Snowden Says He Asked Putin About Spying to Catch Him in a Lie

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The decision by fugitive NSA leaker Edward Snowden to appear on TV with Russia's President Vladimir Putin during a softball Q&A session was all part of the larger plan, says Snowden. Responding to critics who were skeptical of his participation in a propaganda event, Snowden writes in the the Guardian today, “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 criticize the surveillance policies of Russia, a country to which I have sworn no allegiance, without ulterior motive.” The idea was to get Putin lying on the record, which is in itself a noble accomplishment, according to Snowden.

“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,” Snowden writes.

He compares his question directly (with this handy infographic) to the one asked by Senator Ron Wyden of intelligence director James Clapper about the NSA, later shown by Snowden’s leaked revelations to be completely untrue. “Clapper's lie – to the Senate and to the public – was a major motivating force behind my decision to go public, and a historic example of the importance of official accountability,” he writes. Putin’s answer, Snowden adds, is similar to Obama’s initial denials of mass surveillance.

“Putin'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,” says Snowden. “When this event comes around next year, I hope we'll see more questions on surveillance programs and other controversial policies.”

So you’re welcome, Russia.