U.S. ambassador claims Russian press hacking him
Michael McFaul, the U.S. ambassador to Russia
March 29th, 2012
02:46 PM ET

U.S. ambassador claims Russian press hacking him

By Jill Dougherty

The U.S. ambassador to Russia is questioning the scrutiny he's getting from Russian state media and has suggested in social media messages that his phones and e-mails are being hacked.

"Everywhere I go NTV is there. Wonder who gives them my calendar? They wouldn't tell me. Wonder what the laws are here for such things," Amb. Michael McFaul wrote on Twitter Thursday about the government-run television network. "When I asked these 'reporters' how they knew my schedule, I got no answer," he wrote in a follow up message.

But it wasn't just the constant presence of the media in his personal space that concerned the American envoy. Invasion of privacy is also an issue, he charged in a second tweet.

"I respect press right to go anywhere & ask any question. But do they have a right to read my email and listen to my phone?" he asked.

The Russian embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to CNN requests for a comment on the situation.

When asked by reporters in Washington whether McFaul was directing his tweets toward the Russian government instead journalists, State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the tweets were "not directed at journalists or the media." McFaul was "simply asking a rhetorical question," Toner added, saying he did not know if the messages were directed at the government.

Toner was unaware if the U.S. Embassy had officially raised the issue of McFaul's tweets with the Russian government.

McFaul, who had a rough reception from some government-controlled media for his outspoken support of pro-democracy groups, has appeared frequently in public in Moscow. At those appearances, protesters have shown up to heckle him and voice their displeasure with his message. A senior administration official told CNN the ambassador decided to publicly confront the issue by tweeting about it.

The architect of the Obama administration's so-called "re-set" policy with Russia, McFaul has had a contentious relationship with the government-run media since his arrival in Moscow earlier this year. An analyst on a government network said McFaul was a "specialist purely in the promotion of democracy," and suggested his agenda was dedicated to supporting opposition leaders in the country.

McFaul has spent his career in government and academia, focused on the former Soviet Union and Russia.

soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Yuri Panchul

    This article does not tell the whole story. Specifically, Michael McFaul used the expression "дикая страна" that in this particular context means "the country of savages". Various media is trying to downplay the episode by translating it as "barbarian country", "wild country" or not translating it at all. But in my opinion, usage of this expression by the US Ambassador in Russia is an approximate equivalent of using N-word by any US politician in the US.

    Ironically, McFaul may learn this expression from one of so-called Russian "oppozitsioner", opportunistic self-appointed advocates of American way of life in Russia. Usually this kind of people are pretty clueless about the real life. For example, one of them. Novodvorskaya, believed there were no economic crises in the US until "socialistic reforms" of XX century. This kind of people wants to be backed by the US so they meet American politicians and tell them various stories about how bad the Russians are (except, of course those "oppozitsioners"). "Дикая страна" is one of the expressions those confused "oppozitsioner" people use to describe their own country and their own culture. US Ambassor should not use that expression.

    March 29, 2012 at 10:09 pm | Reply
    • HEDGE HOG

      Yuri , in the old days we would have said worse about each other but now that we have made it this far , we should look forward to the future to continue to grow to peace and understanding . I hope you agee , but if you think your going to post on an american site and get support for your post , its not happening . and if I was to post this on a russian site I would expect it to fall on deaf ears to. YES YURI JUST LIKE MANY ARE STILL RUSSIANS SOME OF US ARE STILL AMERICANS AT THE CORE,

      March 29, 2012 at 11:15 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      Yuri – you've completely missed the point. Would they have KNOWN what he said if they hadn't sneaked into his private e-mails or phone calls?
      They say 'listeners never hear good about themselves'.

      I thought Russia was America's "New best friend!" Seemsd nothing has changed in the country that's SUPPOSED to be reformed.

      March 30, 2012 at 10:42 am | Reply
      • Bruno

        Later Thursday, journalist Jace Foster tweeted back to McFaul to clue him in on how the Russian reporters always knew where to find him.

        "Your schedule is fair game. We know it because Russian consulate watches you & releases your schedule," she tweeted. "Russia watches your Twitter account too, which is open to the public. Surely you know this."

        McFaul seemed relieved to hear that Russian journalists are not tapping his phones. But he emphasized that the U.S. government does not tip off reporters in Washington about the travels of his Russian counterpart.

        "I am new to the world of diplomacy and did not [know] this fact. Thanks. I know we do not do the same with Russian ambo in U.S.," McFaul tweeted. "Maybe I should start publishing my schedule? I am always happy to interact with press."

        Maybe do some research before you insult a country based on your own ambassadors poor conduct and incompetence

        March 30, 2012 at 2:52 pm |
  2. Chris

    Which part of your post is actually fact? Share our missile defense? That's a lot to read into three phrases over heard at a meeting. Obama a spy? Go back to Fox news. 8 more years of Republicans and we'll be just as bad as Russia. Run by banks and oil companies just like the Tea Party and Libertarians want.

    March 29, 2012 at 8:48 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      Chris – where HAVE you been for the last 4 years? That old chestnut about the REPUBLICANS being owned by Banks and Businesses is just one more aspect of the Democrat 'blame game' .
      If the banks and businesses are financing the Republicans – how come Obama has double the campaign funds than ALL the GOP candidates put together? They sure didn't come from the 99%. WHO bailed out Banks and Businesses with the $4 Trillion bail-outs? I'll give you 2 clues:
      [1] It wasn't the Republicans
      [2] It begins with Ob – and ends with – ama! Got it?

      btw I'm not American but BBC, Fox news, etc are all pretty balanced in their reporting. You only get CNN acting as Obama's self-appointed Campaign Managers.

      March 30, 2012 at 10:51 am | Reply
  3. AlexShch

    "Everywhere I go NTV is there..." - why to complain about that? Just get used to your celebrity status. Consult with Kardashians, if necessary.

    "McFaul, who had a rough reception from some government-controlled media..." - in reality NTV is the most liberal and liberast-controled TV channel in Russia. It is also the second most opposing to Russian Government (with Echo Moskvy being the first) media organization.

    March 29, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      I'm sure that he's more than used to celebrity status – but even celebrities are entitled to PRIVATE e-mails and phone tapping! You can't gloss over it – it is shameful!
      The Murdoch hacking scandal should have told you THAT much. But Russia doesn't change much, does it?

      March 30, 2012 at 11:01 am | Reply
  4. stalling to do nothing

    the future of the usa being the compass of freedom to the world could very well shut down by the voice of compromise from obama , the foreign policy thing in this current world is not what he signed up for. the players that he is trusting to up hold their end will come falling down around him .

    russia , syria , iran , yemen , taliban , afghanistan , pakistan , egypt , sinai , suez , north korea , and possibly a baltic state is spilling over on the plate of foreign policy. WITHOUT A VOICE OF RESOLVE the fence will be pushed to the side.

    March 29, 2012 at 6:30 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      VERY well said.

      March 30, 2012 at 10:53 am | Reply
  5. Catamount

    Don't worry about it. If spy-in-charge Obama has secret arrangements with Medvedev to unilaterally dismantle the US nuclear arsenal and share our missile defense technology after he's re-elected, when he has more flexibility, what more can they get eavesdropping you?

    Shoot, I'd bet Obama gave them your computer password.

    March 29, 2012 at 3:23 pm | Reply
    • YouBetcha

      Catamount – Since Russia has been MASSIVELY upgrading their Military hardware for the last few years – what would be their POINT in de-militarising straight after?
      You, my friend are incredibly naive. A reduced defence system an d weaponry for America at this moment in time is criminally irresponsible. The world is a powder keg. And YOU took your eye off the ball. Are you AMERICAN????????

      March 30, 2012 at 10:58 am | Reply

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