It has come to my attention that news organizations seeking information regarding my current situation have, due to the difficulty in contacting me directly, been misled by individuals associated with my father into printing false claims about my situation. I would like to correct the record: I've been fortunate to have legal advice from an international team of some of the finest lawyers in the world, and to work with journalists whose integrity and courage are beyond question. There is no conflict amongst myself and any of the individuals or organizations with whom I have been involved.15 August 2013
Neither my father, his lawyer Bruce Fein, nor his wife Mattie Fein represent me in any way. None of them have been or are involved in my current situation, and this will not change in the future. I ask journalists to understand that they do not possess any special knowledge regarding my situation or future plans, and not to exploit the tragic vacuum of my father's emotional compromise for the sake of tabloid news.
Snowden Family Suspects WikiLeaks and Greenwald
Edward Snowden Talks With His Father
But Lawyers for Both Sides Disapproved of the Internet Chat
By LUKAS I. ALPERT
MOSCOW—Former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden and his father spoke for the first time since late May early Thursday, going against the wishes of their lawyers and reflecting growing rifts among family and advisers of the fugitive leaker of U.S. surveillance documents.
Those disagreements include increasingly public bickering over the makeup of Mr. Snowden's legal defense team, and who has standing to speak for him, among the three camps closest to him: the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks, journalist Glenn Greenwald and his father's legal team.
Mr. Snowden and his father, Lon Snowden, spoke for about two hours via an encrypted Internet chat program, said two lawyers who helped arrange the contact. The elder Mr. Snowden participated in the chat from the Washington, D.C., office of his attorney, Bruce Fein, and was connected to his son with the help of Ben Wizner, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union, who is involved in coordinating Mr. Snowden's legal defense in the U.S. What they discussed wasn't disclosed.
A person close to the situation said Lon Snowden participated in the chat against the advice of his lawyer, Mr. Fein, who nonetheless helped arrange it.
"For starters, we don't really know who this guy is on the other end," this person said. "The other issue is that [Edward Snowden's Russian lawyer Anatoly] Kucherena has no idea that this occurred, as he is on vacation. Everything we have done has been through Kucherena because Ed's safety is in the hands of the Russians right now and that's not something we felt was appropriate to do while he was away."
When informed of the conversation, Mr. Kucherena said he had urged his client not to speak with his father electronically or over the phone and advised them not to contact each other again until they can meet in person.
"I understand it's a relationship between a father and a son," he said.
Mr. Snowden has been staying in an undisclosed location in Russia since being granted temporary political asylum on Aug. 1. Before that, he was stuck inside the transit zone at a Moscow airport for five weeks after fleeing Hong Kong when the U.S. unsealed criminal espionage charges against him.
More fractious is the relationship among Lon Snowden, WikiLeaks and Mr. Greenwald. Mr. Fein's wife and spokeswoman, Mattie Fein, said Lon Snowden's legal team doesn't trust the intentions of Mr. Greenwald or WikiLeaks and worry they are giving Edward Snowden bad advice.
"The thing we have been most concerned about is that the people who have influence over Ed will try to use him for their own means," Ms. Fein said. "These guys have their own agenda here and we aren't so sure that it has Ed's best interest in mind."
Mr. Greenwald called the Feins' concerns ridiculous and said they had no standing in the matter as they have never had direct contact with Mr. Snowden.
"They have no connection to Ed," Mr. Greenwald said. "Snowden is not 14 years old. He is a very strong-willed, independent, autonomous adult and is making all his own choices about who he deals with and who represents him."
Ms. Fein said she was only voicing the concerns of Mr. Snowden's father, who wanted to make sure his son ended up with the best available legal defense and worried that the team being put together was focused on promoting the interests of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.
On Aug. 9, WikiLeaks started a "Journalistic Source Protection Defence Fund," to raise money for Mr. Snowden, saying he had endorsed it. So far, the fund has raised $12,011, according to WikiLeaks' website.
WikiLeaks also recently began selling Edward Snowden merchandise, including T-shirts and coffee mugs, via its online store. WikiLeaks didn't respond to questions about the fund or allegations made by with Lon Snowden's legal team.
On Sunday, Ms. Fein says she was called by a producer at a U.S. television network she didn't specify saying Mr. Greenwald had been shopping around an exclusive interview with Mr. Snowden for seven figures.
She said she warned the producer that she would cut off access to Mr. Snowden's father, who has appeared regularly on television, to anyone who agreed to Mr. Greenwald's terms. A few hours later, she said she received a furious email from Mr. Greenwald, calling her a liar and denying he had made such an offer.
Mr. Greenwald calls the accusation that he was shopping an interview "defamatory," but did admit to having informal discussions with NBC about producing an interview he would conduct himself and licensing it to them for $50,000.
"There were no negotiations. I didn't shop anything around. I didn't go to NBC, they called me and asked and made these offers," he said. "By the time we paid the crew and got ourselves to Moscow and stayed there for two-three days, we would end up losing money, or maybe breaking even."
A spokeswoman for NBC didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
He said he decided against the idea because it would distract from the public discussion about surveillance and privacy that has emerged since Mr. Snowden leaked details of the U.S. programs.
—Jeanne Whalen and Paul Sonne contributed to this article.
Write to Lukas I. Alpert at firstname.lastname@example.org