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Russia Not Even Pretending It Won't Spy On Olympic Journalists

Reporters in Sochi should be aware that their phone calls will be monitored, their internet activity recorded, their every move under surveillance by Russian authorities. That's probably not news. What is news is how blatant the government has been about making sure reporters know this in advance, almost surely in an attempt to scare off any pesky investigative journalism before it happens.

A series of articles last fall revealed the amazing extent of the centralized surveillance, which exceeds the capabilities of the Chinese monitoring system at the Beijing games, and is given much wider latitude to eavesdrop than even our own NSA programs. The very communications infrastructure in Sochi was built to give government security systems full access, and not a single text message, email, or phone call will go un-monitored.


Russia's response has been a big shrug. Voice of Russia, an official government organ, published an article telling visitors not to be afraid—it's for your own security. Then, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree authorizing the government to collect all phone and internet data at the Olympics. The Committee to Protect Journalists notes that reporters are twice specifically highlighted as targets in the decree.

What's unique about the decree is that it wasn't done quietly, but instead announced and its text published in full. The CPJ believes "this was done as a warning and a deterrent to journalists."

So! Heading to Sochi to cover the games? Planning on doing any serious work, concerning activists or opposition figures? Of course you are, because you're a good reporter. Just know that Russia's very interested, and will be listening in.

(It's also the reason an illicit NBC power couple is advised to put a long-running affair on hiatus.)


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