It’s likely no one was watching the Bradley Manning case more closely than Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, and while elements of Team Snowden had been at odds with WikiLeaks, their responses to Tuesday’s verdict suggest they’ve worked out most of their differences. Earlier Lon Snowden, the Moscow airport hermit’s father, was offering suggestions on how to get his son into a U.S. prison and complaining that Wikileaks would only let them talk through an “intermediary.” Now the elder Snowden has revealed that he spoke to his son just two days ago via unspecified “intermediaries,” and wants him to “find refuge in Russia until we’re confident that he can receive a fair trial back on U.S. soil.”
Snowden told CNN’s Jake Tapper he tried to work with the Justice Department at first, but he now has “absolutely no confidence” in Attorney General Eric Holder. “I’ve lost faith in their interest in ensuring that he is given a fair trial,” said Snowden. “I think the focus is to bring him back and prosecute him to the fullest. The focus is not justice, it’s to prosecute him.”
He elaborated a bit in a Washington Post interview published on Tuesday evening. Snowden says the FBI tried to get him to fly to Moscow to convince his son to return to the U.S., but the agents couldn’t guaranteed that the Snowdens would be able to meet. “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,’ ” said Snowden. “I said, ‘Wait a minute, folks, I’m not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.’ ”
Though Assange didn’t refer to Snowden or his own dicey legal situation directly in his statement after the verdict, he noted that the Manning case was “the first ever espionage conviction against a whistleblower.” “It is a dangerous precedent and an example of national security extremism,” Assange said. “It is a short sighted judgment that can not be tolerated and must be reversed. It can never be that conveying true information to the public is ’espionage.’”
While the elder Snowden now appears to be on board with that general message, he made sure to keep some distance between his son and the newly convicted Army private. He said Edward admires Manning as “an individual who took a stand,” but their cases are “completely different.” “I think my son has exercised discretion in the information that he has shared,” he explained.