Only Supo may engage in civilian intelligence gathering

Intelligence gathering operations are a core function of Supo. Only Supo may engage in civilian intelligence gathering operations in Finland.

The work of Supo is based on civilian intelligence legislation, which defines the threats upon which Supo may gather intelligence. Examples of issues posing a serious threat to national security include espionage by a foreign power targeting Finland and activities that threaten the lives of a large number of people or vital functions of society.

The law also precisely specifies the methods that may be applied in intelligence gathering. Only Supo may engage in civilian intelligence gathering operations in Finland.

Intelligence gathering operations are a core function of Supo. In contrast to the work of other police officers, gathering intelligence for the purpose of preventing criminal offences is not a priority for Supo. Preliminary investigations of serious crimes are the responsibility of the National Bureau of Investigation, with which Supo co-operates.

The statutory targets of civilian intelligence are:

  1. terrorism
  2. the operations of foreign intelligence services
  3. the design, manufacture, proliferation and use of weapons of mass destruction
  4. the design, manufacture, proliferation and use of dual-use items
  5. activities that seriously jeopardise the democratic social order
  6. activities that endanger the life or health of large numbers of people or vital functions of society
  7. activities of foreign powers that may damage Finland’s international relations, or its economic or other important interests
  8. any crisis that compromises international peace and security
  9. activities that threaten the security of international crisis management operations
  10. any activity that seriously compromises the security of Finland’s international aid and other international operations
  11. international organised crime that threatens the democratic social order

Supo may also gather intelligence abroad

Finland’s civilian intelligence legislation took effect in June 2019. The powers thereby vested in Supo include the right to gather intelligence on network communications that cross the Finnish international border. This refers to technical intelligence gathering based on automated differentiation of telecommunications, and processing of the intelligence so acquired. Network traffic intelligence operations are authorised by a court of law.

Supo is also empowered to gather intelligence abroad. The aim is to procure information on threats to Finland at the earliest possible stage and beyond the borders of Finland. The intelligence operations of Finland seek solely to protect the country and its residents.