Russian President Vladimir Putin held his annual televised call-in show on Thursday and was asked a question by one very special guest — Edward Snowden.
“I’ve seen little public discussion of Russia’s own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance,” Snowden said. “So I’d like to ask you, does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals? 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, a former KGB agent, set the tone by treating Snowden as something like an equal.
“Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy. I used to be working for an intelligence service,” he said, according to RT’s on-air translator. “We are going to talk one professional language.”
He went on to outline how Russia’s surveillance activities differ from those of the National Security Agency.
“First of all, our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law,” Putin said. “So how special forces can use this kind of special equipment as they intercept phone calls or follow someone online, you have to get court permission to stalk a particular person. We don’t have a mass system of such interception. And according to our law, it cannot exist.”
“Of course we know that criminals and terrorists use technology for their criminal acts, and of course special services have to use technical means to respond to their crimes … but we do not have mass-scale, uncontrollable efforts like that,” he added. “I hope we won’t do that, and we don’t have as much money as they have in the States and we don’t have these technical devices that they have in the States. Our special services, thank God, are strictly controlled by the society and the law, and are regulated by the law.”
Watch below, courtesy of RT:
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Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at email@example.com.