Finnish reporter destroys computer with hammer to protect spy source

Helsingin SanomatAn investigative journalist in Finland, who recently co-authored an exposé of a Finnish intelligence program targeting Russia, destroyed her computer with a hammer, prompting police to enter her house on Sunday. The journalist, Laura Halminen, co-wrote the exposé with her colleague, Tuomo Pietiläinen. Titled “The Secret Behind the Cliff”, the article appeared in the Saturday edition of the Helsingin Sanomat, Finland’s highest-circulation newspaper. It reveals the existence of a sophisticated electronic interception station in the northern suburbs of Jyväskylä, a city of about 140,000 people that is located in central Finland. Based on classified documents dating as far back as 1999, the article claims that the Finnish intelligence services have operated the top-secret program in Jyväskylä for years. It focuses on monitoring the maneuvers of Russian military units stationed around the St. Petersburg area, allegedly by tracking electromagnetic radiation emissions.

Over the weekend, the Finnish government reacted angrily to the Helsingin Sanomat report, accusing the newspaper of “revealing the content of highly classified documents” that are “critical to the [country’s] security and may cause grave damage to it”. The government, however, argues that the newspaper revealed without proper authorization the contents of classified military documents that were marked TOP SECRET, which is a crime under Finnish law. But the newspaper’s editors argue that the public has a right to know about the surveillance project. The dispute between the newspaper and the government reached new heights on Sunday evening, when a team of police officers arrived at the home of Helsingin Sanomat journalist Laura Halminen. The newspaper claims that the police raided Halminen’s house in connection with the Jyväskylä revelations. According to the Helsingin Sanomat the reporter said she destroyed her computer in order to safeguard information relating to future articles. However, there are some who believe that she destroyed the computer in order to safeguard the identity of the source of the information that led to Saturday’s exposé. However, argues that they intervened only after Halminen destroyed her home computer with a hammer, creating a fire and prompting an emergency response by the fire brigade. Police officers who arrived with the fire brigade called for reinforcements after they began to suspect that Halminen may have been trying to destroy evidence connected with a criminal investigation.

Helsingin Sanomat editors claim that police left Halminen’s house after confiscating the remains of her damaged computer, several mobile phones, an iPad, and over a dozen USB flash drives. The newspaper’s editors said that the raid on the reporter’s home was “uniquely exceptional” in the history of journalism in Finland, and claimed that the police did not present Halminen with a search warrant prior to raiding the premises. But Police authorities argue that Finnish law allows them to conduct warrantless searches for national-security-related cases, and that their actions were observed by an appointed lawyer. The lawyer took possession of all evidence removed from Halminen’s house, to ensure compliance with Finnish law. The government has since said that it will launch a criminal probe to find out the source of the leak to the newspaper.

Author: Joseph Fitsanakis | Date: 19 December 2017 | Permalink
IntelNews thanks AiT, N.H. and A.S. for their help in ensuring the factual accuracy of this report

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