Two unnamed sources have told The Daily Beast that NSA whistle-blower Edward Snowden regrets asking Vladimir Putin a question about government surviellance during the Russian president's annual call-in show. I wrote about the incident last week.
According to The Daily Beast's reporting it did not occur to Snowden that the segment could be interpreted as a victory for the Kremlin. From The Daily Beast:
"He basically viewed the question as his first foray into criticizing Russia. He was genuinely surprised that in reasonable corridors it was seen as the opposite," added Ben Wizner, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who serves as one of Snowden's closest advisers.
According to Wizner and others, Snowden hadn't realized how much last week's Q&A—with Putin blithely assuring Snowden that Moscow had no such eavesdropping programs—would appear to be a Kremlin propaganda victory to Western eyes. And so the leaker quickly decided to write an op-ed for the Guardian to explain his actions and to all but label Putin a liar for his televised response.
As Reason's Scott Shackford noted last week, Snowden defended asking Putin about mass surveillance, saying in an op-ed for The Guardian that, "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."
Some have criticized Snowden for seeking asylum in Russia. But, as I pointed out shortly after the first publication of a Snowden revelation, Snowden seeking asylum in Russia does not mean he is sympathetic to Russia's authoritarian policies. That said, he might want to be more careful about nonintentionally portraying himself as sympathetic to the Russian government in the future.