Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Decline of Free Speech - by Alexander Podrabinek

Decline of Free Speech
Alexander Podrabinek
29 April 2014
On April 29, Russia’s Federation Council passed a law that tightens government control over the dissemination of information on the Internet and treats bloggers as journalists. A week earlier this so-called “antiterrorism package” was adopted by the State Duma. According to writer Alexander Podrabinek, this law fits in with the current trend in Russia of giving the government a free hand while imposing restrictions on citizens.


Free speech is currently going through tough times in Russia—although it has never really had it easy there. Censorship, both explicit and covert, has always undermined society’s ability to receive and disseminate information and literature. Suffice to recall that the nation’s first censorship code (known as the Izbornik Code) was formulated in 1703, whereas its first literary work, “Slovo o Polku Igoreve” (“The Tale of Igor’s Campaign”), was not discovered until a century later. In a sense, censorship in Russia was born before literature! Before the appearance of fiction, censorship was practiced with regard to religious texts in order to separate canonical works from apocryphal ones.
However, once in a while, free speech gained the upper hand before dropping back once again when yet another cold snap replaced the thaw. The most recent cold spell began when former KGB lieutenant colonel Vladimir Putin came to power at the beginning of the twenty-first century. Unfortunately, it was not difficult to predict the changes that occurred after his ascension. What else could a product of the KGB, the main responsibilities of which have always been to protect the regime and suppress freedom, do besides what he was accustomed to—that is, to protect the regime and suppress freedom.
The attack on free speech began during Putin’s first presidential term, starting with the Information Security Doctrine that was approved by Putin on September 9, 2000, and the crackdown on the NTV television channel in April 2001. During the following 13 years, all new legislation concerning the press has been directed at restricting the freedom of the media and increasing liability for violating media-related laws.
The path toward authoritarianism resembles a slide: it is hard to stay put in one place, and the farther a society goes, the faster it moves. Russia began moving especially fast in this direction after 2011, when Russian society unambiguously expressed its outrage with the fraudulent parliamentary and presidential elections. Putin consequently realized that the restructuring of the government along authoritarian lines should be accompanied by repressions against independent media. Furthermore, he concluded that such repressions should precede the restructuring in order to prevent an unpredictable reaction from citizens after they learned the truth about the position of independent media in the country.
The government has considerably increased its pressure on independent media in the last six weeks. In the wake of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, the government’s need to launch a propaganda campaign that would provide the illusion of universal support for the Kremlin’s actions is the obvious reason for the most recent crackdown. Independent media muddle this rosy picture.
On March 13, the Russian authorities blocked access to the popular Internet news sources grani.ru, kasparov.ru, and ej.ru without any specific explanations. By forcing cable providers to terminate their contracts with the Dozhd TV channel, the authorities also deprived Russian viewers of this media option. Finally, the government banned broadcasts of Voice of America in Russia.
The government has considerably increased its pressure on independent media in the last six weeks. In the wake of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine and its annexation of Crimea, the government’s need to launch a propaganda campaign that would provide the illusion of universal support for the Kremlin’s actions is the obvious reason for the most recent crackdown.
The State Duma is actively adopting new legislation and amendments to existing laws that are directed at restricting free speech in the country. It seems like only yesterday that the State Duma’s amendments to the criminal legislation introducing a sentence of five years of imprisonment for “insulting memorable dates of Russian history” were considered the apotheosis of monstrous legislative activity. However, the law adopted on April 22 that designates blogs as media outlets and bloggers as journalists has broken the record of legislative madness.
According to this law, any blog that is visited by more than 3,000 people daily must be registered with Roskomnadzor (the Federal Supervision Agency for Information Technologies and Communications) as a media outlet. Bloggers will be required to post their last names and initials on their blog, as well as their e-mail addresses. In the case that a blogger cannot be identified, Roskomnadzor will be able to demand that the hosting providers submit pertinent data. Such a demand will have to be satisfied no later than three days after the notice is received. Failure to provide information will result in fees of 10,000 to 30,000 rubles for citizens and 50,000 to 300,000 rubles for legal entities.
Authors of blogs with more than 3,000 readers will also be required to “check the authenticity of information before publishing it and to immediately remove any false information; to avoid disseminating information pertaining to citizens’ private lives; [and] comply with the prohibitions and restrictions provided by the laws on elections and referendums.” The requirement that bloggers “avoid disseminating information pertaining to citizens’ private lives” is probably the most significant item on this list. In this way, the government can combat bloggers’ anticorruption efforts by treating any information about Russian officials who have illegal income or have been caught engaging in corrupt practices as information pertaining to these individuals’ private lives.
The law does specify the means the government must use to establish the unreliability of information published on blogs. No judicial procedure is outlined in the case that information is determined to be unreliable, however. If Roskomnadzor chooses to treat some information as false and demands that it be removed, the blogger will have to comply with the demand.
This law is unlikely to be enforced, though. Popular bloggers will hardly be eager to register with Roskomnadzor, and officials in the supervisory agencies are unlikely to be eager to carry out this questionable job. Nevertheless, the regime needs this law in order to be able to “get even” with the opposition in particular instances determined by the General Prosecutor’s Office and the Federal Security Services (FSB).
To return to our earlier point, this law fits neatly into the current trend of giving the government a free hand while imposing new restrictions on citizens. The imposition of administrative responsibility for providing “false information” on speakers at opposition meetings may become the next step in this campaign. Then such restrictions may be imposed on ordinary citizens who discuss topics that the government finds unpleasant in public or at home. An article might be introduced to the Criminal Code establishing responsibility for the deliberate dissemination of false ideas directed at discrediting the current Russian government and social system. This would come as no surprise, because this has already happened once – in the Soviet Union.

“Minister Shoygu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine,” read a statement by the Department of Defense. “Sec. Hagel emphasized how dangerous the situation remains and expressed his desire to find a responsible way forward.”

‘We Won’t Invade Ukraine,’ Russian Military Chief Tells Chuck Hagel

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivers remarks before signing the Department of Defense Human Goals Charter at the Pentagon, April 28, 2014 in Arlington, Va.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel delivers remarks before signing the Department of Defense Human Goals Charter at the Pentagon, April 28, 2014 in Arlington, Va.Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Russia's Defense Minister Sergei Shoygu promised U.S. counterpart Chuck Hagel this week that the Kremlin won't send in troops massed along Ukraine's border into the country, as pro-Russian separatists in the restive region have requested

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel received “assurance”from his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoygu, on Monday that the Kremlin would not send troops amassed on its western border with Ukraine, where separatist forces have called for Moscow’s assistance.
“Minister Shoygu reiterated his assurance that Russian forces would not invade Ukraine,” read a statement by the Department of Defense. “Sec. Hagel emphasized how dangerous the situation remains and expressed his desire to find a responsible way forward.”
Hagel also appealed to Shoygu to help secure the release of seven observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) held by separatist militants in eastern Ukraine.
Russia’s ambassador to the Vienna-based OSCE, Andrei Kelin, on Monday agreed that it would be a “good step” to release the observers but chastised the organization for being “extremely irresponsible” by sending military monitors to the restive borderlands.
“People [are] expecting an aggression … every moment, so it is extremely tense. That is why it was extremely irresponsible to direct [monitors] to this region in this tense situation,” Kelin said after a closed-door OSCE meeting, according to Reuters. It was “quite an adventure or provocation … to bring these people to a hot spot.”
Eight OSCE observers were detained by separatist forces last week and paraded in front of the media on Sunday. One Swedish team member was released later that same day; however, insurgents in rebel-held Slavyansk demanded that the remaining seven be swapped for jailed “activists” held by Kiev.
Eastern Ukraine remained tense on Monday after pro-Russian forces wielding baseballs bats, pipes and stun grenades attacked pro-Ukraine supporters in the separatist-held city of Donetsk. More than 2,000 people had been rallying in support of a united Ukraine in the rebel stronghold. At least 20 people were injured, 10 of whom were hospitalized, after being set upon by the mob.

“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” said Kerry. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behavior.”

Landov

WORLD NEWS

 
04.29.14

Kerry: U.S. Taped Moscow’s Calls to Its Ukraine Spies

The secretary of state claimed in a private meeting that the U.S. intelligence community has recordings of pro-Russian forces being managed by government handlers in Moscow.
The United States has proof that the Russian government in Moscow is running a network of spies inside eastern Ukraine because the U.S. government has recordings of their conversations, Secretary of State John Kerry said in a closed-door meeting Friday.
“Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow and everybody can tell the difference in the accents, in the idioms, in the language. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from,” Kerry said at a private meeting of the Trilateral Commission in Washington. A recording of Kerry’s remarks was obtained by The Daily Beast.
Kerry didn’t name specific Russian officials implicated in the recordings. But he claimed that the intercepts provided proof of the Russians deliberately fomenting unrest in eastern Ukraine—and lying about it to U.S. officials and the public.
“It’s not an accident that you have some of the same people identified who were in Crimea and in Georgia and who are now in east Ukraine,” said Kerry. “This is insulting to everybody’s intelligence, let alone to our notions about how we ought to be behaving in the 21st century. It’s thuggism, it’s rogue state-ism. It’s the worst order of behavior.”
Representatives for the State Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence did not respond to requests for comment.
Kerry has asserted publicly before that Russian intelligence officers were the “catalyst” behind the riots and government building takeovers in eastern Ukraine. But on Friday he told the private audience why he—and the U.S. intelligence community—were so sure of this assessment. 
If U.S. intelligence agencies have intercepted proof of Russia’s destabilization operations, as Kerry claims, it means that the code-breakers and eavesdroppers in the National Security Agency and the broader American armed forces have overcome Russian efforts to hide their military communications. In March, the Wall Street Journal reported that U.S. agencies were surprised that it had not collected any telltale signs of the Crimea stealth invasion at the end of February, suggesting the Russians had managed to give such orders without the United States knowing about it.   
The intercepts also come as more proof has mounted inside Ukraine that Russia is behind the provocations, uprisings and other actions aimed at ripping the country apart. On Monday Ukraine's internal security service claimed they caught the self appointed separatist deputy mayor of Slavyansk with cash and encryption equipment on a return trip from Moscow. Last month, The Daily Beast reported the first signs of a Russian shadow invasion of Ukraine, noting Ukrainian arrests in eastern cities of people suspected of espionage.
“Intel is producing taped conversations of intelligence operatives taking their orders from Moscow. We know exactly who’s giving those orders, we know where they are coming from.”
The U.S. European Command relies primarily upon the RC-135 Rivet Joint to vacuum up electronic communications from Russia. These jets—variants of the Boeing 707 model—are equipped with advanced sensor and signal intercept packages. The other primary spy plane used by U.S. Navy to eavesdrop on such communications is the EP3, flown out off U.S. naval stations in Rota, Spain and Sigonella, Italy. The EP3 is the same spy plane grounded by the Chinese military at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration in 2001. 
The Russians are also listening in on the conversations of Ukrainian and Western officials. U.S. intelligence agencies believe that Russia has been behind a spate of such intercepted telephone conversations leaked out on the Internet andpublicized by Russian state media. Traditionally the Russians use their own Beriev A-50 surveillance and early-warning aircraft to spy on the communications of its adversaries. 
Kerry previewed to the group of influential world leaders Monday’s announcement that the Obama administration is adding a group of Russian officials, businessmen, and institutions to its sanctions list. He gave new details about the administration’s planning of economic assaults on broad sections of the Russian economy that the U.S. would impose only if Vladimir Putin decides to launch an all-out invasion of eastern Ukraine.
“I’m not convinced he’s made the decision to cross the line with his troops because then it’s absolutely no question that its full force sector sanctions, energy, banking, finance, technology, arms, you name it, they are all on the table,” Kerry said. “We are trying to find a way to do sector sanctions so it is minimal negative impact on Europe and Canada and the U.S. but maximum impact on Russia. We believe there is a way to do sector sanctions with a scalpel, not a sledgehammer.”
Kerry said that he believes there is discord within the camp surrounding Putin and that Putin is now feeling pressure to relinquish his policy of aggressively interfering inside Ukraine.

ЦРУ перехватило указания кремлевских чиновников сепаратистам на востоке Украины

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Перехваченная информация свидетельствует о том, что россияне умышленно разжигают противостояние на востоке Украины / REUTERS
Перехваченная информация свидетельствует о том, что россияне умышленно разжигают противостояние на востоке Украины / REUTERS
Об этом заявил госсекретарь США Джон Керри на закрытом заседании трехсторонней комиссии в Вашингтоне, пишет Еспресо.TV со ссылкой на американское издание The Daily Beast.
"Корпорация Intel сейчас изготовляет записанные на пленку разговоры разведчиков, которым отдают приказы из Москвы, и все могут указать разницу в акцентах, идиомах, в языке. Мы точно знаем, кто отдает эти приказы, мы знаем, где они и откуда", - сказал Керри.
При этом он не назвал конкретных российских чиновников, которые фигурируют в записях, но утверждает, что перехваченная информация свидетельствует о том, что россияне умышленно разжигают противостояние на востоке Украины и врут об этом официальным лицам из США и общественности.
"Это не случайно, что есть некоторые люди, которых идентифицировали и в Крыму, и в Грузии, и которые сейчас находятся в восточной Украине. Это оскорбление для любой разведки, не говоря уже о наших представлениях того, как мы должны себя вести в ХХІ веке. Это бандитизм, это мошенническое державничество", - отметил Керри.
Как сообщал УНИАН, после аннексии украинского Крыма Россия продолжает дестабилизировать ситуацию в Украине. В апреле пророссийские вооруженные боевики захватили админздания в ряде городов Донецкой области – в частности, в Славянске и Краматорске. Они похищают, пытают и убивают людей, берут заложников.
Read the whole story
 
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Разведка США перехватила разговоры Кремля со шпионами в Украине - В Мире

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Государственный секретарь США Джон Керри заявил, что американские спецслужбыперехватили разговоры пророссийских сил на востоке Украины с руководством из Москвы. Об этом Керри сказал в пятницу, 25 апреля, во время закрытой встречи Трехсторонней комиссии в Вашингтоне.
Теперь у США есть доказательства того, что российская власть из Москвы управляет сетью своих шпионов на востоке Украины. По его словам, сейчас эти записи обрабатываются. На них сотрудники спецслужб получают приказы из Москвы. "На записях каждый может заметить разницу в акценте, идиомах и языке", - отметил Керри.
"Мы точно знаем, кто раздает эти приказы, и откуда они поступают", - подчеркнул Керри во время закрытой встречи. При этом Керри не назвал имен конкретных российских чиновников, фигурирующих в записях.
Но он утверждает, что записи содержат доказательства того, что русские умышленно разжигают волнения на востоке Украины. "Неслучайным является то, что на них были идентифицированы те же люди, которые были в Крыму и Грузии, а теперь они действуют на востоке Украины", - сказал Керри, передает Украинская правда со ссылкой на The Daily Beast.
Он также отметил, что такие методы действия являются унизительными для любых спецслужб. "Это бандитизм со стороны государства. Это худшая линия поведения", - заявил госсекретарь США.