Russian post to be scrutinized
The Russian Ministry for Communications has given the law enforcement agencies unlimited access to letters, parcels, etc sent by post. Although the Russian Constitution guarantees confidentiality of communications and permits any interference with correspondence only on the basis of a court ruling, the relevant Order was published on 10 July 2009, and has come into force today, 21 July.
The Order, dated 19 May 2009, bears the title “On approving Requirements to networks and postal services for carrying out investigative operations”
Human rights organizations sounded the alarm immediately and with cause.
Representatives of the following State structures are entitled by the new Order to scrutinize correspondence: law enforcement agencies; the Federal Security Service [FSB], Foreign Intelligence, Federal State Security [FSO]; Customs; the Federal Service for the Execution of Sentences; the State Narcotics Control. Networks and postal services are required to hand over correspondence on request, from authorized figures, with there being no mention of a court order in the new rules. Moreover the security services are to have online access to electronic databases via special communication channels.
There is to be unlimited access to all information about registered correspondence, transfers, etc, including that pertaining to personal data, postal addresses etc.
In post offices, in coordination with the FSB, separate rooms are to be provided for the work of representatives of the relevant departments.
The Order deals simply with the clear guarantee in the Constitution of privacy of correspondence, as well as other judgments of the Supreme Court, etc – it simply doesn’t mention them.