed the National Security Agency collecting massive amounts of metadata on Americans’ phone calls and Internet usage.

“I don't think Mr. Snowden was a patriot,” Obama said.

“The fact is, is that Mr. Snowden's been charged with three felonies,” the president added. “If, in fact, he believes that what he did was right, then, like every American citizen, he can come here, appear before the court with a lawyer and make his case.”

Ahead of the question-and-answer session, the president unveiled new measures to instill greater transparency in government spying programs, though he downplayed the role Snowden played in prompting the new effort.

“I called for a thorough review of our surveillance operations before Mr. Snowden made these leaks. My preference - and I think the American people's preference - would have been for a lawful, orderly examination of these laws; a thoughtful, fact-based debate,” he said.

Among the steps the president announced Friday was a new effort to work with Congress to pursue appropriate improvements of the telephone data program. He also proposed reforming the secret court that approves that phone surveillance, improving transparency to provide as much information as possible to the public, including the legal rationale for government collection activities; and appointing a high-level, independent group of outside experts to review surveillance technologies.

The new steps toward transparency were largely welcomed by lawmakers Sunday, though Lon Snowden argued the plan was “superficial.”

“I believe that's driven by his clear understanding that the American people are unhappy with what they've learned and more is forthcoming,” Snowden said.

During his news conference, Obama described a general mistrust in the government that ignited when the government snooping programs were revealed earlier this summer. Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, agreed Sunday that Americans - particularly those younger than he or the president - were growing increasingly skeptical of their government’s actions.

“There's kind of a generational change here. Young Americans do not trust this government. Without trust in government, you can't do a lot of things,” McCain said on “Fox News Sunday,” adding that he didn’t disagree with any of the president’s proposals.

Rep. James Clyburn, a South Carolina Democrat, said on CNN’s “State of the Union” that transparency was an important goal, but that more needed to be done in reducing the number of private contractors with access to sensitive government secrets.

“You want to be very, very careful in not just what the president is doing, but with what all of the hired hands may be doing when they're carrying out their duties and responsibilities,” he said.

Two Republicans, however, chided Obama Sunday for not offering a more robust defense of the NSA programs, which they argued had saved many lives and now are being questioned.

Obama “finally came out last Friday trying to come up with ways to salvage the program by window dressing,” said Rep. Mike McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”

“The problem fundamentally is he's failed to explain these programs which are lawful, which have saved lives, which have stopped terrorist plots,” he continued.

The president has “been silent for the last two months,” King added on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” “He’s allowed the Edward Snowdens and the others of the world to dominate the media and now we have so many people who actually think the NSA is spying on people, is listening to our phone calls, is reading our e-mails.”

Filed under: NSA • President Obama
soundoff (61 Responses)
  1. markdonners

    Factually NOBODY should trust the government.. unless you enjoy being cheated, killed, lied to and your life ruined.

    August 11, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |

    @ Freedom: Whom are these 'us' you're proclaiming? Specificity goes a long way, bub, in making a point. Bub.

    August 11, 2013 04:17 pm at 4:17 pm |
  3. really

    Why don't I ask you a question freedom where were you when Bush,Cheney shoved the Patriot Act,Homeland Security down our throats after 9/11 smart guy..Talk about intrusive policies of the NSA and when I complained about my rights,liberties being stepped on I was told if I don't like it leave nice ha!!


    Exactly. This law was passed with nary a whimper from the citizenry. It was not made available for the public to read. In fact, it was passed on the day after it was introduced and the majority of congress voted for it without even reading it. The government was wiretapping citizens with warrants for years. Was Mr Freedom posting his outrage back then? Somehow I doubt it.
    It is good we are having this discussion, but it's abut 12 years too late, and Snowden went about the wrong way of initiating it.

    August 11, 2013 04:23 pm at 4:23 pm |
  4. steve

    Snowden is a traitor.

    August 11, 2013 04:54 pm at 4:54 pm |
  5. norma jean

    HEY DAD..... Like the American public really learned anything from this except that someone ...just anyone....thinks he is so smart that he can take it upon himself to decide what the world should know about the inner workings of our government!!...I find it hard to believe that your son though he may be....really has the right...has the understanding of protocol to do this...but obviously he has the is he willing to pay the price????

    August 11, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  6. boungiorno


    August 11, 2013 05:00 pm at 5:00 pm |
  7. ARTraveler

    Why should the president get into an arguing match with anyone. Some won't agree with him on which direction the sun rises. The Tea Party Brotherhood can't agree on anything at all, even with them selves.

    August 11, 2013 05:27 pm at 5:27 pm |
  8. ARTraveler

    Snowden has another problem and that is that no company nor country is going to hire someone who was so untrustworthy that he joined an organization for the sole purpose of revealing secrets. I suggest he apply at the Moscow Mickey D's to get some job skills that will transfer elsewhere. His opportunities in computers are somewhere below zero no matter what country he ends up in.

    August 11, 2013 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  9. jboh

    The TEA/GOP trolls here crack me up. They were all for this spying when they passed the "Patriot Act", or were harassing "60s protesters. The phrase " I have nothing to hide " kept coming out of their mouthes when "W" was doing it. Now we hear garbage about Obama chooses which laws to follow, while defending "W's" singing statements. Time to flush the TEA pot.

    August 11, 2013 05:46 pm at 5:46 pm |
  10. USA citizen

    I agree with the President of USA – Edward Snowden is not PATRIOT.
    Question for Lon Snowden:
    Where did Edward Snowden get his betrayal characteristic ways from?
    Edward Snowden exhibits cowardness; and is very disrespectful toward our President of USA, Army Forces Members and citizens.

    August 11, 2013 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  11. Observation

    I've been watching this whole thing from a distance since it all started and my observations made me into thinking that US is on the brink of a civil war. Obama knows this and the military complex does too. From an observation point of view i would suggest to keep an eye on the military activities, i'm pretty sure they are doing something out of the ordinary.

    August 11, 2013 06:07 pm at 6:07 pm |
  12. Rebecca

    Snowden is a patriot. NSA, Prez, and Congress are violating the 4th Amendment. Traitors.

    August 11, 2013 06:18 pm at 6:18 pm |
  13. Thomas

    He is not a patriot .

    Patriots don't run to China or Russia .

    August 11, 2013 06:19 pm at 6:19 pm |
  14. Karina

    Americans wake up , if a Russian had been in the same position in your country under the same circumstances , he wouldn't be treated any different.
    You have an incompetent President who resorts to juvenile name calling of Putin which shows immaturity and lack of leadership skills.
    I think the world is finding out that your emperor has no clothes.

    August 11, 2013 06:30 pm at 6:30 pm |
  15. Peace

    The father should not defend his son. He knows in his heart that wrongdoing was done by his son. If he said the truth, why doesn't he come back home and stand on what he said. We all love our kids, but we should not hide their dirty and try to make them look clean.

    August 11, 2013 06:47 pm at 6:47 pm |
  16. labman57

    A father's blind love and devotion to his son notwithstanding, selfless patriots who are concerned about abuses to privacy rights don't seek asylum from nations which are even bigger abusers of the right to personal privacy ... as well as a multitude of other freedoms which we take for granted in the U.S.

    August 11, 2013 07:58 pm at 7:58 pm |
  17. Anonymous

    "I swear to protect the Constitution from all enemies foreign and domestic. " It's the first oath someone in office takes.

    The 4th Amendment states that you need PROBABLE CAUSE. "No warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized"

    As someone in law enforcement this is very clear. Probable cause needs about 90-98% certainty of a crime being/been committed before violating someones civil liberties. IE: I see you have bloodshot, watery eyes, a strong odor of alcohol on your breath, erratic driving, and empty beer cans in your car. This is the level of proof I would need to obtain your breath or blood.

    they are using PREPONDERANCE OF THE EVIDENCE, which is only 51% certainty of a crime. This is the same level of a speeding ticket. IE: No physical proof further they my word vs your word. this is the level of proof they are using to search your e-mails, phone conversations, text and internet usage.

    There is no difference between this and me stopping cars only because someone had dreadlocks or a Bob Marley shirt and searching them, then either releasing them or arresting them depending on what I find. It's clearly illegal.

    On top of that if I lie to a judge (which is paramount to Clapper lying to congress) I lose my job, my certification so I can never be a Officer again and possibly fact criminal charges. Obviously after what happened with Mr. Clapper there are abuses going on.

    People claiming that Snowden is a traitor aren't seeing the big picture. He had a choice of evils. Take the money and ignore violations of the Constitution and abuses or whislteblow. He choice the harder, more correct one to take.

    August 11, 2013 08:05 pm at 8:05 pm |
  18. Dan5404

    Sorry, but whatever he or you think he is, any person that steals military and political secrets for distribution to ANYONE is a traitor. I am a liberal Democrat, but not that liberal..

    August 11, 2013 08:24 pm at 8:24 pm |
  19. king

    i wonder if the American people would think i am a patriot if i go tell one of America longest known enemy secrets about how we work, secrets we've got, and what our plans are, i can see Russia building on the secrets snowden has provided them to counteract any plans we've got. they know our plans and our secrets and we dont know what their plans are. Russia have saved hundreds of spies because now they dont have to go in arms way for the secrets they've gotten freely from snowden. now America have to send thousands of spies to finds the secrets they've gotten and what their counteractions plans are. most of these spies wont make it back home to us. yet people have the audacity to call this man a patriot.

    August 11, 2013 08:26 pm at 8:26 pm |
  20. stars

    Keep that nut in Russia Sarah can keep an eye on him from her porch.

    August 11, 2013 08:27 pm at 8:27 pm |
  21. T

    ........Pop, son is living in wanted for traitorous actions to the United States.............Willfully stole USA secrets and leaked them to our enemies................and will probably never see the FREE light of day for the rest of his miserable PUTIN puppet life.
    .....Real nice job there, Pop............

    August 11, 2013 08:44 pm at 8:44 pm |
  22. omg america

    To recap the last few months:

    Everyone in the world is having their email, phone and other communiques downloaded and stored in massive facilities all over the globe for an indefinite period of time.

    Obama does nothing.

    Snowden reveals to a famous journalist all the dirt to expose the crimes against humanity in order that dissemination is carefully advanced without harming anyone physically.

    News obfuscations blanket the air waves.

    Terrorist alert in N. Africa, Middle East, S. Asia; embassies closed. About a dozen drone strikes kill mostly civilians, US citizens hide in bomb shelters. U.S. Government officials speculate another 9/11 is imminent.

    Congress and Obama go on five week vacation without figuring out a solution to a government shutdown.

    American people forget that traitor Snowden and continue filling their faces with fast food and corny "Keeping up with the Kardishians" reruns.

    1984 becomes reality

    August 11, 2013 09:03 pm at 9:03 pm |
  23. Alan Morrison

    I live here in Canada and if my Government led by Prime-minister Harper were to engage in mega-data collecting of its citizens without a warrant, without being judicially sanctioned, without probable cause..... then the person who revealed this criminal act to me wouldn`t be seen as a traitor, but as a patriot in my eyes. I believe all the energy that is being expended in denouncing Edward Snowden reminds me of that old saying, " don`t shoot the messenger." I think all of you down their need to seriously focus on what your Government is doing secretly behind your back and focus your anger at that instead of the person who reported it.

    August 11, 2013 09:31 pm at 9:31 pm |
  24. ge

    Obama should have shut down all programs that were started under the bush regime–home land security and the patriot act all money scams

    August 11, 2013 10:11 pm at 10:11 pm |
  25. carl nelson

    Snowden is a Patriot. The problem is Patriots have no friends the Un-S.A..

    August 11, 2013 10:15 pm at 10:15 pm |
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