Edward Snowden was a surprise questioner today at a televised call-in show hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin spent much of the broadcast fielding questions on the crisis in Ukraine. But Snowden asked Putin if Russia is engaged in the same mass surveillance practices that Snowden exposed in the United States.
Edward Snowden: “Now, I’ve seen little public discussion of Russia’s own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance. 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? Thank you.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin: “Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law. So how special forces can use this kind of special equipment as they intercept phone calls or follow someone online, and you have to get a 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, including those of terrorist nature. Of course we do some efforts like that. But we do not have a mass-scale, uncontrollable efforts like that. 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 by the law and regulated by the law.”