Edward Snowden, the fugitive former US spy agency contractor who leaked details of US intelligence eavesdropping, made a surprise appearance on TV phone-in hosted by Vladimir Putin on Thursday, asking the Russian president if his country also tapped the communications of millions.
Snowden was not in the studio with Putin. He submitted his question in a video clip that a lawyer said had been pre-recorded. Snowden, 30, wearing a jacket and open-collar shirt and speaking before a dark background, asked Putin: “Does Russia intercept, store or analyse, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?”
Putin, a spy during a 16-year career with the Soviet KGB, raised a laugh among the studio audience when he said: “You are an ex-agent. I used to have ties to intelligence. So we will speak to each other in the language of professionals.”
Turning to Snowden’s question, Putin said Russia regulates communications as part of criminal investigations, but “on a massive scale, on an uncontrolled scale we certainly do not allow this and I hope we will never allow it”.
He said the Russian authorities need consent from a court to conduct such surveillance on a specific individual “and for this reason there is no (surveillance) of a mass character here and cannot be.”