The father of US intelligence leaker Edward Snowden, frustrated by his inability to reach out directly to his son, wrote him an open letter on Tuesday praising him for "summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny."
The letter was signed by Lon Snowden and his lawyer, Bruce Fein, who also reported receiving a phone call from WikiLeaks founder and publisher Julian Assange.
The letter comes a day after Edward Snowden issued a statement through WikiLeaks, the anti-secrecy website, criticizing the Obama administration for leaving him "stateless" and revoking his passport. Snowden is in Russia and has been seeking asylum in multiple countries. He has not been seen publicly in more than a week after arriving at a Russian airport from Hong Kong, where he had been in hiding.
The disclosures by the former national Security Agency systems analyst of US government surveillance programs have restarted a national debate over security and privacy.
And in a phone interview Tuesday, Fein said he received a call Saturday from Assange, who purported to deliver a message from son to father asking that elder Snowden keep quiet.
The call came after Lon Snowden told NBC that his son had technically broken the law but was not a traitor and was motivated by legitimate concerns about the surveillance programs. He also expressed frustration that WikiLeaks may not be giving his son the best advice. The organization has been helping Snowden apply for asylum in a variety of countries including Venezuela, Bolivia and 18 other countries, according to WikiLeaks, Fein said he is continuing to work to establish a direct link between father and son that does not require WikiLeaks as an intermediary.
The new letter tells Edward Snowden that "(w)hat you have done and are doing has awakened congressional oversight of the intelligence community from deep slumber" and "forced onto the national agenda the question of Whether the American people prefer the right to be left alone from government snooping absent probable cause. ... You are a modern day Paul Revere: summoning the American people to confront the growing danger of tyranny and one branch government."
Lon Snowden and Fein have been trying to arrange for the younger Snowden to be able to return to the US under circumstances that they believe would guarantee fair treatment and a fair trial, including a promise that he would not be detained prior to trial and would not be subject to a gag order.
The letter Tuesday also said, "Irrespective of life's vicissitudes, we will be Unflagging in efforts to educate the American people about the impending ruination of the Constitution and the rule of law unless they abandon their complacency or indifference. Your actions are making our challenge easier.
"We encourage you to engage us in regular exchanges of ideas or thoughts about approaches to curing or mitigating the hugely suboptimal political culture of the United States. Nothing less is required to pay homage to Valley Forge, Cemetery Ridge, Omaha Beach, and other places of great sacrifice."
Fein said he hopes the letter can help focus the public on the debate that Snowden initially hoped to foster when he leaked details about the surveillance programs. That debate, over the proper role of surveillance in US society, "is being obscured by the debate on where to seek asylum."