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WASHINGTON — Edward Snowden’s father and the family’s lawyer said Sunday that they had obtained visas to visit the former National Security Agency contractor in Russia and indicated that they would encourage him to return to the United States to face federal charges for revealing secret U.S. surveillance programs to journalists, but only if acceptable trial conditions could be negotiated.
“What I would like,” said Lon Snowden, the father, “is for this to be vetted in open court, for the American people to have all the facts.”
He said he favored his son’s return if a fair trial was assured. He was asked about a possible plea deal.
“I’m not open to it, and that’s what I’ll share with my son,” he said.
Appearing on the ABC News program This Week, Lon Snowden and the family’s lawyer, Bruce Fein, declined to say when they would visit in an effort to avoid what Mr. Fein called a media “frenzy,” but they said it would be soon.
In a criminal complaint filed in June, federal prosecutors charged Edward Snowden with theft, “unauthorized communication of national defense information,” and willfully disclosing classified communications intelligence “to an unauthorized person.” The second and third charges were brought under the Espionage Act of 1917.
“We intend to visit with Edward and suggest criminal defense attorneys who’ve got experience in Espionage Act prosecutions,” said Mr. Fein, a well-known Washington lawyer who specializes in constitutional and international law. Such lawyers, he added, are uncommon, because prosecutions under the Espionage Act have been rare historically.
Mr. Fein noted that he has laid out his concerns about a potential trial, including its venue, in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. Mr. Fein insisted the terms discussed were not “ultimatums” but rather negotiating points.
Mr. Fein and Lon Snowden offered few details about Edward Snowden’s living arrangement in Russia. Authorities in Russia granted him asylum on the condition that he disclose no more information about National Security Agency programs.
Mr. Fein did say that he had been told by Edward Snowden’s lawyer in Russia that the young man was safe but “exhausted” after an extraordinary odyssey that took him from Hawaii, where he worked as an intelligence contractor with access to a huge array of government information, to Hong Kong, where he released details of NSA programs, and then to Russia.
Lon Snowden is a Pennsylvania resident who served in the U.S. Coast Guard for about 30 years until retiring in 2009. He has said in previous interviews that he would take precautions, while in Russia, to do nothing that could be construed as aiding or abetting a wanted fugitive.
For that reason, he said recently, he had not spoken to his son since before Edward flew to Hong Kong.
Last week President Obama canceled a planned meeting in Moscow with President Vladimir Putin of Russia, in part to express U.S. pique over Russia’s granting of temporary asylum to Edward Snowden.