Alleged Russian Spy Files Posted
Alleged Russian Spy Files Posted Moscow (AP) - An online news tabloid has posted thousands of pages of alleged intelligence on Russian politicians, businessmen and ordinary people, saying it shows how widespread eavesdropping still is in Russia.
"The intelligence, gathered by government and independent security services, also demonstrates that spying is no longer the domain of the government alone, according to the tabloid.
"There's the government, there are private agencies - it's a large, collective work, said Sergei Pluzhnikov, an editor with the FreeLance Bureau, which says it so far has published only about a third of the intelligence it has. ``Everyone is under the microscope, everyone can be watched now. The published information includes files on about 150 people, including tycoon Boris Berezovsky and the leader of Russia's Orthodox Church, Patriarch Alexy II. Several bankers, actors, businessmen and journalists - including an American - are also included. Dubbing the list ``Russian-gate, the FreeLance Bureau said the information points to the weakness of privacy protections in Russia eight years after the demise of the Soviet Union, when the government eavesdropped on whomever it wanted. Privacy laws are on the books, but are poorly enforced. The FreeLance Bureau did not say where it got the information, only that it was surveillance gathered by various groups and had been for sale since about 1998. Pluzhnikov said the FreeLance Bureau bought the files two months ago, but wouldn't say how much they cost. Some texts allege shady dealings by top officials and businessmen, but lack sourcing. For example, one file claims that former President Boris Yeltsin's security staff was involved in illegal gold mining and had ties to Moscow's notorious Solntsevo criminal gang. Still others are downright mundane, including transcripts of personal phone calls or background information about a subject's family members. Some of the texts had been released before, and tabloid newspapers like ``Top Secret - where Pluzhnikov once worked - frequently publish stories allegedly based on leaked intelligence about prominent Russians. But the massive amount of text, much of it allegedly gathered by companies seeking blackmail material or background about competitors and clients, was cause for alarm, the FreeLance Bureau said. Last month, ski-masked, gun-toting police raided the offices of the media company Media-Most, saying they were investigating the company on suspicion of illegal eavesdropping. Pluzhnikov said some of the information on his Web site came from Media-Most intelligence. The FreeLance Bureau's decision to publish the information has itself drawn fire, with human rights advocates and people included in the list saying it too was breaking privacy laws. ``Fighting for people's civil rights isn't possible if you're going to ignore their rights in the process, said Oleg Panfilov, director of the Center for Journalism in Extreme Situations, a Moscow-based rights group. Sergei Agafonov, a reporter with the Novye Izvestia newspaper, said the information about him, which included details about a trip he took to Japan and his family, was correct and deeply unnerved him. Agafonov said the material had little public interest and may have been posted to intimidate him and others who might cross the government or the small group of influential Russian businessmen known as the oligarchs.``There's nothing journalistic about it, Agafonov said. ``I don't rule out that it was published by the secret services to give people a warning that they ought to correct their behavior. "