Russian History


Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (FAPSI)

The KGB's Eighth Chief Directorate, which oversaw government communications and cipher systems, and another technical directorate, the sixteenth, were combined as the Federal Agency for Government Communications and Information (Federal'noye agentstvo pravitel'stvennykh svyazi i informatsii--FAPSI), of which the former head of the Eighth Chief Directorate, Aleksandr Starovoytov, was named director. FAPSI has unlimited technical capabilities for monitoring communications and gathering intelligence. When the Law on Federal Organs of Government Communications and Information was published in February 1993, Russia's liberal press protested loudly. The newspaper Nezavisimaya gazeta called it the "law of Big Brother," pointing out that it not only gives the executive organs of government a monopoly over government communications and information but permits unwarranted interference in the communications networks of private banks and firms.

The communications and information law authorized FAPSI to issue licenses for the export and import of information technology, as well as for the telecommunications of all private financial institutions. Equipped with a body of special communications troops (authorized by the 1996 budget to number 54,000), FAPSI was given the right to monitor encoded communications of both government agencies and nonstate enterprises. This means that the agency can penetrate all private information systems. The law stipulated little parliamentary supervision of FAPSI aside from a vague statement that agency officials were to give reports to the legislative branch. The president, by contrast, was given specific power to monitor the execution of basic tasks assigned to FAPSI and to "sanction their operations."

Some of the functions of FAPSI overlap those of the FSB. The FSB's enabling law mandated that it detect signals from radio-electronic transmitters, carry out cipher work within its own agency, and protect coded information in other state organizations and even private enterprises. No specific boundary between the ciphering and communications functions of the two agencies was delineated in their enabling legislation, and there was even speculation that FAPSI would be merged into the FSB. A presidential decree of April 1995 defined agency responsibilities in the area of telecommunications licensing.

A critical area of overlap--and competition--is protection of data of crucial economic and strategic significance. By mid-1995 FAPSI director Starovoytov was pushing for a larger role for FAPSI in this area. He began issuing warnings about the intensified threat to secret economic data (including that of the Russian Central Bank) from Western special services, which he said required his agency to take more stringent security measures.