BY ANDREW SWIFT
What they do: What the KGB does best. Belarus remains an outlier of Soviet-style authoritarianism in Eastern Europe, and its longtime leader, President Alexander Lukashenko, is commonly known as "Europe's last dictator."
Lending credence to that claim is the fact that Belarus has never bothered to change the name of its State Security Committee, or KGB. Russia at least had the sense to change its notorious spy agency's name to the more anodyne Federal Security Service, but Minsk apparently prefers the naked truth to Orwellian doublespeak.
The Belarusian KGB touts itself as a jack-of-all trades intelligence agency: Its website lists counterintelligence, foreign intelligence, crime prevention (including terrorism), governmental operations security, and international law enforcement cooperation. The KGB also claims to have excellent relations with Interpol.
It seems, however, that the KGB is not quite up to par with the brutality of its Soviet predecessor. After anti-government activist Andrey Kuzminsky displayed the banned national flag favored by the opposition in a protest, agents descended on his house for interrogation -- but left him with a mere warning. Lest it seems the KGB isn't all that bad, though, the bureau regularly raids media outlets and bans what it deems "extremist materials." The State Department's 2009 Human Rights Report accuses the KGB of beating detainees, gross privacy abuses, whitewashing anti-Semitic crimes and materials, interfering with NGO activities, and a whole host of other human rights violations.