Russian Lawmakers Want Broader Powers for FSB

FSB headquarters.  Source:

A group of Russian lawmakers are jumping at anti-corruption measures proposed by President Dmitri Medvedev to hand greater authority to the country’s security agencies, particularly the Federal Security Service (FSB).  As the Nezavisimaya Gazeta newspaper reports, a new draft law circulating in Russia’s lower house, the State Duma, would hand new powers to the successor agency to the KGB.  The bill would simultaneously put some limits on the FSB’s employees.

The proposed legislation would increase the FSB’s ability to conduct criminal investigations with less oversight.  One of the more controversial of its provisions would grant the agency the ability to eavesdrop on telephone conversations without a court order.

The bill also would make it more difficult to become an FSB employee, and would mandate a more detailed examination into the records of future candidates.

“A Russian citizen who does not have citizenship (allegiance) to a foreign government can be an employee of the FSB,” the document reads.  With this change, Russian agents would have the same requirement as deputies in the Parliament, who are barred from holding dual citizenship.

One member of the State Duma Security Committee, Mikhail Starshinov (Just Russia Party), expressed astonishment that the FSB was being reformed under the anti-corruption project.  In his words, “we have plenty of structures where bribes are given constantly,” but the security agencies “have practically no connection” to them.

Another member of the Security Committee, Gennady Gudkov (People’s Party of Russia) agreed with Starshinov.  Gudkov, who worked in the KGB during Soviet times, said agents were too busy with work to be corrupt, and simply didn’t have the power to impact any change, even if they were bribed.

“There are millions of bureaucrats in the country, but just several tens of thousands who engage in intelligence work,” Gudkov said.  “Furthermore, they have no connection to corrupt practices: first of all, they are extremely busy with work, and secondly, they don’t have the powers to resolve anyone’s problems, having received the money.

“Maybe they would be more than happy to take a bribe, but who would give it to them!”