To be clear, Edward Snowden has legitimate criticism of Vladimir Putin’s new laws limiting speech and taking the limits off of domestic surveillance. For that matter, he had legitimate criticism of American policy, too — he just conducted it in an illegitimate, destructive, and ultimately hypocritical manner. Now he’s complaining about the authoritarian nature of his adopted homeland while hiding there from US law enforcement, a situation rich with irony:
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday signed into law a controversial package of counterterrorism measures, including tougher sentences for extremism and heightened electronic surveillance of Russian citizens, that have provoked condemnation from rights activists here.
Among the critics was Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked details in 2013 of U.S. government telephone and Internet surveillance programs. Some measures in the Russian legislation resemble those U.S. programs.
Yeah, but put emphasis on the some, and scare quotes around “resemble.” US policy requires telecoms to retain “pen register” data on all calls within their systems; Putin’s new laws require that, but also recordings of the calls themselves for six months, essentially wiretapping every phone conversation in Russia. The US government asks people to notify authorities if they see suspicious behavior in the “see something, say something” campaign; Russia now makes it a crime not to inform on fellow citizens.
And while the US fights with Apple over encryption back doors, Russia just cuts through the Gordian knot by requiring messaging services (Facebook et al) to provide their encryption keys if they want to do business in Russia. That will set up an interesting showdown between Internet giants and Putin, one that will also perhaps provide another forum for hypocrisy. Most of these companies have publicly opposed US efforts to gain limited access even through voluntary means; will they cave to Putin in order to avoid losing markets worth billions of dollars?
And here’s another one of Putin’s new regulations that doesn’t at all resemble US laws:
The measures will impose tougher sanctions on mass unrest and limit proselytizing, to representatives of registered religious groups. Pacifist religious organizations, including Jehovah’s Witnesses, complain they have been targeted by laws aimed at violent groups.
None of this would surprise anyone else except the deliberately obtuse. Putin’s authoritarian streak had been evident long before Snowden decided to take a powder with highly classified US information. Rather than fight legitimately to expose whatever abuses occurred here, Snowden chose to do extensive damage to national security and hide behind Putin’s skirts while scolding the US for its supposed oppression. It’s a little late now for Snowden to complain about the company he has chosen to keep, at least without a sincere mea culpa to accompany it.
Snowden gets a Captain Louis Renault award for this performance, though: