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.

26 Comments on "Snowden Asks Putin if Russia Spies on Citizens"

  1. 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$$

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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

  5. 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.

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

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

  8. Snowden wasn't a "spy"… he was a freaking analyst. He wasn't an "agent" as much as he was an employee…

  9. 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

  10. 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.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. What a stupid question…

  14. Rosalee Adams | April 18, 2014 at 8:17 pm | Reply

    Excuse me, but isn't Putin harboring Snowden?

  15. Haha Snowden is going to die soon

  16. Now, he is Putin's tool. Oh dear.

  17. This was all a set up by Putin.

  18. 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.

  19. 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.

  20. 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.

  21. Talk about a Dog and Pony Show!

  22. 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.

  23. 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???

  24. 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

  25. Gaius_Maximinus | April 27, 2014 at 4:01 pm | Reply

    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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    (from what I’ve read) Is that what you’re using on your blog?

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