While much of the international community has condemned the National Security Agency’s privacy-abrogating surveillance techniques, President Barack Obama has at least one fan of government espionage on his side: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During a news conference in Russia last week, Putin told reporters the Russian government is not working with NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden to learn more about the American spy programs.
Putin said: “To speak in professional jargon, operatively speaking, we are not working with him, and we never worked with him.
“It is up to him to determine his future,” he said. “We are not going to help him, just give him shelter.”
As for the programs Snowden has already revealed, the Russian leader said that government espionage has been going on for centuries.
“[Spying is] one of the oldest professions in the world, just like some other well-known professions — we won’t mention them here,” he said.
Furthermore, Putin said he is envious of Obama.
“How do I feel about Obama after Snowden’s revelations? I envy him, because he can get away with it,” he said.
On Wednesday, a Washington oversight panel advised the White House that the NSA should not be completely dissolved, but should be substantially reformed.
Among the 46 recommendations for alleviating privacy concerns are:
- Putting an end to the government’s bulk collection of telephone “metadata,” instead leaving that information in service providers’ hands and require court orders for specific investigations.
- Providing more transparency with regard to non-classified NSA programs.
- Increasing protections for non-citizens against the spying.
- Creating a public advocate responsible for respond to government requests before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
- Creating new privacy oversight agencies and officials.