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Russian President Vladimir Putin spies on the action.  (Source: Reuters)
Russian program of surveillance likened to a beefed up verge of the tech the NSA uses to spy on U.S. citizens

Speaking at the Red Square in downtown Moscow, President Vladimir Putin held the torch for the upcoming Winter Olympic Games aloft, proudly proclaiming to world observers that the Olympic village in Sochi, Russia was imbued with the spirit of "openness and friendship".

I. In Soviet Russia the Network Uses You

But the village might be filled with a little something else according to The Guardian, a top British newspaper.  Russia's Federal Security Service (FSB) -- the successor to the KGB -- has reportedly engaged in an epic amount of bugging of the Olympic Village's internet and telephone system, according to a dossier by Russian investigative journalists, of which The Guardian obtained a copy.

Reportedly, all telephone calls and all internet communications will be recorded.  And reportedly the FSB has developed special filters to spot "sensitive" words or phrases found in unencrypted emails, webchats, or social media posts.
Sochi Olympics
A summer ceremnoy celebrating the upcoming Sochi Games. [Image Source: AP]

Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan, a pair of Russian investigative reporters, compiled the information.  Both Mr. Soldatov and Ms. Borogan have been interrogated by the FSB for their past reporting, however, Mr. Soldatov at least is protected in part by his powerful father Alexei Soldatov, a Russian businessman who helped set up Russia's modern telecommunications network and today occupies a prominent post at the Moscow State University.

Apparently the clues to this massive spying program came from an open source procurement website --  The documents detail the use Sorm, an FSB tool for monitoring phone and Wi-Fi networks, to spying on the Olympic Village, which sits in Western Russia along the shores of the Black Sea and near the Caucasus Mountains.

Sochi rendering
An artist's depiction of the Sochi Olympic Village, located on the coast of the Black Sea

Russian politician Mr. Soldatov comments:

Russian authorities want to make sure that every connection and every move made online in Sochi during the Olympics will be absolutely transparent to the secret services of the country.

For example you can use the keyword Navalny [the last name of Alexei Navalny, a top political rival of President Putin], and work out which people in a particular region are using the word Navalny.  Then, those people can be tracked further.

Russia's Sorm surveillance system is undergoing a nation-wide update, amid the expansion of smartphone data networks in Russia, which present a new wrinkle to a government who wants to maintain an ever-watchful eye over its citizensas well as foreign adversaries.  These programs are similar to those that the U.S. government uses to watch over its citizens, in that they employ deep packet inspection of communications (legally) seized from telecoms.  Like the U.S., Russia does not openly admit to spying on its citizens, saying it needs the programs to fight "terrorism" and other criminal activities.

II. Cracking Down on Protests is Reportedly a Key Goal of Program

Indeed, the man put in charge of security at the games is Oleg Syromolotov, a counterintelligence chief who spent most of his career trying to hunt down foreign spies and spying on the U.S. and its allies.

But at a rare public press conference, the FSB's spokesperson Alexei Lavrishchev denied that excessive spying mechanisms were being put in place.  He claims that the British and American governments at the 2012 London Olympics engaged in much more widespread spying, remarking, "There, they even put CCTV cameras in, excuse me for saying it, the toilets.  We are not taking this kind of measure."

President Putin says foreigners have nothing to worry about. [Image Source: AFP]

Much like in the U.S., a portion of Russian politicians have sought to deny some rights to openly gay individuals.  But unlike in the U.S. where efforts to legislate this religion-based view have been limited to gay marriage bans (which were recently found to be unconstitutional), in Russia anti-homosexuality politicians managed to secure a recent ban on depictions of homosexuality in the media.  This ban led to some high profile apparent protests.  Even common actions, such as a Russian women's sprinting team's tradition of kissing each other after race victories have come under the microscope.

Russian sprinters
Russian sprinters kiss after a victory: a recent ban by Moscow's government forbids homosexuality in the media. [Image Source: Reuters]

Thus one of the reportedly planned applications of the Sorm solution is to watch for signs of possible protests.  

U.S. security officials with the U.S. Department of State have advised that travellers take their batteries out of their phones when not in use so the Russian government can not track you and to only travel with "clean" phones, free of confidential data.  A leaflet from the State Department comments:

Business travellers should be particularly aware that trade secrets, negotiating positions, and other sensitive information may be taken and shared with competitors, counterparts, and/or Russian regulatory and legal entities.

Such criticism, while likely valid, may smack of irony in the wake of revelations of unprecedented spying by the U.S. government on its citizens and on foreigners.  Indeed, University of Toronto Professor Ron Deibert an outspoken opponent of government spying and participant in the Sochi investigation, dubbed the upgrades to Sorm "PRISM on steroids".  In other words, the U.S. is worth taking seriously, in part because the U.S. government knows a thing or two about spying on everyone.

Source: The Guardian

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By BZDTemp on 10/7/2013 1:12:15 PM , Rating: 5
My headline pretty much says it all.

Russia is a place with a dictatorships pretending to be a democracy and the US is a dysfunctional democracy and both nations are happy to spy on anyone they feel like be it foreign or domestic, friends or enemies. It is sad.

By hughlle on 10/7/2013 1:52:56 PM , Rating: 5
Or the UK, where our government spied on the communications of members of G20 a few years back.

By Jeffk464 on 10/7/2013 2:13:25 PM , Rating: 4
Friendship with the US, means they want to spy on the citizenry on equal terms with the US. How are the tourists and athletes going to feel at home if they are not being spied on?

By GulWestfale on 10/8/2013 7:12:10 AM , Rating: 2
they just want to spy on the athletes so vladimir can secretly jack off to some hot gay action.

By mmatis on 10/8/2013 8:21:33 AM , Rating: 2
I'm sorry, but you will find it is the HNWIC who wants to do that. Putin? Not so much. He don't need him no Reggie love. Nor no gerbil farm neither.

By GulWestfale on 10/8/2013 6:44:15 PM , Rating: 1
By superstition on 10/8/2013 11:16:37 PM , Rating: 2
Males kissing is part of Russian culture, as is homophobia/heterosexism, ironically.

There is Soviet footage of a Soviet bureaucrat kissing a young man, probably a soldier, on the lips in public. It was on stage at some sort of rally or speech. It looked to an American like me like a makeout session, but it was considered normal for Russian culture.

Tennis player Dmitri Tursunov was kissed on the mouth by a teammate after winning an important Davis Cup match and it became a bit of scandal because he was familiar enough with American culture to know how it would be seen.

The Nazis used to bathe nude frequently and worked on improving their bodies. They generally were fitter and more attractive than American soldiers. They spent a lot more time naked around each other, which photographic evidence shows. But, the Nazis were also relentlessly heterosexist/homophobic, particularly after the Night of the Long Knives. For them, their bodies were part of the cult-like ideal of the great and powerful Aryan rather than being about sexual attraction.

So, there are plenty of examples of ironic aspects of male sexuality that suggest homosexuality but simultaneously involve tremendous oppression of it.

American culture is very much a no touch culture, and that is actually increasing. My local news just ran a story about how they're abolishing the after-game handshake. British culture, which heavily influenced ours as it was developing (and we got exported Puritan body hatred) is as much or more no-touch. Most other cultures in the world are not as against physical touch as we are.

By superstition on 10/8/2013 11:20:02 PM , Rating: 2

If you're going to repeat fake stories, at least try to get some that are more up to date.

By Flunk on 10/7/2013 3:20:01 PM , Rating: 2
This is also a major example of the Pot calling the Kettle black. The Salt Lake City Olympics were just as tapped and bugged. Recent events have revealed that the NSA monitors nearly everything everywhere so there really is no moral high ground here.

By Reclaimer77 on 10/7/2013 5:20:03 PM , Rating: 2
The Salt Lake City Olympics were just as tapped and bugged.


Look I'm not giving the NSA a pass, but tapping and bugging requires someone to physically invade your privacy, and place listening devices to spy on you.

Maybe that's morally no different than remote electronic surveillance, but it sure is more disturbing. On a lot of levels.

I say no, Russia doesn't get a free pass on this just because of the NSA programs. Be serious.

By Strunf on 10/8/2013 8:08:57 AM , Rating: 2
Dude tapping today requires no physical intervention, if you think someone is coming to your house and connect some wires to your phone line you should read a bit more cause today everything is connected to a computer and you can listen any call from that computer.

By Gondor on 10/8/2013 8:37:29 AM , Rating: 2
At least we're reading about this upfront, from the mouths of Russki officials.

In this day and age it is understandable that the organizers would rather trade off personal freedoms (?) for improved security, especially in a region as close to islamist war zones as this one (Chechnya and Dagestan are very close), as long as they inform the participants. And no, I don't expect them to outline every single detail simply because that could prove detrimental to the security efforts. Nobody wants another Munich 1972 on their turf.

By gevorg on 10/7/2013 3:31:51 PM , Rating: 1
"and the US is a dysfunctional democracy"

LOL! The US is a police state. 1984 baby.

By ClownPuncher on 10/7/2013 3:57:15 PM , Rating: 3
It isn't, yet it is still too close for many.

By Jeffk464 on 10/7/2013 4:04:11 PM , Rating: 2
How do you figure? With the Patriot Act much of the protections in the Bill of Rights have been done away with and we have a higher percentage of prisoners than any other country. Top that off with the fact that any prominent person that says anything that is not 100% PC gets crucified, sounds a bit like what happens in China if you say anything against the government.

By ClownPuncher on 10/7/2013 4:17:00 PM , Rating: 2
I partially agree, but what a bit of hyperbole. Compare the US to USSR under Stalin, China under Mao, or Italy under Mussolini. We need to make some changes, but we aren't being pressganged or dragged into the street and shot.

By superstition on 10/8/2013 11:23:58 PM , Rating: 2
The US drone bombed a 16 year old American citizen for the "crime" of having a father the US felt was too mean when he spoke.

I hardly see how that's any less odious.

We also had a thing called habeas corpus, which the Obama administration and the public gleefully abandoned. You know... when they killed that guy and dumped his body in the ocean instead of putting him on trial. I guess Nazis are worthy of trials or we're just too advanced for those today.

Oh, and Joe Biden practically apologized to Israel for its murder of an American citizen on the flotilla. Well, he was just shot in the back of the head, despite being unarmed.

By YearOfTheDingo on 10/7/2013 5:30:00 PM , Rating: 2
The term "police state" implies the prevalence of social order. We generally refer to aspirational totalitarian states, whose attempts to control their population fall short due to ineptness and corruption, as "banana republics."

By inperfectdarkness on 10/8/2013 3:49:16 AM , Rating: 2
Let's face the truth. Olympics have been bugged for years--and most probably the worst in China. Intelligence gathering? Perhaps. Attempts to catch random hyper-sexed Olympic athletes f**king like rabbits on survillance video? Yep...that's what the ISR is really there for.

Eastern Russia?
By dj LiTh on 10/7/2013 1:20:14 PM , Rating: 1
spying on the Olympic Village, which sits in Eastern Russia along the shores of the Black Sea and near the Caucasus Mountains.

Soon as i read that, i knew it was a J.Mick article

RE: Eastern Russia?
By ClownPuncher on 10/7/13, Rating: 0
RE: Eastern Russia?
By ClownPuncher on 10/7/2013 4:08:13 PM , Rating: 2
The Black Sea is in Eastern Europe. Turkey and Georgia are the only non-European countries that share borders here. The Caucusus being the dividing line between Europe and Asia, which are to the EAST of the Black Sea.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By boeush on 10/7/2013 7:07:13 PM , Rating: 3
The Caucusus being the dividing line between Europe and Asia
Not to put too fine a point on it, but technically (at least as of back when I learned Geography), the eastern border between Europe and Asia runs along the Ural mountain chain (which would be considerably further east -- and also quite a bit north -- of the Caucasus.) The Caucasus range is more like the south-east corner of Europe's perimeter...

RE: Eastern Russia?
By ClownPuncher on 10/8/2013 11:15:10 AM , Rating: 2
Yes, that's also true.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By JasonMick on 10/7/13, Rating: 0
RE: Eastern Russia?
By MDPlatts on 10/7/2013 2:05:34 PM , Rating: 2
Don't you love people who cannot tell their arse from their elbow, left from right or east from west.

Sochi is in the south-west corner - south-east would be next to china

RE: Eastern Russia?
By inighthawki on 10/7/2013 3:49:18 PM , Rating: 1
Poor Mick :(

How embarrassing

RE: Eastern Russia?
By JasonMick on 10/7/2013 4:35:09 PM , Rating: 1
Your OTHER left... oh well, it is fixed now... sorry about that. Thanks for the correction op(s).

RE: Eastern Russia?
By Jeffk464 on 10/7/2013 5:09:18 PM , Rating: 2
Oh like you didn't have to look it up on google maps to see where it is.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By ClownPuncher on 10/7/2013 6:45:27 PM , Rating: 2
You should probably have a general idea where the Black Sea is.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By Jeffk464 on 10/7/2013 10:06:44 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, somewhere north of Antarctica.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By ClownPuncher on 10/9/2013 6:52:57 PM , Rating: 2
You're right. Knowing things is dumb.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By amanojaku on 10/7/2013 2:08:18 PM , Rating: 2
Could be the fact that Sochi is in WESTERN Russia.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By ICBM on 10/7/2013 2:16:38 PM , Rating: 2
Yeah, east would be like Vladivostok or other sites near the Pacific.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By JasonMick on 10/7/2013 4:22:43 PM , Rating: 1
Derp, yep got it....

RE: Eastern Russia?
By boeush on 10/7/2013 2:46:36 PM , Rating: 2
ROFLMAO @JasonMick

Unless he cops to some kind of a learning disability, in which case ... my sympathies.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By toffty on 10/7/2013 3:31:29 PM , Rating: 2
Or he's in an alternate reality in which Russia won the cold war and took over the world. In which case it could be Eastern Russia depending on where you currently are... though from Moscow it'd still be west.

Though if we're talking about alternate realities I'd much prefer the oceans are drained and everything becomes part of Netherland in which case we'd be referring to central Netherlands
(taken from )

RE: Eastern Russia?
By Jeffk464 on 10/7/2013 10:08:46 PM , Rating: 1
I feel the USSR could have easily bitch slapped radical Islam.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By boeush on 10/8/2013 4:08:45 AM , Rating: 2
Well, the Soviets did quite successfully de-Christianize most of Russia proper as well as Eastern Europe, and de-Islamize most of the Caucasus and the southern Steppes...

Yeah, that was only accomplished by abolishing the freedoms of speech, religion, association, and self-determination (and frequently enough, liberty and life itself.) But it was all just temporary pain necessarily inflicted and endured in the name of a brighter and happier future for countless and breathtakingly brilliant offspring to follow (the new afterlife, for a new religion); just as with the Nazis, the ends fully justified whatever means were deemed expedient. (Little wonder the Nazis and the Communists were such bitter enemies: fire literally fought fire, even if most of the arsonist particulars were mutually antithetical.)

Of course, post-USSR religion once again became all the rage (in some instances, literally enough... Bosnia, Serbia/Kosovo, Chechnya) -- in all the newfangled splinter states, including Russia proper.

It's funny, how people tend to stampede from one extreme, to an opposite extreme, never pausing long enough to notice, never mind contemplate, the midpoint on the balance beam.

Even funnier, when old, died in the wool, and supremely cynical KGB hacks (like Putin) become national figureheads for piety and righteousness... But I digress.

I guess what I mean to say is, the world is too dark and horrible unless we view it as a parody. Then it's bitingly clever and over-the-top hilarious.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By tanjali on 10/8/2013 8:18:22 AM , Rating: 2
IMAO de-religion(ising) whole world would be progress. Is there really anything positive throughout history religions brought for betterment of humankind? You call that freedom of speech? It’s actually freedom to kill and spread territories in the name of religion. Scientific Spirituality on the other hand is something needed for progress of civilization if not corrupted of course.
Do you really think its people choice for wars when saying stuff about Bosnia, Serbia/Kosovo, and Chechnya? Did you so fast forget about imaginary reasons for wars in Iraq, Libya, Syria... it’s the same thing. Some powerful interests from outside using Islamists and other fanatics brought the wars inside these countries. Whoever think it is just about oil is an IDIOT! Proof is in the first four countries, it is some kind of economic control and example so others would follow.
All that fight socialism, capitalism, communism, religions, economies, homosexuals, drugs, sex…
It’s not black and white,
If we want peace and progress (and we don’t) we would take best of all worlds and make the world bearable and don’t call it with …ism on end.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By boeush on 10/8/2013 1:23:54 PM , Rating: 2
Is there really anything positive throughout history religions brought for betterment of humankind?
I am an uncompromising Atheist -- about as hardened as they come -- yet I fully acknowledge that religion has been a key and universal human trait since time immemorial. It is probably about as old as language itself. Whatever else it may be, religion can be a great organizing force, and a great motivator. As a catalyst, it did not precipitate (in most cases), but definitely did greatly facilitate many horrific and wonderful things.

As children, we are all naturally predisposed to magical thinking and creative reshuffling and remapping of concepts. We all love fairy tales and fantasies, replete with thinking objects, talking animals, and magical powers. I understand religion as a natural and logical consequence of those intrinsic cognitive predilections. Religion, in other words, is an inevitable side-effect of the vital human capacity for creative thought and play, when combined with a void of information that imagination can fill.

You ask if religion ever brought betterment. I give you the ancient Greeks (to whom all of our modern civilizations owe an eternal debt.) Those philosophers, architects, writers, artists, musicians, poets, artisans, athletes, explorers, astronomers, geographers, medics, historians, mystics and mathematicians did not plumb the secrets of the universe and the limits of human potential just for kicks and giggles or for monetary reward, the way an Atheist scientist might do today. Perhaps not all but certainly a great many of them -- especially the greatest and best-known to us today -- were motivated by deep religious conviction, seeking to glimpse the mind of God, the design of God, the state of God-like being -- and in so doing pay tribute to the Divine and perfect their own souls. Now, as touchingly naive and delusional as such motivations may have been, those were undeniably the motivations. And absent such motivations, there would have been no such outcomes.

That's one salient example; there are many. Beware of prejudice, it runs in all directions. You dislike religion on principle, which leads you to see only its ugly side. Oh sure, there's a lot of ugly to be seen, but there's also great beauty. In denying that, you are yourself in denial. Religion can often rise to the level of art, and sometimes really awesomely inspired art. So what if many great artists and scientists were/are/will be a little (or a lot) unhinged: they come as a complete package. You don't get to pick and choose just the parts you approve of.

Personally, I neither love nor hate religion. I simply observe and acknowledge its triumphs and its horrors. To me, religion is in the long term something like an infantile trait -- part of the egg shell of the human species -- that our descendants should eventually fully grow out of and leave behind. It's part of the human condition. To hate it, would be about as irrational as to love it. It simply is.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By ClownPuncher on 10/7/2013 3:26:39 PM , Rating: 2
That's the wrong east, duder.

RE: Eastern Russia?
By LRonaldHubbs on 10/7/2013 3:48:38 PM , Rating: 2
Gay Marriage Bans in US =/= unconstitutional
By owsharp on 10/8/2013 10:30:29 AM , Rating: 2
But unlike in the U.S. where efforts to legislate this religion-based view have been limited to gay marriage bans (which were recently found to be unconstitutional), in Russia anti-homosexuality politicians managed to secure a recent ban on depictions of homosexuality in the media.

That would be great, but its completely untrue. Are you thinking of the Supreme Court overturning DOMA? DOMA wasn't a gay marriage ban, it was a prohibition on the federal government recognizing gay marriages in situations where a state had allowed it. I know that sounds the same, but it's a completely different thing. So far, it is absolutely constitutional for states to ban gay marriage and, in fact, 32 states have done so.

I know this is a tech news site, but if you're going to start reporting on sociopolitical things, please at least get the facts correct.

By superstition on 10/8/2013 11:05:37 PM , Rating: 2
It's not constitutional. Don't expect a buffoon like Scalia to necessarily admit that.

All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside. No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws .

This is very clear. American citizenship confers rights that all citizens equally have access to.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion

It is a scientific fact (Hooker 1956) that homosexuality isn't a disorder. That means all discrimination against homosexuals due to their homosexuality is religious in nature. That means it's an establishment of religion, it's theocratic, to pass amendments to state constitutions banning same-sex marriage.

1. Gay people exist.
2. Gay people are gay.
3. Gay people marry each other.

It's only complicated for those who can't think rationally, or refuse to.

By superstition on 10/8/2013 11:08:27 PM , Rating: 2
One thing that Mick got very wrong is the way he said they managed to pass a ban on homosexuality in the media. It's far more than that.

It's a ban on homosexuality, period.
ANYTHING that doesn't condemn homosexuality is considered homosexual propaganda. That includes gay people in public who aren't being beaten by police and gangs. It includes old people who make the mistake of wearing rainbow suspenders.

In Russia
By Solandri on 10/7/2013 4:28:32 PM , Rating: 5
In Russia, Olympics watch you!

"I'm an Internet expert too. It's all right to wire the industrial zone only, but there are many problems if other regions of the North are wired." -- North Korean Supreme Commander Kim Jong-il

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