Police vehicles outside the house of Finland investigative journalist Laura Halminen. PHOTO/HELSINGIN SANOMAT
By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN
An investigative journalist in Finland, who recently co-authored an exposé of a Finnish intelligence program targeting Russia, destroyed her computer with a hammer during a police raid of 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.
The top-secret program in Jyväskylä 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”.
But the newspaper’s editors argue that the same technology may have been used domestically to track the movements of Finnish citizens, and 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, and announced that they were conducting an investigation over the Jyväskylä revelations.
Halminen reportedly proceeded to arm herself with a hammer, which she used to physically destroy her home computer, as police officers were raiding her house. According to the Helsingin Sanomat the reporter said she destroyed her computer in order to safeguard the source of the information that led to Saturday’s exposé.
Police reportedly left Halminen’s house several hours later, 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.
Police authorities said that, under Finnish law, search warrants are not required for national-security investigations. The government has since said that it will launch a criminal probe to find out the source of the leak to the newspaper.