- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 9, 2001

MOSCOW The statue of feared Soviet secret police founder Felix Dzerzhinsky, hauled away from its prominent pedestal amid protests in one of the most dramatic scenes of the Soviet collapse, has been quietly resurrected, half-hidden by trees in an out-of-the-way park.
The secret services themselves have also been repositioned in the past decade. The monolithic KGB was broken up into several agencies, and the main successor, the FSB, has made some concessions to openness such as putting up a Web site and opening a small museum.
But just as the baleful Dzerzhinsky statue isn't really gone, the KGB's descendants still exert substantial power in post-Soviet Russia, and critics see ominous indications that old oppressive practices are reviving under President Vladimir Putin, a former KGB operative and one-time FSB director.
"In some ways, the special services now have more influence than they did in the Soviet Union," said Konstantin Preobrazhensky, a former KGB officer who has emerged as a harsh critic of the former intelligence agency's successors.
Unlike in East Germany and Romania, where angry citizens occupied their countries' secret police offices after communism fell, the crowds that saw Dzerzhinsky's statue come down outside KGB headquarters on Lubyanka Square didn't invade the bleak and massive building where countless victims had been interrogated, imprisoned and executed.
Former Russian President Boris Yeltsin later ordered the KGB's dismantlement, hoping to show that decades of secret police penetration into every facet of life had ended.
But the successors, especially the FSB, the Russian acronym for "Federal Security Service," remained powerful and even gained new powers.
This year, FSB Director Nikolai Patrushev declared that the agency would restore the policy of initiating investigations based on anonymous tips a practice banned in 1988 by Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader.
The policy revived grim memories of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin's era, when anonymous complaints were a favored way of getting rid of an adversary.
Also this year, the FSB took formal charge of the war in Chechnya. Journalists' access to the war-wrecked republic has become further limited.
The FSB's control of the Chechen war "means they can put their own spin on it, they can prevent journalists from covering things, they can employ a lot more control than the Russian military could," said Amy Knight of Canada's Carleton University, author of "Spies Without Cloaks," a book about the post-Soviet secret services.
The FSB also has been given the authority to spy through the Internet by linking its offices with Internet service providers, a move that worries not only human rights activists but also Western businessmen considering entering the Russian market.
"The FSB gets to take a stab at trying to gather Western technologies…and that's a concern," said Mike Assante, vice president of intelligence at the U.S.-based digital security company Vigilinx. The company rates such espionage as the most serious threat to doing electronic business in Russia.
At the same time, the FSB is adopting increasingly tough measures on suspected spies, employing questionable evidence and laws that potentially incriminate everyone.
An arms control researcher, Igor Sutyagin, has been on trial for months for espionage despite his claim that he obtained information only from open sources. One of his colleagues has said some of the open foreign sources he used provided information that would be considered secret in Russia.
Similarly, Edmond Pope, who last year became the first American convicted of spying in Russia in 40 years, denied he illegally obtained plans for a top-secret Russian navy torpedo, saying the information he was planning to purchase had been sold abroad and was even taught at universities.
An American Fulbright scholar, John Tobin, was convicted of drug charges this year even though doubts about the evidence led the prosecutor to say she was ashamed to be involved in the case.
Although Mr. Tobin wasn't charged with espionage, the case took on a Cold War tinge when a local FSB spokesman said the U.S. scholar was suspected of being a spy in training.
Theories vary on why the Kremlin is granting the agency strengthened powers even as Russia tries to project itself as becoming democratic and safe for investors.
Some argue that Mr. Putin and other former KGB figures in the government including Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov, a close Putin ally were indelibly stamped by the service.
"This is the way [Mr. Putin] was trained. It would be very difficult for him to change, for his colleagues to change and say, 'Gee, if we do this, we're going to be trampling on rights,'" Ms. Knight said. "His first gut reaction is always that kind of strong-arm reaction."
Mr. Preobrazhensky, the former KGB agent, said the secret services' resurgence reflects a sense of inferiority that has plagued Russia over the past 10 years. If the FSB sees spies under the bed, he said, that helps the country feel important.
"It's very difficult to catch real spies, and there aren't many real spies here these days," he said. "But the FSB can't say there are no spies here."
The FSB, meanwhile, tries to look friendlier to the public, but old habits die hard. Mr. Patrushev, the director, declined requests for an interview. Even the FSB's museum is unmarked, secreted in a few rooms over a grocery store.


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