Putin tells Edward Snowden: Russia doesn't carry out mass surveillance

Claims by Russian president to NSA whistleblower in TV show will be treated with scepticism by western intelligence officials

President Vladimir Putin has told the National Security Agency whistleblower, Edward Snowden, that Russia is not carrying out mass surveillance programmes of the kind Snowden exposed in the US.

Snowden made a video-link appearance during Putin's marathon televised question and answer session to ask the president about Russia's attitude to mass surveillance.

Snowden asked: "Does Russia intercept or store or analyse the communication of millions of individuals?" He went on to ask whether increasing the effectiveness of internal security systems could ever justify such actions.

To applause from the studio audience, Putin responded: "Mr Snowden you are a former agent, a spy, I used to work for a intelligence service, we are going to talk the same language."

He said Russia did not have a comparable programme, stating: "Our agents are controlled by law. You have to get court permission to put an individual under surveillance. We don't have mass permission, and our law makes it impossible for that kind of mass permission to exist."

He said he was aware that "criminals and terrorists" relied on this kind of interception, and that their actions demanded a response from the security services. "We have to use technical means to respond to their crimes, including those of a terrorist nature, we do have some efforts like that. We don't have a mass control. I hope we don't do that," he said.

"We don't have as much money as they do in the US," he added.

Putin's claims will be treated with a high degree of scepticism by western intelligence officials. With China, they regard Russia as the biggest culprits in terms of cyber espionage and cyber theft – which is undertaken by both countries on an industrial scale.

The Guardian has reported how Russia is upgrading an electronic surveillance system known as Sorm, which is capable of capturing telephone communications, intercepting internet traffic and storing data on subscribers including actual recordings and locations.

While Russia may not have some of the technical capabilities that have been perfected by the National Security Agency and GCHQ, many of the most complicated pieces of malware that have been discovered on the internet over the last few years have had their origins in Russia – which have themselves been capable of sucking up vast amounts of information, undetected, for years.


Amelia Gentleman and Nick Hopkins

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Edward Snowden 'living incognito in Russia'
Whistleblower's lawyer says he has security protection but can travel freely and plays down prospect of US bid to capture him

Shaun Walker in Moscow

17, Sep, 2013 @9:59 AM

Article image
Edward Snowden withdraws Russian asylum request
NSA whistleblower withdraws asylum request after Putin says he would be welcome only if he stopped harming US interests

Miriam Elder in Moscow

02, Jul, 2013 @9:20 AM

Article image
Putin: NSA whistleblower Snowden is in Moscow airport

Russian president brings end to mystery over whistleblower's whereabouts after days of confusion

Miriam Elder in Moscow and Jonathan Kaiman in Beijing

26, Jun, 2013 @7:45 AM

Article image
Edward Snowden granted asylum in Russia
NSA whistleblower has left Moscow airport where he has been stranded for more than a month, according to reports

Staff and agencies

01, Aug, 2013 @12:36 PM

Article image
Snowden applies for political asylum in Russia – and 20 other countries

Vladmir Putin says US whistleblower can stay if he stops 'bringing harm to our American partners'

Miriam Elder in Moscow

01, Jul, 2013 @5:16 PM

Article image
Edward Snowden: Russia offers to consider asylum request

Vladimir Putin's spokesman says any appeal for asylum from whistleblower who fled US will be looked at 'according to facts'

Miriam Elder in Moscow

11, Jun, 2013 @11:04 AM

Article image
Edward Snowden plans to stay in Russia, says lawyer

Despite contrary reports, lawyer for whistleblower says his asylum status is unresolved and he will remain in Russia

Alec Luhn in Moscow

24, Jul, 2013 @5:51 PM

Article image
Edward Snowden leaves Moscow airport after Russia grants asylum

NSA whistleblower leaves Moscow airport, where he has been for more than a month, after Russia grants asylum for one year

Alec Luhn in Moscow

01, Aug, 2013 @6:23 PM

Article image
Vladimir Putin on Edward Snowden at press conference – video

Vladimir Putin says he has never met or worked with NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, but says he envies Obama and the NSA

19, Dec, 2013 @1:56 PM

Article image
Edward Snowden intends to settle in Russia, says lawyer - video

Edward Snowden's lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, issues a statement on the status of Snowden's temporary assylum request

24, Jul, 2013 @6:30 PM