Snowden's father blames Congress for sweeping spy programme

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The father of fugitive US spy agency contractor Edward Snowden on Friday blasted US lawmakers for not reining in the US electronic spy programme made public by his son, accusing them of being "complicit or negligent". "I am extremely disappointed and angry. I am an angry American citizen," Mr Lonnie Snowden told NBC's Today programme. "The American people - at this point, they don't know the full truth, but the truth is coming."

Recent NBC polling shows that more than half of Americans are worried about the vast operation that sweeps up information on phone calls, e-mails and other communications, but just 11 per cent support Edward Snowden's decision to flee the United States and release details about the effort to the media.

Mr Lonnie Snowden said those findings show "a concerted effort" by lawmakers "to demonise my son, to focus the issue on my son, and not to talk about the fact that they had a responsibility to ensure that these programmes were constitutional." "They've either been complicit or negligent," he added.

The US House of Representatives on Wednesday narrowly rejected a plan to limited the National Security Agency's ability to collect electronic information, including phone call records.

The interview showed Mr Lonnie Snowden not just as a concerned father, but as a former government worker with strong views who has closely watched Congress and the debate on security.

While the country needs strong intelligence and defence systems, Mr Lonnie Snowden criticised lawmakers for being too quick to "fund these obscenely expensive programmes create big profits for security contracting companies while not doing enough to protect the nation's southern border with Mexico.

"It's about the money," he said.

Edward Snowden was working for Booz Allen when he released details about the programme to US and British media that were published in early June.

His father said he has not had any direct contact with his son, who has remained holed up in a Moscow airport since June 23. He has tried to use a New York-based intermediary arranged through Wikileaks, his lawyer Bruce Fein said.

Russia has so far refused to hand over Snowden to the United States, and is considering a temporary asylum request. On Friday, Russia said its FSB federal security service and its US counterpart, the FBI were in talks on the matter.

The US Department of Justice also said on Friday it assured Russian counterparts that Snowden would not be tortured if he was returned.

Mr Fein told NBC that they have not gotten any direct response to their recent letter to the department regarding conditions for Edward Snowden to return to the United States.

Should Edward Snowden be released to Russia or another country, his father said he would try to make contact.

"We're certainly going to do our very best to connect with him and discuss what we're planning to do," he said.

He added that he was confident in his son's actions and that he is "absolutely certain that he is speaking the truth".

"I believe that my son, when he takes his final breath whether it's today or 100 years from now, he will be comfortable with what he did because he did what he knew was right. He shared the truth with the American people. What we chose to do with it is up to us as a people... We have much work to do, this story is far from done," he told NBC.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.