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Military pressing for broader surveillance mandate

The Finnish Defense Forces are seeking legal powers to expand surveillance data gathering operations. At present, the Defense Forces are not permitted to carry out intelligence gathering by monitoring data traffic crossing the country's borders.

Image: Jyrki Lyytikkä / Yle

New legislation is being prepared at the Ministry of Defense for inclusion in a broader package of laws aimed at upgrading surveillance by security officials that would include the possibility of monitoring data carried by cables crossing the country.

At present, Finland does not have a law providing the military with a mandate to carry out these kinds of intelligence operations. The new legislation in the works will include this, and spell out oversight of intelligence gathering and the division of duties among various officials and agencies.

The Finnish military has a signals intelligence unit known as the Finnish Intelligence Research Establishment which organizationally falls under the Air Force.

The head of Finnish military intelligence services, Major General Harri Ohra-aho told Yle that operations are not only concerned with information gathering about the military picture in the region, but also with assessing social developments.

"We don't count tanks, rather create a broad analysis of the situation in our vicinity. Technological advances are changing the security environment," said Ohra-aho.

Major General Harri Ohra-aho went on to say that Russia's announcement last week that new missile defense systems have been moved to the St. Petersburg area did not come as a surprise.

"We would have been surprised if Russia had not brought in missiles to upgrade St. Petersburg's defenses," he stated.

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