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Snowden Scandal Brings Back The Typewriter

The Russian daily "Izvestia" says Russia's Federal Protection Service (FSO) recently placed an order for 20 Triumph Adler typewriters for 486,500 rubles ($15,000).

The paper reports that the order is a reaction to recent revelations by fugitive U.S. intelligence leaker Edward Snowden about Washington's widespread electronic snooping and data collection; as well as the recent scandal around the false report of the firing of Russian Railways head Vladimir Yakunin; the WikiLeaks release of confidential U.S. diplomatic cables; and the bugging of then-President Dmitry Medvedev at a 2009 G20 summit in London.

According to experts cited by "Izvestia," typewriters are still in use in a number of ministries and security services, and the typewriters in question are designed for printing classified documents, in that each machine has unique "handwriting" that can be traced back to the source.

But the experts also note that the use of old-fashioned ink-and-paper systems have the same drawbacks they've always had, in addition to all the problems of storage and the vulnerability of the physical material. As one analyst notes, the key factor is always the human one.

And is there any point to trying to stay offline anyway? According to some, there is no escape from the Internet anywhere, so all the typewriter ribbons in the world won't help. Maybe they could go another step back in time, for truly foolproof security...

-- Dan Wisniewski

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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