Saying that because they’re both former spies they can speak the same language, Russian President Vladimir Putin told “NSA leaker” Edward Snowden on Thursday that his nation does not have a “mass system” that collects data about Russian citizens’ phone calls and other electronic communications.
The exchange between the young American who has leaked information about U.S. surveillance efforts and the Russian leader came during Putin’s annual appearance on Russian TV in which he takes questions from the public. Snowden, who has been given temporary asylum in Russia, connected via video link and asked Putin: “Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?”
Putin began his response by telling Snowden that “you are a former agent, a spy. I used to work for an intelligence service [the KGB]. We are going to talk one professional language.”
Then the Russian president, who in recent weeks has claimed he did not send troops into Crimea only to now admit that he did and insists there are no Russian military personnel in eastern Ukraine even though reporters have heard at least one man there introduce himself as a Russian officer, made the case that:
“You have to get 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.”
Russia’s RT.com has posted video of the Snowden-Putin exchange here, with English interpretation.