WASHINGTON (CBS DC) — Russian President Vladimir Putin defended the U.S. National Security Agency, and even said he envies President Barack Obama in light of the NSA revelations “because he can get away with it.”
Putin’s comments at a Thursday news conference reflected support for the NSA surveillance as a necessary tool to fight terrorism, but added that government rules should “limit the appetite” of the data-collecting agency, CBS News reports.
The 16-year KGB veteran and former head of Russia’s primary espionage agency said that the American spy program “isn’t a cause for joy, it’s not a cause for repentance either.” He added that “on a political level, it’s necessary to limit the appetite of special services with certain rules.”
Russia granted former NSA contractor and leaker Edward Snowden temporary asylum in June, despite U.S. efforts for his return to America to face espionage and theft of government property charges.
Earlier this week, a U.S. federal judge ruled that the NSA’s mass collection of phone records is in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s ban of unreasonable searches, and a government appeal is likely to be issued in the near future.
Putin argued that mass surveillance is a necessary method for exposing terrorist contacts, and that privacy concerns were limited due to the government’s reasonable inability to sift through such a huge amount of data.
When asked by reporters about Obama’s position amid the continuing NSA revelations, Putin expressed a bit on envy for the president.
“How do I feel about Obama after Snowden’s revelations? I envy him, because he can get away with it,” said the Russian leader before going on to defend espionage in general as “one of the oldest professions in the world, just like some other well-known professions — we won’t mention them here.”
Putin denied that any Russian officials have worked with Snowden, and maintains that he has not personally met with him.
— Benjamin Fearnow