10 July, 2006

Russian counter-terrorism

Nezavisimaya Gazeta (July 6, pp. 1-2) reports on the most recent Russian version of the PATRIOT act:
The Duma passed a bill yesterday that amends a score of federal laws related to countering terrorism, extremism, and money laundering. The president will be empowered to make decisions on deploying special forces in operations abroad. Additional powers will be invested in the Federal Security Service (FSB): it will now be permitted to fight terrorists by means that violate the constitutional rights of citizens, without court warrants. Rewards paid for information on terrorist acts and terrorists will be tax-exempt. Media outlets whose correspondents are accredited in counter-terrorism operation zones will find themselves under even tighter control. Confiscation of assets and property will be introduced as a penalty for crimes specified by several dozen articles of the Criminal Code.

The use of the secret services in counter-terrorism operations abroad will be permitted by amending two laws at once - the law on the FSB and the law on countering terrorism. The president's decisions in such cases will not be restricted in any way at all - certainly not by involving any other government institutions in the decision-making. At present, the president requires the Federation Council's consent to send Russian Armed Forces units abroad...

The FSB will get some new counter-terrorism powers. When counter-intelligence operations are under way, state security will be permitted to encroach on citizens' constitutional rights (the right to deny entry to one's home, the privacy of correspondence and telephone conversations) without a court warrant obtained in advance - as long as the court is informed within 24 hours and permission granted within 48 hours (or the unconstitutional activities will have to be halted). The FSB is also expected to inform the Prosecutor General's Office within 24 hours.Secret agents and concerned citizens will be able to count on tax-free rewards for information as of January 1. Journalists in counter-terrorism operation zones will now have to go through the operation commander for everything. The operation commander will decide what to tell journalists and what to withhold. The law expressly forbids media outlets to report anything that might jeopardize the success of an operation or the lives of secret service officers. Violating this provision will be punishable by fines: between 500 and 2,000 rubles for journalists, between 1,000 and 5,000 rubles for chief editors, and 30-100,000 rubles for media companies.The bill was passed in the first reading in mid-April.

Another example of functional convergence? It will be interesting to compare how it is applied over there versus what happens in the US.

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