U.S. Ambassador Complains Of Russian Eavesdropping
March 30, 2012
U.S. Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has questioned in a series of tweets how some Russian media seem to know all his plans.
McFaul said he meets crews from the NTV channel everywhere he goes.
"[I] wonder who gives them my calendar? They wouldn't tell me. Wonder what the laws are here for such things?" McFaul wrote on March 29.
"I respect the right of the press to go anywhere and ask any question. But do they have a right to read my e-mail and listen to my phone?"
Russian rights activist Lev Ponomaryov said that when McFaul came to visit the office of his group For Human Rights on March 29, there was a group of people outside his organization's office "who introduced themselves as reporters and others dressed like Cossacks" when McFaul arrived.
"They kept him [McFaul] outside for about 20 minutes and pestered him with questions," Ponomaryov said.
Ponomaryov said even when McFaul attempted to return to his car for a moment to get his overcoat the group would not let him through. Ponomaryov said McFaul asked the reporters, "How did you know I would come to this office today?" but received no response. McFaul later noted NTV journalists similarly made no comment when, after a meeting with Rosnano chief Anatoly Chubais, McFaul found the NTV crew waiting for him.
Ponomaryov said that "this means these people had received the information in an operational way. This was not published." Ponomaryov said the meeting with McFaul had been arranged by telephone and conceded "I am 100 percent sure my telephone is tapped."
NTV posted on its website segments of the encounter with McFaul outside the For Human Rights office. NTV said it decided to post footage of the incident after seeing Ponomaryov's comments on the encounter outside his organization's office.
An NTV reporter asks McFaul what he intends to speak about with Ponomaryov. McFaul replies, "We're just going to meet" and says he and Ponomaryov will speak about "all kinds of questions." Later, as he still stands outside the building with a light snow falling, McFaul says Russia's ambassador to the U.S. is able to move around freely with no one "bothering his work" but "you [NTV] are always where I am" and the U.S. ambassador asks, "Aren't you ashamed to do this?"
The NTV reporter continues, asking, "Who among the opposition do you support?" McFaul answers, "I met with your president the day before yesterday. I support him also. Is this the logic? I meet with someone so [it means] I support them?"
NTV's press service explained to Russian news agency Interfax, "NTV's omnipresence can be explained by an extensive network of informers and anyone in this country is aware of this." NTV further stated, "We often shoot without any purpose, just for archives. Suppose the footage will be needed one day."
Based on reporting by AP, ITAR-TASS, Interfax, and NTV
Copyright (c) 2012. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.
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