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Edward Snowden's father: 'I know my son. I know he loves his country'

By Dana Ford, CNN
July 30, 2013 -- Updated 1452 GMT (2252 HKT)
  • Lon Snowden defends his son, who is holed up in the Moscow airport
  • He urges him to stay in Russia "until we have assurances that he would receive a fair trial"
  • "It's not just a matter of what's legal ... It's a matter of what's ethical," he tells CNN

(CNN) -- Edward Snowden's father defended his son's actions Monday and slammed those who would focus on the "sinner" rather than the "sins" the younger Snowden revealed.

"He loves his country. I know my son. I know he loves his country. What he believed is that ... the American people needed to be aware of what their government was doing to them, spying upon them," Lon Snowden told CNN's Anderson Cooper 360 Monday night.

Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor, faces espionage charges in the United States.

He is currently holed up in the Moscow airport, where he's been confined for weeks.

Snowden: Facts, fictions and fears

Lon Snowden said that he's been able to communicate with his son indirectly and that he believes he's in reasonably good spirits.

He urged his son to remain in Russia "until we have assurances that he would receive a fair trial."

Snowden continues to wait for asylum
U.S.: No death penalty for Snowden

"There has been a clear effort by those who have been threatened politically and/or embarrassed by these revelations to focus on the, so to speak, sinner -- my son who has revealed these -- instead of the sins, the actual revelations. It's clear they don't want to discuss that," Lon Snowden said.

Snowden did not access 'crown jewels' of NSA intel, official says

His son is seeking asylum because he claims he would be tortured and face the death penalty if returned to the United States.

In a letter to Russian authorities last week, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder wrote that the Justice Department would not seek the death penalty. He argued that Snowden's arguments for temporary asylum in Russia are without merit.

The death penalty is not an option given the current charges against Snowden, and even if additional charges were filed, the United States would still not seek capital punishment, Holder wrote.

Snowden's father has called on President Barack Obama to order the attorney general to dismiss the criminal complaint filed against his son.

"Our national character, much as with individuals, is determined by what we do when we think that no one is watching, when we think that we won't be held accountable. And it's not just a matter of what's legal, of what's constitutional. It's a matter of what's ethical," Lon Snowden told CNN.

Last month his son admitted to revealing sweeping U.S. electronic surveillance programs to the news media. He left Hong Kong for Moscow on June 23.

CNN's Mariano Castillo contributed to this report.

Watch Anderson Cooper 360° weeknights 8pm ET. For the latest from AC360° click here.

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