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SUPO Director: More ethnic minorities needed for intelligence work – but no James Bonds

Helsingin Sanomat
SUPO Director: We need more immigrant recruits
SUPO Director: We need more immigrant recruits
SUPO Director Antti Pelttari says there are 300 people in Finland with links to international terror groups. Pelttari tells HSTV’s Newsmakers that his agency needs more immigrant recruits, modern spy tools, to fight them.

The Director of SUPO – the Finnish Security Intelligence Service – says they must do more work to recruit minorities.

Speaking on HSTV's English-language current affairs show Newsmakers, Antti Pelttari said his agency was "recruiting both policemen and civilian experts" from among the immigrant community, and if someone had a particular language skill, SUPO would be interested in them. The numbers of immigrant applicants to the police academy was "still quite low" explained Pelttari, but he hoped it would rise.

The call comes as SUPO must play its part in screening some 30,000 migrants who have arrived in Finland this year, as they go through the asylum process. Pelttari conceded that it was "quite likely" there will be radicalised people among the new arrivals, and says that poses a challenge to SUPO's knowledge of the conflict zones.

"It's a situation we are facing more and more... [we] have to become more knowledgeable in the background of the conflict in Iraq which has not touched Finland until now"

Pelttari went on the record to say again that there are about 300 people currently in Finland "who have links to international terrorism, and those links are to al-Qaeda, ISIL, al-Shabab".

Following the deadly bombing and shooting attacks in Paris in November, many European countries - including Sweden - raised their threat level. Finland, however, had already raised its threat level a few weeks before. Pelttari says this was because of the number of radicalised people returning to Finland from Syria.

"We have 70 confirmed cases of travellers to Syria, about 20 of them have returned to Finland" he said, noting that it was a very diverse group of people including "19 different ethnic backgrounds, 12 nationalities. Majority of the travellers have been born in Finland or lived in Finland since very young years".

The recent large increase in the number of migrants arriving in Finland has triggered some violent responses, including arson attacks and other racial abuse from nationalist groups opposed to immigration and multiculturalism. Pelttari says that while SUPO does monitor Finnish extremist groups from the left and right, they consider them more of a local security threat, and "until now, not a threat to national security".

Requests for new intelligence powers for SUPO and other agencies is being discussed by politicians. Pelttari says he understands the need to balance security and civil liberties. "We are asking to have capabilities for authorities to follow cross-border and international cable traffic" says the SUPO Director, "which is a crucial tool for fighting terrorism and also for fighting other threats to national security facing Finland today". Pelttari said Finland would follow other European legal norms for safeguarding public privacy, and assured the public that SUPO wasn't embarking on an NSA-style 'data sucking' operation to collect and store phone conversations, meta-data or emails en masse.

Pelttari also stressed the need to have legislation which allows Finland to operate a foreign intelligence service - "it would be nothing like James Bond" - so they could gather more information abroad on suspect activity that impacts Finland. "It would be very modest concrete work to gather information to support Finnish national security" says Pelttari. At present SUPO has two officers stationed overseas, at Finnish embassies in Ankara and Nairobi.

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