MOSCOW, April 21 (UPI) -- NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden wrote an op-ed in The Guardian newspaper defending his staged question to Russian President Vladimir Putin regarding mass surveillance in Russia.
In the op-ed, Snowden said he regretted that his appearance and question appeared to the west to be a staged stunt to show support for Russia and allow Putin to take a shot at the U.S.
"I regret that my question could be misinterpreted, and that it enabled many to ignore the substance of the question -- and Putin's evasive response -- in order to speculate, wildly and incorrectly, about my motives for asking it."
Russia is known for having a large mass surveillance infrastructure to spy on its citizens and a very tightly controlled state media. Putin said that the existence of such a surveillance system would be against Russian law, a statement seen as a swipe at the Obama administration and the NSA surveillance programs that have been slammed as a violation of the U.S. constitution.
Snowden said his motives were purely to push the conversation forward about mass surveillance and took an advantage to use the tightly controlled Q&A broadcasted on state television to talk about the taboo subject.
"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. 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."
He added that while he understands the concern of his critics, he pointed out that the only way to invalidate Putin's claims is for Putin to make them in the first place, which he says he wanted to facilitate.