Edward Snowden, who was given asylum in Russia in the wake of leaking documents exposing American surveillance programs, shocked the world again today, Thursday, April 17 by appearing on President Vladimir Putin's annual television show in Russia, according to Business Insider. Snowden, who is viewed by some as a hero and others as a traitor, made the surprise appearance to pose a security question.
Snowden asked Putin, " Does Russia store, intercept, 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 a place in societies rather than subjects under surveillance?"
Before answering the question Putin referred to the American expatriate as a professional spy. He said he would respond as one professional spy to another.
"Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law. 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," the Russian leader said.
The show's format is based on call-ins to Putin from his audience.
Snowden, a former National Security Administration contractor, fled the U.S. for China and then Russia where he was granted temporaray asylum for one year. The U.S. citizen pre-recorded his question in a video clip, according to Russian attorney Anatoly Kucharena.
Putin, who worked 16 years for the KGB, claimed Russia didn't have the resources to match the massive surveillance the U.S. government does on its citizens. Whether or not that statement is true, is open to debate.
Putin reportedly angered U.S. President Barack Obama when he refused to extradite Snowden for prosecution in America. The U.S. has charged Snowden with violations of the Espionage Act.
Putin had previously given Snowden permission to travel to the Sochi Olympics, according to reports emanating from the suddenly bellicose Russian Federation. While some had speculated Snowden might show up at the Olympics sitting near Putin as an insult to the U.S., that didn't happen.
However, today's question and answer exchange between Putin and Snowden televised worldwide, might be an even bigger slap in the face to the U.S. American-Russian relations are already turning colder as the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues.
Snowden fled the U.S. in June of 2013 for Hong Kong.
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