MOSCOW -- Edward Snowden burst back into the limelight Thursday after four whistleblowing advocates from the United States reported meeting him to give him an award, and after his father arrived for the first time since his son received asylum. Through it all, the fugitive remained hidden.
The four activists, who said they met him Wednesday, gave Mr. Snowden a truth-telling award on behalf of Sam Adams Associates for Integrity in Intelligence, an organization of former national security officials. They ridiculed U.S. assertions that Mr. Snowden has caused grave national security damage.
The United States has charged Mr. Snowden under the Espionage Act for revealing secrets he acquired as a contractor for the National Security Agency, or NSA. "Integrity must trump blind loyalty," countered former FBI agent Coleen Rowley, who was at the meeting, Mr. Snowden's first with visitors.
The encounter and the separate arrival of his father suggested that Mr. Snowden remained under tight control of Russian authorities. He has not been seen since he left Sheremetyevo Airport on Aug. 1.
The four Americans told their story Thursday in a 15-minute program on the RT channel, which is financed by the Kremlin and broadcasts its point of view. Mr. Snowden's father, Lon, met reporters in the company of Anatoly Kucherena, Mr. Snowden's Kremlin-connected lawyer, and sped from the airport to an appearance on the main Russian television channel, also controlled by the Kremlin.
"I'm Mr. Kucherena's guest," Lon Snowden said, "and I'm very thankful for his hospitality, and I'm going to follow Mr. Kucherena's advice, and that will determine where my day leads."
Lon Snowden acknowledged that Julian Assange's WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group helped arrange his Russian travel. The four Americans said Assange aide Sarah Harrison remained with Mr. Snowden in refuge.
Mr. Kucherena declined to reveal details about a meeting between father and son, saying security concerns were paramount and suggesting that the United States might take action if it knew Edward Snowden's whereabouts, whom he described as "America's most wanted man."
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said Mr. Snowden's father "really isn't our concern, and even the father meeting with the son really isn't our concern. The reaction is the same it's always been: Mr. Snowden needs to return to the United States to face these charges," she said.
The Sam Adams award was announced in July but presented in person Wednesday, honoring Mr. Snowden as a whistleblower, a description the United States calls wrong. U.S. officials say whistleblowers reveal information after official-channel efforts are ignored. Mr. Snowden, they say, made no such efforts before leaking secrets, forfeiting whistleblower protections.
Former NSA executive Thomas Drake, who became an agency critic, praised Mr. Snowden for speaking truth to power. "Russia, to its credit, recognized international law and granted him asylum," he said, asserting U.S. officials drove Mr. Snowden into Russia's arms by making him stateless. The United States points out that Mr. Snowden remains a citizen, even though his passport was revoked, and that he should return home to answer the charges against him.
"This is an extraordinary person," said former CIA analyst Ray McGovern. "He's convinced what he did was right."
"I thought he looked great," said Jesselyn Radack, who once accused the FBI of ethics violations and now defends whistleblowers for the Government Accountability Project. She said the United States has presented no evidence that Mr. Snowden harmed national security and was acting vengefully. "We weren't worried about coming into your country," she told a Russian TV host. "We're worried about getting back into ours."
First Published October 10, 2013 8:00 PM