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Parliament to vote on expanded surveillance powers

A proposed new law on intelligence gathering has passed the committee stage with minor changes. MPs will now vote on whether it warrants expedited consideration.

Perustuslakivaliokunta koolla.
Constitutional Law committee members (from left to right) Anna-Maja Henriksson, Leena Meri, Ilkka Kantola, Tapani Tölli, Annika Lapintie, Wille Rydman, Matti Torvinen and Ville Niinistö. Image: Markku Ulander / Lehtikuva

Parliament’s Constitutional Law committee has passed a new law on intelligence gathering for consideration by parliament.

The draft bill introduces new powers for intelligence officers in defence of national security, limiting the confidentiality of communications by, for instance, allowing the authorities to open mail if they believe national security is threatened. The change provides a framework for Finland to conduct civil and military intelligence work.

The committee rejected a proposal to change the constitutional clause allowing communications-gathering to investigate crime to one allowing such methods for the prevention of crime.

Changes to the constitution normally require approval from two thirds of MPs, with voting conducted in two rounds either side of an election. The government wants this espionage bill declared ‘urgent’, which dispenses with the need for a second vote after the next election.

For the bill to be declared urgent, five-sixths of MPs must vote to do so.

Edit at 11:26 am on Sept. 22 to change the headline, replacing the word 'espionage' with 'surveillance'.

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