"As a father, it pains me what he did,” Lon Snowden said in an interview with The Washington Post. "But as an American citizen, I am absolutely thankful for what he did.’’
His interview comes after the FBI’s effort to send him to Russia to persuade his son to return home collapsed.
The FBI was trying to send Lon Snowden to Moscow where the leaker of the surveillance programs has been holed up, but the bureau failed in its effort after agents could not establish a way for the father and the son to communicate.
Lon Snowden, according to the newspaper, condemned the Obama administration and Congress for labeling his son a traitor. He said he prefers that Edward stay in Russia.
The elder Snowden said he did not know about his son’s decision to leak top-secret intelligence documents.
"We had no idea what was coming,’’ he said, noting that his son was "troubled” by the 2010 suicide of a Tunisian street vendor that helped trigger the Islamic awakening protests in Arab countries.
"It was the idea that a man who simply wanted to make a living, who sold fruits and vegetables to support himself and his family, felt so suppressed and humiliated by his government that he would set himself on fire,” Lon Snowden said, as quoted by the Post.
Edward Snowden, who has been charged in the US with espionage and theft of government property, revealed his identity last month as the principal source behind articles in the Post and British Newspaper the Guardian about the US National Security Agency’s spying programs.
Snowden, 30, revealed that the NSA collects the telephone records of Americans from US telecommunications companies and the online communications of foreign targets from Internet companies.
Snowden’s father said his son "is comfortable with who he is.” "Yes, I am certain. I know my son. He knows he has done the right thing.”