Edward Snowden famously fled the U.S. after leaking thousands of documents detailing U.S. surveillance last year — and for the last several months he's been living under asylum in Russia. But now he's asking some tough questions of his new home country.
On a live call-in show with Russian President Vladimir Putin Thursday, Snowden, speaking via a video feed, asked about Russia's own surveillance efforts. (Via ARD)
"Does Russia intercept, store or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?" (Via CTV)
In his response, Putin invoked the fact both had worked for intelligence agencies in the past — Snowden with the NSA and Putin with Russia's KGB — before telling Snowden: (Via The Wall Street Journal)
"Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our laws. … We don't have a mass system of such interception." (Via RT)
But were Putin's claims legitimate?
And The Guardian, one of the newspapers Snowden initially leaked documents to, writes:
"Putin's claims will be treated with a high degree of scepticism by western intelligence officials. With China, they regard Russia as the biggest culprits in terms of cyber espionage and cyber theft – which is undertaken by both countries on an industrial scale."
Similarly, one Slate columnist, writing on Twitter, hinted that Snowden was likely complicit in lobbing a softball question to Putin. "Edward Snowden has just officially made himself into a Russian propaganda tool." (Via Twitter / @anneapplebaum)
But, while the columnist doesn't believe Putin's answer can be trusted, chief foreign affairs correspondent for Time Michael Crowley does put some faith in Snowden.
"This seemed to be an effort for him to ask the kind of question of Putin that he's been asking of the U.S. government. 'Are you surveilling your population in a mass indiscriminate way?'" (Via MSNBC)
For its part, the White House has not commented on the interaction.
Snowden's work as a whistleblower has made news in recent days. Earlier this week the Pulitzer Prize was awarded to both The Guardian and The Washington Post for their coverage of the leaks. (Via CNN)
Snowden was granted asylum by Russia in August 2013. He's currently wanted in the U.S. on charges of espionage and theft of government property.