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13.12.2011 | Halya Coynash

Blitzkrieg Increase in Security Service’s Intelligence Powers

   

Parliament’s ruling majority has again proved its ability to work with conveyor belt efficiency. A draft bill submitted by President Yanukovych on 23 November regarding the Security Service [SBU] was adopted on 9 December.  Since the President’s veto on his own bill is hardly likely, it would seem that a new division within the SBU has been created with authorization to defend the “legitimate interests of the State “in the information security sphere”.  

The adoption “without a murmur” we spoke of has indeed taken place. The ruling majority is known to vote in unison (even in their absence), but the lack of concern expressed by media and civic organizations is harder to understand. 

Would they be able to explain what is understood by “the information security sphere”? 

This is not about semantics.  If you can’t explain what is meant, then how can you know what does not fall within their scope?  A State Security Service body has been set up to protect something which is either not defined at all in most laws or given a dangerously woolly explanation, including the words “negative effect of information”

This body will be protecting some nebulous “information security” not only from the “subversive intelligence activities of foreign security services” but from “unlawful encroachments from organizations, groups or individuals”.

The word “unlawful” has lost its reassuring note over the last year or more, given the methods used to ensure the “right” results in elections, in the courts, as well as the highly selective application of laws against members of the opposition. 

If the Security Service’s scope includes protecting the State’s interests against the “negative effect of information” then confidence that the word “legitimate” will act as a safety valve would seem misguided.

The new division will have to prove its right to exist and this is already a danger given the notorious use of statistical indicators within most State bodies.  How many “unlawful encroachments” have they nipped in the bud this month?  What “subversive intelligence activities” have they identified and neutralized? 

If the public has no idea what is meant by “information security”, we must ask what the SBU understands their new scope to encompass.   The answer is unfortunately all too clear: it means precisely what those in power want it to mean.  The SBU’s predecessor served the regime in Soviet times; the SBU has continued to do so throughout the years of independence.

So what is different now?  A lot and not least in the enormous opportunities for surveillance, blocking or hacking of websites whose information is deemed by those in power to have a “negative effect”.  

Given the will to do so, of course, however recent trends make it difficult to doubt the existence of such will. The motives which prompted the author of the present initiative also leave little space for illusion.

After the shameful travesty of a court hearing in Yulia Tymoshenko’s prison cell and the resulting indefinite detention order, all of which was initiated by the SBU, there are no grounds for doubting that members of staff of the new SBU division will prove any less obliging. In their zealous endeavours to achieve good statistical indicators we can assume they will look for subversive activities and unlawful encroachments more or less where they’re directed, tacitly or directly, to look.

And what is most frightening, they will almost certainly find them. 

 

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