Microsoft Was Useful, Not Essential for NGO Crackdown

Like many others, I was impressed by Microsoft’s rather quick and commendable reaction to the New York Times piece that exposed alleged cooperation in unlawful raids and repression by state security forces over opposition and environmental NGOs.  But just because new software licenses have been provided to these groups, all that means is that the Kremlin has to come up with another pretext to do the dirty work.  Not a difficult feat.  From the Financial Times:

More than a dozen non-governmental organisations that receive foreign funding in Russia are to be audited by Russian prosecutors office, in a move that threatens a recent thaw in US – Russia relations and undermines the claims of Dmitry Medvedev, the Russian president, to favour democratic reforms.

Human Rights Watch said on Wednesday that the Moscow City Prosecutor’s office had summoned some of Russia’s most well known human rights groups, including the Moscow Helsinki Group, Memorial, Public Verdict, and Transparency International, to inform them of the upcoming audits and demand documents. Auditing such organisations is commonly seen as a way to put official pressure on them, following a 2006 law which restricted their activities.

Surely these terrible groups are conspiring day-after-day to meddle in Russian politics and push a foreign agenda, right?  I wonder what would happen if prosecutors in New York decided to audit and raid the GONGO (government-organized NGO) Institute for Democracy and Cooperation, but then again, in a free society, ideas are not quite so dangerous.