The 1993 Presidential Decree establishing FAPSI assigned four matters to FAPSI's jurisdiction:
Like the NSA, FAPSI is responsible for communications security and signals intelligence. Its responsibilities under the 1996 Law on Foreign Intelligence include collection of information pertaining to "political, economic, military, science and technology through use of electronic means." FAPSI has both the authority and capability to penetrate all government and private information services in Russia. It also has reportedly been successful in collecting intelligence on foreign business ventures, including confidential bank transactions.
Unlike NSA FAPSI operates both overseas and domestically, and is authorized to engage in commercial operations, leasing radio frequency bands and government communications lines to both domestic and foreign companies. Russian law prohibits government employees to engage in commercial activities or to combine their main job with business undertakings, but FAPSI is somewhat exceptional in this regard. The Simaco and Roskomtekh companies, founded with FAPSI's direct participation, were headed by Valeriy Monastyretskiy, who was appointed chief of the FAPSI Financial and Economic Administration in March 1994.
FAPSI provides Russia with so-called "special information" which is obtained by electronic intelligence methods. According to FAPSI General Director Colonel General Aleksandr Starovoytov, this accounts for some 80 percent of the most valuable and objective information obtained worldwide.
"We are engaged in global electronic intelligence ... The main feature distinguishing our reports from those that come via the covert agent network of other special services is that ours is documented. We have access to a vast number of sources. We have a round-the-clock flow of decoded information which can produce fundamentally diverse viewpoints. "
FAPSI operates a HF/satellite network, for both SIGINT purposes and transmission of government and intelligence traffic. FAPSI works closely together with the GRU, Russia's military intelligence organization, sharing SIGINT facilities around the world, including those located in embassies and consulates.
In 1993 Russia and Vietnam signed a contract to ensure the continued use of the SIGINT facilities in Cam Ranh Bay. In 1994 the Russians came to an agreement with the Latvian government, which gives them the right to use the SIGINT station in Skrunda till 1998. Russia's largest SIGINT facility abroad is the one in Lourdes, Cuba. Most of the RTTY and numbers transmissions heard in North America originate from various transmitter sites in Cuba.
FAPSI performs services that extend beyond those of its nearest American counterpart, the National Communications System, as FAPSI is responsible for maintaining both government and presidential information system and telecommunication lines. It controls Russia's physical communications systems, including government telephone lines, high-frequency communications, and cryptography services. FAPSI initially maintained communications lines for the Russian President and security services, though these responsibilities were subsequently re-assigned to GUO, and then re-assigned back to FAPSI. These include:
FAPSI developed the protected, Specialpurpose Federal Information and Telecommunications System (SFITS or ITCS) for state administrative agency communications. SFITS/ITCS will link most federal agencies, and include technical and administrative documents, government directives and legal information from both the executive and legislative branches of government.
The new digital telecommunications system is referred to at FAPSI as "Area 98" since all its numbers will begin with 98. The Russian Federation president's edict No. 334 of 3 April 1995 gave the development of ITCS the status of a presidential program. The new system is being funded with money from the Hermes German Government credit, using communications equipment manufactured by Siemens with Russian encryption equipment. The new system operates on optical-fiber cables, laid in existing tunnels, with one such cable replacing hundreds of heavily armored communication cables. The system will not be confined to a narrow circle as were previous systems. Rather there are plans for large numbers of subscribers. Base stations of this system have already been installed in government house, the State Duma, the Federation Council, and the Presidential Staff building on Staraya Ploshchad. Most of the Russian regions will be connected to the system during the second phase of implementation.
The information component of SFITS/ITCS being developed is a system of situation centers: The highest element is the Russian Federation president's situation center; next come departmental and regional information analysis centers and focal points in organizations and institutions, together with mobile multifunctional complexes for use in wartime and in emergency situations.
The telecommunications component of the SFITS/ITCS is the Russian Integrated State System of Confidential Communications [RISSCC]. The Atlas protected data transmission network was developed as a matter of priority and is now functioning with the aim of forming the nucleus of the RISSCC. A transport component was developed during the deployment of the Atlas packet switching data network [PSDN], ensuring the transmission of documentary information between the administrative centers of the Russian Federation components. Terminals set up in the supreme state organs ensure the exchange of classified information, and the technical questions involved in ensuring the interaction of this network with other communications networks, including Infotel, Relcom, and Rosnet, were resolved.
As with other Russian government agencies, FAPSI has been unabile to ensure full state funding for its programs. The shortage of money has prevented FAPSI from fully capitalizing on its scientific and technical groundwork in the sphere of ensuring information security. This has particularly been the case with respect to the inadequate pace of progress of work on developing ITCS, producing promising prototypes of cryptographic equipment in the required amounts, and on completing the formation of Russian-made protected operating systems.
FAPSI has urgied a halt to funding the programs for developing ITCS carried out by other agncies and departments in parallel and without coordination with the program for designing and developing ITCS. The funds allocated to these programs exceed the resources required to fund the federal program for designing and developing ITCS. Defunding these other non-FAPSI efforts would make it possible to fully fund the FAPSI program for designing ITCS.
FAPSI is also developing an Internet service provider to serve the Russian organs of state power; it will ensure the operation of a segment of the network called RGIN (Russian Government Internet Network). The RGIN network is already an officially registered part of the Internet community of networks.
Although it is not authorized to monitor domestic voice traffic, FAPSI has not abandoned the Russian traditions of government monitoring of communications. FAPSI is empowered to monitor and register all electronic financial and securities transactions and to monitor other electronic communications, including private Internet access.
In 1995 the Russian Duma refused to approve a proposed law banning all encryption systems that were not approved by FAPSI. However, the provisions of the law were instead implemented by Presidential Decree No. 334, issued on 03 April 1995 [not as sometimes reported as July 1995]. The decree states that FAPSI's expanded role is aimed at "intensifying the struggle against organized crime."
The Decree tasked FAPSI with establishing a country-wide telecommunications system to register operations, including securities transactions, on the financial market. The decree required commercial banks compliance in their dealings with the Central Bank of Russia. FAPSI was authorized to monitor, register, and record all electronic financial transactions in the country, and to require banks and other financial institutions to pay for the service. The money FAPSI raised was to be divided between FAPSI and a special Fund of the President's Programs. FAPSI is a major investors in the Relkom Joint-Stock Company, which controls Russia's largest electronic mail network handling telecommunications projects for the Russian Central Bank, the Finance Ministry, and the Defense Ministry. This participation seems to consist both of an effort to ensure control over major forms of communications, along with some profit-seeking interest as well.
The 1995 Decree restricts the use of encryption software to only those programs approved by FAPSI. For a company in Russia to use encryption it must be pre-registered with FAPSI. To register with FAPSI, users are required to assess the degree of confidentiality needed. The decree provided no indication as to what methods of encryption (if any) are authorized by FAPSI, and users must consult the encryption providers who can only discuss encryption upon gaining clearance from the FAPSI registration authorities. The Decree also instructed the Russian Federation Customs Committee to ban the import of any "encryption facilities" which lack a FAPSI approved licence.