Snowden Asks Putin About Russian Surveillance, on TV
Putin assures him Russia doesn't mimic US policies
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Apr 17, 2014 2:35 PM CDT

(Newser) – Vladimir Putin got an intriguing caller on his TV call-in show today: Edward Snowden. In a pre-recorded video, the fugitive leaker asked the president about Russia's own surveillance policies. "Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?" he demanded. "And do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies, rather than subjects, under surveillance?"

Putin laughed. "You are an ex-agent. I used to have ties to intelligence. So we will speak to each other in the language of professionals," the former KGB spy quipped, according to Reuters. But he assured Snowden that Russian police needed a warrant to spy on suspected criminals. "On a massive scale, on an uncontrolled scale, we certainly do not allow this." The segment has, of course, generated some reactions:

  • Putin's answer is essentially bullcrap, a Russian surveillance expert tells the Washington Post. Russia has its own equivalent of the PRISM system Snowden exposed, and it has expanded multiple times under Putin. And while FSB agents technically need warrants, they never have to show them to anyone, because the telecom companies don't have the security clearance to see them.
  • Snowden's critics jumped to paint the call as a setup. "Snowden celebrates Pulitzer by turning into Putin's propaganda tool," a former NSA general counsel said in a tweet spotted by the Post.
  • "That's not an accident," John King argued on CNN, speculating that Putin was "mocking" the US by allowing the call to happen. New York Times reporter David Herszenhorn had the same assessment, calling it a "stunning in-your-face move" by the Kremlin.