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FSB Operations

A provokatsiya (provocation) is the cornerstone of the Russian clandestine worldview. This part of Russian intelligence culture dates to the Tsars, when Russia established the modern intelligence agency to fight anarchists. Provocation is complicated, involving secret acts to confuse and dismay the enemy. Dezinformatsiya (disinformation), deza as it’s called for short, is the original “fake news”. These are components of what the Russians call aktivniyye meropriyatiya (Active Measures), a vital Chekist concept.

The official KGB definition of Active Measures covers a broad range of activities: "Agent-operational measures aimed at exerting useful influence on aspects of the political life of a target country which are of interest, its foreign policy, the solution of international problems, misleading the adversary, undermining and weakening his positions, the disruption of his hostile plans, and the achievement of other aims."

In the first interview given by a sitting MI5 Director in the 107-year history of the service, Andrew Parker said 31 October 2016 that at a time when much of the focus was on Islamic extremism, covert action from other countries was a growing danger. Most prominent was Russia. “It is using its whole range of state organs and powers to push its foreign policy abroad in increasingly aggressive ways – involving propaganda, espionage, subversion and cyber-attacks. Russia is at work across Europe and in the UK today. It is MI5’s job to get in the way of that.”

“Russia increasingly seems to define itself by opposition to the west and seems to act accordingly,” said Parker. “You can see that on the ground with Russia’s activities in Ukraine and Syria. But there is high-volume activity out of sight with the cyber-threat. Russia has been a covert threat for decades. What’s different these days is that there are more and more methods available.”

The US government advanced democracy and human rights by suppporting efforts for strengthening democratic institutions, supporting civil society, enhancing the rule of law and judicial independence, and promoting political pluralism and free and fair electoral processes. It also promotes protection of independent media; promotes respect for internet freedom, freedom of association, and labor rights; advocate security sector reform; and promotes human rights for all members of society, regardless of nationality, social status, race, gender, ethnicity, religious belief, sexual orientation, or gender identity.

The United States uses bilateral and multilateral diplomatic advocacy, foreign assistance programs, and public planning tools to advance human rights and democracy. America was among the first to intervene in other countries' policies during the Cold War using NGOs (which in turn brought about limits to their activities in Russia, China and recently Israel) and other methods of eavesdropping and internet surveillance.

The FSB is the Russian counterpart to the American FBI, but it has responsibilities that go far beyond those of the American agency. As an internal counterintelligence service, the FSB is responsible for civil counterespionage, the internal security of the Russian state, as well as the fight against organized crime.

Under the revised law on Russian foreign intelligence of January 1996, the FSB was also authorized to work outside Russia in certain target areas in cooperation with the Russian foreign intelligence services. The FSB also sought expanded cooperation with the intelligence and secret services of the other former Soviet republics. In September 1996 the managers of most CIS secret services initiated an information system for their managers of the security organs and special services to improve the communication between the involved Secret services. A central data bank was esablished in September 1996 at the FSB which served to support the fight against organized crimine.

During the Soviet period, the KGB was the arbiter of state secrets, and the FSB regained considerable operational and legal authority for controlling state secrets. In September 1995, FSB Chief General Barsukov was named deputy chairman of a new State Committee to Control State Secrets and given authority to define state secrets and to protect them using newly countenanced counter-intelligence operations.

Certain activities that would be considered normal business practices in the US and other countries either violate the Russian legal code or are considered suspect by Russian Federal Security Service (FSB). There are particular risks involved in any commercial activity with the Russian military-industrial complex, including research institutes, design bureaus, production facilities, or other high technology, government-related institutions. Any misunderstanding or dispute in such transactions can attract the involvement of the security services and lead to investigation or prosecution for espionage. Rules governing the treatment of information remain poorly defined.

US attempts to counter Soviet disinformation had virtually disappeared by the late 1970s even though the Soviet Union was redoubling its efforts to blackguard the United States.




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