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FSB Legislative Authority

New laws on the Federal Security Service and on operative searches and seizures significantly strengthened the legal powers of the FSB and other internal security agencies. The 03 April 1995 law on the FSB provided broad law enforcement functions--fighting crime and corruption--in addition to its previous security and counter-intelligence tasks. Under the new law the FSK can run its own jails, deploy its agents under cover of other government agencies, and with court permission, read people's mail and tap their telephones. The FSK may recruit, protect, and pay without prosecutorial and judicial oversight informants in "contracts of confidential cooperation." Taken together, these are steps toward reconstituting the extraordinary powers of the KGB as a domestic and foreign intelligence, counter-intelligence and political police organization.

The law detailed the circumstances under which FSB agents may enter a private residence, office, or other premises without prior judicial approval. There must be either sufficient grounds to believe that a crime is in progress or has been committed or a belief that the welfare of citizens is endangered. In such cases, the FSB must notify the Prosecutor within 24 hours of the entry. Despite the expansion of the FSB's powers, the law provided for only limited oversight and contains unclear human rights provisions. The law vests the Procurator General with the power to oversee the FSB's activities. However, it denied such oversight authority in the areas of informants, organization, tactics, methods, and means of implementation. The role of the Parliament is limited to that of monitoring the FSB.

The 12 August 1995 law on operative searches and seizures granted to seven internal security agencies, including the FSB, the right to engage in a variety of clandestine activities, some of which could be carried out in the absence of prior judicial approval. The law brought the use of wiretaps and searches and seizures into conformity with the Constitution by introducing, for the first time in Russia, a requirement that wiretaps in criminal cases be approved by a judge rather than a prosecutor. However, although this approval could be given after the fact in some cases, some human rights experts believe that the Constitution requires prior judicial approval in certain instances. Government officials can still conduct wiretaps in criminal investigations without court review, but evidence obtained in this fashion would not be admissable in court.

The August law permits agents to open mail, tap telephones, monitor other forms of communication, and enter a private residence without a court order in cases of emergency that may lead to the commission of a serious crime or if Russia's political, military, economic, or environmental security is threatened. In these cases, a judge must be notified within 24 hours of the action. Within 48 hours of the start of such an action, the agency must either receive a court order permitting it or end it. The law does not define what would constitute either a case of emergency or the term "security." As is the case with the FSB law, oversight is weak. Information concerning the organization, tactics, methods and means of investigations is off limits to the prosecutor. Similarly, the role of the Parliament is limited.

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Page last modified: 28-07-2011 00:54:30 ZULU