In a historic twist of irony, the president of Russia who formerly headed the secretive KGB spy agency is now lecturing the president of the United States on protecting the privacy of citizens.
Russia’s Vladimir Putin, in a meeting with RT (Russia Today) journalists, said data surveillance is acceptable, but only if it’s done within the law.
“Such methods are in demand. But you can’t just listen to the phone call in Russia; you need a special order from court,” Putin said.
“This is how this should be done in civilized society while tackling terrorism with the use of any technical means. If it is in the framework of the law, then it’s OK. If not it is unacceptable.”
Putin also disagreed with Obama’s statement that “You can’t have 100 percent security and 100 percent privacy,” indicating it’s possible when done within a legal framework.
Regarding the fate of Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old NSA whistleblower, Putin said Moscow could consider granting him political asylum if such a request were made.
“If we receive such a request, we will consider it,” Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
Snowden, a former CIA worker who disclosed the existence of PRISM, the National Security Agency’s massive data-mining surveillance program, is now in hiding since checking out of a Hong Kong hotel.
In addition to heading the KGB, Putin served as a spy for Russia in East Germany.
When asked about the ongoing fighting in Syria, Putin noted it was possible to avoid the civilian war by enacting reforms.
“Syria as a country was rife for some kind of change. And the government of Syria should have felt that in due time and should have undertaken some reform,” Putin said. “Had they done that, what we’re seeing in Syria today would have never happened.”
But he added the whole Mideast region is currently in conflict, and it’s wrong to interfere.
“From the outside some people think that if you bring the entire region in compliance with someone’s specific idea of democracy, things will settle down, and everything will be all right in that region. But that’s not true. Considering that region’s background history, culture, religion – you cannot interfere with it from the outside.”