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Orwell writ large

06/03/2010

THE ISCIP ANALYST

(Russian Federation)

An Analytical Review

Volume XVI, Number 13, 27 May 2010

 

SECURITY SERVICES

Orwell writ large


In late April, a draft law was submitted to the State Duma by the Russian Government. The document consisted of a series of “amendments” to the laws governing the FSB and the “Federation Code of Administrative Infringements,” which would increase significantly the authority of Security Service officers over Russian citizens. (1) The language of the document states that the FSB will be allowed to warn individuals of the “impermissibility of actions by them creating the conditions for the commission of crimes,” that are in the FSB’s jurisdiction. (2) What this means in practice is that FSB officers would be permitted to censure individuals for “disobedience” to “legitimate instructions,” in a three-step process; “warning-fine-arrest…for 15 days.” (3) According to the document’s preamble, one of the punishable offences is “lack of belief in the state’s ability to protect citizens:” (4) in theory, the FSB—in the words of Viktor Ilyukhin, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Constitutional Legislation and State Building, will be able to label “any citizen” as “extremist” for espousing political views contradictory to those of the government. (5) It would appear that the FSB believes it needs these new powers because “individual” media outlets have been encouraging dissent and “drawing young people into extremist activity.” (6) As a result of this viewpoint, the FSB is granted the power to detain for two weeks any editor who refuses to remove an article from an online (and presumably also print) publication upon demand. (7) 
  

Government monitoring of media outlets is not unheard of. Parliamentary democracies such as the United Kingdom and Australia possess the so-called Defense Advisory Notice (DA-Notice), whereby editors may be asked to remove content on the grounds of national security. But the DA-Notice may be issued only in the form of a request, not as an order. If this law is passed, it would mark yet another step toward the re-amalgamation of powers possessed by the KGB during the Soviet era. Russia would once more have “Thought Police.” The language of the amendment itself illustrates just how Orwellian this law is: The new powers to be granted to the FSB are described as “social preventative work.” (8) 
  

An interesting question arises as to whether this piece of legislation might be connected in some manner to the Moscow bombings of late March. Those events would seem to have provided the security bodies with a perfect excuse to use the fear of terrorism as a shield to mask the accumulation of greater powers. Would the draft law have been submitted to the Duma without the suicide attacks?


Metro bombing update
Seven weeks ago, two suicide bombers struck the Moscow Metro system. The attacks clearly were targeted at the Russian political and military establishment, with detonations occurring at the Lubyanka and Park Kul’tury stations, respectively near FSB Headquarters and a number of Defense Ministry buildings. 48 hours later two further bombings were carried out in Dagestan, one of which targeted the FSB’s regional offices.       
  

On April 1, a video appeared online, in which Doku Umarov claimed responsibility for the attacks, and noted that they were carried out in revenge for the deaths of “noncombatant” individuals at the hands of Russian commandos during the first week of February. (9) By April 6 the Security Services had established the identities of the women (labeled as Black Widows) responsible for the bombings, naming them as Dzhennet Abdurakhmanova and Mariam Sharipova. (10) By the middle of April, Russia’s security agencies apparently had made significant progress in their investigation, with FSB Chief Aleksandr Bortnikov claiming that the “masterminds” and “circle of accomplices” involved in the bombings had been identified, and that operations to find them had been launched. (11) 
  

On April 29, Vladimir Markin, a spokesman for the Prosecutor General’s office, announced that detectives working the case had created “identikits” of all of the accomplices, (12) and that the local investigation was complete, with forensic, genetic and explosive analyses carried out at the blast sites. (13) On May 2, Kommersant reported that Special Forces had killed Akhmed Rabadanov in a shoot-out in the Dagestani village of Novyy Kostek. According to local law-enforcement sources, there could be “no remaining doubt” that Rabadanov was one of the individuals guiding the Black Widows in Moscow. (14) Finally, on May 13, Bortnikov announced that three more individuals—allegedly the planners of the Metro attacks—had been killed. The FSB Director claimed that operatives had attempted to detain the suspects, but “to our great regret,” that had been impossible because “they put up fierce armed resistance.” (15) 
  

At the time of writing, the FSB has not released photographs of those killed. Nor, has it apparently released publicly the aforementioned “identikits.”  Given the pressure placed on the security services by President Dmitri Medvedev and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who particularly wished perpetrators be scraped “from the bottom of the sewers,” (16) a cynic might note that Bortnikov’s claims must—at least for now—be taken with a pinch of salt. It is possible that the FSB is claiming what would appear to be a major success to please its political masters and to demonstrate its competence for fear of losing some of its power in the anti-terrorist reshuffle ordered by President Medvedev on April 1. (17) 

 

Source Notes:
(1) “Duma Aide: Amendments to FSB Law Provide for ‘Preventative’ Work With ‘Dissidents’ Interview With Viktor Ilyukhin, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Constitutional Legislation and State Building, by Nadezhda Krasilova and Anatoliy Dmitriyev; date and place not given: ‘Everything has been Farmed Out to the Agents,’—First Paragraph is Novyye izvestiya Introduction,” Novyye izvestia Online, 1 May 10; OSC Translated Text via World News Connection.
(2) “FSB’s Links To Regime Said To Make it Immune to Legislative Changes. Editorial: ‘Anti-People State Security,’” Gazeta.ru, 1 May 10; OSC Translated Text via World News Connection.
(3) “Russian Website Says KGB Traditions Visible in Proposed Security Amendments,” Grani.ru, 27 Apr 10; BBC Monitoring 1 May 10 via Lexis-Nexis.
(4) Ibid.
(5) “Duma Aide: Amendments to FSB Law Provide for ‘Preventative’ Work With ‘Dissidents’ Interview With Viktor Ilyukhin, Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for Constitutional Legislation and State Building, by Nadezhda Krasilova and Anatoliy Dmitriyev; date and place not given: ‘Everything has been Farmed Out to the Agents,’—First Paragraph is Novyye izvestiya. Introduction,” Novyye izvestia Online, 1 May 10; OSC Translated Text via World News Connection.
(6) “Russia: Proposed Amendment Gives FSB Power To Compel Media to Remove Website Materials, Article by Aleksey Nikolskiy, Vera Kholmogorova, 27 Apr 10; place not given; ‘Vedemosti Warned: Punishment for Disbelief in Special Services;’ accessed via Vedemosti Online,” Vedemosti Online, 3 May 10; OSC Translated Text via World News Connection.
(7) “Tatyana Stanovaya Criticizes Plans to Give More Powers to Russian FSB. Article by Tatyana Stanovaya: ‘FSB Warning!’,” Politkom.ru, 30 Apr 10; OSC Translated Text via World News Connection.
(8) Ibid.
(9) See The ISCIP Analyst, Volume XVI, Number 12, Part 1 (22 Apr 10). 
(10) “Second Bomber in Moscow is Identified,” New York Times, 6 Apr 10 via www.nytimes.com/2010/04/07/world/europe/07moscow.html.
(11) “FSB Establishes Identities of Moscow, Kizlyar Blasts Perpetrators,” ITAR-TASS, 13 Apr 10; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection.
(12) “Investigation Identifies All People Responsible For Moscow Metro Bombings—Official,” Interfax, 29 Apr 10; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection.
(13) “Investigation Identifies All People Responsible For Moscow Metro Bombings—Official (Part 2)” Interfax, 29 Apr 10; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection.
(14) “Dagestani Man Accused Posthumously of Involvement in Moscow Subway Bombings. Report by Magomed Abdurashidov and Yuliya Rybina (Makhachkala): ‘They Found a Conductor for the Bombed Subway Trains,’” Kommersant Online, 2 May 10; OSC Translated Text via World News Connection.
(15) “Moscow Attack ‘Planners’ Killed. Three Alleged Organizers of the March Suicide Bombings on the Metro Have Been Killed After Resisting Arrest, Russian Officials Say,” BBC News, 13 May 10 via www.news.bbc.co.uk/go/pr/fr/-/2/hi/europe/8680074.stm. 
(16) Ibid.
(17) “Medvedev Signs Antiterrorism Orders,” ITAR-TASS, 7 Apr 10; OSC Transcribed Text via World News Connection.

 

By Fabian Adami (fabs_adami@hotmail.com)

 

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