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Impurity of information
Written by «Газета.Ru»   
Понедельник, 27 Август 2007

From Gazeta.ru

The rule that practically every resounding crime inevitably has political baggage is in no way inherent to any particular country.

Информационный засор
Illustration by: Thinkstock/ East News

The lack of instruments of public control and any separation of powers in Russia, however, makes the politically dominant party the absolute one, and leaves behind no guarantee of justice, and, therefore, the likelihood is rather great that the guilty will be not revealed, but somebody else will be assigned the blame.

This is not just immoral and illegal, but, from the point of view of the government itself, ineffective.

An unprofessional or politically expedient investigation, on the one hand, undermines the already not too great confidence the public has in the authorities, while, on the other hand, it makes possible the repeat of several similar crimes.

Prosecutor General Yuri Chaika and FSB head Nikolai Patrushev gave reports to the president on sequential successes by their agencies in solving resounding crimes. Here is how the FSB head’s account on the investigation into the bombing of the Moscow-Petersburg Nevsky Express sounded: “We have interesting operational information and we are evaluating it and separating out the most prospective data in order to give this the top priority and distribute our manpower. I am assuming that this will allow us to complete those tasks that were set at stage one.” Afterwards, the top spook ‘informatively’ added that the investigators had: “correctly introduced into the versions put forward at the time the criminal case was opened, taking into account what we already have from the first examinations that take into account the information produced.” It is understood that the report given to the president looked a lot different, and that here we are dealing with something put out for publication. Thus, as the famous Captain Volin from the movie “His Majesty’s Adjutant” expressed it: “We have what we have.” The problem is not even in the bureaucratic double-talk, but in the complete lack of any sort of meaningful information in the report.

If it were classified in the interests of the investigation, then it would be better just to say nothing to the populace, than to report what they did. If there is nothing, and this is the typical bureaucratic imitation of activity.

In this case, however, the subject is not some program of the federal bureaucracy, but the bombing of what is all but the nation’s top train.

Yuri Chaika was more specific: he reported the arrest of 10 suspects (later the Moscow city court made a correction – there were 8 persons arrested) for participating in another resounding crime, the murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya, who was sharply critical of the actions of the authorities in Chechnya. In contrast to the previous report, here the information was very concrete. The problem, however, is that investigations of such crimes in Russia do not allow the public to trust in the reports of victory.

More precisely, there is no confidence whatsoever that those detained were actually those who actually committed this crime, and not merely people whose arrests help timely reports be made to higher leadership.

In August, Levada Center conducted a poll in which only 8 percent of those polled believe that the authorities are telling the whole truth about the most resounding terror act of the Putin era, the capture of the Beslan school by gunmen, and about 80% have various degrees of doubt about the authenticity of official information. This is very significant. Representatives of the law-enforcement agencies – specifically Vladimir Kolesnikov, who heads the investigation group on personal orders of the president and was once the first deputy prosecutor general, for example, publicly promised to question the heads of the FSB and Interior Ministry in this matter. This was never done, however. Either never done, or nothing was ever said to the public about it. The court fully exonerated all policemen in North Osetia and Ingushetia through whose territory the terrorists openly traveled carrying weapons and explosives. Not surprisingly, examination proved that the flamethrowers used by special operations soldiers during the assault on the school did not cause the fire. The investigation in general practically refused to look at the actions of specific government representatives and special operations soldiers during the hostage rescue operation. In exactly the same manner, the government refused to evaluate the actions of their representatives during the capture of hostages in the capital city at the Dubrovka theatrical center during the performance of the musical ‘Nord-Ost’.

The public cannot summon a lot of trust in the investigations of resounding murders. For example, in the case of the murder of Andrey Kozlov, first deputy chairman of Central Bank, the chief suspect, in the form of banker Alexey Frenkel, who supposedly paid for the hit on Kozlov, has been sitting in jail for more than half a year while the case has yet to be brought to court and there is still no real evidence of his guilt. At the very least, there is more than sufficient basis for not trusting the investigators. After all, those who gave testimony against Frenkel have recanted, and the public has only found this out from his attorney, while the investigation has not refuted this.

Every resounding crime has three components: politics, in so far as in one way or another it acts on the relationship between the public and the government, or the stability of the government itself; justice – the necessity of solving this crime just like any other; the professionalism of the investigators – their ability to overcome the political situation, the temptation to blow one’s own horn, and pressure by the executive branch (in the cases of Beslan and ‘Nord-Ost’ such pressure was obvious in so far as these audacious terror acts placed doubt on the capabilities of the entire government apparatus).

Solving such crimes in principal is important on the basis of the investigation’s professionalism and their independence from political expediency.

On the one hand, it is important to solve these so that resounding crimes directed against the authorities (terror acts with the seizure of hostages or the bombings of trains) are not repeated due to a poor investigation and the conviction of ‘switchmen’. On the other hand, it is important to solve these, so that crimes directed at well-known public figures (the murder of famous journalists or high-ranking public officials) do not cast doubts on the ability and desire of the government to punish those truly guilty of the crimes, and not cause people to suspect the government’s own participation in these evil deeds.

Empty reports and officialese in accounts transmitted by government information agencies, however, is best left for internal use.

Not simply because it demonstrates the authorities’ complete disrespect for the public, in so far as the information simply looks like derision: you are interested in this? Here you go, ‘grab’ on to it, but because this theme is too serious to hide behind empty bureaucratic talk.

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