FBI agents visited the Pennsylvania home of Edward Snowden’s father and stepmother, just hours after the 29-year-old NSA whistleblower checked out of his plush Hong Kong hotel and went on the run from U.S. and Chinese authorities.
Two men, identifying themselves as FBI agents, dropped in on Lonnie Snowden, 52, and his wife Karen Snowden, 48, at their property in Upper Macungie Township, as the couple were still “digesting and processing” the news about their son.
Karen Snowden said on Sunday night that they had been “bombarded” by media since Edward Snowden revealed himself to have leaked top-secret documents detailing the government’s extensive surveillance programs.
The woman refused to give any details about her stepson, other than what he’d already offered up in interviews, but she told Lehigh Valley’s The Morning Call the family would be making a public statement in the coming days.
According to mcall.com, shortly after Karen Snowden shut the door, the two men approached the house, telling a photographer they were agents with the Allentown FBI office.
Lonnie Snowden, a former officer in the Coast Guard, told ABC News on Sunday that he had last seen his son “months ago” for dinner and the pair hugged as they said goodbye.
Tammy Reck, a neighbor, told mcall.com that she spoke briefly to the couple on Sunday, when they came out front to warn the residents of the media firestorm that was about to descend.
She said Karen Snowden was upset at the possibility of never seeing her stepson again.
“Not seeing a child anymore, that’s sad, no matter how old that child is,” Tammy Reck said.
The woman described the couple, who were married around five years ago in a backyard wedding, as “great neighbors”. On her Twitter feed, Karen Snowdon describes herself as a certified physical therapist specializing in women’s health, the pelvic area and obstetrics.
She has lived at her current address since at least 1998, records show. Lonnie Snowden lived in Elizabeth City, North Carolina, where Edward Snowden was raised, then Crofton, Maryland, with his son’s biological mother Elizabeth Snowden, 52.
The whistleblower told The Guardian his family had no idea what he was planning, and that their safety was his greatest fear.
New York Republican Peter King, a member of the House Intelligence Committee and chairman of a House Homeland Security subcommittee, was the first to claim the former CIA worker, who he said “has done extreme damage to the US and to our intelligence operations”, should be brought home to face charges.
In a written statement today, Peter King said: “If Edward Snowden did in fact leak the NSA data as he claims, the United States government must prosecute him to the fullest extent of the law and begin extradition proceedings at the earliest date.
“The United States must make it clear that no country should be granting this individual asylum. This is a matter of extraordinary consequence to American intelligence.”
Republican senator for South Dakota John Thune later echoed Peter King’s views.
“As long as you have laws on the books, and we do, you’ve got to enforce the laws,” he told CNBC.
“This is somebody who – it appears, at least – leaked sensitive classified information, and I think he needs to be prosecuted.”
And Republican senator for South Carolina Lindsey Graham tweeted on Monday afternoon: “I hope we follow Mr. Snowden to the ends of the earth to bring him to justice.”
Meanwhile, former UN Ambassador John Bolton told a US radio station he thinks Snowden is guilty of treason.
In a passionate tirade on WLS, John Bolton said: “Number one, this man is a liar. He took an oath to keep the secrets that were shared with him so he could do his job.
“Number two, he lied because he thinks he’s smarter and has a higher morality than the rest of us… that he can see clearer than other 299-million 999-thousand 999 of us, and therefore he can do what he wants. I say that is the worst form of treason.”
Edward Snowden could face decades in jail if he is extradited from Hong Kong, said Mark Zaid, a lawyer who represents whistleblowers.
According to The Daily Beast, Edward Snowden was already being hunted by government officials even before last week’s explosive news stories triggered shockwaves across the globe.
The Daily Beast’s sources, former U.S. intelligence officers, said the agents trailing Edward Snowden work for the Associate Directorate for Security and Counterintelligence, or “the Q Group”. The same group are more urgently searching for the whistleblower now.
The directorate in effect is the National Security Agency’s internal police force. The group monitor the NSA’s staff and contractors for unusual behavior that may pose an intelligence risk, the Beast writes.
The whistleblower, who earned $200,000 a year, exposed chilling details of how the covert agency, based in Maryland, gathers private information from Americans and others around the world using a program called PRISM.
Revealing why he blew the whistle Edward Snowden said on Sunday: “I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”
On Monday, Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971, hailed Edward Snowden a hero for fighting back against the government’s invasion of privacy.
“I think there has not been a more significant or helpful leak or unauthorized disclosure in American history ever than what Edward Snowden shared with The Guardian about the NSA — and that definitely includes the Pentagon Papers,” Daniel Ellsberg told The Daily Beast.
Edward Snowden spoke to The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers from a room in Hong Kong’s five star Mira Hotel, located in the Tsim Sha Tsui neighborhood just across the harbor from the mainland.