August 14, 2013
A local legal aid group wants Edward Snowden to return to the United States and be tried in a civil court.
John Whitehead, president of the Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute, has offered assistance to the National Security Agency whistleblower and his family. The family has retained attorney Bruce Fein, a member of the institute's board of directors, to defend Snowden, who is accused of violating the Espionage Act by releasing classified information about NSA surveillance practices.
Fein is scheduled to travel to Russia with Snowden's father. Russia has granted Snowden asylum for one year.
In an interview Wednesday, Rutherford outlined what the family is requesting as part of Snowden's defense. He says they want Snowden to return to the United States and be tried in a civil court. They also do not want him to be detained.
Whitehead said Snowden is not a criminal and that whistleblowing should not be a crime.
"If an American sees anything illegal, even in local communities, they should come forward and warn us," he said. "That's what Thomas Paine did, that's what Thomas Jefferson did -- all the great men of history -- Martin Luther King did the same thing. They warned us when the government is overstepping. That's how we keep freedom alive."
Whitehead said he fears the United States is moving toward becoming a police state.
For an extended interview with Whitehead, follow this link to the CBS19 Facebook page.