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Finnish Rosewood (Stasi and Government Secrecy)

by NordicStorm Thu Aug 23rd, 2007 at 10:25:07 AM EST

The Finnish Security Police (Suojelopoliisi, or SuPo for short) has recently found themselves in a bit of hot water over information in their possession on possible Finnish Stasi collaborators, information they have thus far refused to make public. The controversy has sparked lively debate on what the public has a right to know, particularly when it comes to Finnish politics during the Cold War (see also my diary on finlandisation).

From the diaries ~ whataboutbob


There are lots of twists and turns to the story, and the timeline is not entirely clear to me, but the story apparently begins in Germany during the early 1990s. The American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) manages to get their hands on a vast collection of files purporting to contain information on people who were employed by or somehow connected to the Hauptverwaltung Aufklärung (HVA), the foreign intelligence agency of the East German Ministry of State Security, Stasi. The files, known as the Rosenholz files, contain some 350,000 documents.
The Rosenholz files would remain in American hands until 2003, when all files were turned over to Germany. (Die Welt, German Wikipedia)

At some point during the early 1990s, the CIA apparently shares information on Stasi with SuPo. This information, which has become known as the Tiitinen list (named for Seppo Tiitinen, who was head of SuPo at the time), allegedly contains the names of about 20 Finnish citizens considered by Stasi to be "key contacts". The people named on the list remain unknown to the public, as then president Mauno Koivisto orders the list to be sealed. Speculation as to who exactly is named on the list runs rampant. Whether the information contained on the list emanates from the Rosenholz files is unclear.

In 2000, the United States offers to share parts of the Rosenholz files with the Finnish government, who accept the proposal. The government decides that the material should be made available to Finnish researchers, but this never occurs. The SuPo maintains the Rosenholz files contain the same data as the information they received earlier in the 90s, and refuses to grant anyone access to the Rosenholz files. Things take an interesting turn in 2007 when Finnish newspaper Aamulehti contacts the SuPo, who denies the files exist altogether! (Hufvudstadsbladet)
After Aamulehti requests comments from all government ministers, Prime Minister Matti Vanhanen essentially "orders" his cabinet to not answer questions in the matter, a course of action which in itself becomes a minor controversy. (Hufvudstadsbladet)
The Finnish political class seem divided on the whole affair, with some politicians coming out in favour of making the material public, and some politicians coming out in favour of keeping the material secret.
The statements regarding what material SuPo actually possess has become ever more conflicting, ranging from SuPo having files relating to Stasi though not from the Rosenholz files, to SuPo having knowledge of what the Rosenholz files contains though not possessing the actual files themselves, to SuPo being in possession of the Rosenholz files and them being merely a small part of SuPo's Stasi archives. (Hufvudstadsbladet)

The value of the information contained in the Rosenholz files seems to be highly questionable, as the vast majority of the people named in the files had little, if anything, to do with Stasi, and a person being named in the files thus could not be considered proof of interaction or collaboration with Stasi. (Hufvudstadsbladet, offline article, July 27, 2007)
Which brings us to a man named Alpo Rusi. Rusi is currently an ambassador and was former president Martti Ahtisaari's right hand man and a candidate in the Finnish parliamentary elections of 2003. In September 2002, Finnish broadcasters Yle breaks the story that SuPo is investigating Rusi for supposed connections to Stasi. Rusi denies the allegations, but decides not to stand for election in 2003. As it turns out, the investigation of Susi began during the spring of 2002. Rusi was informed of the investigation and instructed not to discuss the investigation with anyone. Someone at SuPo did however leak information, as politicians and even friends of Rusi's became aware of the investigation before Yle finally breaks the story.
In October 2002, Rusi's brother Jukka confesses to having cooperated with Stasi, but investigations continue, with SuPo leaking information to the effect that Rusi engaged in espionage. However, in June 2003, the prosecutor announces that no charges will be filed. Rusi has since attempted to get the files on his investigation made public in order to completely clear his name. He also maintains that the accusations derailed his political and professional career, and has sued the Finnish government for damages. It would appear the information that prompted the SuPo to begin the investigation in the first place was contained in the Rosenholz files. Which they have claimed they're not in possession of. (Hufvudstadsbladet)

There are many questions that remain unanswered, but they can essentially be summed up as: what did the SuPo know, and when did they know it? The picture that emerges of the SuPo from this whole story is not particularly flattering; an apparent historical artifact from a time in history when Finnish society was not as open as it is now.

Display:
A little light reading.
In this day and age of patriot acts and wiretaps and whatnot, a somewhat relevant diary, I hope...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Tue Aug 21st, 2007 at 07:04:49 PM EST
Supo have had their work cut out as a counterspy operation. The US and Russian embassies are hugely staffed. There are also many fronts posing as trading, research or 'educational' companies etc.

Supo has 200 people, all promoted through the police structure (as I understand it.)

Their main tasks are:

  • counterespionage
  • counterterrorism
  • preventing threats to internal security
  • preventive security work
  • protection
  • participation in fighting international organised crime.


You can't be me, I'm taken
by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 at 09:54:25 AM EST
The annual SUPO report for 2006 is here. It has some interesting info for us Finns, if you happen to have a particularly slow Wednesday going on ;-)

BTW I was caught in the downtown cloudburst this morning on my way to a meeting in Esplanadi. It was fun...

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 at 10:08:43 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I liked this:
Geographically closest to Finland was an attack which was to be carried out in Denmark.
...
International terrorism still poses a relatively small threat to Finland.

Someone argued (in jest) that bad weather is the primary reason Finland has not been a target of terrorism. As I look out the window, I feel inclined to agree...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Wed Aug 22nd, 2007 at 10:33:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Of course tho, in every country there is a secret state apparatus which inevitably begs the question;-

Does the secret state exist to protect the people of the state or the sate from the people ? I'm never sure many governmental organisations understand the question.

keep to the Fen Causeway

by Helen (lareinagal at yahoo dot co dot uk) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2007 at 10:32:06 AM EST
SuPo is part of the police force. The Finnish police, imo, is a decent institution. I am biased, of course, as I have known quite a few cops of all types (as friends and both men and women) in my years here. An I can be found frequently blowing the Finnish trumpet. The cops I know are universally intelligent, dedicated to what they do, and open minded. They are also the ones who volunteer to help in town social activities. The ones I've come across 'on the street' have always been courteous.

Back in London in the Sixties, the UK cops were the 'Filth'. In Finland it is a respected occupation. I think it may be something to do with this 'village mentality' that a society needs all sorts of skills to stay safe. Having police is one aspect of that.

The Finnish fuzz (affectionately) have had their bad moments. Failures of competence, slow reaction, police chiefs getting off drink/drive offences etc. But I can't think of any real scandal or misbehaviour.

Unless you count the young detective who lives two houses across, who has a summer family garden party with bands every year. He's got a licence for music to midnight, but last time they were still playing at 01.30 pm! But then most of the neighbours were invited ;-)

You can't be me, I'm taken

by Sven Triloqvist on Thu Aug 23rd, 2007 at 10:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Very good question.

Finns overwhelmingly support the SuPo (see the report Sven linked to, which states that about 90% of the Finnish population trust the SuPo to do its job properly), as do I, usually. It's just that ever so often, the past rears its not so pretty head, as it did here with the Stasi files and l'affaire Alpo...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde

by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2007 at 11:04:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Hannah Arendt in the Origins of totalitarianism mentions the tsarist secret police at the end of the 19th century, which was so bent on making itself necessary that for a few decades, it was involved in all anarchist attacks... as instigator.

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2007 at 06:51:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am familiar with the existence of the Stasi files, and know they were instrumental during the period  following East Germany's demise in outing quite a few disloyal citizens of Western countries who had been on the Stasi payrolls.  In looking at google sites relating to the Stasi information I note that Germany also tried (successfully?)to seal the files for 2 decades.  I suppose this had something to do with a legitimate concern for protecting the innocent as well as some yet sensitive information.  Not all of the Stasi spys knew who they were working for, and some probably continued to spy for other organizations.

The issue of the misuse of such information to discredit a political candidate is a real bucket of worms.

I can swear there ain't no heaven but I pray there ain't no hell. _ Blood Sweat & Tears

by Gringo (stargazing camel at aoldotcom) on Thu Aug 23rd, 2007 at 08:53:55 PM EST
If I'm not entirely mistaken, German citizens can request to view their files from the Stasi archives, if such files exist, though I don't know if all (or any) permissions are granted, or on what grounds such a request would be denied.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Aug 24th, 2007 at 07:42:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In principle, you have the right to get all information the Stasi gathered about you. However, I think all parts concerning other people are censored.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Fri Aug 24th, 2007 at 08:06:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I read (offline source, alas) that German researchers had concluded that some 80% of the people named in the Rosenholz files had absolutely nothing to do with Stasi. It seemed to be more a database of "people of interest" than anything.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Aug 24th, 2007 at 08:51:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Which pretty much explains why SuPo and politicians would like to keep it secret. What do you collect on people of interest? What they can be used for and how they can be used, i.e. blackmailable weaknesses.

A vote for PES is a vote for EPP! A vote for EPP is a vote for PES! Support the coalition, vote EPP-PES in 2009!
by A swedish kind of death on Fri Aug 24th, 2007 at 09:10:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh absolutely, the arguments for keeping them sealed are generally sound (though, as in Germany, you should at the very least be allowed to find out what information the Stasi had on you).
If things had been handled a bit more smoothly and a bit more openly, it wouldn't have been much of a story at all.

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Fri Aug 24th, 2007 at 09:21:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
is happening in Sweden right now. Stasi collaborators, list from the HVA etc. No names have been given, but after some research I have found a name: Björn Jensen, journalist and lifelong social democrat with strong connections to the Socialist International and the inner circle of the Swedish soc dem party. His Stasi codename was "König".

 

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.

by Starvid on Fri Aug 24th, 2007 at 06:44:54 PM EST
I did see some references to Sweden in passing when I was looking for sources. Interesting that one faction of the SDP was collaborating with Stasi, and another helping registering communist sympathisers...

"The basis of optimism is sheer terror" - Oscar Wilde
by NordicStorm (m<-at->sturmbaum.net) on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 04:32:34 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Swedish social democarcy was highly inclusive, scooping up new radical leftist movements all the time, thereby neutering them. At the same time, the core soc dems were patriots and extremely aware of the communist threat. Though it could be argued that from the early 70's and onward, these fringe leftist became more influential and an increasing number of core soc dems began believing their own non-aligned propaganda, making themself vulnerable to approach by enemy agents.

Peak oil is not an energy crisis. It is a liquid fuel crisis.
by Starvid on Sat Aug 25th, 2007 at 07:06:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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