Lon Snowden – the father of fugitive former NSA contractor Edward Snowden – has arrived in Russia to visit his son.
Lon Snowden told journalists on his arrival in Moscow that he felt “extreme gratitude that my son is safe and secure and he’s free”.
Edward Snowden, 30, was granted asylum in Russia in August after weeks spent in a transit zone at Moscow airport when the US revoked his travel documents.
He leaked many thousands of US intelligence documents.
The information, published in The Guardian and Washington Post newspapers, revealed extensive internet and phone surveillance by both US and British intelligence.
In the US, Edward Snowden faces charges of theft of government property, unauthorized communication of national defense information and willful communication of classified intelligence.
Each of the charges carries a maximum 10-year prison sentence.
The father of fugitive Edward Snowden has arrived in Russia to visit his son
Lon Snowden, arriving at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport, was met by his son’s Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena.
“I’m here to learn more about my son’s situation,” Lon Snowden told reporters.
“My hope is to learn more about his circumstances and his health and to discuss legal options.”
“If the opportunity presents itself, I certainly hope that I have the opportunity to see my son,” he said in televised remarks.
“I’m not sure that my son will be returning to the US. That’s his decision, he’s an adult.”
Lon Snowden has in the past praised his son for speaking “the truth” and making great sacrifices, and has spoken of his concern that he would not face a fair trial if he returned to the US.
Edward Snowden accessed many of the documents while working for the defense contractor Booz Allen Hamilton in Hawaii, where he had been living with his girlfriend.
As the revelations became public, Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong where, with his consent, The Guardian revealed his identity in June.
To escape US attempts to extradite him, Edward Snowden moved on to Russia where he remained in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo airport until Russia granted him asylum.
Russia’s move added to already tense relations with the US. Washington cancelled a bilateral summit in September.
Edward Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, has said he believes his son would return to the US on certain conditions.
Lon Snowden asked for “ironclad assurances” his son’s rights would be protected in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder.
He asked his son not be held before trial nor subjected to a gag order, and be able to choose where he was tried.
Edward Snowden, who faces spy charges in the US, flew to Moscow last weekend and has requested asylum in Ecuador.
“Mr. Snowden is reasonably confident that his son would voluntarily return to the United States if there were ironclad assurances that his constitutional rights would be honored,” said the letter by Lon Snowden’s lawyer, Bruce Fein.
The correspondence also requested for the case against the former intelligence contractor to be dismissed in the event that any of the three conditions were not met.
Earlier on Friday, Lon Snowden told NBC News he had not spoken to his son since April, a month before he fled to Hong Kong after leaking to media details of a huge US snooping programme.
Lon Snowden said his son had broken the law, but denied he was a traitor.
“At this point I don’t feel that he’s committed treason,” he said.
Edward Snowden’s father, Lon Snowden, has said he believes his son would return to the US on certain conditions
“He has in fact broken US law, in a sense that he has released classified information.”
Lon Snowden also voiced concern his son was being exploited by WikiLeaks, which has offered legal assistance to the 30-year-old.
“I don’t want to put him in peril, but I am concerned about those who surround him,” he said.
“I think WikiLeaks, if you’ve looked at past history, you know, their focus isn’t necessarily the constitution of the United States. It’s simply to release as much information as possible.”
Edward Snowden flew last Sunday from Hong Kong to Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport, where Russian authorities say he remains in a transit zone.
On Friday, the diplomatic fallout from the affair continued as a US envoy accused China of “misbehavior” for allowing Edward Snowden to leave.
“I don’t think we had a good-faith partner throughout that process,” said Stephen Young, the US consul general in Hong Kong, warning of repercussions.
The city’s government has said the US arrest paperwork had clerical errors, and that it had no legal basis to stop Edward Snowden travelling to Russia.
Beijing has accused the US of “double standards” on cybersecurity.
Ecuador says it has not yet processed the former US National Security Agency contractor’s request for asylum.
Russian authorities complained on Friday the US had not informed them in time that Edward Snowden’s passport had been revoked, placing Moscow in a “tough spot”.
“If this fact had been known in advance, then possibly Mr. Snowden might not have flown to Moscow and this entire story might never have happened,” an unnamed Russian official told Interfax news agency.
Russian President Vladimir Putin this week refused to hand over Edward Snowden to Washington, saying he was a “free man”.
Late on Thursday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro repeated his offer of sanctuary to the US fugitive.