FSB Seeks To Clarify What Is Espionage
06 May 2008By Nabi
Abdullaev / Staff WriterThe Federal Security Service has drafted
amendments to the Criminal Code clarifying the definition of espionage.
While the bill's supporters say it would help prevent citizens from facing
groundless espionage charges, critics warn that if it becomes law, the bill
could make it easier for the FSB to prosecute scientists and researchers,
many of whom have already been caught up in spy scandals.
The draft bill, which makes a distinction between deliberate espionage and
disclosure of state secrets without intent to commit high treason, will be
completed by Saturday, said Pavel Astakhov, a lawyer and member of the FSB's
Public Council, Vedomosti reported Monday.
An FSB spokesman said Monday that he could not provide a copy of the bill to
The Moscow Times.
But Vasily Titov, head of the FSB's Public Council, said in a statement
released last week that the bill would help "exclude even the slightest
possibility of baseless criminal prosecution of a citizen on espionage
The council is a 15-member body created last year in order to improve
feedback between the agency and the public.
But while the amendments may result in fewer groundless espionage cases,
they could bring about more cases of scientists and researchers charged with
divulging state secrets, said Pavel Chikov, head of the human rights group
The FSB in recent years has accused numerous scientists of disclosing state
secrets. But the agency has had difficulties proving in court that the
defendants acted with intent to harm national security or that they had
passed sensitive information to a foreign entity.
"If the amendments are passed, the FSB will easily prosecute for any
disclosure of secret information," Chikov said.
Gennady Gudkov, a former KGB officer and deputy head of the State Duma's
Security Committee, said Monday that the bill had a good chance of being
passed in the Duma. To become law, the bill would have to clear three
readings in the Duma, be approved by the Federation Council, and then signed
by the president.
But defining exactly what constitutes a state secret is a more pressing
issue than prosecuting those who divulge such information, Gudkov said.
Lawyer Boris Kuznetsov, who received political asylum in the United States
earlier this year, was charged last month in absentia with divulging state
secrets after he photographed an FSB affidavit from his client's case
The photograph was needed for his client's defense, Kuznetsov argued.
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