Snowden Asks Putin if Russia Spies on Citizens


Russian President Vladimir Putin responded on live television to a question posed by American fugitive Edward Snowden about whether Russia spies on its citizens using a mass surveillance program.

Speaking during a broadcast of the state-owned RT television network, Putin denied that Russia has a clandestine government surveillance system similar to the one Snowden exposed in the United States.

“We don’t have a mass system of such interception,” the Russian president said.

Putin was responding to a video message from Snowden, who sought asylum in the country after fleeing the U.S. and Taiwan. He is wanted in the U.S. for leaking information about classified National Security Agency programs that allow government intelligence officials to capture e-mails and other digital information on potential terrorist threats.

“I’ve seen little public discussion of Russia’s own involvement in the policies of mass surveillance,” Snowden said, according to a YouTube video of the broadcast.

“So I’d like to ask you, does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals and do you believe that simply increasing the effectiveness of intelligence or law enforcement investigations can justify placing societies rather than subjects under surveillance,” he said. “Thank you.”

The question appeared to be pre-recorded, but RT reported that Snowden “was appearing via a video link from an undisclosed location in Russia.” Nevertheless, the question-and-answer session seemed entirely rehearsed.

According to a translator, Putin replied, “Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy. I used to work for an intelligence service. We are going to talk the same language.”

Putin said Russia’s intelligence collection is “strictly regulated by law” and that court approval is required before using “special equipment” to intercept phone calls or e-mails. He went so far as to suggest that Russia doesn’t have as much money or the same eavesdropping technology as the U.S.

“We don’t have a mas system of such interception,” he said. “According to our law, it cannot exist.”

At the same time, however, Putin hinted that intelligence officials do have the “technical means” to respond to criminals and terrorists who use technology for illegal or criminal purposes.

“Of course, we do some efforts like that, but we do not have a mass scale, uncontrollable efforts like that,” he said.

The claims will undoubtedly be dismissed by many U.S. intelligence officials, who regard Russia, along with China, as one of the biggest players in cyber espionage.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper has described Russia as an “advanced” actor in cyberspace. A congressional report from last year also cited a news report indicating “cyber-spies from Russia and China had penetrated the U.S. electrical grid, leaving behind software.”

In addition, Russia is also suspected of leading cyber attacks against Ukraine last month before annexing the Crimean peninsula.

About the Author

Brendan McGarry
Brendan McGarry is the managing editor of He can be reached at Follow him on Twitter at @Brendan_McGarry.
  • Andy

    I have live in the Commi. country before, they don’t spy on their citizent they just come and take over the property as they wish….dumm$$

    • Im with stupid

      Humouring your statement, if it’s as you say at least you know exactly what you’re getting; you have your basic rights adhered too unless you give them a whiff of a reason to knock your door down. The US, UK and other known & unknown European associates choose to ignore your basic rights and tap into you daily private life, movements and communications without consequence.
      What a wonderful world we live in

      • Kevin

        Yes, I’m sure this individual has all the inside information on Communist/Russian surveillance techniques… If you really do envy them please, feel free to live there… I don’t like our surveillance but you’re kind of an idiot.

        • Im with you

          I don’t like mass surveillance nor heavy handed ‘law’ bringing, and thankfully to my knowledge I live with neither. You sir are the idiot.

    • grant

      The UK has the highest density of spy cams in the world, followed by the US. The number of cams are still on the rise.

  • William_C1

    So I wonder if being used as a propaganda tool is part of the agreement for the FSB letting Snowden out of his cage.

    They may not have whatever supercomputers the NSA has to track just about everything but the FSB will spy on however many people it feels like for whatever reason it feels like, no questions asked. It’s long been that way in Russia and Putin certainly knows this.

    Or you can just get every neighbor spying on each other for suspicious activity like East Germany, now that’s community outreach.

    • grant

      What’s your return for being a propaganda tool?

      • oblatt22

        Bill admiration for Putin just shines through. As he has said the wrong people won the cold war it would have been better for people like him if the Soviets had won.

        • William_C1

          Better if the communists had won? No thanks, I’d rather not stand in a bread line all day.

          • grant

            See, you still don’t get it. There is actually no winner out of the cold war in terms of countries. The real winner has been the Military Industrial Complex that made off with trillions of tax payer money.

            You get all your news and info from the US media without using your brain to screen it. Now you are as removed from reality as the shadow powers have desired.

          • William_C1

            Yes yes the big bad military industrial complex and their technological developments, how terrible. And all of the money wasted on the space race in the Cold War, think of all of the public art projects that could have been funded…

          • hail snowden

            So inside your pointy head, the only other choice available is publi art projects? May I suggest some alternatives … like fixing the century old failing infrastructure, feeding the hungry, reforming the corrupt education system, compensate the maimed veterans for their mental and physical disabilities after taking part in government’s illegal wars overseas?

            My apologies for overflowing your severely limited cranial capacity.

            Last but not least, I’d rather give free money to public art projects than feeding the murderous criminals in the defense industrial complex.

          • saber2

            Eastern European countries, Baltic countries etc. just to name a few. Oh, and Russia itself too. Saying “no winner out of the cold war in terms of countries” tell how much real brain you have.

      • William_C1

        I’m still waiting for all of this Lockheed PR money oblat says I’m supposed to be getting. When the check finally arrives I’ll be rich.

        But seriously, read up on Soviet history. The KGB was a powerhouse that could do just about whatever it felt like.

  • dean

    Swoden is a coward! Ran to Russia like a little girl.

    If he doesn’t shut his mouth I’m sure the Russian secret police will be happy to do it for him.

    • Hunter76

      Russia has zero interest in shutting Snowden’s mouth.

    • rtsy

      Pretty far from being a coward, he’s standing up to a nuclear super power that captures people who speak out against them in night raids and makes them disappear into CIA black sites.

      He ran to Russia because they will protect him and let him tell the truth about how intrusive Americas spying actually goes.

      It took planetary sized balls and courage to go to Russia as well.

      • blight_

        Russia’s the only country along with Iran and North Korea that aren’t going to extradite Snowden back to the US, while simultaneously having a domestic intelligence apparatus that would complicate assassination or abduction.

        Anything less would probably end with Snowden on a C-130 back to the United States. Of course, what happens when Putin grows tired of Snowden? Not sure he has many options after Putin grows tired.

        • rtsy

          There are actually a number of countries that Snowden could hide out in that don’t have extradition treaties with the US. His choice of Russia seems to be more grandstanding than anything else.

          • blight_

            Could Bolivia protect him? Evo Morales had a plane forced down to do a search. Assange is still hiding out in the Ecuadorean embassy in London.

            He had a finite amount of time to fly to a country that could protect him, and a finite number of attempts before the noose closed up on him. He had to pick a country that would not be swayed by carrots or sticks to turn him in. Many countries may not have an extradition treaty, but they could still “voluntarily” return him. I guess he could hide out in Venezuela or Bolivia, but could their state intelligence apparatus’ protect him? Not sure. Suffice to say the CIA is probably intimidated, and unlikely to succeed at doing anything in Russia, and Russia is unlikely to agree to staging a C-130 and an abduction team on its soil. And pulling a stealth helicopter abduction/assassination stunt is least likely to work on Russia, versus any other country with primitive air defense.

            His first choice was Hong Kong, and he probably thought a reasonably international city would keep him safe. But once the PRC blinked…

          • rtsy

            My point was that he could have gone the Assange route and cozy up to a world leader who would let him live in an embassy, preferably one in the west surrounded by cameras.

            On a personal note, its always nice to have a discussion instead of a flame war. Well done good sir!

        • Lyle

          Snowden’s F**Ked and he is too stupid to realize it. Russia isn’t stupid. They are holding him so that when they do give him up they will get something in return. Think Carlos the Jackal.

    • grant

      Snowden risked his life to reveal the criminal acts of the US government and yet he is a cowared?

      What have you done to counter the crimes of the US government? Do you even have the brains to understand whats going on in this country?

      • Kevin

        Exposing crimes of the government is fine… Aiding a hostile nation is quite another thing.

        • blight_

          Surprised we haven’t hanged Oliver North yet for Iran-Contra. TOW missiles to Iran?!

          Magical pardons are so much fun.

          • ondeathsdoorstepp

            Iran got TOWs for the same reason we gave Stingers to the mad mullahs in Afghanistan. Anyone else we want to hang for it?

            Besides, funding Contras is at least as honorable as busting the NSA for spying on the American people….

        • Snowden Rocks

          Aiding a hostile nation? How? The US govt wanted to kill Snowden or imprison him for life and so he fled to the first country willing to offer him asylum.

          And how is Russia hostile as you know it through personal experience instead of listening to the MIC owned mainstream media?

        • oli

          Couldn’t of said it any better there were other means. He was too stupid to figure out a better alternative. Exposing things that were irrelevant to how the NSA conducts its Spying of countries or technique’s used to conduct spying. All that was not warranted.

          • blight_

            FISA was supposed to be the “buck stops here”, and considering PRISM was authorized by different Congresses under different presidents, it’s pretty obvious that if he went to Congress he would’ve been squelched. Congress decided that it was good enough and wasn’t going to change anything. POTUS presumably extended it, along with many other Bush programs (Gitmo is still open, we are still nailing people with drones, ergo we are probably still doing many other Bush-era things).

            The Russians knew we had the capability to tap sea cables since they recovered a transceiver from Ivy Bells. The Russians know what we are capable of. They remain far more knowledgeable about our own government’s capabilities than its own ignorant voting base. And once Russia knows, you never know who they are going to tell.

            In terms of capability there isn’t much difference between SORM and PRISM, except that SORM always on, even when Putin tells a bold lie to Snowden’s face. Snowden may have been hoping for his FSB counterpart to tell the truth, but this counterpart will get polonium poisoning and mysteriously drop dead.

            However, if Snowden pulls a leak on Russia’s SORM programs, it will reveal the extent of the NSA’s understanding of SORM, and ironically jeopardize American intelligence capabilities. The less he reveals about the NSA’s knowledge of SORM, the bigger the favor he does for us.

            Snowden can simply lead a charge based on what Agentura et al report, and not reveal what the NSA knows about Russian capability. The revelation of the NSA putting backdoors into Chinese software was probably more than we needed to know, though it is possible the PRC figured it out and patched it, meaning revealing this tidbit was no longer a big secret.

            It is amusing that many of our “fears” of “Chinese” capability are a-okay as long as “our guys” can do it. To a third party, this seems a little hypocritical. To someone living in China, having a robust foreign intelligence service that can hack, crack and steal is good. To someone living in the US, an NSA/CIA that can do all sorts of damage to foreign targets is good.

    • oblatt22

      There is nothing a coward hates more than a brave man like Snowden. Its a constant through history.

      • hail snowden

        well, these pro-NSA spying cowards are not just cowardly, but pretty darn stupid too.

        we need a eugenics program to get rid people with low intelligence.

    • Kevin

      Why would Russia shut his mouth? He’s saying exactly what they want… A perfect propaganda piece. Exposed the evil Americans and ran to the peaceful utopia of Russia.

  • Does Russia spy on every one. Is Obama Care a disaster!!!

  • ShamWowed

    Dammit! This is not a bash the military industrial complex thread…What the hell?
    On a more serious note, I personally believe Snowden to be a traitor, but I am discouraged by the abuse of power he revealed and I am thankful to be made aware of it. I think the most outrageous issue is the surveillance and manipulation of the Press. Whether we like them or not, the Press is the one conduit we have left that helps keep government in check. When they (Press) are manipulated or compromised by Government we lose the ability to maintain some semblance of checks and balances.

    • Kevin

      Well, it keeps those in government in check that it doesn’t agree with anyway.

      • ShamWowed

        I hear you. It is more conceptual at this point. Still, there are a few willing to think for themselves and report facts when they can find them.

  • BlackOwl18E

    Future headline: Snowden’s body found in Moscow. Putin shrugs.

    • lois

      I don’t know how Putin will react but I’m certain the assassination will have been the work of the US.

      I’m also pretty certain that the future US president and Congressmen will shrug it off and blame the Russians, as will the mainstream media.

      • oli

        Assassination would be counterproductive the damage is already done. I think he should get 1000 lashes in his buttocks with a smooth leather belt.

        • stu oli

          Would take the 1000 lashes on Snowden’s behalf? He’s busy in Russia helping mankind against the dark schemes of the US government.

          Your behind seems to be more than idle and available.

          or would you claim that it would be counterproductive because the damage is already done?

      • Yellow Devil

        Yeah that makes sense. Assassinate him AFTER he leaks all the secrets.

        • bn girl

          Makes perfect sense. How else do you scare the sheeples off from leaking details of the mafia government’s crimes against?

          • bn girl

            … against the country.

  • LoL, thats like asking a liar if he is lying but i guess many washed russians belive this stuff lately.

  • Snowden wasn’t a “spy”… he was a freaking analyst. He wasn’t an “agent” as much as he was an employee…

    • grant

      It’s quite obvious that most of the posters here don’t even understand how they are being screwed by the government, let alone what Snowden used to do.

  • anthony

    Most people just dont worry about wiretapping or eaves dropping because you cant stop it anyway.Onlly the ones worried about it like Snowden,would ask such a stupid question,Him having been giving a place to live shows he shouldnt worry.Let him take a drive 100 any were without telling anyone hell find out how russia really works..Good Luck

  • Bernard

    You have to be kidding me? Snowden thinks Russia is some land of milk and human rights? Of course they spy on their citizens, these are the same people that gassed to death and entire bus load of innocents just to get the terrorists. Snowden is the biggest hypocrit for running there for asylum. The NSA is a vital US military asset and Snowden brought them down without any thoughts of the consequences. Now Russia laughs at us while invading Crimea. That blood is on your hands too Eddy.

    • Godzilla

      Snowden thinks Russia is some land of milk and human rights?

      I doubt he thinks that. You have to remember Russia was not the 1st nor even the 2nd place he tried to apply for asylum. He went there because he had no other choice left. The NSA is indeed a vital US military asset but the military is there to protect the US from foreign aggression. Not to manhandle its own citizens. When there is crime inside the US it is the job of the FBI to handle such matters with proper permission of the court.

  • Dfens

    Snowden just doesn’t know where the moral high ground is. Spying on your own people is ok because the ends always justify the means. I feel superior to the Russians every time a man marries a man in uniform, and I know our military is superior to theirs each time a program is cancelled after spending billions of dollars and producing not a single weapon of any sort. If we weren’t superior to Russia, would we provide the assumption of innocence to a murderer and then turn around and assume every man is a sexist, racist, homophobe until he is able to prove otherwise? Clearly these Russians don’t know who they are messing with.

    • ShamWowed

      Depends, Do you have a cogent thought or do you just ramble to hear your head rattle?

  • Hunter76

    Snowden is an immature, naive nerd who made 6 figures with a GED. He worked a while at CIA, then at Dell and later Booz Allen, always as an IT in classified areas. While he was at Dell he was investigated by ISIS, a private company that does background checks; and his security clearance was sustained. (ISIS also oked the Washington Navy Yard killer of 12 people in Sep.)

    Scuttlebut has it that Snowden walked out of Booz Allen with 6 harddrives loaded with secret data. His destination of choice was never Russia. He traveled to Hong Kong, apparently with intent to transit to Iceland, but without realizing Hong Kong has an extradition treaty with US. He then fled to Russia with hope of moving on to some Western country. Russia then stopped his further travel under the pretext that US has voided his passport.

    One would be extremely naive to doubt both China and Russia copied every bit of his data. At best one can hope that they haven’t cracked his encryption of said data.

    In all the hubbub about this affair, one never hears criticism of ISIS or Booz Allen.

    • blight_

      Don’t hate on GED’s. Also, his prior involvement with the CIA does make him look rather suspicious…

  • What a stupid question…

  • Rosalee Adams

    Excuse me, but isn’t Putin harboring Snowden?

    • Teacher

      Harboring is not the right word. Putin is protecting Snowden from a murderous criminal gang in America.

  • israel

    Haha Snowden is going to die soon

    • restore palestine

      we all die, eventually.

      it’s what we have done before we die that counts.

      what’s your goal in life? murder?

  • Now, he is Putin’s tool. Oh dear.

  • brooklyn15

    This was all a set up by Putin.

  • PolicyWonk

    According to Putin: Russia, land of the former USSR, one of the world leaders in paranoia and Big Brother – doesn’t spy on its citizens.

    Snowden, if he’s buying it, probably also believes in Santa Clause.

    • hail snowden

      believe in Santa Clause? not as much as you do, naive one.

      there is evidence right in your face that the US government is no different from a mafia, but you are still loving it.

      you would make a model citizen in N.Korea.

  • Ben

    Snowden did a very good thing, sure. I’ll applaud him all day long for what he did. I just don’t understand why everyone is hailing him as some kind of surveillance jesus figure, going to him for his thoughts on this and that. He’s not an expert, he was just in a place to see what was happening and decided to do something about it. Beyond that, he’s just your average Joe.

  • blight_

    I’m curious what the NSA knows about SORM, and a few leaks about the Russian system (or some explanatory links from Agentura) should reveal Putin’s duplicity.

  • Grunt

    Talk about a Dog and Pony Show!

  • This is coming from a former KGB officer! Does anyone remember the old USSR, citizens were recruited by the KGB to spy on the friends and family and citizens needed an internal passport to travel within the country. Maybe the Russian don’t spy on their people thru electronic means but you can be sure they have more than enough informers to spy on everyone.

    If Snowden wasn’t a Russian agent when he stole NSA classified material, he is now.

  • anthony

    On of these days or years they”ll trade Snowden for another spy sitting in jail now,We can think back and remeber a couple convicted spying for USSR as a officerwhom left papers in back yard almost getting paid for ittaped and all,read the book as documentary,a officer of our service. Snowden time is running short,When are they gonna trade this treason fellow???

  • John

    Russia doesnt have free speech, no 1 would dare to interrogate putin like that unless its a set up. This is mainly because the us spying program has been forgotten thanks to the ukraine’s crisis. So putin wants to remind the whole world about the snoden incident haha

    • peters

      how long have you lived in Russia?

      have you even been to Russia?

      • John

        i have relatives who live in Russia, they’re not Russian, they’re minority and yes, i am still firm on the statement above. If you think Russia has free speech then y didn’t we see any Russian news criticizing Putin about Crimea? The Russian media was 100% supportive of Putin’s decision in Crim. Look back to iraq or afghanistan or ww2 nuclear bomb in japan. There’s always a small faction that criticize the govt. action even if it’s for good cause (not saying that iraq or afghan are for good causes). In Russia u don’t see that but u do see some ppl went on to protest about Crimea and they all got arrested. So from that we know not everyone in Russia agree with Putin, but all of the news media has to agree with Putin (this really prove free speech).

  • Gaius_Maximinus

    Putin says:“We don’t have a mass system of such interception.”
    Putin thinks: Ours isn’t nearly as sophisticated, dammit!

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