Edward Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, has emerged as a surprising catalyst for conservative support. A retired chief warrant officer with the U.S. Coast Guard, Snowden raised his son in a patriotic community alongside military and police, and Edward’s mother is a chief deputy clerk at the federal court in Baltimore.
When Lon Snowden sought out an attorney after the FBI contacted him regarding the possibility of his serving as an intermediary (an offer that fell through, he said, because the FBI wouldn’t guarantee that he would ever see his son), it was Bruce Fein—a conservative constitutional lawyer known for his acerbic wit and devotion to revolutionary leaders like James Madison—whom he called. Despite being a former Deputy Secretary in the Reagan Justice Department, Fein went full bore against the Bush White House in the early 2000s over the Patriot Act and Washington’s post 9/11 surveillance expansion, aligning himself with conservative civil libertarians like Reps. Ron Paul and Bob Barr.
Fein said Lon Snowden retained him to help navigate the legal waters, and their approach to the government’s pursuit of his son as a spy and enemy of the state has “been simpatico ever since.”
When Edward was first in Hong Kong, Lon Snowden pled publicly for him to return to the U.S. to face the consequences. Now he says Russia is the safest place for his son. “They would put him in a hole,” he said of the U.S government. He has become his son’s most articulate and credible defender.
To a Russian television station, he said recently:
My son is a principled young man, he is a man of courage and what he saw he couldn’t live with. I know that I have raised him to do the right thing. Sometimes the right thing means personal sacrifice, and that’s what he did.
The Washington Post reported on July 30:
“As a father, it pains me what he did,’’ Snowden said. “I wish my son could have simply sat in Hawaii and taken the big paycheck, lived with his beautiful girlfriend and enjoyed paradise. But as an American citizen, I am absolutely thankful for what he did.’’
He also appeared on the Today show July 26:
“If you look at the concerted effort by both, many of these congressmen—the Peter Kings, the Mike Rogers, the Michelle Bachmanns, Dutch Ruppersbergers—to demonize my son, to focus the issue on my son, and not to talk about the fact that they’ve had a responsibility to make sure (surveillance) was constitutional,” Snowden said. “They’ve either been complicit or negligent.”
Fein said Snowden’s interviews with the press have helped to define his son away from the caricature of an egocentric high school drop-out that mainstream pundits drew after Edward Snowden’s first interview with Glenn Greenwald June 9. “All this stupid stuff about narcissism and ego mania—it’s ridiculous.”
“Ultimately the view of history is that Edward Snowden is Paul Revere, not Benedict Arnold, and obviously his father’s view pivots on what happened,” Fein explained, and “once the American people knew what was going on they became outraged and concerned and … when Congress comes back (from recess) it is not unbelievable that they will get an (elimination) of the programs or at the least, more muscular restraints on the NSA.”