The father of US National Security Agency whistle-blower Edward Snowden says the FBI tried to enlist him to fly to Moscow to persuade his son to return home, but the effort collapsed when agents could not establish a way for the two to speak once he arrived.
"I said, 'I want to be able to speak with my son … Can you set up communications?' And it was, 'Well, we're not sure'," Lon Snowden said. "I said, 'Wait a minute, folks, I'm not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you'."
The younger Snowden has been stuck in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport since arriving from Hong Kong on June 23. Russia is considering his request for temporary asylum. The US is pressing Russia to hand him over.
In separate interviews with The Washington Post and a Russian television station, the elder Snowden offered a vehement defence of the young man who has been labelled a traitor by many. He also thanked Russian President Vladimir Putin and his government for the "courage" they had shown in keeping his son safe.
It is not precisely clear why the negotiations over the proposed Russia trip failed, and FBI officials declined to comment.
"Sure, I could get on a flight tomorrow to Russia. I'm not sure if I could get access to Edward," said Snowden, who said he had communicated with his son through unspecified "intermediaries" in recent days.
Yesterday, Snowden's lawyer Anatoly Kucherena said he was arranging for Snowden's father to visit Russia. He said he would send Lon Snowden a letter of invitation.
Kucherena said Snowden had asked him to get in touch with his father because "he needs moral support".
The Washington Post, Associated Press, Agence France-Presse