NSA leaker's father urges son to 'come home and face this'

Published Monday, June 17, 2013 / The Five

This is a rush transcript from "The Five," June 17, 2013. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

ERIC BOLLING, CO-HOST: We are about to show you the first time -- for the very first time a world exclusive interview with Lon Snowden, the father of Ed Snowden, who blew the whistle on the NSA snooping scandal. Lon Snowden reached out to someone in D.C. whom he trusted, and that person happens to trust me.

After days of talking, e-mailing and texting with Mr. Snowden, he agreed to sit down and talk. What follows is a man deeply concerned with the safety of his son and a man deeply concerned with the direction America is heading.

Lon Snowden --

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BOLLING: I think people want to know, have you spoken to Ed?

LON SNOWDEN, FATHER OF NSA LEAKER: No, the last time I saw Ed was April 4th, in the shadow of the National Security Agency. We had gone out to dinner. He seemed to be carrying a heavy burden, I was concerned about him. I shared that after I came home.

But we hugged as we always do. He said, "I love you, dad." I said, "I love you, Ed." And I expected to see him again.

BOLLING: Tell us a little about Ed. People would like to hear about Ed. People want to know what's he like.

SNOWDEN: He is a sensitive, caring young man. This is the Ed that I know. You know, the same eyes, it's the same Ed. He just is a deep thinker. He was raised to be principled. He knows the difference between what is just and unjust and right and wrong. He cares for all people.

BOLLING: So, yesterday was Father's Day, probably one of the few Father's Days you haven't spoken to Ed. Tell me how was that?

SNOWDEN: Difficult, but the last seven days have been extremely difficult, going from not knowing where my son was -- I thought he was missing, then the news broke on Sunday, which just shocked everyone in the family that he was the NSA leak.

BOLLING: What do you want him to do? What should he do?

SNOWDEN: I would like to see Ed come back and face this.

BOLLING: If he did come back, what would you say to him?

SNOWDEN: I would tell him to be truthful, to be honest.

BOLLING: In your opinion, do you think he approached the line?

SNOWDEN: You know, I'm not an attorney, I can't speak to that. What I know, as someone who served my nation over 30 years honorably, and I took an oath to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

That's not something that I could have done, but I'm not in Ed's shoes. I don't know what he has seen, what he has been exposed to, but I know he is a principled young man.

I know what he walked away from. I know how he feels about his family and what he knows that this would have done to his family. With all of the media frenzy, forget that. Simply what -- not knowing how he's doing, he knows how that would hurt his family.

So I can't imagine what drove him to do this in terms of has he broken a law? I can't answer that. That's why we have courts. That's why we have trials. That's why we have a justice system. That's why we have a U.S. Constitution that protects our rights.

BOLLING: Why do you think he did it the way he did it?

SNOWDEN: I think he did it because again, he saw something that as a father I had to believe constituted a moral hazard. He had an obligation to protect classified information. But my son is also very intelligent, very well-read, very -- obviously very well aware of what he believes to be the tenets of the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment.

BOLLING: There have been a lot of people who said that the NSA was violating the Fourth Amendment. Thoughts?

SNOWDEN: I don't want the government listening to my phone calls, I don't want the government archiving the places that my other children visit on the Internet or that I visit or my wife visit, I don't want them reading my e-mail. I don't want them reading my texts.

In my opinion, they have no right, not even under the guise of "we need to keep you safe".

Some people are suggesting that what's occurring is very similar to every morning the government walks up to your mailbox or afternoon, they pull the envelopes out, they open them, they look at your mail, they copy it. They archive it in case they want to look at it, sometime in the future, in case you do something wrong sometime in the future. They reseal the envelopes, put them back in the mailbox, and do it every day, over and over again.

BOLLING: Ed had said he may release more information. What should he do?

SNOWDEN: Don't. That concerns me.

BOLLING: Do you think that the information that he has, do you think that puts him in peril?

SNOWDEN: Absolutely. I think it puts him in peril from a foreign government, from opportunists, and in my opinion clearly from our government as well. All you have to do is watch the political discourse at this point and I would say he is certainly in peril.

BOLLING: Why don't you take a look in the camera, speak directly to Ed. What do you want to tell him, what should he -- what should he do?

What does -- what does dad say to Ed?

SNOWDEN: We're certainly saddened by your decision, but it has not diminished our love for you. If I saw you tomorrow, the first thing I would do is hug you and tell you I love you. My primary concern at this point in time is your immediate safety and your long term health.

I hope, I pray, and I ask that you will not release any secrets that could constitute treason, that you consider what you're doing, that you consider those around you who you may consider a friends or good counsel.

I sense you're under much stress from what I read recently, and that you not succumb to that stress and make a bad decision.

Ed, I love you. I love you and I wish you the best. I want you to come home.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

BOLLING: Yes, Bob, let's -- let's take around the table. Go ahead, Bob.

BOB BECKEL, CO-HOST: First of all, congratulations on that interview. It was an excellent interview.

But I'm really taken with this guy -- I mean, here's a guy, 30 years in the military, he's obviously trying to get a clear line in his own mind about what's going on here. He doesn't like the idea of what the government has been doing. On the other hand, as he said, he gave a pledge to the United States to protect and defend it, the Constitution.

I've got to believe he is ripped apart by this. And he does want his kid to come home, obviously. He wants him to be safe. But I can't really tell you in his own gut he's just wrenched apart by this, you know? About the right and wrong of it, that's my sense of it.

BOLLING: I can tell you after spending that -- that culminated last night after four days of back and forth, hours and hours and hours of conversation. He is wrenched apart by it. He's concerned.

He wants to talk to his son, Ed. He wants Ed to come back. He wants him to turn himself in, come back, face the justice system, but he's concerned about saying something wrong, he may get Ed hurt or himself or other family members hurt.

So, Dana, at least -- you feel for this guy, though.

DANA PERINO, CO-HOST: Well, I don't -- I have my particular feelings on Snowden, what a great dad, giving good advice and it's unconditional love. I mean, that's what you get from a great dad, is unconditional love, doesn't matter all the things he has done up until now, and that your interview took place before the additional leaks from Snowden about China and Russia, which is directly aiding and abetting an enemy.

So, I think his dad has right to be worried about Snowden succumbing to more pressure, but he is digging himself a deeper hole. I hope he was able to see the interview. I am assuming that Snowden has a lot of Internet access, because he is responding. He's been doing Q&As online. So, hopefully, he will see his dad give him really good advice.

BOLLING: Greg, your thoughts?

GREG GUTFELD, CO-HOST: Yes, I am right there with him on this because he is torn and he is confused about what exactly his son is doing, whether the son is in some way principled about things.

PERINO: Or undecided.

GUTFELD: Yes. And it doesn't -- the idea is has he committed treason, and the father is like, please don't. Phone records, there are three things really to consider that the father is probably thinking about, and that we all think about, phone records, it's not treason, because that was already reported in "USA Today" in 2006. So, he is clear with that.

It's stuff that you mentioned, it's PRISM. PRISM, which is foreign intel. Do you have to leak that stuff? A hero would find out what the other guys are doing rather than us. So, that kind of bugs me about that.

And anything after, the stuff that's happening now, the hacking and the eavesdropping, that's about us versus foreigners. That's not covered by the Fourth Amendment.

I made this joke last night, it's called the Fourth Amendment not the Fourth Yemen-dment. It doesn't cover terrorists in Yemen. It covers us.

So, I think he -- he's putting other people, I worry that he is in peril, but he's putting us in peril when he is dealing with that. I think that's the question that his dad and America is dealing with.

BOLLING: And, Ange, Lon, who is the father, Lon said, he literally said, "I hope he comes back." At one point, I don't think it was on tape, he said, "I'd be fine with him coming back in shackles, I just want him to come back and face the system", because he believes, Lon believes, the system will exonerate his son.

ANDREA TANTAROS, CO-HOST: I don't know how he comes back, without the permission of the Chinese government.

Again, excellent interview, Eric, especially on Father's Day of all days to talk to this father. But again, it doesn't add up. I know parents want to believe the best in their children. He says he is committed to protecting our data, but is he? I find it hard to believe because of things he has disclosed. Now, on the chat today, he said the reason he came out was he saw Clapper lie to the American people in front of Congress.

OK, I get that. I applaud the whistleblowers on the cover of "USA Today", saying, "We told you so."

GUTFELD: Yes.

TANTAROS: "We came out, but did it the right way. We went to Congress, then went to the media, and, yes, we may have been intimidated by the government and we're demoted, but they did it the right way."

Eric, I have to say the fact he went to Hong Kong, the fact that he dumped documents after President Obama met with the leader of China, the fact that he told them what we were doing, hacking the Chinese, I have a very hard time believing that he is committed to the security and best interests of all of us here.

GUTFELD: Can I add something to this quick? Sorry, Bob. He has a dad that is out there defending him. We don't have a dad. Where is our president? He is an absentee father.

There's nobody coming back to say here are the programs, here are why they're important. He is in Northern Ireland.

PERINO: Northern Ireland.

BECKEL: Just a couple things that strike me. First of all, the Chinese are the least surprised in the world we're hacking into their stuff. I mean, nor are the Russians. PRISM itself is a dimension of this program that's been around a long time, that extends it into a broader territory of a number of Americans.

I don't know whether or not, prism in and of itself is not national security risk to anybody. The question is what I heard from this guy saying, I am worried he can get back alive, I am worried somebody, even our own government.

PERINO: I don't think that.

GUTFELD: He will be fine, seriously. When half the country believes he is a hero, he's going to -- I think his father even said, the guy has got lawyers lined up, I think, that's what he said. So --

BOLLING: He has a lot of support. There's no doubt, he and the family have a lot of support.

We have more of that interview coming up.

More of the exclusive interview with Edward Snowden's father. Does he want his son to come home, even if it means he is going to prison?

And, also, what does President Bush think about the NSA program?

You'll hear from 43. That and much more, coming right back.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

BOLLING: This is a Fox News alert. Here is more of my exclusive interview with Lon Snowden, father of NSA leaker Edward Snowden. I asked him a simple question. Does he want Edward to come home, even if it means he may spend years in prison?

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOLLING: If Ed coming back meant jail time -- still want him to come back?

SNOWDEN: If that's -- I have faith in our justice system applied correctly, absolutely. I would rather my son be a prisoner in the U.S. than a free man in a country that did not have again the freedoms that are protected that we have. You know, the U.S. Constitution and the Bill of Rights, that's what define -- that's what makes America America. And every serviceman or woman who has ever served this nation, given their life for this nation, that's the oath, that's the first line of their job description -- to support and defend the Constitution of the United States.

And that's where I would prefer my son be -- yes, absolutely.

BOLLING: Any thoughts on why he picked Hong Kong and or China to go to?

SNOWDEN: You know, I was asked that question by the government, and I can't answer that, but I just believe it's a place he was comfortable with and I don't believe he chose it by accident.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLLING: So, Ands, here's a man who wants the system to work. He's fine with whatever the outcome may be, he wants to go through the proper channels.

TANTAROS: Yes, but his son didn't go through the proper channels to do this. Look, I feel for him as a father, but his son has some major explaining to do and he is in big trouble. If you look at the way the administration treats reporters, Fox News's James Rosen, they said they were never going to prosecute James Rosen, if you read the affidavit, it's very, very clear -- potential criminal liability. That's for what they perceived was, you know, espionage.

This is very, very different, on a larger scale. Every single day it gets worse, and Snowden keeps saying there's more, there's more, there's more. I mean -- and we seem to be able to say in the White House, we don't know where he is. Yes, that was incredible to me when they said they don't know where he is.

BECKEL: The USA Today story that listens to whistleblowers, they have been trying to draw attention to this now for several years, have been rebuffed by Congress, by the administration, have been downgraded, and gets to the point where you have a moral feeling about something. You can't get it through the channels. It's clear it wasn't going to work, nobody would listen to these people.

So, he took it on himself to do it this way. Maybe it is wrong, but others that tried to do it were rebuffed.

BOLLING: May I just throw this out here as well, this was a big story over the weekend. Jerrold Nadler on Thursday, Democrat from New York, says as far as the NSA, analysts can ask and listen in on phone conversations. Dianne Feinstein, senator, said also to the same effect, something similar. Since then, Nadler walked it back a bit.

But I got to tell you, if this is true --

PERINO: I don't think it is true. The NSA had to put out a statement, they have been slow to get off the mark. This is an agency that operates in secret, with bureaucrats are like not used to dealing with crisis communications and people that worked for them, completely destroying the bond of trust and breaking the oath that they took.

The other thing -- on Friday, members of Congress held briefings -- well, there were open briefings, NSA was there. Anybody from Congress could come. They open the books. We will tell you everything, come in.

And 50 percent didn't bother going and went home. I don't think they have a lot of leg to stand on, especially the one you quoted, Nadler.

BOLLING: OK, this one or you want to do sound?

GUTFELD: Go for it.

BOLLING: OK. Let's listen to George Bush. He weighed in on this.

Go.

(BEGIN AUDIO CLIP)

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE W. BUSH: And now techniques used to prevent attacks have been disclosed. I don't know if you remember, after 9/11, Congress had hearings, right? And you know what the hearings were about? We didn't connect the dots! We didn't have the tools to connect the dots.

One of the killers makes a phone call from San Diego to somewhere, how come you didn't know? We didn't have the tools. We've got the tools. Now the people in Congress are saying, "Why are you connecting the dots?"

It is a tough assignment for the president. It is.

(END AUDIO CLIP)

BOLLING: All righty then.

GUTFELD: That was hard to listen to.

You kind of get the gist of what he is talking about. I want to tie it into what's the name of the guy, the kid?

PERINO: Snowden.

GUTFELD: Snowden said today on --

BOLLING: The Guardian.

GUTFELD: The Guardian thing, wow, he said police officers kill more Americans than terrorism and then he said NSA is running a network of operations against them that affect millions of people, you could potentially reveal terrorists with a potential to kill fewer Americans than our own police.

So, he mentions police twice, how the police kill more people in America than terrorists, and that is a different story than the Fourth Amendment. He basically is saying that America kills more Americans than terrorists, so in a sense he is more interested in undermining foreign intel than ours. If he was a hero, go after China's intel, don't go after ours. A hero doesn't throw his own country under the bus, he throws another country.

I think he is undermining, what Bush is getting at, undermining foreign intel and I have no sympathy for that, I guess, right?

BOLLING: You want to do this one?

BECKEL: Go ahead.

I want to say something about Bush here.

BOLLING: Go ahead.

BECKEL: I think what Bush did here at the end, when he talked about the difficult position the president was in, I thought it was quite a complimentary thing for him to do. He gave, understood what he was going through and how Obama was going through. He didn't jump on Obama. He simply said this puts the president in a tough position, and I admire -- as opposed to the next one.

BOLLING: This is Dick Cheney, who wasn't so complimentary. Let's go.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

FORMER VICE PRESIDENT DICK CHENEY: I think he is a traitor. I think he has committed crimes by violating agreements, given the position he had. He was a contractor employee, but he obviously had been granted top secret clearance. I think it is one of the worst occasions in my memory of somebody with access to classified information doing enormous damage to the national security of the United States.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BOLLING: Bob, you want to --

BECKEL: Yes, what we didn't put in that cut is when he said the president of the United States should not be trusted with things like this, this coming from the guy who is the greatest strategist for the war on Iraq? Dick Cheney ought to shut up and let this thing go forward.

TANTAROS: That's a very mature way to handle it.

BECKEL: George Bush understands what's going on. Dick Cheney is using it for political gain.

TANTAROS: George Bush was kind enough to sympathies with what President Obama is going through. President Obama has never once credited George Bush with this program. Instead, he's done the opposite, boasting it is so good now, the NSA program, because they scrubbed it.

And Dick Cheney responded to that. He said really, you changed it, scrubbed it, at least with Bush we had the debate, at least there was transparency, we knew when it worked. If it worked so well under President Obama, then tell us the dozens and dozens of attacks. They don't tell us.

(CROSSTALK)

BOLLING: Hold on, Bob.

GUTFELD: You know what? This is what is great about this scandal. It brings the right and the left together and in conflict over this, which in a way weakens our war against radical Islam. Obama doesn't have to act about it because we are destroying it.

PERINO: I was going to say that we buried the lead, that Cheney and Obama actually finally agree on something. They both saying that he is a traitor and he was in the wrong, and he should be prosecuted.

BOLLING: Very good point. Well done, Dana. Way to wrap the whole thing up.

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