SUPO concerned about online threats against Parliament
Parliament’s security chief sees online discussion as isolated incident
Finland’s Security Intelligence Service (SUPO) is taking a serious view of online threats against Finnish Members of Parliament.
Messages have appeared on a Finnish-language chat room this summer pondering the feasibility of an armed attack against the Finnish Parliament.
The discussion took place on the Thorlauta forum, which is on the Tor Network, which uses various technical means to maintain the anonymity of its users. Helsingin Sanomat is in possession with a number of screen-grabs from the discussion forum.
A discussion thread that started in late July includes dozens of comments pondering questions such as how it would be possible to get weapons past security into the main chamber of Parliament, and how to get out of the building after the attack without getting caught.
Some politicians seen as suitable targets are mentioned by name. They include current and past ministers.
In the view of one participant in the discussion, an attack on Parliament would be a "truly significant act from the point of view of all of society."
The thread started on the same day that a gunman in Colorado killed 12 people in a cinema in Aurora, Colorado in the USA, and two days before the anniversary of the terror acts of Anders Behring Breivik in Norway came two days after the first entry in the discussion.
Finnish police have not yet started to investigate the matter. However, Helsingin Sanomat has learned that someone who saw the discussion on line reported it to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI).
The NBI says that it has not been shown the discussion forums.
SUPO learned of the matter on Tuesday from Helsingin Sanomat. SUPO’s head of communications Liinu Lehto-Seljavaara says that the Security Intelligence Service should be informed of matters related to the security of the state.
"It is clear that the starting point is that these kinds of threats and writings are always taken seriously. They are investigated as thoroughly as possible. These are not matters to play with."
Lehto-Seljavaara also noted that the internet provides a channel for venting hostile opinions, which can actually reduce the risk of real radicalisation.
Detective chief inspector Jussi Hyysalo of the internet surveillance unit of the NBI says that it is worrying that it is possible to use an anonymous network of the internet to write such material in relative safety.
He also says that it is difficult to evaluate the credibility of the threats.
Hyysalo added that the police have a zero tolerance policy toward serious threats of mass killings, and that all such cases are investigated.
The Parliament’s head of security, Jukka Savola, says that security measures in Parliament have been upgraded in recent years in connection with the ongoing renovation.
On Wednesday Savola told Helsingin Sanomat that he sees the threats as an isolated incident that will not lead to any tightening of security. He sees no need for an "American style" situation in which bodyguards conspicuously protect important public figures.
A fresh SUPO study suggests that there is "psychological and ideological readiness" in Finland for acts of violence like the one committed in Norway last year.
The report, written by researcher Maria Paaso, refers to Finnish-language texts published on line in 2008 and 2009 by a person using the pseudonym Väinämöinen – the name of the main hero of the Finnish national epic poem, the Kalevala.
The texts call for acts of violence against immigrants and supporters of multiculturalism. SUPO has not uncovered the real identity of the writer.
According to Paaso’s study, the writings are similar in content and ideology to those contained in the manifesto of Anders Breivik, which came out over a year ago.
Paaso says that Breivik’s manifesto is linked with anti-immigration and anti-Muslim online discussions known as the "counter-jihad".
She says that the writings of Breivik and Väinämöinen share the view that immigration destroys national culture and society and its values. "In both, violence is seen as the only alternative for resolving the situation", Paaso says.
According to SUPO’s current threat assessment, the terror threat against Finland and its people is low. However, it also says that it is "difficult to anticipate the threat and motives of radicalised individuals".
SUPO communications chief Liinu Lehto-Seljavaara says that SUPO monitors counter-jihadist discussions on line.
"We need to keep in mind that the internet is also a magnificent forum to air thoughts and feelings. But if it fills the description of a crime, then we will certainly get worried."