Classified Documents Leak: Reports Go To Government, Newspaper Stands By The Story

Ongoing reaction from politicians and the media, as security committee discusses fresh report on apparent leak of classified documents to Helsingin Sanomat.

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Secrets / Credit: iStock

The government and President will receive a report today on the apparent leak of classified documents to Helsingin Sanomat newspaper.

The report will also be discussed by the Foreign & Security Policy Committee which is chaired by President Niinistö.

Meanwhile, Helsingin Sanomat’s Editor-in-Chief Kaius Niemi says the paper stands behind their weekend story about Finland’s intelligence-gathering capabilities, which was partly based on the decade-old leaked documents. Niemi says he believes the Nordic region’s largest circulation newspaper hasn’t violated any laws by publishing the story.

Speaking on a Monday night discussion show on state-funded YLE television, Niemi said the reaction by authorities surprised staff at Helsingin Sanomat, but that comments and criticism were welcome.

Niemi pointed out that many of the topics that are classified in Finland, are considered open information for example in Sweden.

The board of directors at Sanoma Media, the parent company of Helsingin Sanomat, has requested a report from Niemi into the journalistic process at his newspaper, and how the leaked papers were handled by staff.

Police Raid

On Sunday night, police spent four hours searching the home of Helsingin Sanomat journalist Laura Halminen, one of the journalists who wrote the weekend story.

Under Finnish law, no warrant is needed before police can conduct such a raid. Officers arrived after Halminen tried to smash up a computer hard drive which started smoking. She contacted the fire brigade, who showed up with some police officers, who then called for additional help, and confiscated phones, computers and memory sticks.

The National Bureau of Investigation says the search was justified because their officers believed Halminen had attempted to destroy key evidence in an ongoing investigation.

Kaius Niemi described the police raid on his journalist’s home as “completely exceptional in Finland”.

The reaction from other media have also been critical.

Arno Ahosniemi, who is Editor-in-Chief of Kauppalehti newspaper and in charge of Finland’s Association of Editors-in-Chief says he can’t remember the police doing anything similar with regards to searching a journalist’s home.

YLE’s head of news Riikka Venäläinen says there is “reason to be concerned” about the actions of the police in this case.

And Suomen Kuvalehti magazine reports that YLE journalists have been instructed not to link to the original Helsingin Sanomat article in their online stories.

Political Reaction

Interior Minister Paula Risikko (NCP) has discussed details of the case with the National Bureau of Investigation who are taking the lead on a criminal investigation.

The police became involved when both the President and Finnish Defence Forces requested an investigation over the weekend.

Risikko says there is nothing more to be said about criminal investigations in public, and that she’s unsure if the Helsingin Sanomat story will have any impact on the proposed new intelligence law.

In addition to an apparent breach of security involving classified documents, the National Bureau of Investigation announced on Tuesday they are also investigating whether Helsingin Sanomat broke the law by publishing a story.

Finance Minister Petteri Orpo (NCP) says he really hopes that the person or persons who have passed the secret documents to journalists will be held accountable. The National Coalition Party Chairman says security breaches doesn’t make Finland look very good in the eyes of foreign partners.

Minister of Defence Jussi Niinistö (Blues) – no relation to President Niinistö – says it’s always a serious matter when this kind of information is leaked to the public, but that he doesn’t yet have an idea of how extensive the leak is.

Intelligence Context

Helsingin Sanomat published their Saturday story against the backdrop of a proposed new intelligence law which would give updated powers to Finnish intelligence agencies.

The new law would allow them to gather electronic surveillance on people living in Finland and Finns abroad. Including intercepting emails, phone and SMS text message data.

The new law would also give Finnish intelligence the legal approval to gather any data from Russia that flows through Finland, and which could then be passed on to intelligence allies like the USA.