In a question and answer session run by Russia's state-run broadcaster earlier this week, NSA leaker Edward Snowden asked President Vladimir Putin whether his government intercepted, stored, or analyzed the communications of its citizens. Today, writing in The Guardian, Snowden says he's not satisfied with Putin's "evasive" answer.
Snowden says Putin "denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter," when he was asked if a surveillance program was morally defensible. The ex-NSA contractor noted that the fact the president responded at all "appears to be the strongest denial of involvement in mass surveillance ever given by a Russian leader," but also drew parallels between Putin's defense and president Obama's "initial, sweeping denials" of the scale of the NSA's surveillance program, "before that position was later shown to be both untrue and indefensible."
Snowden says Putin's denial had "serious inconsistencies"
The exchange, he writes, was "intended to mirror the now infamous exchange in US Senate intelligence committee hearings between senator Ron Wyden and the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans, and to invite either an important concession or a clear evasion." Snowden says that Clapper's original lie — that the NSA did "not wittingly" spy on American citizens — was "a major motivating force" behind his decision to start leaking NSA files to the press in 2013.
Even though he says Putin's denial had "serious inconsistencies," Snowden says he believes he has personally lifted the "taboo on discussion of state surveillance" for a Russian audience that "primarily views state media." He says he hopes at next year's event, more journalists will follow his lead and ask questions that "push the discussion further."