Prism hysteria

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In the beginning of June, 2013 The Washington Post and The Guardian have published articles about PRISM secret surveillance program. Allegedly, FBI along with NSA are gathering audio and video files, photos, e-correspondence, documents as well as web logs. According to information provided by media special services have direct access to servers of 9 major American internet companies (Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, AOL, Apple, Skype, YouTube и PalTalk).

Therefore, this netrock suddenly became a matter of national security of the Russian Federation. State Duma deputy Ilya Kostunov has raised a question about use of foreign e-gadgets and services by his colleagues. The official is convinced that transmission of proprietary and confidential information through American servers creates not only deputy’s personal file but also helps foreign nation in its anti-State activities.

Mr. Kostunov addressed himself to deputy premier of Russian Government in charge of defense and space industry Dmitry Rogozin, chiefs of Ministry of Defence, Federal Security Service and Ministry of Communications and Mass Media with an entreaty to generate a manual on how to use foreign information technology. According to Mr. Kostunov a characteristic peculiarity of this situation is that after these instructions are ready any public official who uses, e.g. Gmail to send proprietary documents, can be brought to criminal liability for high treason. Article 275 of the Criminal Code of Russian Federation defines treason as “espionage, disclosure of state secrets, or any other assistance rendered to a foreign State, a foreign organization, or their representatives in hostile activities to the detriment of the external security of the Russian Federation, committed by a citizen of the Russian Federation.” The sentence is deprivation of liberty for a term of 12 to 20 years along with a fine up to 500 000 RUB (15 500 USD) or at the rate of prisoners’ salary not more than for 3 years.

At the same time, I should mention that there is a discussion between legal experts whether it is more appropriate to use legal mechanisms provided in articles 283 (Disclosure of a State Secret) and 284 (Loss of Documents Containing State Secrets) because the difference in sanctions is significant.

Furthermore, it is obviously a necessary move towards the protection of national security but I hope that its results will coincide with universally acknowledged principles of international law and democratic principles and values, although a lot will depend on the law enforcement system.  Given manual’s serious repercussions, consensus is needed on the general criteria governing it, which would enhance its legitimacy. An in-depth discussion of the issue would make it possible to find ways of guaranteeing effective instructions.

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