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Snowden: Putin Must Be Held Accountable for Surveillance Lies, Just Like Obama

One day after making an audio appearance on RT to ask Vladimir Putin about Russian surveillance operations, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden authored a Guardian column to clarify his intentions behind the question and push back on critics who suggest he was attempting to help whitewash the Russian president’s abuses.

“Does Russia intercept, analyse or store millions of individuals’ communications?” Snowden asked Putin on Thursday, garnering a denial from Putin that included the statement: “We don’t have mass system of such interception. And according to our law it cannot exist.”

Critics alleged that Snowden appeared in a scripted manner, and that his intent was likely to give Putin a platform to make himself seem better than rival American President Barack Obama. But Snowden wrote that his intentions were to make Putin’s denials a matter of public record, much how Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) effectively got intel chief James Clapper to contradict himself about U.S. surveillance efforts.

His intent, Snowden said, was to “invite either an important concession or a clear evasion” from Putin.

“Putin denied the first part of the question and dodged on the latter,” Snowden continued. “There are serious inconsistencies in his denial – and we’ll get to them soon – but it was not the president’s suspiciously narrow answer that was criticised by many pundits. It was that I had chosen to ask a question at all.”

He then lamented that his critics would assume he was shilling for the Russian regime:

I was surprised that people who witnessed me risk my life to expose the surveillance practices of my own country could not believe that I might also criticise the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive. I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question – and Putin’s evasive response – in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it.

And while some assume he was trying to help Putin, Snowden bluntly pointed out that the Russian president’s response “appears to be the strongest denial of involvement in mass surveillance ever given by a Russian leader – a denial that is, generously speaking, likely to be revisited by journalists.”

He also pushed back on critics who claim that by taking refuge in Russia, he is a de facto supporter of Putin’s regime:

I blew the whistle on the NSA’s surveillance practices not because I believed that the United States was uniquely at fault, but because I believe that mass surveillance of innocents – the construction of enormous, state-run surveillance time machines that can turn back the clock on the most intimate details of our lives – is a threat to all people, everywhere, no matter who runs them.

“I understand the concerns of critics,” he concluded, “but 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.”

Watch the RT video from Thursday below:

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