Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Window on Eurasia: FSB Measure Points toward Return of ‘Good Old Times’ of Soviet Past, ‘Nezavisimaya’ Says

Paul Goble

Staunton, October 27 – The draft FSB decree implementing the July 2010 law that requires the special services to warn those whose words or actions suggest they may commit a crime includes provisions that put all Russian citizens be at and that sets the country on the road to “the good old times” of the Soviet past, according to a Moscow journalist.
In an article in today’s “Nezavisimaya gazeta” entitled “The FSB Warns: The Good Old Times are Returning,” Ivan Rodin argues that the newly published draft decree will “lead to the strengthening of control [by the FSB and other organs] over practically all citizens of the country” (
When the law on which the FSB draft decree is based was debated, Rodin recalls, there was “a serious discussion in society which reached up to the president.” But with the publication of the draft decree (!id%3D10435799%40fsbNpa.html), it is “becoming clear how this prophylactic mechanism will work.”
But as is often the case with such measures, it is what is left uncertain that not only prompts questions but raises concerns about the way in which the powers that be will use this new mechanism of social control, a mechanism that could rapidly assume truly frightening dimensions.
One question left unresolved, the “Nezavisimaya gazeta” journalist continues, has to do with what representatives of government institutions or social groups can be called “to the ceremony of giving a citizen an official warning” that his or her actions point toward the possible commission of a crime.
Another has to do with how a citizen who has been warned is going to be required to react. During discussions of the draft bill last summer, its supporters called it a “prophylactic” measure, saying that it would allow FSB officers to warn citizens that their declarations or actions were approaching a “dangerous” point at which a crime might be committed.
On the one hand, any citizen who receives such a warning is obligated to act accordingly. But on the other, “for those who ignore [such warning], no punishments are specified,” an “illogical” situation which was discussed in the Duma but which has not been resolved in the draft decree just published.
The only guidance the draft decree does provide on this point, Rodin says, is contained in one of the attachments. There it is “again said that ignoring a warning simply will lead the individual to the commission of a crime and that he will be punished for that,” a notion that “Russians as always will have to understand on the basis of their own experience.”
Another question that the draft decree leaves unresolved, the journalist continues, is whether the text of the official warning can be published in the media “even without the agreement of the individual who has been warned.” Such steps were allowed in the first draft of the bill but were dropped in the course of negotiations.
But “what do we see in the draft” decree? Rodin asks. Once again, the powers that be claim the right to publish such warnings and thereby mobilize public opinion against individuals who have been warned. That opens the way to the kind of state-sponsored social pressure that likely will be directed at anyone the powers that be do not approve of.
Yet another provision of the draft FSB measure is disturbing. It calls on FSB officers to carefully document the reasons for their warnings. That suggests that the FSB will now be collecting even more information on more categories of citizens and that the organs will have to detain those they are warning for a certain amount of time.
Just who will fall into “the risk groups”? Rodin asks rhetorically, arguing that “practically everyone without exception” because the organs will seek to forestall “not only those crimes which the criminal code lists” but also those which the law enforcement agencies may be the first to know about.
It is quite clear, Rodin concludes, that “as soon as the FSB makes its permitted prophylactic system operational, information about the one and about the other bad intentions circulation it the heads of our citizens will flow to the chekists like a broad river.” And that in turn will require the FSB to get bigger and bigger, with all the obvious negative consequences.

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