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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

US photographing, monitoring people near it's embassy complex in Helsinki...

US monitors events on streets near Helsinki Embassy
Finnish security company contracted for surveillance work

The United States photographs and monitors people in streets near its embassy complex in Helsinki. The task has been contracted to the Finnish security company G4S.

The Finnish company has handled the security contract for about ten years. Before that, a US firm handled the matter.

The activity has been kept a secret for a long time, thanks to strict confidentiality clauses in contracts signed by Finnish companies working for the US Embassy.

G4S is still not confirming that it works with the Americans, and the US Embassy itself is also not giving any comments.

US Embassy representative David McGuire emphasises that the aim of the surveillance is to keep tabs on possible suspicious activity in the area.

The embassy has also confirmed that it has its own Surveillance Detection Unit (SDU), whose activities are compatible with Finnish legislation.

McGuire is not giving any further details on how the unit operates.

The Finnish News Agency STT quotes a source as saying that the activity involves fairly normal guard operations: observing and photographing activities near the building.

Security activities at US embassies have sparked a good deal of controversy in the Nordic countries in recent weeks. For instance, an investigation has been launched in Sweden concerning surveillance conducted by the American Embassy in Stockholm.

The Finnish Security Police (SUPO) said on Monday that it has not made note of anything illegal in the activities.

On Tuesday, Data Protection Ombudsman Reijo Aarnio asked SUPO to ascertain if the protection of personal data has been considered in the assessment of the legality of the embassy’s security activities.

Aarnio has no information on what kind of information the US is gathering in Finland, or what kinds of information are archived or registered.

The United States has promised to answer all possible questions that the Finnish government might have on its embassy security programme.

Minister of the Interior Anne Holmlund (Nat. Coalition Party) told STT that she received a report from SUPO that all government ministers get. She has not been informed of any illegal activities.
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