So, how did this happen?

NSA leaker Edward Snowden asked Russian President Vladimir Putin about whether Russia uses its own mass surveillance system, in a video during a question-and-answer session on Russian television.

“Does Russia, intercept, store or analyze, in any way, the communications of millions of individuals?” Snowden asked, according to a video clip posted by Russia Today.

The question, which Snowden asked via video from an undisclosed location (not to Putin), afforded Putin the opportunity to set himself up as a greater champion of individual liberty than the American government. Putin took that opportunity and ran with it.

Our intelligence efforts are strictly regulated by our law, so how special forces can use this kind of special equipment to intercept phone calls or follow someone online, and you have to get court permission to stalk a particular person,” Putin said, according to an English translation by Russia Today.

“We don’t have a mass system of such interception and according with our law, it cannot exist,” Putin said.

However, Putin added that “criminals and terrorists” use technology and “of course” Russia’s special services have to use the same means in response.

See, Russia is just a big ol’ Teddy bear!

USA Today is asking whether Snowden was/is a foreign intelligence asset.

Western intelligence services must assume that Snowden – either on purpose or inadvertently – has leaked to the Chinese and Russian governments the totality of the information with which he fled the U.S., says Fox, adding it would be “utterly inappropriate and irresponsible” to assume that Snowden had been to those countries and they had been unable to intercept the data.

Other senior intelligence officials share the same concern over Snowden’s allegiances. Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Mich., the outgoing chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, believes Snowden is likely connected with Russian spies.

“We know today no counterintelligence official in the United States does not believe that Mr. Snowden, the NSA contractor, is not under the influence of Russian intelligence services,” he said March 23 on NBC’s “Meet the Press.” ”He is actually supporting in an odd way this very activity of brazen brutality and expansionism of Russia. He needs to understand that. And I think Americans need to understand that. We need to put it in proper context.

After today’s public exchange with Putin, the support looks a whole lot more direct. Russian intelligence was notorious for spying on foreign journalists during the Socchi Olympics. Given Putin’s deep history with the KGB, it’s unreasonable to assume that Russia doesn’t spy on its own citizens every day.

Snowden’s last major public address came via video conference, to SXSW in Austin back in March. During that conference, he had very little to say about Russia, other than to claim that neither Russia nor China had been able to break the encryption he had put on the data he took from the US. But supposing he is telling the truth, there is no way that he can know that with certainty. The safe way to bet is that both China and Russia have what he has.

Exit question: Will the recent Pulitzers based on Snowden’s disclosures turn out, years from now, to look just as foolish as the Pulitzer bestowed on Soviet apologist Walter Duranty?