NSA leaker Edward Snowden put a direct question to Vladimir Putin during a live televised question-and-answer session Thursday, asking Russia's president about Moscow's use of mass surveillance on its citizens.
Speaking via a video link, Snowden asked: "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?"
Putin replied by stating Russia did not carry out mass surveillance on its population, and that its intelligence operations were strictly regulated by court orders.
"Mr Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy, I used to work for the intelligence service, we are going to talk one professional language," Putin said, according to translation by state-run broadcaster Russia Today.
"Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law so...you have to get a court permission to stalk that particular person.
"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 society and the law and regulated by the law."
He added: "Of course, we know that terrorists and criminals use technology so we have to use means to respond to these, but we don't have uncontrollable efforts like [in America]."
One of the call-in program's hosts introduced Snowden's video message by saying: "We've got really sensational, really outrageous video message from a person who revolutionized the world by leaking information about American secret services."
Snowden has been charged with three offenses in the U.S., including one count under the Espionage Act, after leaking thousands of documents last year.
He now lives in Russia having been granted a year’s asylum after making his way there from Hong Kong following his release of the files. Reporting on the documents he leaked led to a shared Pulitzer Prize by the Guardian and Washington Post.
- Alexander Smith
First published April 17 2014, 4:20 AM