SAN NARCISO, Calif. (Bennington Vale Evening Transcript) -- On Monday, Russian President Vladimir Putin inched closer to Soviet-era censorship by signing into law restrictive new controls for the country’s Internet. Political activists, Internet champions and free speech advocates attacked the decision, saying the government would be able to tighten the reins on any views it deemed dissenting. But Putin’s biggest criticism came from the United States. National Security Agency (NSA) officials called the law “immature, myopic and completely counterproductive to real intelligence gathering.”
Popular online writers, those with sites that boast over 3,000 visitors daily, must now register with the government. Russian lawmakers declared that blogs and other websites which disseminate opinions or information to large audiences should be considered media outlets similar to newspapers. As such, Russian legislators claim, responsibility must exist for verifying the accuracy of the content published.
The new act also prevents bloggers from maintaining anonymous online profiles. International media experts credit the largely uncontested passage of the law to Putin’s recent successes in cracking down on free speech. He has already exerted his influence over Russia’s parliament to silence political opponents, squelch public protests and tightly regulate the activities of agencies not controlled by the government.
“This law will cut the number of critical voices and opposition voices on the Internet,” said one expert on Russian media law. And that’s precisely why the NSA has been mocking it.
“This is perhaps the stupidest way to go about monitoring free speech,” Director of National Intelligence James Clapper argued. “You don’t telegraph a punch if you want to land a solid blow. In a democracy, which Russia purports to be, the government doesn’t openly stifle speech. We have no reason to. For instance, the NSA’s domestic surveillance and data collection systems have essentially ‘registered’ every voice of every person in the country already, whether they’re sending emails to granny or hosting video sex chats or blogging to millions.”
Clapper added that Russia’s bungling Internet law exemplifies the deficiencies in its spy programs, which ultimately led to its loss of the Cold War.
“If you want to know what people are saying, keep it a secret,” Clapper laughed. “Christ Almighty, an ex-KGB agent should know better. You tap their phones, emails, websites. Then you infiltrate the social media platforms -- Facebook and Twitter and Google -- and then you force ISPs and telecoms to push data to your servers. That’s how you gather useful information. People are a lot more open when they don’t suspect you’re listening to them. Now that Putin’s muscling people to register and ‘show him their papers,’ he’s behaving more like an Arizona governor than a Soviet premier. He won’t get any actionable intelligence out of his people now, which means we won’t be getting any actionable intelligence from his people through our systems. What Putin’s done here is just bad spying. And it’s disgraceful.”
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