COMMENTARY: Reputation management at SUPO
By Tuomo Pietiläinen
The Security Police (SUPO) initiated unprecedentedly harsh measures against one of its section chiefs. SUPO cut off the work e-mail of its field observation unit chief Paavo Selin, deactivated his pass key, and moved his office to another location.
All of these measures suggest that Selin is seen as a security risk by the upper levels of SUPO. He no longer has access to data systems or archives, which contain the biggest secrets of the Security Police.
Undoubtedly the SUPO leaders assumed that information on the internal security operation would be leaked to the public. This is what happened, when Nelonen TV news reported the events last week.
This was most probably SUPO’s intention. The measures involve reputation management in the international community of the security and intelligence branch, where the best-known players are the CIA in the United States, Britain’s MI6, and Germany’s BND.
The Finnish Security Police wants to communicate to its foreign partners in cooperation that it is a reliable player in the intelligence world: SUPO can still be given intelligence information without fear that it will be leaked into the public domain.
SUPO’s reliability abroad may have suffered a dent in September when Nelonen aired a tape of a terse telephone conversation between Selin and Seppo Nevala, who was the director of SUPO at the time of the call.
It is unprecedented for a conversation between a SUPO director and a section chief responsible for fighting terrorism to be played on television.
This raised the eyebrows of SUPO’s foreign cooperative partners: if internal telephone conversations at SUPO are made public, what else might leak from there?
SUPO drew the conclusion that the most likely source of the leak of the recorded telephone call was an embittered Selin himself.
In the autumn of 2005 Selin was the chief of antiterrorist activities at SUPO, but he had to leave fairly soon after the conversation with Nevala to head SUPO’s field surveillance.
By isolating Selin, SUPO hopes to restore its full reputation, if it has lost any of it.
The fact is that in the world of international intelligence gathering, the loss of trust capital is something that is often not stated.
Hopefully SUPO will not start to notice a sudden reduction in the amount and quality of information that it gets.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 17.11.2010
More on this subject:
National Police Board to investigate allegations of workplace bullying at Security Police
Previously in HS International Edition:
Allegations of bullying at high levels of Finnish Security Police (12.11.2010)
Finnish Security Police (SUPO)
TUOMO PIETILÄINEN / Helsingin Sanomat