In Russia, spying on visitors is so pervasive, authorities don’t even seem realize that watching someone shower is cause for alarm.
During a press meeting on the Winter Olympics, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Kozak claimed that Western journalists were deliberately sabotaging the hotel facilities. As evidence, he said authorities had seen guests leave the water running in the shower.
Yes, you read that right. Here’s the full report from the Wall Street Journal:
“Dmitry Kozak, the deputy prime minister responsible for the Olympic preparations, seemed to reflect the view held among many Russian officials that some Western visitors are deliberately trying to sabotage Sochi’s big debut out of bias against Russia. ‘We have surveillance video from the hotels that shows people turn on the shower, direct the nozzle at the wall and then leave the room for the whole day,’ he said.”
The conversation then took the an expected turn toward conspiracy city, as journalists started asking how many other people had been surveilled in the bathroom. Before he could respond, an aid told reporters Kozak had to take a “tour of the media center.”
In truth, it’s not terribly surprising. The State Department has advised travelers to come with “clean” electronics devoid of any personal information. Upon entering, journalists found that there were hacked within minutes of turning their computers on.
“We took two brand new computers out of their boxes and connected them to the Internet. In a minute, hackers were snooping around,” described NBC’s Richard Engel.
Whether the hacking is from the government or mobsters is an open question. We’re reported previously on Russia’s vast video and Internet surveillance tactics that University of Toronto Professor Ron Deibert called “PRISM on steroids”.
The idea that a senior Russian official would casually drop a reference to spying on journalists in the shower reveals all we need to know about the government’s mindset.