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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Who Will Watch the Watchmen?

In this country, every document suddenly becomes a mirror. If you look at it carefully, youll see whole vistas open up before your eyes; your breath will be taken away by a sense of d?j? vu.

And heres an official letter

I quote it verbatim, fearing to drop even one comma, one word, one numeral .

To: Mr. A. V. Ogaryov
General Director of the Federal Governments Unitary Enterprise, the State Company Rosvooruzheniye

From: the Prosecutor Generals Office of the Russian Federation, and Chief Military Prosecutors Office

April 21, 2000
No. 5uk-268/2000

Dear Alexei Viktorovich:
On the basis of order No. 53 of Aug. 10, 1999, of the acting prosecutor general of the Russian Federation, and on the basis of directive No. 140 of Oct. 11, 1999, of the deputy prosecutor general and the Chief Military Prosecutors Office, the surveillance of unitary enterprise and State Company Rosvooruzheniye in terms of its conformity to the laws of the federal government has been entrusted to the department for surveillance on legal conformity by the organs of external intelligence and the Federal Security Service of the Russian Federation, which department is part of the Administration of Surveillance on Upholding the Laws on Federal Security of the Chief Military Prosecutors Office.
In order to create conditions for the operative mutual cooperation between employees of the prosecutors administration and managers of FGUP [Rosvooruzheniye] and its structural subdivisions within the context of conducting surveillance activity and in resolving situations of legal conformity that may arise, I request that you consider the issue of designating to the administration a light service vehicle with a staff of drivers, three mobile telephones working at standard GSM (paid for through FGUP funds), as well as two pagers (with an analogous method of payment).
Furthermore, I request that you consider the issue of designating for temporary use [the following items]:

  • 5 Hewlett Packard computers with standard configuration and a Pentium II processor, (512) 400 Mhz/64 Mb/HDD 8.4 Gb/CD 40x/, equipped with a video card and multimedia capabilities;
  • 5 15-inch Hewlett-Packard monitors;
  • 5 Hewlett-Packard laser printers;
  • 2 Hewlett-Packard ScanJet 6300C scanners;
  • 1 Sony NoteBook, VAIO-PCG-N505VX P II/64 Mb/6.4 Gb/10.4"/2Mb;
  • 2 copiers, one of which makes color copies (such as the Rank Xerox Work Center);
  • 1 Panasonic fax-modem;
  • 1 paper shredder;
  • 2 TV/VCR units;
  • 6 Panasonic telephone units with enhanced memory, adapted to the Russian telephone system;
  • 1 dictaphone with high audio quality;
  • 1 video camera with a Video-8 screen;
  • 2 stereo units with CD player and dual-cassette deck;
  • 50 floppy disks, Sony 2HD, IBM Format.

    Head of Administration of Surveillance on Upholding the Laws on Federal Security,
    General Major of Justice N. N. Chapayev

    The car has already been designated: GAZ-31029. State registration number C 529 CM, State Company Rosvooruzheniye. Drivers: Efimov, Bulavkin. Responsible for the car: Lebedev Gorsky.

    We counted up the cost (according to the most minimal parameters) of what, according to the higher-up from the Chief Military Prosecutors Office, was cynically called a means for resolving "situations of legal conformity that may arise."

    Here is the list of technical equipment, with the approximate value of costs, that the Administration of Surveillance on Upholding the Laws on Federal Security of the Chief Military Prosecutor asks be supplied by the Federal State Unitary Enterprise and State Company Rosvooruzheniye for its use:

  • GAZ-31029 with drivers: $4,500;
  • 3 mobile telephones and 2 pagers: $550;
  • 5 computers: $7,500;
  • 5 monitors: $1,500;
  • 5 laser printers: $2,500;
  • 2 scanners: $300;
  • 1 NoteBook: $2,000;
  • 2 copiers: $1,100;
  • 1 fax-modem: $80;
  • 1 paper shredder: $200;
  • 2 TV/VCR units: $800;
  • 6 telephone units with enhanced memory: $600;
  • 1 dictaphone: $50;
  • 1 video camera: $300;
  • 2 stereo units: $200;
  • 50 3.5 inch floppy disks: $25.

    According to the most modest estimates, the price of the aforementioned technology is approximately $22,500.

    Of course, its much less expensive for a commercial kiosk to maintain one small racketeer.

    Although, in principle, I dont understand just what distinguishes a government representative from an emissary from a group of bandits.

    There is one difference the former works within the law! With forms, seals and serial numbers on correspondence.

    But, to borrow a phrase from the president, if youre going to "waste them" do it right.

    P.S. Last Wednesday, I showed this document to Vladimir Lopatin, my former colleague, who now is a representative of the Prosecutor Generals Office of the Russian Federation.

    Two days later, on Friday, Lopatin came to the State Duma to relay the following: The document is already outdated. Chapayev was fired for this letter, and his supervisor, former Chief Military Prosecutor Yury Demin, no longer works there, either.

    And, by the way, two of the telephone units were returned.

    So what is there to say today? And why bring up the past?

    I explained to Lopatin that, in the first place, the date of April 21, 2000, doesnt belong in the 19th century.

    In the second place, journalism, like law, is based on precedents.

    And, third and finally, precedents in the Prosecutor Generals Office have been set in the past, are being set today and will continue to be set.

    Yury Shchekochikhin is the deputy editor of Novaya Gazeta and a State Duma deputy. This comment first appeared in Novaya Gazeta and is reprinted with the authors permission.