While President Putin was taking the public’s questions on Russian TV, NSA leaker Edward Snowden sent in his own video. See Snowden’s question on USA NOW, hosted by Carly Mallenbaum. (USA TODAY, USA NOW)
National Security Agency leaker and fugitive Edward Snowden asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on live television if Russia spies on its citizens.
During a televised question-and-answer session Thursday, Snowden submitted a video question: "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?"
Putin replied that Russia does not have a mass surveillance system, but that the country does use technology in criminal cases.
"Mr. Snowden, you are a former agent, a spy, I used to be working for an intelligence service, we are going to talk one professional language," Putin says, according to a translation by Russia Today. "First of all, our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law so how special forces can use this kind of special equipment as they intercept phone calls or follow someone online."
Putin continued: "You have to get a court permission to stalk a particular person. We don't have a mass system of such interception and according to our law it cannot exist. Of course we know criminals and terrorists use technology for their criminal acts. Of course special services have to use technical means to respond to their crimes.
"We don't have as much money as they have in the States and we don't have these technical devices that they have in the States," Putin said. "Our special services, thank God, are strictly controlled by the society and by the law and regulated by the law."
Snowden has been charged with espionage and faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted for leaking classified documents. He is currently living in Russia, which granted him asylum for one year.