Snowden’s Father Scolds Obama, Calls NSA Disclosures ‘Civil Disobedience’

Emma Foehringer Merchant

On July 26, Lon Snowden, the father of NSA-leaker Edward Snowden, wrote a letter along with his lawyer Bruce Fein, rebuking President Obama for his treatment of his son’s case.  Throughout the letter, the elder Snowden makes several allusions to archetypal figures of civil disobedience, including Henry David Thoreau and Martin Luther King, Jr. In reference to the importance of standing up against injustices, the letter states: “The history of liberty is a history of civil disobedience to unjust laws or practices … Mr. Snowden confronted a choice between civic duty and passivity. He may have recalled the injunction of Martin Luther King, Jr.: ‘He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it.’ Mr. Snowden chose duty. Your administration vindictively responded with a criminal complaint.” The letter also claims that privacy of the American people is the “cornerstone of liberty” and admonishes the president for admitting NSA policies need to be reviewed, while at the same time punishing Snowden “for accomplishing what you have said urgently needed to be done.” The president has so far given little public acknowledgement of Snowden’s case, apart from reportedly working to ground an aircraft headed for Bolivia believed to contain Snowden and calling him a “29-year-old hacker.” Snowden currently remains holed up in a Moscow airport and likely plans to stay in Russia on a temporary basis until he can secure permanent asylum in Latin America. 

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Emma Foehringer Merchant is a summer 2013 editorial intern.
Democratic Rep. Summer Lee, who at the time was a candidate for the state House, at a demonstration in Pittsburgh for Antwon Rose, who was killed by police, in 2018. Lee recently defeated her 2024 primary challenger.
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