Finnish Security Intelligence Service

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Finnish Security Intelligence Service
Emblem of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service.svg
Agency overview
Formed17 December 1948;70 years ago (17 December 1948) upon ratification
Preceding agency
Jurisdiction Republic of Finland
HeadquartersRatakatu 12, Helsinki
60°09′43″N24°56′27″E / 60.1619°N 24.9409°E / 60.1619; 24.9409 Coordinates: 60°09′43″N24°56′27″E / 60.1619°N 24.9409°E / 60.1619; 24.9409
Employees291 (2016)
Annual budget 27.9 million (2016)
Minister responsible
Agency executive
  • Antti Pelttari, Director
Parent department Ministry of the Interior
Website Twitter: @Suojelupoliisi

The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) (Finnish : Suojelupoliisi (Supo), Swedish : Skyddspolisen (Skypo), police), formerly the Finnish Security Police, is the security and intelligence agency of Finland in charge of national security, such as counter-intelligence and counter-terrorism, under the jurisdiction of the Interior Ministry. Operational since 1949 and headquartered in Helsinki, Supo had 291 employees and a budget of 27.9 million euros in 2016. The Service had a distinct role during the Cold War in monitoring communists as well as in the balance between Finnish independence and Soviet appeasement (finlandization); after the 1990s Supo has focused more on countering terrorism and in the 2010s on preventing hybrid operations.

Finnish language language arising and mostly spoken in Finland

Finnish is a Finnic language spoken by the majority of the population in Finland and by ethnic Finns outside Finland. Finnish is one of the two official languages of Finland ; Finnish is also an official minority language in Sweden. In Sweden, both Standard Finnish and Meänkieli, a Finnish dialect, are spoken. The Kven language, a dialect of Finnish, is spoken in Northern Norway by a minority group of Finnish descent.

Swedish language North Germanic language spoken in Sweden

Swedish is a North Germanic language spoken natively by 10 million people, predominantly in Sweden, and in parts of Finland, where it has equal legal standing with Finnish. It is largely mutually intelligible with Norwegian and to some extent with Danish, although the degree of mutual intelligibility is largely dependent on the dialect and accent of the speaker. Both Norwegian and Danish are generally easier for Swedish speakers to read than to listen to because of difference in accent and tone when speaking. Swedish is a descendant of Old Norse, the common language of the Germanic peoples living in Scandinavia during the Viking Era. It has the most speakers of the North Germanic languages.

A security agency is a governmental organization which conducts intelligence activities for the internal security of a nation. They are the domestic cousins of foreign intelligence agencies, and typically conduct counterintelligence to thwart other countries' foreign intelligence efforts. For example, the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is the internal intelligence, security and law enforcement agency, while the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is an external intelligence service, which deals primarily with intelligence collection overseas. A similar relationship exists in Britain between MI5 and MI6.



During the Cold War

The Finnish Security Intelligence Service (Supo) was established on 17 December 1948 upon ratification of the Act and the Decree on the Security Police and became operational at the start of 1949. [1] Supo was formed to replace its predecessor, the State Police (Valtiollinen poliisi, Valpo), after communists suffered a defeat in the July 1948 parliamentary elections and the reorganization of Valpo was recommended by a governmental committee in October 1948. In essence, Valpo was abolished by the Parliament of Finland due to the fact that its leadership positions had been filled by communists who were implicated in erroneous and illegal elements according to a separate governmental committee investigation as well as linked to a number of disappearances in the aftermath of World War II. [2] [3] [4] [5] [6]

State Police (In Finnish: Valtiollinen poliisi was the predecessor of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service.

Parliament of Finland legislature of Finland

The Parliament of Finland is the unicameral supreme legislature of Finland, founded on 9 May 1906. In accordance with the Constitution of Finland, sovereignty belongs to the people, and that power is vested in the Parliament. The Parliament consists of 200 members, 199 of whom are elected every four years from 13 multi-member districts electing 7-36 using the proportional d'Hondt method. In addition, there is one member from Åland.

Communism socialist political movement and ideology

In political and social sciences, communism is the philosophical, social, political, and economic ideology and movement whose ultimate goal is the establishment of the communist society, which is a socioeconomic order structured upon the common ownership of the means of production and the absence of social classes, money, and the state.

The headquarters of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service in Punavuori, Helsinki House of Supo.jpg
The headquarters of the Finnish Security Intelligence Service in Punavuori, Helsinki

In general, Finland is described as having been in a strategic and neutral position between the Cold War blocks; both sides engaged in intensive intelligence activities in the country. Mostly, Finland was an interest to the superpowers as a buffer zone and as an overflight and military transit route. [7] During the first decades, the main tasks of Supo were to monitor communists, such as the Communist Party of Finland and home Russians, and prevent illegal intelligence, especially KGB and GRU espionage. The Service had to work with discretion and caution due to Finlandization—a balance between the independence of Finland and appeasement to the Soviet Union. At the same time, Supo had close connections with the CIA—although the Service was wary of recording it on paper. [3] [4] [8] [9] [10]

Cold War Geopolitical tension after World War II between the Eastern and Western Bloc

The Cold War was a period of geopolitical tension between the Soviet Union with its satellite states, and the United States with its allies after World War II. A common historiography of the conflict begins between 1946, the year U.S. diplomat George F. Kennan's "Long Telegram" from Moscow cemented a U.S. foreign policy of containment of Soviet expansionism threatening strategically vital regions, and the Truman Doctrine of 1947, and ending between the Revolutions of 1989, which ended communism in Eastern Europe, and the 1991 collapse of the USSR, when nations of the Soviet Union abolished communism and restored their independence. The term "cold" is used because there was no large-scale fighting directly between the two sides, but they each supported major regional conflicts known as proxy wars. The conflict split the temporary wartime alliance against Nazi Germany and its allies, leaving the USSR and the US as two superpowers with profound economic and political differences.

Communist Party of Finland Finnish political party (1918–1990)

The Communist Party of Finland was a communist political party in Finland. The SKP was a section of Comintern and illegal in Finland until 1944.

A "kotiryssä" was a Soviet or Russian contact person of a politician, bureaucrat, businessman or other important person in Finland. The term kotiryssä referred especially to Soviet spies stationed in Helsinki in the 1960s and 1970s who were designated by the Soviet government to gather information from specific persons in Finnish politics and government. As such information gathering techniques have arguably always been prevalent among spies, some Finns have argued that the kotiryssä system was a normal way to conduct diplomatic relations between two countries. The dozens of KGB officers working out of the Tehtaankatu embassy of the Soviet Union is now well documented. The public did not know about the system until the book Tamminiemen pesänjakajat was published in 1981. The kotiryssä system was closely related to Finlandization.

When Urho Kekkonen was elected the President of Finland in 1956, Supo started to transform more into a "presidential police" that gathered information to support the President's domestic and foreign policy decision-making. The shift was partly due to the tense Finnish-Soviet relations at the time (see e.g. the night frost and note crises) as well as Kekkonen's motivation to steer the high-profile Service into alignment with his tactics in handling relations with the Soviet Union. For example, Kekkonen was kept informed of Finnish communist politicians and their internal discussions as well as was relayed information from foreign intelligence agencies, such as the British MI6. After Director Armas Alhava retired in 1972, Kekkonen appointed Arvo Pentti as the new Director—an ally and a fellow politician from the Centre Party. When Seppo Tiitinen was appointed the new Director in 1978, Kekkonen was still requesting information on political communist movements. [3] [4] [8] [9] [10] [11]

Urho Kekkonen eighth President of Finland

Urho Kaleva Kekkonen was a Finnish politician who served as the eighth and longest-serving President of Finland (1956–82). He ruled over Finland for nearly 26 years, and held a questionably large amount of power; he is often classified as an autocrat. Regardless, he remains a popular, respected and recognizable figure. Previously, he had served as Prime Minister of Finland, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Speaker of the Finnish Parliament (1948–50) and Minister of Justice. As president, Kekkonen continued the "active neutrality" policy of his predecessor President Juho Kusti Paasikivi, a doctrine that came to be known as the "Paasikivi–Kekkonen line", under which Finland retained its independence while maintaining good relations and extensive trade with members of both NATO and the Warsaw Pact. He hosted the European Conference on Security and Co-operation in Helsinki in 1975 and was considered a potential candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize that year.

President of Finland Finlands head of state

The President of the Republic of Finland is the head of state of Finland. Under the Constitution of Finland, executive power is vested in the President and the Finnish Government, with the former possessing only residual powers. The President is directly elected by universal suffrage for a term of six years. Since 1991, no President may be elected for more than two consecutive terms. The President must be a Finnish citizen by birth. The Presidential office was established in the Constitution Act of 1919. Since March 1, 2012, the President of Finland has been Sauli Niinistö. In May 2017, Niinistö announced that he would seek re-election in the 2018 presidential election, running as an independent candidate. NCP and the Christian Democrat Party supported his candidacy. He won re-election in the first round on 28 January 2018 with 62.7% of the vote and his second term began on 1 February 2018.

The Night Frost Crisis or the Night Frost was a political crisis that occurred in Soviet-Finnish relations in the autumn of 1958. It arose from Soviet dissatisfaction with Finnish domestic policy and in particular with the composition of the third government to be formed under Prime Minister Karl-August Fagerholm. As a result of the crisis, the Soviet Union withdrew its ambassador from Helsinki and put pressure on the Finnish government to resign. The crisis was given its name by Nikita Khrushchev, who declared that relations between the countries had become subject to a "night frost".

Kekkonen kept KGB connections, especially its local Helsinki chief, close and utilized back channels to balance between Western and Soviet interests without provocation, such as during the negotiations on Finland's membership to the European Free Trade Association in 1962. Similarly, he shifted Supo's counter-intelligence activities to quiet and preventive action. For example, espionage cases were sometimes not submitted to court and KGB diplomats were not declared persona non grata, but instead were quietly asked to leave. When KGB major Anatoliy Golitsyn defected to the United States from Helsinki in December 1961, he divulged his knowledge and opinions on KGB networks and interaction in Finland to the CIA. For example, he described President Kekkonen as being "in Soviet service" – Kekkonen was relieved when the CIA and Western intelligence took the claim with reservations. Nevertheless, the revelations prompted Western intelligence to have a more constructive and positive attitude towards Finland and the CIA shared Golitsyn's list of KGB intelligence officers to Supo for monitoring. [3] [4] [10] [12]

European Free Trade Association organization

The European Free Trade Association (EFTA) is a regional trade organization and free trade area consisting of four European states: Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. The organization operates in parallel with the European Union (EU), and all four member states participate in the European Single Market and are part of the Schengen Area. They are not, however, party to the European Union Customs Union.

In diplomacy, a persona non grata is a foreign person whose entering or remaining in a particular country is prohibited by that country's government. Being so named is the most serious form of censure which a country can apply to foreign diplomats, who are otherwise protected by diplomatic immunity from arrest and other normal kinds of prosecution.

Anatoliy Mikhaylovich Golitsyn CBE was a Soviet KGB defector and author of two books about the long-term deception strategy of the KGB leadership. He was born in Pyriatyn, Ukrainian SSR. He provided "a wide range of intelligence to the CIA on the operations of most of the 'Lines' (departments) at the Helsinki and other residencies, as well as KGB methods of recruiting and running agents." He was an Honorary Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) and, as late as 1984, was an American citizen.

Systematic surveillance of communists was shut down in the early 1980s by President Mauno Koivisto. [6] The Service did not gain powers of arrest and pre-trial investigation powers until 1 January 1989 due to its predecessors’ colourful actions and history as well as Finland’s sensitive foreign policy position. Instead, the National Bureau of Investigation carried out actual criminal investigations until that point. [3] [4] In 1990, West German intelligence gave Supo the Tiitinen list, which supposedly contains names of Finns who were believed to have links to Stasi, the East German state security ministry. The list was classified and locked in a safe after Director Seppo Tiitinen and President Mauno Koivisto determined that it was based on vague hints instead of hard evidence. [13] [14] Subsequently, in 2002 the Service suspected and questioned Finnish diplomat, Alpo Rusi, of being a Stasi spy. The investigation eventually leaked to national broadcaster Yle. However, Rusi was cleared of all charges in 2007 after court proceedings and won compensation for damage to his reputation suffered when the case was leaked to the media. [15]

Mauno Koivisto President of Finland

Mauno Henrik KoivistoGOIH was a Finnish politician who served as the ninth President of Finland from 1982 to 1994. He also served twice as Prime Minister, 1968 – 1970 and 1979 – 1982. He was the first Social Democratic Party member to be elected President of Finland.

The power of arrest is a mandate given by a central authority that allows an individual to remove a criminal's liberty. The power of arrest can also be used to protect a person, or persons from harm or to protect damage to property.

A country's foreign policy, also called foreign relations or foreign affairs policy, consists of self-interest strategies chosen by the state to safeguard its national interests and to achieve goals within its international relations milieu. The approaches are strategically employed to interact with other countries. The study of such strategies is called foreign policy analysis. In recent times, due to the deepening level of globalization and transnational activities, the states will also have to interact with non-state actors. The aforementioned interaction is evaluated and monitored in attempts to maximize the benefits of multilateral international cooperation. Since the national interests are paramount, foreign policies are designed by the government through high-level decision-making processes. National interests accomplishment can occur as a result of peaceful cooperation with other nations, or through exploitation. Usually, creating foreign policy is the job of the head of government and the foreign minister. In some countries, the legislature also has considerable effects. Foreign policies of countries have varying rates of change and scopes of intent, which can be affected by factors that change the perceived national interests or even affect the stability of the country itself. The foreign policy of a country can have a profound and lasting impact on many other countries and on the course of international relations as a whole, such as the Monroe Doctrine conflicting with the mercantilism policies of 19th-century European countries and the goals of independence of newly formed Central American and South American countries.

After the Cold War

On 1 January 2016, Supo was transferred under the direct control of the Interior Ministry from the National Police Board. Reportedly, the administrative transfer was to ensure that the Service is able to more efficiently conduct its special missions as well as to reinforce its strategic and political direction and clarify its official position both domestically and internationally. [16] [17] Newspapers reported in November 2016 that Supo was concerned about suspicious land and property transactions made by foreign nationals that could be utilized in hybrid operations, such as to accommodate unmarked military troops. [18] [19] A new bill was in process in October 2017 to allow for security authorities to monitor purchases by entities from outside the European Union (EU) buying property near military installations or broadcast towers in Finland as well as for the State to reclaim or buy strategically important property. [20] The Service was involved in investigating the Turku stabbing of August 2017, which is considered Finland's first suspected terrorist attack since the end of World War II. [21] [22]

Function and organization


The Finnish Security Intelligence Service states that its core functions are counter-intelligence, counter-terrorism and other national security-related work, such as counter-proliferation activities intended to impede the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. It is tasked to prevent events that may cause danger to government systems, parliamentary democracy, or internal and external security of the State. [23] [24] [25] [26] Additionally, the Service is the responsible authority for national and international cooperation in the fight against terrorism, for preparing and maintaining terrorist threat assessments, for monitoring extremist phenomena, and for performing security clearances for personnel recruited into sensitive positions. Supo reports to other security authorities and the Government of Finland on its activities. [24] [27] According to the Police Act, Supo can utilize, among others, traffic data monitoring, covert intelligence gathering, undercover activities, pseudo purchases, and controlled delivery to fulfill its missions. [28]


Supo is a national police unit subordinate to the Ministry of the Interior. It follows a Nordic tradition where the intelligence agency is governed as a part of police organisations (i.e. in the form of a security police) instead of being a separate organisation. [3] The Service formerly used the English title Finnish Security Police; the word "police" was amended in 2010 to emphasize the agency's role in security intelligence. [27] In 2016, the Service had 291 employees, of whom 56% were police officers and 40% women, and a total budget of 27.9 million euros. [29] In addition to its headquarters in Punavuori, Helsinki, Supo hosts eight regional offices around Finland in Turku, Tampere, Vaasa, Lappeenranta, Joensuu, Kuopio, Oulu and Rovaniemi. [30] [24] Supo has liaison officers posted at diplomatic missions in Nairobi, Kenya and Ankara, Turkey as well as at the European Union (EU) Intelligence and Situation Centre. [31] The Service is divided into seven different departments as of a 2017 reorganization: [27]

  • Collection
  • Counter-Intelligence
  • Terrorism and Extremism
  • Regions
  • Vetting
  • Intelligence Analysis
  • Internal Services

Laegislative initiatives

Finnish Security Intelligence Service made initiative in 2012 to criminality of espionage of exiles in Finland. Espionage of exiles is forbidden e.g. in Sweden but not in Finland in April 2019. [32]

See also

Notes and references


The source Ratakatu 12: Suojelupoliisi 1949-2009 was "commissioned by Supo, but it was mainly written by professional historians". [33] The book is considered the most definite source and the official history of Supo, but it has been criticized by diplomat Alpo Rusi and reporter Jarko Tirkkonen for not discussing certain parts of the Service's history. On the other hand, politician Erkki Tuomioja praised the book of its high quality. [34] Tirronen and Tuomioja attribute two-thirds of the book to political history professor Kimmo Rentola—who worked for Supo as a historian while writing the book. [9] [8] Rentola has written that caution and source criticism are required when researching histories of security agencies due to the ambiguous and often lacking material. [11]

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  32. Valtiot vakoilevat omia kansalaisiaan Suomessa, viranomaisten painostus on ankaraa – "Lähetä kuva kotitalostasi ja puhelimen imei-koodi" MTV news 29.04.2019
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Further reading