Edward Snowden is defending his role in a Russian state-television newscast where he asked President Vladimir Putin about Russia’s spy programs on individual citizens. Since the broadcast became public, many have said that it is obvious that Putin is using Snowden as a pawn in his chess match against the West, using one of the United States’ own citizens and former government employees to push his political agenda. Snowden claims that this not the case, and that he used the opportunity to create a public dialogue on the issue for Putin.
Edward Snowden defended his participation in an annual Russian telecast with Vladimir Putin on Thursday, a move which many described as a clear propaganda effort by the Russians, with Snowden as their pawn.
In an op-ed for the Guardian, the newspaper that originally published his first leaks, Snowden said he asked about Russia’s surveillence in order to push the conversation and Putin’s response into the public dialogue.
“I expected that some would object to my participation in an annual forum that is largely comprised of softball questions to a leader unaccustomed to being challenged,” he wrote. “But to me, the rare opportunity to lift a taboo on discussion of state surveillance before an audience that primarily views state media outweighed that risk. Moreover, I hoped that Putin’s answer – whatever it was – would provide opportunities for serious journalists and civil society to push the discussion further.”
Snowden wrote that his question was meant to mirror the exchange last summer at Senate intelligence committee hearings between Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, about whether the NSA collected records on millions of Americans.
After Snowden’s surprise appearance at the annual television “town hall” with Putin, several critics said that Snowden was clearly being used by the Russians as part of a public relations stunt.
“Sorry, Snowden: Putin lied to you about his surveillance state – and made you a pawn of it,” Eli Lake wrote in The Daily Beast, before detailing how the Russians monitor activities within their country and beyond.