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SBD Global/October 7, 2013/OlympicsPrint All
Athletes and spectators attending the 2014 Sochi Olympics "will face some of the most invasive and systematic spying and surveillance in the history of the Games," according to Shaun Walker of the London GUARDIAN. Russia's FSB security service "plans to ensure that no communication by competitors or spectators goes unmonitored during the event," according to a dossier compiled by a team of Russian investigative journalists looking into preparations for the 2014 Games." Government procurement documents and tenders from Russian communication companies indicate that "newly installed telephone and internet spying capabilities will give the FSB free rein to intercept any telephony or data traffic and even track the use of sensitive words or phrases mentioned in emails, webchats and on social media." The journalists found that "major amendments have been made to telephone and Wi-Fi networks in the Black Sea resort to ensure extensive and all-permeating monitoring and filtering of all traffic, using Sorm, Russia's system for intercepting phone and internet communications." Ron Deibert, a University of Toronto professor and director at Citizen Lab, which co-operated with the Sochi research, described the Sorm amendments as "Prism on steroids," referring to the program used by the NSA in the U.S. and by whistleblower Edward Snowden. A leaflet from the U.S. state department's bureau of diplomatic security warned, "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" (GUARDIAN, 10/6).
COLLECTING THE DATA: Also in London, Soldatov, Borogan & Walker reported Russia's leadership is "notoriously paranoid about perceived foreign meddling, and the conventional package of security measures that comes as standard with any major modern event in any country was augmented by a heightened interest in clandestine surveillance." So "as the oligarch-funded construction firms started building the venues and infrastructure for the Olympics, the FSB began making plans for a more shadowy kind of network," to address the vulnerabilities of the event. At a conference in Sept. '10, a presentation ordered by the FSB "was given on security in Sochi." The presentation "was mostly about cyber threats," but it also said that Sorm "should be significantly updated in Sochi." It also specified this "should be done in secret." The Sorm-1 system "captures telephone and mobile phone communications, Sorm-2 intercepts internet traffic, and Sorm-3 collects information from all forms of communication." The system will provide "long-term storage of all information and data on subscribers, including actual recordings and locations." Mobile networks in Sochi "have also been significantly updated." In June, Russia national telecom operator Rostelecom "launched a 4G LTE network around Sochi, pledging the fastest Wi-Fi networks in Olympic history, free of charge." But simultaneously, Rostelecom is "installing DPI ('deep packet inspection') systems on all its mobile networks, a technology which allows the FSB not only to monitor all traffic, but to filter it" (GUARDIAN, 10/6).
HOW THEY GOT THE DOCUMENTS: The GUARDIAN also reported how Soldatov & Borogan "unearthed the FSB spy plan" for the Sochi Olympics. Through research, the Guardian "examined dozens of open sources including technical documents published on the government's procurement agency website, zakupki.gov.ru." Russian law "requires all government agencies, including the secret services, to buy the equipment through this site." The Guardian "studied presentations and public statements made by government officials and top managers of firms involved with the Sochi Olympics and Sochi city." The newspaper also "gathered public records of government oversight agencies such as the telecoms watchdog Roskomnadzor" (GUARDIAN, 10/6).
Russian authorities "have detained hundreds of migrant workers" in Sochi, site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, and have held many of them in "arbitrary and inhumane conditions," according to REUTERS. Human Rights Watch said that many of those detained in a wave of raids on work sites, homes and public places since early September "helped build venues or infrastructure for the games being held in the Black Sea resort city in February." Most of those rounded up "for alleged violations of migration or employment regulation were released after several hours," but some "have been held for more than a week, in some cases without access to a lawyer." No one at the Interior Ministry or the regional governor's office "was immediately available to comment late Thursday" (REUTERS, 10/6).
Italian Olympic officials on Thursday ruled Rome out as a candidate to bid for the 2024 Olympic Games because the city is "on the brink of bankruptcy," according to the AFP. Rome Mayor Ignazio Marino said that "earlier this week the state of the capital's finances would make such a bid virtually impossible." Ahead of a meeting in Milan, where officials from the Italian Olympic Committee (CONI) discussed a possible bid for '24, Lombardy region President Roberto Maroni said that Milan, Lombardy's principal and most prosperous city, "remains the only possible candidate." After the meeting, officals "appeared to lean" toward a bid from Milan (AFP, 10/3).
Russian President Vladimir Putin "hoisted the flame" that will burn at the 2014 Sochi Olympics high in Red Square on Sunday, bringing "his personal campaign to stage Russia's first post-Soviet Olympics within sight of completion," according to Gutterman & Dyomkin of REUTERS. Declaring that "our shared dream is becoming reality," Putin signaled the start of a 123-day, 65,000km (40,000 mile) torch relay that "will take the flame to the North Pole and outer space before the Olympics begin" on Feb. 7. Protected by four small lanterns, the flame "was flown in from Greece after being lit at the birthplace of the ancient Olympics and handed over to Russia on Saturday at the marble Athens stadium that hosted the first modern Games in 1896." Deputy PM Dmitry Kozak, "gingerly carrying a lantern," stepped off the Aeroflot jet as "a military band played and an honour guard of rifle-toting soldiers in woolly Astrakhan collars stood by, chins jutting high." Kozak: "We -- all Russians -- have a right to be proud" (REUTERS, 10/6). REUTERS reported after "a six-day trek across 33 towns in Greece's mainly mountainous northern regions, the flame that was lit last Sunday by the sun's rays at the birthplace of the ancient Games in Olympia was presented" to Kozak. From its overnight perch on the ancient Acropolis, the flame "travelled through Athens' streets before being carried into the stadium, built in 330 BC, by Greek figure skating champion Panagiotis Markouzios" (REUTERS, 10/6).
FLAME GOES OUT: The AP reported the Olympic flame "briefly went out as the torch bearer ran towards the Kremlin." The glitch occurred when "the man ran through a long passageway, which apparently created a wind tunnel, extinguishing the flame." A man standing along the route "pulled out a lighter and the flame leaped back to life" (AP, 10/6). R-SPORT reported the whole ceremony "was infused with nationalist themes: Putin entered through an avenue of flags of Russia's 83 regions, each of which will be visited by the flame, and there were patriotic rap and dance performances." Among those accompanying the flame was Prince Albert II of Monaco, in the capacity of an IOC representative (R-SPORT, 10/6).