"Does Russia intercept, store or analyze in any way the communications of millions of individuals?" former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden asked Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday.
"We don't have a mass system of such interception, and according to our law it cannot exist," the Russian leader responded.
Well, as NPR's Tom Gjelten tweets, the bipartisan Center for Strategic & International Studies has now provided "an actual answer" to Snowden's query.
Here are some excerpts from what the center posted today:
"Three programs, SORM-1, SORM-2, and SORM-3, provide the foundation of Russian mass communications surveillance. Russian law gives Russia's security service, the FSB, the authority to use SORM ('System for Operative Investigative Activities') to collect, analyze and store all data that [are] transmitted or received on Russian networks, including calls, email, website visits and credit card transactions. ...
"Russian law requires all Internet service providers to install an FSB monitoring device (called 'Punkt Upravlenia') on their networks that allows the direct collection of traffic without the knowledge or cooperation of the service provider. ...
"Collection requires a court order, but these are secret and not shown to the service provider. According to the data published by Russia's Supreme Court, almost 540,000 intercepts of phone and internet traffic were authorized in 2012. ...
"SORM is routinely used against political opponents and human rights activists to monitor them and to collect information to use against them in 'dirty tricks' campaigns. Russian courts have upheld the FSB's authority to surveil political opponents even if they have committed no crime. ..."
For his part, Snowden wrote in The Guardian on Friday that Putin's response was "suspiciously narrow" and that the Russian leader "dodged" the issue of whether a mass surveillance program is morally justified. As for Putin's claim that there is no Russian mass surveillance program, Snowden says:
"Others have pointed out that Putin's response appears to be the strongest denial of involvement in mass surveillance ever given by a Russian leader — a denial that is, generously speaking, likely to be revisited by journalists.
"In fact, Putin's response was remarkably similar to Barack Obama's initial, sweeping denials of the scope of the NSA's domestic surveillance programs, before that position was later shown to be both untrue and indefensible."
Sundance has been making strides in scripted television with series like Rectify and Top Of The Lake, but Friday night also brings back a charming little interview show they have — sort of a perfect Friday night show, actually.
The Writers' Room, hosted by Jim Rash (a screenwriter who's also on NBC's Community) features friendly, sometimes giggly chats with groups of writers and sometimes stars from different TV shows. The second season premiere concerns Scandal, which just wrapped up its third season on ABC. Creator Shonda Rhimes, who also created Grey's Anatomy, is one of the most powerful showrunners on TV — perhaps the most powerful in broadcast TV, alongside King Of Procedurals Dick Wolf.
This breezy little half-hour is a chance to hear her, some of the other writers, and star Kerry Washington chatter amiably about how the show operates, how they write it, and what it feels like to make something that's such a phenomenon. And yes, the scene with you-know-who and the wrists? It's in there.
Rhimes is surprisingly frank about some aspects of her show. She recalls sending an e-mail to her writers between the short first season and the beginning of the second, asking them to pitch her some idea, any idea, about a character who was thus far not fleshed out in the slightest. Rash asks whether she got back any ideas that were "insane," and writer Jenna Bans says, "They were all insane." Someone else chimes in that the character "was the Lindbergh baby for a hot minute." He's kidding ... maybe?
Future episodes will cover the writers' rooms of shows including Sons Of Anarchy, The Walking Dead, Pretty Little Liars, and The Good Wife.
Ian McDonnell and Dara Smith are the creative force behind Lakker. They've been recording together for the past decade. Smith, who's also a motion graphics designer and art director for a Dublin design company, produced the breathtaking visuals for "Thermohaline."
"Thermohaline" is from the band's new EP, Containing A Thousand.