On 11 March, Parliament approved a government proposal for a Civilian Intelligence Act. As a result, Finland will have a Civilian Intelligence Act that improves our capabilities to protect against serious threats to national security. Such threats include terrorism, espionage by foreign states or disruption of critical infrastructure.
“Foreign intelligence services have become as active in Finland as they were during the Cold War. In addition to this, almost all terrorist acts are planned online in one way or the other. They are operating in the digital age and we are working with 20th century tools. Can we go on like this? No, we cannot. I want to thank all parties in Parliament for their broad consensus on combatting terrorism and foreign network intelligence,” says Minister of the Interior Kai Mykkänen.
The new civilian intelligence powers may only be used by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service and they can also be exercised abroad. In future, the basis for information gathering by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service will be not only the prevention and detection of crime but also national security. The focus of information gathering by the Finnish Security Intelligence Service will be on detecting threats and responding to them at an earlier stage than has been previously possible.
The purpose of the intelligence gathering methods will be to provide state leaders with essential information on operations that pose a serious threat to national security for the purpose of supporting their decision making and safeguarding national security. The security environment in Finland is changing rapidly, and new threats demand a new kind of preparedness and contingency planning.
The intelligence gathering methods detailed in the Act are partly based on the methods already laid down in the Police Act. Entirely new powers granted by the Act are intelligence gathering on specific locations, copying of a message, interruption of the delivery of a message for copying and network traffic intelligence. Network traffic intelligence enables technical gathering and processing of information on data communications crossing the Finnish border.
Oversight of intelligence gathering will be carried out by the Intelligence Ombudsman and Parliament’s Intelligence Committee.
The President of the Republic is set to approve the Civilian Intelligence Act and the Act on Military Intelligence in the near future. The Acts are scheduled to enter into force as soon as possible.