Carl Haglund (SFP), the Minister of Defence, pictured during an inspection of the Uusimaa Brigade in Dragsvik on 7 January.Carl Haglund (SFP), the Minister of Defence, has pointed out that Finland would be an exception if it chose not to enact laws on the online surveillance rights and other intelligence capabilities of the Defence Forces and the Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo).

Authorities must have the necessary tools to prevent terrorism and other threats to national security, Haglund emphasised on Wednesday, after being presented with a task force report on intelligence rights at the House of the Estates.

“The conclusion is that there is a need for intelligence activities. If we end up doing nothing, that will also require a decision,” he said.

Haglund on Wednesday refrained from setting his position on the intelligence powers of security authorities in stone because any decisions on online surveillance will require a thorough examination of the fundamental rights of citizens. “But, if authorities lack the powers they believe they need to maintain the safety of Finns, that will also represent a threat to national security,” he added.

The task force proposes that preparatory work on military intelligence, civilian intelligence and online surveillance laws be initiated. At present, security authorities are not allowed to engage in intelligence activities.

The report will be next presented to relevant authorities for comments. A decision on the legislative work will be taken during the next electoral term.

“The process will start once the political conclusions have been drawn,” Haglund said.

The process will be time-consuming also because any possible constitutional amendments will require the approval of two Parliaments. “The task force concludes that if we choose to enact the laws it has laid out, the constitution must be amended,” revealed Haglund.

Constitutional amendments will be necessary if the intention is to grant security authorities the right to access not only the identity attributes but also the content of intercepted communications.

Hanna Nordström, the chairperson of the task force, pointed out that Section 10 of the Constitution of Finland provides no grounds for granting the right to conduct intelligence operations in the name of national security.

“Our proposal recognises that under some circumstances it may be necessary to also access the content of communications, which concerns the secrecy of correspondence. This is why the constitution would have to be amended,” she explained.

Although the constitution currently permits the use of means that encroach on certain fundamental rights for the investigation of threats to national security, it does not recognise intelligence operations. “This is an example of how fast the world is changing,” Nordström viewed.

Preparatory work on the amendments should fall under the purview of the Ministry of Justice, according to the task force.

Anna-Liina Kauhanen – HS
Aleksi Teivainen – HT
Photo: Vesa Moilanen / Lehtikuva