Volume XIV Number 4 (June-July 2004)


By Max Verbitz (1)

In the Soviet era, the foreign units of the KGB’s 16th Directorate that dealt with the so called Signals Intelligence, were part of rezidenturas and directly subordinate to the Rezident. In the post-soviet period, when the era of FAPSI (Federal Agency for the Protection of Government Information) began for all the subdivisions of the former KGB that had dealt with secrecy and electronic matters, the foreign FAPSI detachments ceased reporting to SVR (Foreign Intelligence Service) Rezidents, and became accountable administratively to the ambassadors, and operationally to Moscow headquarters. Of course, there was cooperation between the two station heads, with the SVR Rezident obtaining from his colleague and former subordinate information essential for his daily activities, but in all other respects they were equal and were subordinated to the same chief in the country of assignment – the Ambassador.

With the end of FAPSI, the SVR recieved all the electronic intelligence assets, and everything returned to the almost forgotten previous situation: The head of the embassy’s electronic intelligence team once more is merely an assistant to the SVR Rezident.

With regard to the rise of FSO (Federal Guards Service), it is common knowledge that FSO emerged in 1996 and, in essence, is the successor to the 9th Directorate of KGB, although the latter underwent a few transformations on the way to its current status and power. In 1991, it became the GUO (Glavnoye Upravleniye Okhrany) - Chief Guards Directorate. At that time it was separate from SBP (Sluzhba Bezopasnosti Prezidenta) - the Presidential Security Service headed by Alexander Korzhakov and subordinate to the President directly. In 1995, for a short time, the Service even swallowed up the Directorate – when Korzhakov was at the height of his power. However, in June 1996, after the demise and banishment of Korzhakov, the more appropriate arrangement was enforced by Yel’tsin: GUO became FSO and incorporated SBP.

There are several aspects to bear in mind now about FSO, as compared to the 9th Directorate of KGB: First, it is in full charge of matters of secrecy in Russia, whereas "the ninth," being, in its time, a major consumer of closed communications, never set the rules for them, so that FSO has scored quite a coup. (In this connection, one should consider also the significance of the presence and the role of FSO personnel in Russian embassies. Even in Soviet times, cryptographers who were representatives of the 8th Chief Directorate and administratively subordinate to the Rezident, occupied a unique position and fulfilled an extraordinary mission: Being the keepers of the codes and having around-the-clock access to the means of communications, they were assigned the task of keeping a watchful eye on the operatives and the Rezident himself, and were required to inform Moscow immediately of any infractions of the rules and regulations regarding the handling of confidential materials. Given the awe these men inspired, one can easily imagine the powers of the current representatives of FSO within the Russian embassies.)

Second, one wonders whether or not FSO, having incorporated SBP, has been stripped of Korzhakov’s legacy – of the authority to launch and conduct investigations with the extensive use of eavesdropping equipment and other technical means usurped by the then Chief of the Presidential Security Service in 1994. Even the FSB people (and KGB before them) did not dare bug the Kremlin as Korzhakov’s hoodlums did.

If the worst happened, and FSO (or SBP within) indeed is empowered to conduct investigative activities – which "the ninth" never was – then there is no more influential and powerful agency in Russia now.


End Notes

(1) Max Verbitz is the pseudonym of a former Soviet Intelligence Officer. His article "New Russia (in an Old Trap)" appeared in the March-April 2004 issue of Perspective.


Copyright ISCIP 2004
Unless otherwise indicated, all articles appearing in this journal have been commissioned especially
for Perspective.

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