A source at Russia’s Federal Guard Service (FSO), which is in charge of safeguarding Kremlin communications and protecting President Vladimir Putin, claimed that the return to typewriters has been prompted by the publication of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website, as well as Edward Snowden, the fugitive US intelligence contractor.
The FSO is looking to spend 486,000 roubles – around £10,000 – on a number of electric typewriters, according to the site of state procurement agency, zakupki.gov.ru. The notice included ribbons for German-made Triumph Adlew TWEN 180 typewriters, although it was not clear if the typewriters themselves were this kind.
The service declined to comment on the notice, which was posted last week.
However an FSO source told Izvestiya newspaper: “After scandals with the distribution of secret documents by WikiLeaks, the exposes by Edward Snowden, reports about Dmitry Medvedev being listened in on during his visit to the G20 summit in London, it has been decided to expand the practice of creating paper documents.”
Unlike printers, every typewriter has its own individual pattern of type so it is possible to link every document to a machine used to type it.
“Typewriters are still used to type on paper with an adhesive layer so that the glue doesn’t get too hot,” the source said. “What’s more, a whole series of documents are not created on electronic devices. That practice exists in the defence ministry, the emergencies ministry and the special services.”
Directives to the defence minister and the supreme commander-in-chief, Mr Putin, are still printed on paper, a defency ministry source said.
Documents leaked by Mr Snowden appeared to show that Britain spied on foreign delegates including Dmitry Medvedev, then the president, at the 2009 London G20 meetings.
Russia was outraged by the revelations but said it had the means to protect itself.
Mr Snowden has been stuck in the transit zone of Sheremetyevo Airport in Moscow for three weeks since arriving from Hong Kong in a bid to seek asylum.
Nikolai Kovalev, the former director of Russia’s Federal Security Service, told Izvestiya: “From the point of view of security, any means of electronic communication is vulnerable. You can remove any information from a computer. There are means of defence, of course, but there’s no 100 per cent guarantee they will work. So from the point of view of preserving secrets the most primitive methods are preferable: a person’s hand and a pen, or a typewriter.”
However, another expert said that paper documents were still unreliable because they could be stolen or photographed, or could go up in smoke in case of a fire.- The Telegraph