#14 - JRL 7189
May 20, 2003
SPECIAL SERVICES REFORMS, UNENCRYPTED
On national security, territorial integrity, and state secrets
Author: Boris Yamshanov
[from WPS Monitoring Agency, www.wps.ru/e_index.html]
AN INTERVIEW WITH ALEXEI ALEXANDROV, CHAIRMAN OF THE STATE SECURITY SUBCOMMITTEE OF THE DUMA SECURITY COMMITTEE, AND PROFESSOR AT THE ST. PETERSBURG STATE UNIVERSITY. HE DISCUSSES PRESIDENT PUTIN'S SECURITY GOALS, AND REFORMS WITHIN THE FEDERAL SECURITY SERVICE.
President Vladimir Putin's words about the reorganization of the security bloc generated rumors of changes in other law enforcement agencies as well. Why is that?
Alexei Alexandrov: Vladimir Putin has repeatedly spoken of the need to fortify Russian statehood, including law enforcement agencies, and the war on crime, and security of the population. It is quite clear, I think, that any state (including democracies based on the rule of law) has to consider its own defense, the security of its population, territorial integrity, and implementation of its constitution. The institution of state security should maintain stability of democratic and legal principles proclaimed by the Constitution of the Russian Federation.
Question: You head the presidential administration's working group on reorganization of the Interior Ministry. What changes are in store for it?
Alexei Alexandrov: Everyone understands, I think, that the performance of the police has to be improved. We are working on a draft law for the time being. It has not been forwarded to the parliament yet, so we will not discuss it. I can only say that the law will perfect the activities of investigation structures of the Interior Ministry and Internal Troops. Maintenance of the law will be improved through the use of municipal police formed by the local authorities and the Interior Ministry. As the president put it, there will be no revolutions. "Do no harm" is our basic principle, you know. And by the way, Interior Minister Boris Gryzlov has been doing a lot too.
Question: The Interior Ministry will be the first, right? Its reorganization will be followed by reforms in the Federal Security Service (FSB) and other secret services.
Alexei Alexandrov: State security bodies have been reshuffled on more than one occasion already, but this is a sensitive sphere that has to be treated with utmost care. A process of coordination, unification, and cooperation is underway now. This process enables secret services to be more professional and effective.
Question: But what if strengthening the FSB leads us back to totalitarianism? Those who remember the 1930s and 1950s fear the very term "state security".
Alexei Alexandrov: Terms as such do not matter. When a state is a democracy based on the rule of law, its security structures should protect territorial integrity, state secrets, and the lives of citizens. An officer of state security structures protects ordinary citizens from having their apartment buildings blown up, for example. An officer of state security structures protects state and military secrets. There is another important question. Has anyone given a thought to how much the territory of Russia is worth - with all its oil, gas, diamonds, and timber? It is worth a lot, believe me. Well, I would like our children to own all this some day. A great deal of blood has been shed for Russia's integrity. Well, Russia's territorial integrity and its borders are also protected by state security. It is common knowledge, after all, that there are certain forces elsewhere in the world who would not mind making use of our natural resources. It is state security again that is supposed to protect all this and our national interests.
Question: How would you gauge results of the work of the FSB and other security structures? Are they satisfactory?
Alexei Alexandrov: The FSB is more active now than before. Due to stable staff policy and professionalism. It is just secret services are taciturn by nature. That's how it is all over the world. As for successes, I may refer to the cases of Oyamyae, ex-officer of the Foreign Intelligence Service, Sipachev of the GRU, naval officer Velichko who spied for Britain, the United States, Sweden, and Estonia. Or Edward Pope, sentenced to twenty years imprisonment for spying for the United States; and China's Lu Dang I sentenced to ten years imprisonment, and others.
The FSB prevented many terrorist acts and explosions. Many Russian citizens live their lives all unaware that they have been saved by the FSB... Some victories have been scored in the war on crime as well. I hope that detectives will complete an investigation into Galina Starovoitova's murder soon.
Question: You know, Nikitin's case was described as a success as well. The man spent three years behind bars, only to be acquitted by the Supreme Court...
Alexei Alexandrov: As a lawyer myself, I'm always happy when someone is acquitted. The law has spoken: Nikitin was charged with working for a Norwegian environmental organization on recommendations from a former CIA officer and with having obtained information for his report from classified documents.
As an officer and former official of the nuclear security inspectorate of the Defense Ministry, he knew that it was wrong. Nikitin himself admitted that he had obtained data from classified documents and afterwards inserted some of it in his reports written for foreigners.
The whole dispute was over what was to be considered state secrets. The 1993 law had a definition of what it was. The 1997 law included a list of information that is considered a state secret. It follows that there was no such list in 1995, and the court decided that information about the nuclear fleet was not secret either. In short, it was a legal dispute between the court and the Prosecutor General's Office, the latter being in charge of the investigation run by the FSB. Both the Prosecutor General's Office and the Supreme Court turned out to be correct. It happens. I'm glad that everything ended well for Nikitin, and I'm sorry that his friend Artemenkov, from whom Nikitin had obtained information, died.
Question: You know so much about Nikitin's case. Why?
Alexei Alexandrov: Our subcommittee is the structure of the parliament monitoring secret services. I studied some materials from the case.
Question: What is the situation with state secrets nowadays?
Alexei Alexandrov: There are secrets in everyday life, and there are secrets enshrined in law. Many secrets. The matter concerns confidential information that belongs to someone, and the law protects it. State secrets are classified information, the dissemination of which could damange national security. It is the state that defines what is secret and what is not. We have a law passed in 1993 and amended in 1997 and 2002. The legislation includes a list of what information is considered a state secret at present.