Covert intelligence gathering

Parliament has charged the Parliamentary Ombudsman with the special task of the oversight of legality of covert intelligence. 

The Ombudsman's main area of focus is the monitoring of internal supervision. Central to this are the internal monitoring procedures undertaken by the public authorities themselves and daily supervisory tasks.  

Crucial to the monitoring process too is the Ombudsman's own unprompted contribution, such as the conducting of inspections.

Intelligence is used by the police, Customs, the Border Guard and the defence forces.
All these organisations submit a report to the Ombudsman each year on the resources used to acquire intelligence.

Remit of supervision broadens

From 2014, the Ombudsman's remit of supervision of intelligence was extended.

Previously, monitoring on the part of the Ombudsman was confined to just some of the measures used by the authorities to gather covert intelligence and which they had to report to the Ombudsman. 

Now the reporting obligation extends to all means of acquiring intelligence. Furthermore, with the change in the law, the expanded remit will also extend the scope of supervision.

What is covert intelligence?

Covert intelligence means both the secret coercive measures used in the investigation of crimes and other secret means of gathering intelligence to try to prevent or detect crimes or avoid danger. 

These means include:
- interception and monitoring of telecommunications
- technical surveillance, including listening in to conversations 
- working under cover 
- buy-and-bust operations.

It is the police who have the most extensive powers to gather intelligence. Customs uses covert intelligence measures to prevent customs-related offences. The powers of the Finnish Border Guard and defence forces are more obviously restricted.

For purposes of legal protection, it is thought important to adhere to the principle that interception of telecommunications and, in most cases, remote surveillance may only be employed with a court's permission.   Undercover work in investigations also requires the permission of a court.

Annual reports for the Ombudsman

Under the Coercive Measures Act, the Ministry of the Interior must submit an annual report to the Parliamentary Ombudsman on the use and supervision of covert coercive measures by the police and their security.

Likewise, the Ministry of Finance must submit a report on the use of these measures to Customs, and the Ministry of Defence must provide the defence forces with a similar report. 

These annual reports make it easier for the Ombudsman to monitor the use of these measures generally.

The Ombudsman's report contains its own section on covert intelligence gathering.