Snowden Appears on RT, Asks Putin a Softball Question About Russian Surveillance

FILED TO: Politics

On a televised question-and-answer session with Vladimir Putin on the Russian state-controlled RT network, Edward Snowden made an appearance via video and asked Putin about whether Russia engages in mass surveillance. That’s a generous explanation of what happened. The reality is that Snowden, knowingly or unknowingly (see “useful idiot” theory), offered Putin a fantastic propaganda coup to both criticize the U.S. and to make it seem as if Russia’s intelligence community is both mindful of civil liberties and well-regulated — and all in response to Snowden himself who, among his supporters, can do no wrong.


I don’t really subscribe to the theory that Snowden was nor is a Russian agent — the theory that he all along planned to steal NSA documents in order to deliver them to the Russian counterpart to NSA, the FSB. However, I’m much more accepting of the idea that once he made contact with Moscow-affiliated WikiLeaks, he’s basically been under the control of the Russian government, which has offered him unlimited asylum, an FSB attorney and other protections. This kind of support isn’t free. There needs to be something in it for Putin.

It’s unknown whether the FSB got its hands on Snowden’s documents, but that doesn’t necessarily have to be Putin’s only reward. There’s a propaganda victory in Snowden’s Moscow presence that’s been working quite well for Russia: the very notion that while the U.S. is hunting a “hero of the people,” Russia is protecting a “hero of the people.” That’s not insignificant especially at a time when Russia is acting with such egregious bellicosity.

And so we have today’s RT video in which Snowden began by criticizing the U.S. and instead of likewise criticizing Russia, he asked Putin a question about Russia’s use of surveillance, allowing Putin a huge opportunity to whitewash his intelligence community, making it seem far less intrusive and considerably more acceptable than NSA. Considering everything that’s happened so far, it’s not unfair to question whether this might’ve been the point of RT, which is financed by the Russian government, to invite Snowden onto the Putin Q&A. I hasten to qualify: I’m not saying it was staged, but it’s fair to ask the question.

After all, Snowden, through actions and deeds, has been more critical of the U.S. intelligence community than anyone else in history. Yet he lobbed a huge softball to Putin, even though Russia’s surveillance trespasses are well-known. All he has to do is to Google “SORM” for starters and go from there.

Do I even need to get into Putin getting buddy-buddy with Snowden? “Mr. Snowden, you are a former spy. I used to work for an intelligence agency. We can talk one professional language.” And then I’ll buy you dinner at Cheesecake Factory!

Whatever Snowden’s intentions, this again falls into the Bill Maher theory that every time Snowden appears in public, something batshit happens.


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  • CygnusX1isaHole

    The one time Bob Cesca’s 24 hour rule actually proves correct he refuses to highlight it. Perhaps that’s because it leaves Bob Cesca with egg on his face?

    Edward Snowden: Putin lying about the lack of mass surveillance in Russia

    Via Techdirt:

    For months, many Snowden detractors have repeatedly criticized Snowden for not speaking out against Russian authoritarianism and surveillance. Many of us have felt that those criticisms were significantly off-base, in part because that wasn’t Snowden’s particular fight (nor did he have any unique knowledge of Russian surveillance, as he did with the US). It seemed like a stupid false equivalency to try to make Snowden look bad. And when he asked his question to Putin, some people argued that this showed he was actually “questioning” Russian surveillance. Except that the TV question felt like such a softball, so designed to allow Putin to spin some propaganda that this didn’t really seem like Snowden challenging anything.

    However, this latest response suggests that Snowden is (once again) playing a game where he’s several moves ahead of many folks. The question may have set up a propaganda answer, but it appears there was a bigger strategy behind it — and one that remains entirely consistent with what Snowden has claimed his position has been since the beginning.


    • repugnicant

      Do you HONESTLY believe if the Snowden defenders didn’t freak out over the staged, Russian approved interview, that Snowden would have said ANYTHING?

      Definitely a sad day in Mudville.

  • DL



    Edward Snowden: Putin lying about the lack of mass surveillance in Russia

    • repugnicant

      Snowden’s recent escapade didn’t go over too well with the groupies. Damage control… with Putin’s blessing, of course.

      • CygnusX1isaHole

        I thought conspiracy theories were not tolerated on this web site?

        Or are conspiracy theories acceptable on TDB when they support the position of the majority?

        If the commenters here had any integrity your baseless ramblings would leave you subject to a withering attack.

        Because, however, your conspiracy theory feeds the unhinged anger of most TDB commenters your crazed utterance will be given a free pass.

        • repugnicant

          -I thought conspiracy theories were not tolerated on this web site?-

          Amazing. The Snowden supporters seem to have nothing but leeway here, accusing the Prez of being the Big Brother, taking all our rights away, hating the Constitution….. ALL without one single piece of concrete evidence stating specifics… and yet you complain on a now verified, blatantly obvious staged performance, calling it conspiracy?? Ha! Good stuff. Well done.

          • oneski

            “….. ALL without one single piece of concrete evidence stating specifics…”

            Someone else compiled this list. Most, if not all, is public knowledge and well documented. And, the current administration appears to have either supported, advanced or initiated most if not all points listed. And, all of this seems beyond an accusation stage.

            WARS fully funded and EXPANDING- see AFRICOM.
            Trillion Dollars given to friends and campaign contributors on Wall Street. No Strings Attached
            Military Spending INCREASED
            Trillion+Dollars given to the Health Insurance Industry.
            Kill the possibility for a REAL “Public Option” or REAL Universal
            Health Care for at least another generation, and begin the
            “Entitlement Reform” defunding of Medicare (-$500 Billion)
            Block ANY re-regulation of BIG BANKS and Credit Cards
            Protect the Bush War Criminals and Torturers from JUSTICE
            Expanded Drone Assassinations
            Marginalize Pro-LABOR advocates and co-opt the Anti-WAR Movement
            Reinforce the worst Police State provisions of the Patriot Act
            Expand government surveillance
            Protect the very richest. Tell the Working Class that they CAN will be forced to compete with 3rd World Slave Labor
            EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act) killed in the crib
            More Anti-LABOR “Free Trade”
            Jobless Recovery
            NDAA / Expansion of Government Power.
            Monsanto @ FDA.
            Llink Social Security to the Deficit via the Payroll Tax “Holiday”
            Push for cuts to Social Security / Medicare
            Push the Fiscal Cliff meme.
            Push the 1%’s Austerity Plan.
            Coordinated the crackdown on Occupy via Obama’s Homeland Security.
            Attacked Whistleblowers, a-la Bradley Manning & WikiLeaks.
            Shielded BP for its Gulf Disaster
            Push through the Trans Pacific Partnership
            Push the meme that Corporate Taxes are Too High
            “Deficit Commission” which was set up by Obama and stacked with pro-corporate /
            anti-99% zealots including Republican Alan
            Simpson as co-chair
            Continue beating the drum for war with Iran
            Kills 120 In Yemen
            Obama Ordered U.S. Military Strike on Suspected “Terrorists”
            Expands Military Involvement in Africa
            Education plan that boosts privatization, victimizes teachers
            Puts Pesticide Pusher in Charge of Agricultural Trade Relations.
            Indefinitely imprison detainees without charges
            Honors George H.W. Bush for Public Service.

            — embraces militarism, imperial wars, and lawlessness like his predecessor;
            — keeps looting the federal Treasury for Wall Street;
            — targets whistleblowers, dissenters, Muslims, Latino immigrants, environmental and animal rights activists, and lawyers who defend them too vigorously;
            — illegally spies on Americans as aggressively as George Bush;
            — wants public education privatized as another business profit center to destroy a 375 year tradition;
            — disdains the public interest in times of growing economic duress;
            — backs so-called reform that will ration care and enrich insurers, the drug cartel, and large hospital chains;
            – Militarization of Mexico
            – Furthers Bush administration’s 2005 Energy Policy Act in spite of critical campaign rhetoric; it was secretly drafted and provides billions in industry subsidies;
            – Expanded nuclear power; lax industry regulation; billions in subsidies, and numerous other benefits to promote a dangerous technology;
            – Privatized healthcare despite the benefits of universal single-payer he rejects as well as real reform;
            – Repressive immigration legislation targeting Latinos, including militarized borders, police state raids, roundups, imprisonments, and deportations.

  • QLineOrientalist

    If the answers were feeble, it was because the questions were lame. Snowden named no names, didn’t try to back Putin into the corner with any specifics. After almost a year of being in Russian, with his only comment about Russia’s atrocious policies towards dissident press and civil society organizations, all Snowden has managed so far by way of comment is to say that Russia was “being the first to stand against human rights violations”. This had to be taken care of, but not in too intrusive a way. Mission accomplished.

  • Badgerite

    According to Putin, such a state spying apparatus does not exist in Russia. And if it exists it is strictly controlled by the law. I do know one thing for sure, Putin will never let Snowden anywhere near Russia’s state spying apparatus that doesn’t exist.

  • Tort Master

    Sarah Palin is an awesome grifter.
    Edward Snowden is an awesome grifter on an international scale.
    He stole national secrets, established that the NSA’s spying on US Persons is less informative than one of us addressing an envelope and handing it to the Government, while at the same time allowing the American Government to showcase the rigorous three-branch oversight of the NSA, which doesn’t include whistleblowing, Civil Liberties Protection Officers, a Constitution and a Privacy and Civil Rights Board. And he gets hand-fed by Vladimir Putin!

  • mrbrink

    I thought Putin nailed it! Now there’s a country that really understands freedoms and mail order bride catalogs. I hope one day they can really stick it to the U.S. for all the bad things we done did real bad. Give peace a chance– by not learning any lessons from the bloody taking and redrawing of borders, world wars and truly tyrannical regimes. No doubt most of Russia will probably be allowed to see it on their version of “the internet.” But everyone should be allowed to be forced to see their fearless, possibly immortal leader in action. A leader who is so transparent, I mean, did you see the pectorals on his soul through his eyes? and so unafraid of the truth, and to prove it, he’s got the endorsement of the world’s most trusted name in evildoer surveillance state watchdogs to show for it.

  • Sabyen91

    “However, I’m much more accepting of the idea that once he made contact with Moscow-affiliated WikiLeaks, he’s basically been under the control of the Russian government, which has offered him unlimited asylum, an FSB attorney and other protections.”

    Ok, there is something in between, right? I don’t believe he was or is an agent but I also don’t believe he is doing it under duress. I believe he is doing this of his own free will (and it really says a lot about him.)

  • Badgerite

    Where are the trolls? Was this too far even for them?

  • repugnicant

    The new Greenwaldian meme I’m seeing now is ‘what’s he going to do – storm the Kremlin?’, coinciding with the ‘he sacrificed himself for human rights everywhere’…. And for noting that, I’m apparently a Nazi.

  • Jane

    Snowden gives new meaning to performance art. And lying. And being a tool for propaganda.

  • Frau From Fly-Over USA


  • Richard_thunderbay

    Besides publishing Snowden documents that reveal American intelligence activities, Greenwald and friends have made damaging revelations regarding Britain, Canada and even Norway. I would consider it a virtual certainty that the Snowden cache includes damning information about Russian internal spying, not to mention Brazil, Greenwald’s chosen homeland.

    Someone should ask that pretentious jackass if he would ever publish such information about those countries. Given that he has targeted countries other than the US with leaks, he has no real excuse not to if his true interest is civil liberties.

  • CL Nicholson

    I want to see how Team Greenwald tap dances around this one? Oh wait, this is the same Greenwald who pitches a fit when focus notice that he lives in a nation that kicks poor people out their homes to build a football stadium that’s only going to be used once.

    • Frau From Fly-Over USA

      or a nation that violently oppresses its LGBTQ citizens? yeah that. oh by the way, snowden is an opportunist which makes him a perfect fit for spy. let’s just all stop pussy-footing around this.

  • formerlywhatithink

    I think they just used a head shot of Snowden so you couldn’t see the FSB’s puppeteers arm up his ass.

    • Reilly

      Oh yes, that was a good one! Winner, winner, chicken (Kiev) dinner!

  • Grizzle

    Remember, Bob. Spying and surveillance are okay, just so long as America isn’t engaged in any of it!

  • OsborneInk

    Staged. I’ll say it. Like Fred Thompson said in “Hunt for Red October,” the Russians don’t even take a crap without a plan. And I’d like everyone who believes Putin, who actually believes the FSB is not mass-surveilling Russians RIGHT NOW in its 21st Century surveillance state, to line up to the left, because I have bridges to sell all of you.

  • trgahan

    If this wasn’t a staged interview, I’d like to know what Snowden thought Putin was going to say to his questions. Does Snowden really think he has some magical leverage that would compel Putin to give even a half honest/serious answer?

    Yet again the poster boy for “anti-surveillance since it became vogue to be anti-surveillance” crowd shows that the entire “movement” is naïve to the extent that it is outmatched by old fashion power structures and state craft.

    • Badgerite

      Reminds me of some old shows ( oh, I mean ‘question and answer’ programs) Nixon used to put on ( produced by Roger Ailes) when he was running for president.

      • D_C_Wilson

        Have you read “The Loudest Voice in the Room”? It’s got some great behind the scenes details about those shows.

        • Badgerite

          Yeah. Not yet. But I take it you recommend it and I have heard a lot about it so I probably will. Maybe it can explain Roger Ailes to me.

          • D_C_Wilson

            If you want a disturbing portrait of how his paranoid mind works, I’d definitely recommend it.

  • Gunnut2600

    His intentions at this point no longer matter. Snowden has committed a very SERIOUS offense here. Iva Toguri D’Aquino was basically forced into her role of Tokyo Rose and she still ended up doing six years out of 10.

    Snowden is so far gone from the what he fans try to portray him as that its laughable. Fuck this guy.

  • i_a_c

    I’ve always believed that Snowden was in-over-his-head naive with megalomaniac tendencies. Let’s assume that much for a moment and believe that he really is so clueless that he didn’t think Putin would seize this opportunity to use Snowden for cover. The guy isn’t entirely stupid–stupid and naive are two different things–he’s obviously very articulate. If his intentions are simply misguided, wouldn’t he be upset that he was used as a prop for the Putin autocracy? That kind of goes against his message of human rights and everything.

    And what about Greenwald? Wouldn’t he be upset that his $$$ tree is being used, potentially draining away Snowden’s remaining credibility and hence Greenwald’s cash cow? Wait, no, he doesn’t dare say one negative anything about the Russians.

    This is so seriously fucked up, man. The pattern is getting kind of disturbing. I don’t want to believe the worst about anyone. I hope to high heaven that he’s just a useful idiot and not someone malicious.

    • i_a_c

      LMAO I can’t even fucking believe the Greenwald spin on this, man. It shouldn’t be funny but it is.

      “Herp derp they always wanted him to question Putin and now he did and they’re criticizing him for it herpa derp”

      Snowden didn’t question squat. Are you fucking kidding? He tossed Putin an underhand, Putin saw it, and swung for the fences.

      How does anyone believe the shit he’s trying to sell? There is NO WAY Greenwald actually believes this crap.

  • Phinny

    What a silly stunt by Snowden anyway. He knows he isn’t going to get any meaningful answer, so why bother? It makes him look like he’s just trying to get more publicity by any means possible.

    • Peter James

      >>>>” It makes him look like he’s just trying to get more publicity by any means possible.”

      You mean he isn’t?

  • D_C_Wilson

    I don’t buy the theory that Snowden was a Russian agent. A Russian agent would have had a plan about what to do once he got the files out of the country. Snowden is clearly an amateur spy who got in over his head. I don’t know if he thought he could sell that intel to the highest bidder or just did it because it would damage the current administration. What I don’t believe though, is that he did it because of some higher purpose in warning people about the surveillance state. That much is clear in the selective releases he’s done and how he’s only attacked western nations for their intelligence gathering.

    The true irony is that, though he probably wasn’t a Russian agent before, now he’s just a Russian puppet.

    • OsborneInk

      Correct — Snowden was absurdly lost in the world of actual spies, so it was very easy for the FSB to manipulate him.

    • Guest

      mic drop.

    • JozefAL

      It’s almost like “The Falcon and the Snowman”–without the Snowman. (And really–a 1980s-era Timothy Hutton would be PERFECT casting to play Snowden in the biopic.)

  • Schneibster

    Booga booga booga look over here! Snowjob! Shiny object! Pay no attention to Ukraine!

    Pootie is totally 100% transparent.

    And Snowden is the dupe he always was.

  • HilaryB

    No green screen of the Russian constitution?

  • Saren Arterius

    Greenwald made a passive-aggressive tweet in response to this kind of criticism (shorter: yeah like YOU are willing to take down Russia’s intelligence apparatus!) and got his ass handed to him in the mentions. Even Snowden’s supporters are side-eyeing him for this.

    • Jon Fox

      Yeah, I saw that. One person supported him, the rest, even his hardcore supporters were very skeptical.

      • Badgerite

        That I would have to see to believe.

    • Bob Cesca

      Another Greenwald false-choice fallacy.


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