It was only a matter of time before someone official and Russian at the same time said something about western journos and their portrayal of Sochi hotel rooms — but no one could guess that it would be such a foot-in-mouth moment.
Responding to the western campaign of “deliberate sabotage” in the media, Paul Sonne of WSJ reports, Russian deputy prime minister Dmitry Kozak said, “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.”
Then an aid whisked Kozak away before he could answer any follow up questions, Sonne reports.
Business Insider contributor and former NSA operative John Schindler has some counter-surveillance advice for Sochi’s shower users:
— John Schindler (@20committee) February 6, 2014
The level of surveillance in Russia has only recently taken a back seat to Tweets about unfinished hotel rooms. Nevertheless, NBC’s Richard Engel showed just how quickly Russian hackers exploited brand new computers in a Sochi coffee shop.
“Almost immediately we were hacked,” Engel reports. “Malicious software hijacked our phone before we even finished our coffee, stealing my information and giving hackers the option to tap or record my phone calls.”
Russia has made little attempt to hide it’s vast electronic surveillance of the Sochi area. Late last year, Russian investigative journalists Andrei Soldatov and Irina Borogan uncovered Russia’s “PRISM on steroids” which the FSB planned to use to “monitor all communications.”
“I think it’s very intrusive,” Soldatov said in an interview in Moscow. “Everyone should expect that all their communications, all the technical devices like smart phones, laptops, will be completely transparent.”
Aside from the near instant hacks and the ubiquitous CCTV footage, Russia has surveillance drones, Spetsnaz special forces guys and even Cossacks patrolling the area.
UPDATE: A spokesperson has gotten back to the WSJ in order to reverse (“clarify”) Kozak’s statements.
A spokesman for Mr. Kozak later on Thursday said there is absolutely no surveillance in hotel rooms or bathrooms occupied by guests. He said there was surveillance on premises during construction and cleaning of Sochi’s venues and hotels and that is likely what Mr. Kozak was referencing. A senior official at a company that built a number of the hotels also said there is no such surveillance in rooms occupied by guests.
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