Russian Media Freedom Going, Going, Gone

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Putin_Bush.jpg
What exactly did President Bush see when he looked into President Putin’s eyes? I recall he got “a sense of his soul.”
After my post last week about Kommersant’s reaction to the death of Russian journalist Ivan Safronov, a couple of my Russian friends e-mailed me to tell me they were concerned for my safety.
I think I’m plenty safe writing critically about Putin from my Washington, D.C. office. But now I’m beginning to worry about my friends who wrote me the e-mails.
This from the Financial Times:

Vladimir Putin, the Russian president, has decreed the creation of a new super-agency to regulate the country’s media and the internet, sparking fears among journalists that a clampdown on the media could extend to the web, which until now has remained free.

Downright spooky.
The official Kremlin line is that this is just bureaucratic reshuffling. Some speculation in the Western media has focused on the timing of the move, just a year before elections. The shockwaves that an Internet-patrolling agency will create will long outlast a single electoral season.
In fact, the implications of this move could be even greater than the chilling effect it is sure to have on bloggers and online news outlets. Setting up to regulate the Internet opens up the possibility of regulating e-mail, the cheapest, easiest, and presumably most anonymous form of communication available to Russians today.
During my first trip to Russia in 1998, my friends and I had conversations with Boris and Ivan, FSB agents we imagined were listening to our every move at the now-closed, legendary Rossiya hotel. My friends who had made trips just a few years earlier recalled finding bugs in the room and cracking jokes for the benefit of the real-life agents who were listening in.
In 1998, living with spies felt like a quaint aspect of daily life in Russia that was comfortably in the rear view mirror. There’s nothing quaint about these current developments. By spying on e-mails, the FSB can “listen in” on any Russian without the hassle of installing bugs or the potential humiliation of their discovery.
If only that could have be foreseen by looking into Putin’s eyes. Until recently, the United States embraced a policy of see no evil, hear no evil in Russia. On the few recent occasions when administration officials have chided Russia for the erosion of press freedom and democracy, Putin has simply deflected the criticism by returning fire and telling America not to throw stones from glass houses.
It didn’t have to be this way. The Bush administration has left the U.S.-Russia relationship to rot, replacing back-and-forth diplomacy with warm fuzzy compliments. For his first five years in office, Bush turned two blind eyes to crackdowns like this one in order to increase the likelihood of some future diplomatic agreement on Iran, Iraq, North Korea, or the next American foreign policy failure du jour.
Now, that has been exposed as pure fantasy. And you won’t even be able to blog about it in Moscow.
— Scott Paul

Comments

41 comments on “Russian Media Freedom Going, Going, Gone

  1. Pissed Off American says:

    Here we have news of settlers building on Palestinian land as brought to our attention by Peace Now and WaPo/Reuters. Again, a two-click problem:
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A third of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are built on private Palestinian land, an anti-settlement group said in a report on Wednesday.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/14/AR2007031400222.html
    Posted by MP
    ROFLMAO!!!!!! This one is even MORE ridiculous, MP. It hardly describes “the plight of the Palestinians. It presents “Peace Now’s” claims, and presents the official Israeli rebuttal. You have a lot of balls calling ME a liar, MP. When are you going to start arging with FACTS instead of pure unmitigated crap?

    Reply

  2. Pissed Off American says:

    Here you go,POA, a transcript of Kucinich’s talk to the DNC, transcribed and reported in WaPo. He’s talking about his trip to the ME. Two clicks and I was there.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/05/AR2007020500731.html
    Posted by MP
    MP, you accuse me of lying on another thread. Heres the deal, MP. The link you provided doesn’t say a damnned thing about “the plight of the Palestinans”. It is YOU that said Cheney recieved a “tepid” reception at the AIPAC conference, when in fact he was cheered enthiusiastically. And it was YOU that claimed the AIPACers are against the Iraq war, when in fact they booed Pelosi when she expressed her chagrin at the way things are going in Iraq. And it is YOU that claimed the WP regularly publishes items about “the plight of the Palestinians”. Yet you can’t seem to produce any proof of that. In fact, you seem to be full of a bunch of claims that you don’t seem to be able to validate. And you call ME a liar?

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  3. MP says:

    Here we have news of settlers building on Palestinian land as brought to our attention by Peace Now and WaPo/Reuters. Again, a two-click problem:
    JERUSALEM (Reuters) – A third of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank are built on private Palestinian land, an anti-settlement group said in a report on Wednesday.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/14/AR2007031400222.html

    Reply

  4. MP says:

    Here you go,POA, a transcript of Kucinich’s talk to the DNC, transcribed and reported in WaPo. He’s talking about his trip to the ME. Two clicks and I was there.
    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/05/AR2007020500731.html

    Reply

  5. Pissed Off American says:

    Here you go, MP. I did the work for you. Here is the last sixty days of Washington post articles dealing with “Palestinians”. So, now perhaps you will peruse them and find me the articles that describe “the plight of the Palestinians”.
    (Then again, I kinda doubt it. Don’t you hate it when people call you on your bullshit, MP?)
    http://tinyurl.com/2cjk3x

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  6. Pissed Off American says:

    ROFLMAO!!! So, yet another assertion of fact that you cannot back up, eh MP?

    Reply

  7. MP says:

    POA…just read WaPo for a while.
    See for yourself.

    Reply

  8. Carroll says:

    http://www.antiwar.com/reese/?articleid=10687
    Forget Israel, Befriend Russia
    by Charlie Reese
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I agree with old Charlie all the time. But I go even further on Russia. I think one of the biggest mistakes the US ever made was our pissy attitude toward Russia after WWII. That was the moment when we could have formed a grand alliance for gawd’s sake. Look at where re-built Germany is now. Instead we broke their back the same way Germany was broken after WWI. Hardly conductive to that “stability” we are always yapping about in our regions of “interest”. This was a case where the war industry had a taste of gold and wasn’t about to by pass the cold war opportunity of another cash cow.
    Imagine this:
    http://www.eisenhowerinstitute.org/programs/livinghistory/SovietExperienceww2.htm
    The populations of the United States and the USSR were about the same, 130,000,000, when both nations went to war within six months of each other in 1941. America would lose slightly more than 400,000 soldiers (killed or missing) and almost no civilians during World War II and the USSR, depending on which historian you believe, would lose at least 11,000,000 soldiers (killed and missing) as well as somewhere between 7,000,000 and 20,000,000 million of its civilian population.
    Even General Eisenhower, no stranger to war-damaged towns and cities, was appalled by the extent of depopulation and wrote in his memoir:
    “When we flew into Russia, in 1945, I did not see a house standing between the western borders of the country and the area around Moscow. Through this overrun region, Marshal Zhukov told me, so many numbers of women, children and old men had been killed that the Russian Government would never be able to estimate the total.”ix
    Many historians, from Liddell Hart to Harrison Salisbury, have speculated that the unprecedented savagery of the war fought in the USSR between 1941 and 1945 led to the national paranoia-the “never again” mentality. For those who remembered the war, any cold war policy that would repel any future aggressor on their soil- or discourage any group of nations from contemplating it-was an acceptable sacrifice. >>>>>>>>>
    Now does anyone think Russia is going to let itself or it’s national interest in the ME, much less on it’s home ground, be jerked around by a bunch of effete neo’s in the US and gaggle of midget nazis in Israel? I don’t. We Americans can have no conception of what tough is untill we’ve been where Russia was. So I suggest we clean up our own house and quit poking the bear.

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  9. Pissed Off American says:

    Well, MP, seeing as how you do not see the need to buttress your allegations and arguments with sources or collaborating evidence, perhaps you find this link interesting. It is an actual study of the manner by which AP presents its accounting of the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.
    An excerpt………
    We noticed significant stories that, perplexingly, were sent only on the Worldstream wire, disseminated internationally, but that were not sent to U.S. editors. For example, on May 11, an AP story reported: “The Geneva-based Defense for Children International and Save the Children, based in Sweden, said that as of May 2004, 373 Palestinians under 18 were being held in Israeli detention centers and prisons. At least three of the detainees are under 14…The groups charged that the treatment of Palestinian child prisoners by Israeli authorities amounts to a pattern of violence that has gone unchecked for years…” This story was not sent to U.S. newspapers.
    It is unclear to us why this story would be considered newsworthy for readers in other parts of the world but not for readers in the U.S., Israel’s primary ally. A study comparing AP reports sent to U.S. papers to AP reports sent to international papers might be of interest.
    Previous studies have shown newspaper coverage often to be significantly more distorted than the pattern we have found for AP,11 and we wonder if AP’s system for alerting newspapers to the top stories of the day may play a role in this differential. We urge newspapers and AP itself to examine this system. We hypothesize that such an investigation would reveal increased distortion.
    Conclusions
    We are concerned about the results of this study. As the primary newswire, newspapers across the country rely on AP. Since most newspapers cannot afford to send their own correspondents abroad, AP is often one of only a few sources of international news. We believe the readers of these papers, as well as all Americans, are entitled to full and accurate reporting on all issues, including the topic of Israel/Palestine.
    Given that AP had ample coverage of this issue (over 700 news stories on deaths alone), it is troubling that so much critical information for American readers was omitted. Further, our findings suggest a pattern of distortion in AP coverage of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict inconsistent with normal journalistic standards. Such a pattern of distortion, in which readers were given the impression that the Israeli death rate was greater than it was, and that the Palestinian death rate was considerably smaller than its reality, may serve to misinform readers rather than inform them.
    In particular, our study shows immense distortion in the coverage of children’s deaths. By covering such a large proportion of Israeli children’s deaths in headlines or first paragraphs and such a low proportion of Palestinian children’s deaths, AP’s coverage obfuscated the fact that in actuality over 22 times more Palestinian children were killed than Israeli children.
    contnues at…
    http://www.ifamericansonlyknew.org/media/ap-report.html

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  10. Pissed Off American says:

    You got one of those WP articles that describes the “plight of the Palestinians” to show us yet, MP?
    No? Suprise, suprise.
    And on the topic, maybe Paul SHOULD be making a comparison. I mean, after all, he doesn’t wake up to the Russian media every morning, he wakes up to OURS. Its kinda like bitching about your neighbor’s wife screwing the postman, while ignoring the fact that your own wife is screwing your neighbor.

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  11. MP says:

    Hmmm. Is the principle here that one can’t criticize another regime unless one’s own country is clean…or not deserving of criticism?
    Does a post about Russia have to focus on the US…or any number of other countries…as well in order to make valid points worthy of consideration?
    I don’t quite understand that a principle.
    Scott is making a statement, not drawing a comparison.

    Reply

  12. Pissed Off American says:

    Again, perhaps Scott Paul would be well advised to worry about whats happening HERE, not in Russia……
    http://www.rutherford.org/articles_db/commentary.asp?record_id=461

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  13. Pissed Off American says:

    Personally, I think we oughta make Jeff Gannon the Press Secretary. If we are gonna get hosed, it might as well be by someone that has the goods to do it right.
    But hey, no one has mentioned Armstrong, and the Bush Administration’s purchase of political advertising that was disguised as hard news.
    The fact is, in many ways, the media in America is every bit as controlled as Tass was in Russia. And Bush’s purchasing of “news”, such as the occurred in the Armstrong debacle, is in itself cause for impeachment. And what about the fat assed venomous drug addict, Limbaugh, being piped into our troops day in and day out in Iraq? Why in God’s name is it important to the DOD to subject our troops to HIS surreal perversions of reality?
    We have an advocate for the White House as an Attorney General, and a conglomerated corporate purveyor of propaganda for a Fourth Estate. Its no damned wonder this ship is sinking. Frankly, Russia’s media is the least of our worries if factual information is what we are seeking. The only differnce between propaganda in Russia, and propaganda in the United States is the nature of the lies.
    Ask Dan Rather what happens in America if you speak the truth. Just don’t ask that AWOL lyin’ monkey in the Oval Office. He’s scared to death of you hearing the truth, and he will go to any length to hide it from you.

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  14. Brigitte N. says:

    After great progress in the Russian press after the end of the Cold War, Putin has turned back the clock, for sure. But he is also right to tell President Bush that he should not lecture him on press freedom. Simply look what happened in Iraq during the occupation–too many voices were silent–including the ban of Al Jazeera from having a presence in and thus reporting from Iraq. Not to mention the intimidation of the American news media in the months and years after 9/11 by Bush and his supporters in the “patriotism police.”
    The fact that the president and other American officials can no longer take the moral high ground, when it comes to fundamental democratic values is the most regrettable consequence of the many failures in the 9/11 era.

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  15. ftr23532 says:

    A related piece of recent news involves Golden Telecom, a major Russian telecom provider owned by the Alfa group . According to the Russian regulatory agency: “…The allegation follows an inspection by Rossvyaznadzor of an independent operator, OAO Arctel (“Arctel”). Rossvyaznadzor believes that Sovintel inappropriately converted telephone traffic of Arctel into IP-telephone traffic and then incorrectly routed this traffic abroad.
    …”
    http://www.marketwire.com/mw/release_html_b1?release_id=226198
    Who knows what to make of it, but one has to wonder what may have inspired the uber-Oligarch-owned Russian telecom giant to send russian phone conversation data on such a circuitous route.

    Reply

  16. steambomb says:

    What did Bush see when he looked into Putins’ eyes? He saw a mentor.

    Reply

  17. rich says:

    And Echelon predates Carnivore and Sorm both.
    Too bad such eavesdropping has disrupted anti-terrorism investigations–of Osama bin Laden–in 2000.
    http://www.epic.org/privacy/carnivore/5_02_release.html
    Of course, uncovering CIA & NSA electronic surveillance, or the telecom traffic used by America to “disappear” people, can cost you your life.
    Take Adamo Bove. He plunged to his death in Italy. Bove’s the telecom security expert who exposed and traced the cell calls of CIA & SISMI agents who kidnapped Abu Omar and had him rendered & tortured.
    In Scott’s own words, again: “Apparently we’re to believe that” Bove, “who was about to” finish “detailing his investigation” for Italian magistrates and “about to” meet his wife, “suddenly decided to give up on life. Raise your hand if you buy that?”
    Costas Tsalikidis–the Greek telecom security expert–was also killed b/c he uncovered that Vodaphone (& Ericksson) had been illegally wiretapping Greek citizens.
    “[A]ccording to testimony by Bove’s ex-colleagues in Milan, it was Adamo Bove who helped the Milan magistrates identify and reconstruct the mobile phone traffic during the kidnapping of Abu Omar in Milan on February 17, 2003. It was this crucial investigative work that led to arrest warrants for 26 American agents and many of their Italian accomplices.”
    “Moreover Bove was able to identify the mobile phones used by the SISMi agents under investigation and recently arrested. His work was particularly difficult as he not only had to identify the SISMi phones, but to crack through protective screens and scramblers, and do so without raising suspicion not only in the SISMi but among possible infiltrators in his own team.”
    http://www.warandpiece.com/blogdirs/004629.html
    “Tsalikidis discovered an extraordinarily sophisticated piece of spyware within his company’s network. The Prime Minister and other top officials were targeted, along with Greek military officers, anti-war activists, various business figures — and a cell phone within the American embassy itself. This page gives a full list of the targets, very few of whom could be considered as having even a remote connection to terrorism.” Extortion..
    “The Vodaphone (& Ericksson) eavesdropping was transmitted in real time via four antennae located near the U.S. embassy in Athens, according to an 11-month Greek government investigation. Some of these transmissions were sent to a phone in Laurel, Md., near America’s National Security Agency.”
    http://www.bradblog.com/?p=3305 (scroll & follow links)

    Reply

  18. iop says:

    > fears among journalists that a clampdown on the
    > media could extend to the web, which until now
    > has remained free.
    Free from censorship, maybe I dont know. Chechen sites tend to be hosted from outside the country. IIRC this is after some trouble. On the bright side, that cheap mp3 site which pays to Russian copyright cartels stayed in the air trough a lot of international pressure. (That shows some messed up priorities on both sides 😉 ) It may still be online.
    But the “Russian Internet” had very little time free from political snooping. Sorm-II dates back a couple of years, to say nothing of the original SORM legislation from 95. (Predating the FBI`s relatively cute carnivore? It defiantly predates moves like it in most of Europe) http://www.motherjones.com/news/feature/2000/02/sorm.html
    The tax threats to providers which didn`t comply with FSB snooping demands (just one?) came shortly after that.
    > By spying on e-mails, the FSB can “listen in” on
    > any Russian without the hassle of installing
    > bugs or the potential humiliation of their
    > discovery.
    Well, there is the story of the German mobile phone operator which billed some of its customers an unexpected bit extra… to have their phones tapped. Oops.
    I Also recall a story of a European service taking its new infrastructure for a spin on, lets say, a gathering of talented programmers. Something people soon figured out from public traffic statistics at the governments side.
    Then there is the US story of the Islamic charity which, along with normal documents in a lawsuit, got mailed a document marked top secret with “phone logs” (Traffic data?). It was asked to give back this secret document and forget the whole thing happened. They didn`t, and this document is now the key bit of evidence under seal in one of the lawsuits over unconstitutional NSA wiretapping. (But really, if the US government couldn`t get the evidence for a FISA warrant in this case… then the US is pretty much scr#$@ed)
    Wired: Top Secret: We’re Wiretapping You
    http://www.wired.com/news/technology/1,72811-0.html
    And Of course Italian tabloids have had a lot of transcripts from embarrassing high profile phone calls.
    >And..in the end our spying will always be bigger
    > and better than Russia’s spying..No one is gonna
    > outdo the USA on spying for the good of the
    > democracy and the American way for gawd’s sake!
    Like I said, Sorm predates carnivore. It also was a lot bigger. It called for boxes installed at every ISP, instead for the ones with a customer for which there was a warrant. Whats amazing about the recent revelations from Mark Klein is that the nsa used specialized but of the shelf equipment. This is stuff the FSB could have bought it as well. This stuff has impressive specs. But the real measure of a large scale surveillance operation is not the technology but the amount of people reading, listening, translating and transcribing. Fort Meade has a lot of parking spaces in satellite photo`s 😉

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    And..in the end our spying will always be bigger and better than Russia’s spying..No one is gonna outdo the USA on spying for the good of the democracy and the American way for gawd’s sake!
    Compaq To Build U.S. Supercomputer 08/23/00 12:00 AM PT | E-Commerce Times … U.S. Lawmakers Probe FBI Net Spying 07/25/00 12:00 AM PT | E-Commerce Times …
    http://www.technewsworld.com/perl/search.pl?&query=supercomputer&init=60
    CNN: Inside the NSA: The secret world of electronic spyingIn reality, the NSA is prohibited from spying on U.S. citizens unless it can prove to … The NSA supercomputer center contains the largest accumulation of …
    echelononline.free.fr/documents/cnn/cnn.htm – 86k

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  20. rich says:

    temoc94:
    You’ve completely misread explicit statements here. Read carefully.
    –“Putin’s moves to regulate content on the internet are unimportant.” No one’s saying this. I pointedly said the opposite. The key point you ignore is that to omit principled rejection of the VERY SAME crimes domestically is to bankrupt any foreign policy that professes (likely falsely) to promote freedom in Russia.
    –Re your ~’Russia’s backsliding; Saudi Arabia’s been criticized’ (paraphrasing) idea. Both deserve help/criticism; both rule harshly & we’ve got minimal influence on either. You’re naive to think the Saudis received even minimally sufficient criticism or pressure. Was it discussed? Sure. But it’s also utterly beside the point. What’s more, Russia never had a great record on a free press, either, so your distinction is pretty much lost. The naivete there’s a point there is not lost.
    –Posters are raising issues of double standards, ineffective policy, lack of realpolitik, and hypocrisy. For you to disingenously state that “the Fairness Doctrine [a domestic legality] doesn’t apply here” is just sloppy thinking. The VERY PURPOSE many are posting here is to re-establish free press ideas here at home. Others rightly insist that consistency and adherence to free press ideals abroad, across the board, will support effective, successful foreign policy–not abet the current failures.
    While there’s obviously a difference in degree (btw US-Russia), your hair-splitting evades some valid points.
    –You write “the ‘USA/UK invasion of oil,’ it’s rather the reverse: for those who slept through the recent Ukraine and Belarus crises, Russian hydrocarbons, principally gas, are invading Western Europe. The U.S. does not sell oil to, or procure material quantities of oil from, Russia.”
    No kidding. The poster meant to write “invasion FOR oil”; further, the Ukraine/Belarus ‘crisis’ arose b/c contracts were locked in at below-market prices. Putin merely wanted the free market price. Your last US-Russia sentence (quoted above) is gratuitous. It’s unlikely the World Bank dealt on the up-&-up or on the level, when they had Russia at a disadvantage.
    –You wrote:
    “Assuming this [‘the NSA has been scanning EVERY U.S. ..email’] is true, there is a big difference between scanning e-mails for keywords … and exercising prior restraint over internet content.”
    Assuming?!? Read your newspaper. This has been splashed all over the MSM, TV, & the internet. Second, your ‘big difference,’ ISN’T. We have laws about search & seizure, about warrants, and we’ve repeatedly violated those.
    You clearly want to insist on the distraction of that OTHER GUY’S sins. Quick!, you say, Look over there! No: THAT’S NOT THE ISSUE AT HAND. Even last week, the FBI violated existing law on warrantless wiretapping, exceeding their too-broad authority. Further, these so-called ‘free-speech zones’ [sic] and the White House-directed ejecting of citizens from public forums is easily illegitimate & clearly prior restraint.
    The issue is what’s going on HERE; every failure abroad stems directly from the breach of trust HERE. Everything takes a back seat to that.
    –You write: “Who, exactly?” [has been jailed/disappeared domestically] You haven’t heard of Jose Padilla? Who has been tortured, btw. Are you actually asking who’s been “disappeared”? That’s pretty obtuse, given the abuse of habeas corpus, & the refusal to justify holding/torturing those we DO know about. What do you think “disappeared” means?
    –“Quite the contrary [that “Tass is alive and well, reincarnated as Fox”]: your very examples show the diversity of thought on the U.S. airwaves.”
    Evasive & unresponsive: diversity of thought hardly proves American media is open, free, or healthy. With FOX & David Brooks & Fred Hiatt lying openly, day after day, they’re closer to Tass or Pravda than any American ideal of a free, adversarial press operating in the public or American interest. Is lying, is propoganda, in any way within the definition of ‘diversity of thought’? No way. Does the presence of diversity justify, even a bit, the literal betrayal of the free press intrinsic in FOX’s (& etc.’s) propoganda? In a pig’s eye. No way in hell.
    With Armstrong Williams & others literally bought & paid-for by the White House, and Judith Iscariot Miller & Matt Cooper & Russert & Miller & Woodward carrying out retribution of dissenters for Rove-Cheney-Bush—you have no case. Many US media organs are state instruments and work fist-in-glove with Administration crimes; not the reverse.
    –You write “More importantly, the “U.S. threat” (the very concept of which is silly coming from a major nuclear power) is simply Putin’s excuse du jour for clamping down on civil liberties.”
    Precisely Prznt Bush’s illegitimate claim. But it’s hardly silly for Putin to observe the US is a demonstrated threat. Bush–and standard operating US policy–is clearly a overt threat to sovereign ME nations, and obviously to Russia as well. That mode is a clear violation of American core values deriving from 1776’s insistence on self-governance and rejection of foreign meddling. But it’s ok for us to do high-handedly elsewhere, what we rejected when done to us by foreign govts? What’s silly is your flimsy dismissal — & inability to consider that both of Putin’s points are true simultaneously.

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  21. Carroll says:

    And..er…I am really not up for creating another cold war with Russia. I am sure Scott’s motives are pure but I hope this isn’t the start of a coming trend of agenda editorials in the US about everyone’s repressed friends left behind in less sterling democracies than MafiaUSA…been there, done that…seem to be still stuck in the last fall out from that.

    Reply

  22. Carroll says:

    But there’s another difference that you’re deliberately failing to mention. Press freedom in Saudi Arabia may be terrible, but it was never good to begin with. Russia, by contrast, is backsliding on the impressive advances it made in civil liberties in the 1990s, and for no good reason. (Its current economic recovery hardly depends on controlling the internet.) So it’s perfectly appropriate to criticize Russia disproportionately after it announced this policy. The Fairness Doctrine ain’t applicable here.
    Posted by temoc94 at March 17, 2007 12:47 PM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    Not a good arguement. The Fairness doctrine is always applicable when making comparsions.
    Otherwise you are just advancing your own agenda by excluding it….we have seen a lot of that the past six years.

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  23. Carroll says:

    I love this post and the comments for one good reason, it shows that we still have Americans who just won’t stand for hypocrisy…of any kind…hopefully that will make it harder to “demonize” us into more wars.

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  24. temoc94 says:

    The gist of many of the follow-up comments here seems to be this: “Putin’s moves to regulate content on the internet are unimportant, because we’ve done the same thing here and turn a blind eye to the same thing elsewhere.” I disagree vociferously with this argument and want to respond to several of the points put forth.
    Russia is dealing well with the World Bank robbers that stole billions under Yeltin’s rule. Putin is, spare this democracy and freedom agenda, getting to grips with the USA/uk invasion of OIL.
    Um, even assuming the oligarchs of the 1990s were really “World Bank robbers,” Putin dealt with the ones he disliked, such as Khodorkovsky and Berezovsky, in his first term, long before the current proposals to regulate internet content. Putin rewarded the ones he likes, such as Abramovich, with governorships of Chukotka.
    Worse, Putin replaced the oligarchs he disliked with entirely new, Kremlin-favored oligarchs, such as Reiman, Aksyonenko, and Sechin. The situation has not improved.
    And as for the “USA/UK invasion of oil,” it’s rather the reverse: for those who slept through the recent Ukraine and Belarus crises, Russian hydrocarbons, principally gas, are invading Western Europe. The U.S. does not sell oil to, or procure material quantities of oil from, Russia.
    Prospects for freedom of the press do not look good in Russia. Or in Saudi Arabia. Yet one case gets publicized, the other ignored.
    Again, I disagree. Saudi Arabia came under intense criticism after 9/11 for jihadist teachings in textbooks, for example. The PRC has come under intense criticism for regulating internet content, as have the companies whose technologies enables this regulation, such as Cisco and Google.
    But there’s another difference that you’re deliberately failing to mention. Press freedom in Saudi Arabia may be terrible, but it was never good to begin with. Russia, by contrast, is backsliding on the impressive advances it made in civil liberties in the 1990s, and for no good reason. (Its current economic recovery hardly depends on controlling the internet.) So it’s perfectly appropriate to criticize Russia disproportionately after it announced this policy. The Fairness Doctrine ain’t applicable here.
    Worse, print freedom remained mostly intact in Russia after Putin nationalized NTV and other broadcast media. Now it appears even that vestige of progress will disappear.
    I agree with all the comments about how undifferent it is in the U.S. After all, NSA has been scanning EVERY U.S. (at least, and maybe global) email for key words for years�
    Assuming this is true, there is a big difference between scanning e-mails for keywords (which Russia’s SORM program has done, too) and exercising prior restraint over internet content.
    The only reason we don’t know about it is because the articles in the MSM have been short-stopped by Big Brother…
    Which articles? Who has “short-stopped” them? The Brooklyn Dodgers?
    …and only a few people have been jailed/disappeared domestically.
    Who, exactly?
    Besides, stripping Putin of his excuses for being totalitarian (the US threat), befriending your enemies makes them easier to influence–something you can’t do when you barely speak to them or are constantly demonizing them.
    I don’t disagree with the notion that isolating rogue states is counter-productive and makes them more recalcitrant, not less. However, the United States hasn’t really tried to isolate Russia during Putin’s first term. For example, we’ve concluded our bilateral treaty with Russia, which is a prerequisite for Russia joining the WTO. We certainly haven’t “demonized” Russia, as Bush’s “looking into Putin’s soul” comment illustrates.
    Keeping your enemies close to your chest may make sense, but only to the extent that you’re willing to criticize them on specific, discrete issues. With the exception of Cheney’s speech last year in Riga and a couple of comments by Rice, we really haven’t done that. There’s been no indication that the Bush administration will revisit granting Russia permanent normal trade relations (PNTR), for example.
    More importantly, the “U.S. threat” (the very concept of which is silly coming from a major nuclear power) is simply Putin’s excuse du jour for clamping down on civil liberties. Previous excuses included the oligarch threat, the terrorist threat, and the secessionist threat. “National security” is merely the latest cry of the oppressor, to paragraph Captain Picard.
    Also, one way of fighting Chinese-style internet regulation is to place a hefty export tax on companies that export goods (e.g., routers) used in such regulation. That shifts the debate away from the “U.S. threat” to whether U.S. companies are abetting de-democratization — which, by the way, is the real U.S. threat.
    And with respect to Russia, it’s another reason to decrease our dependence on foreign oil. There is no reason for democratic countries to increase this dependency by allowing, for example, Gazprom to purchase Centrica. That, and not the Dubai Ports World sideshow, is the real problem.
    Tass is alive and well, reincarnated as Fox News, or CNN, of MSNBC.
    Quite the contrary: your very examples show the diversity of thought on the U.S. airwaves. Fox News makes me hoppin’ mad, but I can always turn to CNN or Air America or wherever for a more balanced perspective. There is no comparable diversity in Russian broadcast media.
    And even if you dislike the broadcast choices available to you in the U.S., you can still turn to the internet — exactly where Putin now seems to favor Chinese-style content restrictions.
    In sum, it is a real disgrace for bloggers to be arguing in favor of prior restraint on internet content. But I guess idiocy knows no national boundaries.

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  25. Phil says:

    This is Scott Paul’s post – not Steve Clemons

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  26. Dan Kervick says:

    I agree with the other commentators who have made the point, in several different ways, that the erosion of US press freedom and independence, and US government intimidation and attacks on US and foreign journalists abroad, has thoroughly undermined American credibility in the area of press freedom.

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  27. Gene says:

    To anyone helping someone in a foreign country set up a cryptography tool, please be aware of US laws concerning transfer of certain technologies outside US borders. There may be tools you can download from a US-based IP address that it might be illegal for you to send to someone in another country. I know that the VPN client I use for accessing my work computer falls into this category.

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  28. Ben Rosengart says:

    I urge everyone with an interest in freedom of expression to educate themselves about cryptography. There are tools techniques with real potential to insulate government critics from exposure and destruction.
    Steve, I urge you in particular to set up a secure channel with your Russian friends, and use it for all communications, not only the sensitive ones. It could save their lives. Contact me if you need technical assistance.

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  29. JohnH says:

    POA–you may be glad to know that the Israel we have come to know and love [joke] is probably on its last legs. Gabriel Kolko makes that case that Isreal has almost no choice but to become a normal nation, one that chooses to live with its neighbors instead of trying dominating them: http://www.antiwar.com/orig/kolko.php?articleid=10689

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  30. JohnH says:

    I thought that realism was not just about demonizing your opponents, but about doing an unbiased analysis of the balance of forces, looking at costs and benefits of altenatives, and basing policies on what is achievable. In that case, the US ought to consider befriending Russia:
    http://www.antiwar.com/reese/?articleid=10687
    Besides, stripping Putin of his excuses for being totalitarian (the US threat), befriending your enemies makes them easier to influence–something you can’t do when you barely speak to them or are constantly demonizing them.

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  31. eCAHNomics says:

    I agree with all the comments about how undifferent it is in the U.S. After all, NSA has been scanning EVERY U.S. (at least, and maybe global) email for key words for years. There’s nothing secret or anonymous about emails. The only reason we don’t know about it is because the articles in the MSM have been short-stopped by Big Brother, and only a few people have been jailed/disappeared domestically. But W’s working on it.

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  32. liz says:

    Steve, do you really think Bush and Cheney are not actively trying to create that same journalist super regulatory agency in America? They are creating a dictatorship for sure…. the Gonezales thing is frightening . I am in hopes it explains why I am a victim of disability discrimination at the SSA offices too. No accountability in our ” representative government” at all … not one iota.
    Putin, Bush, agency, committee … what is the difference?
    America is loosing as much as Russia.

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  33. Robert Morrow says:

    Steve, I subscribe to Action Jack Wheeler’s newsletter and he knows the Russian expert who got shot in the balls in Wash DC a few weeks ago.
    And here is what Wheeler said last week:
    “I’ve known Paul Joyal for 18 years. I don’t mind telling you that what has happened to him has shaken me. I’m getting emails from worried friends cautioning me to be extra careful. The mother of my children is exceptionally worried, more than I’ve ever seen her before. There’s a part of me that wishes I was retired in the Bahamas.
    But there’s another part that won’t let me. Capitulating to evil is just out of the question. Dhimmitude is something I have no capacity for. So… wish me luck. Wish all of us luck here in Washington who will not stop investigating and criticizing Putin. And pray for Paul Joyal.”

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  34. Pissed Off American says:

    Russian media? Gads, looked at our own sorry assed excuse for a Fourth Estate lately. Tass is alive and well, reincarnated as Fox News, or CNN, of MSNBC…or…oh hell, take your pick.

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  35. JonU says:

    I wonder if Putin managed to contain his laughter when Bush proclaimed he looked into his eyes and got “a sense of his soul”. Was it shots of vodka all around at the Kremlin, at what a dupe the American President is?
    All the consideration of war, foreign policy, morality in politics, legality of action, and corruption aside, George W. Bush’s blundering, foolish and delusional actions and words as President are flat out embarassing.

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  36. rich says:

    Look, the assassination of Russian journalists is horrific. We all agree with that. Equally objectionable are the heavy-handed methods used to intimidate, shut down, or otherwise batter Russian journalists.
    Yet the key insight now distilling from your posts about Russia is the double standard you apply. You never responded to the point that the “apparent” ‘suicide’ of Ivan Safronov is easily matched by the “apparent” ‘suicides’ of Adamo Bove and Costas Tsalikidis (see end). It’s a pattern.
    This time, you write:
    “There’s nothing quaint about these current developments. By spying on e-mails, the FSB can “listen in” on any Russian without the hassle of installing bugs or the potential humiliation of their discovery.”
    FSB, NSA, FBI. You see, “the [NSA, FBI] can ‘listen in’ on any [American] without the hassle of installing bugs [or getting warrants] or the potential humiliation of their discovery.”
    There’s nothing quaint about the U.S. Constitution.
    “There’s nothing quaint about these current developments” IN THIS country.
    So noble of you, fighting for freedom in foreign lands. Easy work, too, compared to restoring the integrity of our own governance, restoring our own liberty.
    Your complaints about that other guy are just a bright shiny distraction from the real issue. You can’t do a THING to get Russians their “freedoms” unless & until you (we) re-establish OUR liberties. Otherwise–just like Prznt Bush–you’ll have America scolded on the world stage again, by Putin, and rightly humiliated for Bush’s/our hypermilitarism & hyperlawlessness. Putin can point the finger as easily as You–it takes no real work.
    But of course, yes,
    it IS A bad thing, that “Putin . . . decreed the creation of a new super-agency to regulate the country’s media and the internet.” Yes, a very bad thing. This DHS-NSA-FCC hybrid is bad. HERE, our glorious leaders just vote to end net neutrality. HERE, the FCC denies citizen access to OUR own airwaves–and censors, and intimidates. HERE, regulators & media corporations are so fist-in-glove integrated that Judith Miller, Cooper, Russert, Andrea Mitchell and Fred Hiatt CARRY OUT the abuse, intimidation, and discrediting of dissenters. Scott Ritter done in by the WashPost. Joe Wilson. Gary Webb is dead b/c of this inversion of media function. Clarke, Kerry. Dulles STATED that the [CIA] “owned” reporters at every major newspaper & broadcasting outlet.
    BEFORE you say it’s all SO very DIFFerent–recall the US military has killed more than a few journalists in Iraq, bombed al-Jazeera, shot up Italian journalist Sgrena.
    But about the murdered Greek & Italian heroes, Bove & Tsalikidis. They were killed b/c they exposed CIA kidnapping and torture–and the very NSA espionage & extortion that YOU cry about in Russia. Putin is just as right as you are.
    From my last response:
    “Because 7-8 months ago, Adamo Bove plunged to his death in Italy. Bove’s the telecom security expert who exposed and traced the cell calls of CIA & SISMI agents who kidnapped Abu Omar and had him rendered & tortured. 26 CIA agents were indicted as a result.”
    “Costas Tsalikidis–the Greek telecom security expert–was also killed b/c he uncovered that Vodaphone (& Ericksson) had been illegally wiretapping [NON-terrorist] Greek citizens.”
    EVerybody wants a free press in Russia. So what? If you’ve got any real fealty to America, your first job wouldn’t be sticking your nose between the neighbor’s bedsheets. Not, at least, while a family member’s beating your own children. After all, in THIS post, the Russians are just working their way DOWN to OUR level.
    It’s not the staggering naivete, nor even the cheap moralism. That’s not why I write. It’s your glaring and complete omission of OUR equal culpability–of our actions mirroring the very same Russian crimes you’re crying about.
    Pushing a foreign policy based on “our freedoms” is utterly bankrupt–when your omission allows the destruction of the liberties at home that serve as your justification abroad.

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  37. dqueue says:

    Thank my lucky stars for freedom of the press on the interwebs. Lukery has an important piece today highlighting many tidbits of Sibel Edmonds’ story. There is some reasoned speculation that Brewster Jennings, Valerie Plame’s cover employer, may have been outed in 2001. Could such corruption rise to such levels of prominence within this American government?
    Worth a read at WotIsItGood4.blogspot.com. -> Sibel Edmonds, Valerie Plame Wilson and Brewster Jennings.

    Reply

  38. Carroll says:

    Putin is right….we in glass houses should not throw stones.
    We could use a Putin in the US for a change…at least Putin is totally devoted to the good of Russian, the country.
    We don’t have any politicans in the US totally devoted to the US…hell they don’t even pretend to be devoted to the US.

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  39. paul says:

    Geez the Russians are just getting around to creating a super agency to “regulate” the country’s media and internet traffic? Clearly what George Bush saw in Putin’s soul was a man who could learn.

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  40. JohnH says:

    Prospects for freedom of the press do not look good in Russia. Or in Saudi Arabia. Yet one case gets publicized, the other ignored. Putin can call the US on its hypocrisy, because the rest of the world understands the United States’ cynical use of human rights principles, applying them at will against enemies, sparing allies. If the United States wants to reestablish its moral authority in the world, it will need to judge all–including itself–by the same standards.
    Bush looked into Putin’s eyes and liked what he saw. And Bush once said that it would be easier if he were a dictator…

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  41. Friendly Fire says:

    Russia is dealing well with the World Bank robbers that stole billions under Yeltin’s rule. Putin is, spare this democracy and freedom agenda, getting to grips with the USA/uk invasion of OIL. We’re at war and the US are cocking it up badly.

    Reply

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