Russia’s net spies
Keir Giles’s article on online censorship in Russia, ‘Still writing the online rulebook’, provides a welcome and nuanced reading of the authorities’ approach to regulating the internet. As Giles notes, the legislative and technical tools required for a clampdown on the internet are already available. Russian law enforcement agencies have long had the ability to collect information on internet subscribers through SORM – the System for Operational Search Measures – should they wish.
However, his article does not mention one worrying innovation that has arisen as a result of Russia’s new legislation. In order to comply with the requirements of the new Bill, internet service providers will be required to install DPI – Deep Packet Inspection – on their systems. This technical change will substantially increase the authorities’ capacity for online surveillance and censorship as it allows data to be monitored and blocked in a far more targeted manner.
The overall Russian attitude to online dissent may not yet have crystallized, but the instruments at the authorities’ disposal have become a little sharper. It remains to be seen how and when they will be used.
Fits the Bill
Matt Frei’s Notebook (‘Imperfection could win the day’) refers admiringly to ‘Bill Clinton’s master-class in how to make 20,000 people laugh, cry and understand.’ Surely the first task of ‘dull’ President Obama in his second term should be to give Bill a job?
Thank you for making clear in ‘The Nuclear Haves and Have-Nots’ that more countries have abandoned nuclear weapons programmes than have developed a nuclear deterrent – that is, at least 12 against 9. At a simple and superficial level, this seems to mean that the global tendency is towards nuclear disarmament. But if you read the real reasons why countries around the world gave up their nuclear weapon ambitions, it is clear that many were happy to do so because of promises made in the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. South Korea held out, but it gave in to American pressure and a promise that it could shelter under the American nuclear umbrella. Anyone who has read the NPT will know that in this document the authorized nuclear weapon states promise to ‘pursue nuclear disarmament aimed at the ultimate elimination of their nuclear arsenals’. Over the past 40 years the recognized nuclear-armed states – the US, Russia, China, Britain and France – have convincingly failed to do this, and thus, due to their selfishness, the NPT has lost its force. If they want to prevent the collapse of the NPT, the leaders of these countries should not restrict themselves to words, like the idealist President Obama in his Prague speech, but propose nuclear disarmament from a genuine realist position, and make clear that the world does not need these weapons any more.