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Russian parliament bans criticism of the war on terror
Written by   
, 23 2010
The Russian parliament has banned criticism of the fight against terrorism, equating it to the state secrets acts of 10years ago. Thelaw would deny information about the Chechen war, Nord-Ost, and Beslan.
ImageThe Russian parliament approved the first reading of a government bill equating information on combating terrorism with state secrets. Theonly opposing Members of Parliament came from the Fair Russia party, though it did cause confusion even among the sympathetic United Russia party. Thelaw proposes that information on the security of ‘critical facilities’ would be a state secret, but there are no criteria determining which objects are considered ‘serious’ the parliament building, kindergartens, or market stalls. Opponents of the law state that it would prohibit journalists from investigating terror attacks, and even prohibit analysis and criticism of the security services. Ifsuch a law had been passed earlier, then details on the disastrous mistakes of the Chechen wars, Nord-Ost, Beslan, and other tragedies, might have remained unknown.
Parliament approved the first reading of a government bill equating information on combating terrorism with state secrets. Thebasic bill is titled: ‘Better coordination of the efforts of the state and the public in countering terrorism’. Thebill was prepared by the FSB and submitted to the Parliament by the State Secretary and FSB Deputy Director, Yuri Gorbunov. Gorbunov declared that the law refers to the introduction of a clear legal framework and establishes uniform criteria for determining security information on counter-terrorism to avoid excessive secrecy of such materials. The Federal Security Service representative said: the effort to combat terrorism is much more than just intelligence, counterintelligence, and criminal detection. But what exactly he meant by much more was left unsaid, according to the news journal Kommersant. Gorbunov also did not explain in what way the law would avoid excessive secrecy of such materials, if he could declare almost any information on the security of any object, and the actions of the authorities, a state secret.
Also adopted in its first reading was a law on security, which defines the basic principles of state security, public and ecological security, personal security, and other types of security to be determined by legislation of the Russian Federation, and empowers all organs of the state in this field. Thedocument also clarifies the status of the Security Council (SC), according to the Russian Agency for Legal and Judicial Information (RAPSI).
The government amendments to the existing state secrets law, in the form in which they were received by the Parliament last summer, summoned doubts that even the receptive United Russia party would unanimously vote for it in the autumn. TheParliament Security Committee, recognizing that the project deserved approval on its first reading, stipulated a number of provisions that should be corrected for the second reading.
Criticism was mainly directed at two points. TheFSB's project adds to Article 5of the state secrets law the statement that information on the protection from terrorist and subversive acts, of critical facilities and potentially serious Russian Federation infrastructure would be classified. Apparently this means any information, such as if cameras have finally been installed in subway trains. Deputy Chairman of the Parliament Security Committee, Mikhail Grishankov (United Russia), noted that the meaning of critical facilities and potentially serious have not been determined by any of the existing laws. If the law has no clear-cut criteria, said another deputy Security Committee chairman, Gennady Gudkov (Fair Russia), Then the classified list of such objects could include any object, starting with kindergartens and market stalls. MPs from the United Russia party, however, objected that accuracy of the language could be worked out during the bill's second reading, so for now they approved the law by a vote.
A well-known expert on terrorism, in every sense of the word, Liberal-Democratic Party MP Andrei Lugovoi, said that any state secret law should be accepted in order to strengthen the fight against terrorism. It'd be better to over-tighten some bolts somewhere, and then loosen them later, then to quietly watch the bombings and all that is happening now in the North Caucasus, he stated on Radio Liberty, paraphrasing a popular British statesman.
Another critical part of the new law is a part that classifies information about forms, methods and conditions of the organization and planning of terrorist activities. Critics say this law is primarily aimed at the media, since after an attack the press loves to reveal details on the movement of militants with their tons of RDX throughout the country, and the bribes they paid along the route and for residence permits. Nowthe publication of such information would be a serious criminal offense. Information on such top-down financing would be classified.
It will be impossible to journalistically investigate how a terrorist act was done, how it was made possible, and any errors committed by law enforcement. Wewill be unable to publicly discuss serious failures and holes, and criticism will be impossible, remarked Gennady Gudkov. Indeed, if such amendments had been adopted 1015years ago, then the Russian people would only have learned about the Chechen war or major terrorist attacks from official bulletins. Notjust media publication would be criminalized, but even large-format investigations, such as the work of historians. Asa matter of fact, both Chechen wars were officially declared counter-terrorist operations, and one may be recall how after the attack on Dubrovka in 2002, operational heads and other government representatives concealed hostage deaths until the very last. Evennow in the official version there is a discrepancy on the numbers of victims of the unknown gas. Official reports list 130deaths, while members of the Nord-Ost public organization indicate 174. Oneof the major accusations of the government by former hostages and relatives of the victims was the fact that the authorities did not properly investigate the circumstances of the tragedy this was performed by a very small number of journalists, as well as the victims of the terror attack.
We also note that there has been increasing media and public criticism of government agencies, whose reply to this criticism is to classify most information. Anillustrative example would be the leadership of the Federal Protection Service (FSO), the FSB, Customs, Foreign Ministry, and Foreign Intelligence Service, which this summer refused to divulge details about their budgets, citing this very same law on state secrets. Inresponse, the media ran articles on the salaries and holidays of these later-day 'refuseniks', and in particular, a joint New Year holiday at the resort of Courchevel by FSO Director Yevgeny Murov and Vladimir Kozhin, the president's managing director, and about how Andrei Murov, son of the FSO chief, was a major businessman the CEO of Pulkovo Airport. Asa result, ministry directors finally released income data, but only months later, after a presidential order, and in that case only the incomes of a few of the most important directors.
In ‘New Region’

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