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NSA leaker Snowden questions Putin on surveillance policies in televised Russian call-in show
Reported by: Associated Press
Reported: Thursday, April 17, 2014 11:44 AM EDT
Several hours into Vladimir Putin's televised call-in show, one of the TV anchors interrupted viewers' questions to air what she said was a "sensational video" for the Russian president: a message from Edward Snowden.
"I've seen little public discussion of Russia's own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance," Snowden said. "Does Russia intercept, store, or analyze the communications of millions of individuals?"
"You're a former agent and I used to work in intelligence," Putin said, to chuckles in the audience. "Special services here, thank God, are under the strict control of the government, society, and their operations are regulated by law."
Putin's official answer differs sharply from the reality in Russia.
In recent months, Russia's Internet regulatory body has shut down the domain of leading opposition figure and popular blogger Alexei Navalny. It has also moved to block groups on Russia's leading social network, VKontakte, that were connected to the Ukrainian protest movement that helped oust the country's Kremlin-friendly president from power.
Just a day earlier, Pavel Durov, VKontakte's founder, posted online what appeared to be FSB documents requesting personal information from the accounts of 39 groups, all of them linked to the Ukrainian protest movement.
"First, there is no parliamentary oversight of secret services," independent Moscow-based security analyst Andrei Soldatov wrote on Twitter in response to Putin's comments. "Second, the FSB is not required to show a warrant to anyone."
The Washington Post and The Guardian won the Pulitzer Prize this week for revealing the U.S. government's sweeping surveillance programs — a series of stories based on secret documents supplied by Snowden.