Ed flagged this earlier but I want to make sure people see the clip. Apparently not even Snowden journalist/spokesman Glenn Greenwald knew this was coming, since here’s the best he could do this morning by way of spin:
Snowden should storm the Kremlin, take their surveillance docs & demand to be sent to the US: just like his brave patriotic critics would do
— Glenn Greenwald (@ggreenwald) April 17, 2014
Only two possibilities here. One: There’s an FSB agent out of frame with a gun pointed at Snowden’s head, just to make sure that he reads the cue card as written. In that case, decide for yourself how likely it is that Snowden’s refused to share any U.S. state secrets with Russian intel. Two: He’s doing this cheerfully, either at Putin’s request as a condition of his asylum or at his own request, to exploit a Putin press conference as a way to further needle the NSA. Whatever the answer, the stark fact is that he’s asking a question here which he knows — absolutely knows — will generate a self-serving lie told by a guy who embodies the type of fascism that Snowden claims to abhor. For your information, the name of Russia’s mass surveillance program, a.k.a. “PRISM on steroids,” is the System of Operative-Investigative Measures, or SORM. Via Joshua Foust, they’ve been using it for years but lately, as in so many other ways, they’ve gotten more aggressive with it. A taste:
But the Russian surveillance effort is not limited to the Sochi area, nor confined to foreigners. For years, Russian secret services have been busy tightening their hold over Internet users in their country, and now they’re helping their counterparts in the rest of the former Soviet Union do the same. In the future, Russia may even succeed in splintering the web, breaking off from the global Internet a Russian intranet that’s easier for it to control.
Over the last two years, the Kremlin has transformed Russia into a surveillance state—at a level that would have made the Soviet KGB (Committe for State Security) envious. Seven Russian investigative and security agencies have been granted the legal right to intercept phone calls and emails…
In 2011-2012, while protesters flooded Moscow’s streets, the phones of a number of Russian opposition leaders and members of the State Duma were hacked. Recordings of their private telephone conversations were even published online. On December 19, 2011, audio-files of nine tapped phone calls of Boris Nemtsov, a former deputy prime minister and now a prominent opposition leader, were posted on the pro-government site lifenews.ru. Nemtsov requested an official investigation. As yet, none of the leakers have been found or prosecuted, and the official investigation has not identified a single culprit.
Such victims have no doubt they were bugged and filmed by security services, but only in the fall of 2012 did the first clear indication emerge that SORM was used to wiretap opponents of President Vladimir Putin. On November 12, 2012, Russia’s Supreme Court upheld the right of authorities to eavesdrop on the opposition. The court ruled that spying on Maxim Petlin, a regional opposition leader in Yekaterinburg, was lawful since he had taken part in rallies that included calls against extending the powers of Russia’s security services. The court decided that these were demands for “extremist actions” and approved surveillance and telephone interception.
They’ve used SORM more frequently lately to try to sniff out any Arab-Spring-like protest movements before they get traction. And they’ve complemented their surveillance by censoring hundreds of disfavored websites, no doubt concluding that silencing critics altogether is a more efficient way to neutralize them than monitoring their communications systematically. In fact, the authors of the piece quoted above speculate that Snowden’s main propaganda value to Russia is to help put pressure on popular American sites like Facebook to create separate Russian sites if they want to serve Russian customers. Facebook can’t be trusted so long as it’s being penetrated by the NSA — but it can absolutely be trusted, you see, once it’s being hosted on Russian soil and being penetrated by the FSB (assuming it hasn’t been already). That, presumably, explains Snowden’s softball question to Putin today. Putin wants to assure Russians, surreally, that their data is safer with him than it is with American websites. Who better to tee him up for that question than noble American super-patriot Edward Snowden, the man who blew the lid off NSA surveillance?
Imagine the mindset it takes to pose a question like this, in all apparent earnestness, to someone who’s spent the past two months pretending that the professionally-outfitted soldiers who’ve appeared in Crimea and eastern Ukraine are homegrown “pro-Russian activists.” That’s such an egregious lie, it barely qualifies as a lie; there’s no real intent to deceive behind it, just a formalistic refusal to accept responsibility. Snowden’s seen a news report or two about it, I take it, and yet here he is, pitching his benefactor the softball of softballs. You’re welcome, Vladimir.