Snowden Defends Putin Question as Mirroring U.S. Exchange

Edward Snowden, the former U.S. security contractor living under asylum in Russia, defended his appearance on President Vladimir Putin’s annual call-in show, saying he wanted to force a discussion about Russian spying.

Snowden, in a comment published today in the Guardian, said he was seeking a baseline answer from Putin as a step toward holding the former KGB colonel publicly accountable and denied he was participating in a propaganda ploy.

Disclosures made by Snowden last year about U.S. spying set off a global debate about the trade-offs between privacy and security and hurt ties with European allies. President Barack Obama has imposed some surveillance limits as a result of the revelations.

“There is a more obvious explanation for my question than a secret desire to defend the kind of policies I sacrificed a comfortable life to challenge: if we are to test the truth of officials’ claims, we must first give them an opportunity to make those claims,” Snowden wrote in the Guardian.

Snowden wrote that he intentionally mirrored U.S. Senator Ron Wyden’s questioning of James Clapper last year, in which the director of national intelligence said the NSA doesn’t “wittingly” collect records on millions of Americans.

In a surprise appearance yesterday through a video link from an unidentified location, Snowden asked Putin: “Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?”

Former Agents

Putin, addressing Snowden as a fellow “former agent,” said that Russia’s intelligence services are “strictly regulated” and the country can’t afford such broad spying as the U.S.

“Putin’s statement that society has some control over the security services is an outright lie,” Andrey Soldatov, a researcher and author of books on Russia’s intelligence services, said yesterday by phone. “Everything else Putin said was a half-truth.”

The Guardian in London and the Washington Post shared a Pulitzer prize this week for journalism for their reporting on Snowden’s leaked material about the U.S. top-secret spying programs.

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