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Wiretapping in Russia

wiretapping031008.jpgIt is not just an American problem … the following exclusive translation from News.ru reports that the Ministry of Information has announced that all telephone and internet service providers must allow unrestricted wiretapping and monitoring access for the FSB, despite the constitutional requirement of a court order. We know from experience that this system has been in place for several years, but it is just now that the Ministry is making it publicly known. Ministry of information technologies and communication opens access for FSB to tap telephone conversations The Ministry of information technologies and communication of the RF for the first time officially obligated all telecommunications companies, as well as internet providers, to provide the capability to the FSB to conduct unlimited and uncontrolled tapping of telephones and lifting of information. The Constitution of Russia allows this only on the basis of a court decision. Operators admit that the document puts on record relations that have already evolved for them with the special services. But earlier these relations were regulated by semi-classified instructions of the siloviki organs, reports “Kommersant“.

Order N 9 “On the confirmation of requirements of electro-communications networks for the conducting of operative-and-search measures” dated 16 January 2003. It has been in effect since 1 February, but it was published last Friday. In it is said that an operator has to give t he chekists or the police the technical capability, without leaving offices, to read the correspondence of suspects, as well as to tap their calls.The SORM (means of operative-and-search activity) equipment is being introduced for many years already. But earlier the setup of tapping systems was regulated by agency instructions, in fact classified. But even in them nowhere was it written straight out that the FSB received uncontrolled access.As “Kommersant” notes, the set of equipment for a large internet provider costs around 15 thousand dollars. For the equipping of a cellular company’s switch is required around 100 thousand dollars.The new order, signed by the minister of information technologies and communication, Leonid Reiman, extends to 16 kinds of communications services, in the license condition for which is indicated at the obligation of the operator to provide for the realization of the “conducting of operative-and-search measures”, notes “Fontanka.ru“.They have to set up special equipment, connected to and managed from a remote control panel. This control panel is set up in the organs of the FSB and, according to the requirements introduced, allows to determine: who is transmitting a message (a telephone call, an electronic letter, a text message, and so on) and to whom, to lift the information itself from the communications channel (that is, to tap or to copy the text), as well as to determine the place of location of the subscriber (for cellular communications).Likewise from the remote control panel the special services obtain access to the database of subscribers and the billing system – information on settlements and calls. This information the telecommunications company is obligated to store for the FSB for three years. In addition to this, every operator is obligated to allocate a special technological space, which is where the SORM equipment will be housed. Even workers of the company itself can enter into these rooms only with the permission of the representative of the authorized organ.From the order it follows that employees of the FSB found at a remote control panel will choose the object of control without the knowledge and the approval of the communications operator. That is the telephone company or provider can not even be responsible for the fact of a tap or a lifting of information from a data transmission channel.It is this item that is of greater worry than any other to human rights advocates, who indicated that under the Constitution of Russia “everyone shall have the right to secrecy of correspondence, telephone conversations, postal, telegraph and other messages, restriction of this right shall be allowed only on the basis of a court decision.”Representatives of the organs of state and communications workers insist with a single voice that the introduction of SORM does not violate the rights of citizens, because the operative services will not lift information without a court decision. In so doing, the representatives of the Ministry of communications themselves do not deny that it is impossible to control the work of a remote control panel.That is everybody has to simply believe that employees of the FSB will not listen to anybody without having shown themselves a court warrant. Human rights advocates do not believe in this.Reiman’s new order is already registered as a normative legal act and in the nearest future has to be officially published. This gives human rights advocates the opportunity to challenge it in the Supreme Court of Russia. Claims, from the words of opponents of SORM, may be filed as early as by the end of March.