Information Board (Estonia)

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The Estonian Information Board (Estonian: Teabeamet) is an foreign security service and intelligence agency within the Republic of Estonia’s government hierarchy. Created in 2001 under the Security Authorities Act, the Information Board coordinates with all Estonian intelligence functions, collects intelligence concerning foreign interests and activities, and transmits information to the President, Prime Minister, the General Staff of the Estonian Defence Forces, the Interior Minister, the Foreign Minister, and the Minister of Defence.[1] As of March 2016 the Director General of the Information Board is Mikk Marran.

Mission

The stated mission of the Information Board is to ensure Estonia’s national security and to maintain constitutional order through non-military preventative measures. The Information Board collects intelligence concerning foreign countries, developments and events abroad needed for the formulation of foreign, economic, and defence policy; performs counterintelligence functions for the protection of Estonian diplomatic missions and defence units stationed abroad; organizes and monitors the implementing of measures adopted for the security of electronically transmitted information; and organizes and verifies information security and special communications services.[2][3][4]

Hierarchy

The Information Board is directly subordinate to Estonia’s Ministry of Defence. The Republic of Estonia has not identified any subordinate agencies to or divisions within the Information Board, however the agency closely coordinates with the Estonian Internal Security Service, Estonian Defence Forces, the Estonian Security Police Board, all other local government agencies, foreign security agencies, international organizations, and individuals of interest on matters concerning external intelligence and counterintelligence.[5]

Oversight

On 4 April 2015, The Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee of the Riigikogu was formed under § 36 of the Security Authorities Act to verify the lawfulness of the activity and surveillance activities of the Internal Security Service and the Information Board. The Committee is responsible for overseeing the activities of the Information Board to ensure compliance with the Estonian Code of Criminal Procedure, as well as with the procedure for registration and disclosure of persons who have served in or co-operated with security organizations or intelligence or counterintelligence organizations of armed forces of states which have occupied Estonia.[6]

The current members of the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee are Krista Aru, Uno Kaskpeit, Martin Kukk, Erki Savisaar, Ken-Marti Vaher and Hardi Volmer.[7]

Activities

In April 2015, the Information Board issued Estonia's Ministers specially encrypted iPhones after revelations that calls between Former Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and the then European Union Foreign Affairs and Security Policy High Representative Catherine Ashton were recorded and uploaded to YouTube.[8]

In September 2014, data leaks from the customer support database of Gamma Group, the producer of one of the world's most powerful surveillance software systems, showed that the software was being used in Estonia, most likely by the Information Board and other intelligence agencies.[9]

2014 corruption probe

In May 2014, the Estonian Internal Security Service opened a criminal investigation into accusations of embezzlement and revealing state secrets by five members of the Information Board, Sergei Bõstrov, Pavel Kotkin, Ines Piibeleht, Sven Randlane and Lauri Vihula. Few details concerning the case were revealed, however it was revealed that all five members served in the same unit, led by Sergei Bõstrov. The funds in question, which were allocated for the purchase of information, were taken during the period of 2002-2014 and the state secrets revealed were deemed as having been "revealed to third parties who had no need for classified state information," however did not threaten Estonia's national security.[10]

All were found guilty of embezzling a combined total of more than 600,000 euros, four of the five were also found guilty of revealing state secrets, and Sergei Bõstrov was found guilty of handling a small amount of cocaine. Bõstrov was given a four-year, six-month prison sentence, Kotkin spent 11 months in jail with a three-year suspended sentence, Randlane and Piibeleht were both imprisoned for a little over six months with a longer suspended sentence, and Vihula escaped incarceration but served a two-year, seven-month suspended sentence.[11]

References

  1. "Information Office". Posttimee.ees. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  2. "2004 Estonian National Security Concept" (PDF). Libertysecurity.org. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  3. "Security Authorities Act". Riigiteataja.ee. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  4. "Letter from the Minister of Foreign Affairs" (PDF). Coe.int. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  5. "Estonian Ministry of Defence Hierarchy". Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  6. "Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee". Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  7. "The Constitutional Committee initiated the forming of the Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee". Riigikogu.ee. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  8. "Estonian Ministers Got Encrypted iPhones". Baltic-course.com. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  9. "Leaks show Estonian law enforcement agencies may be using FinFisher". Balticbusinessnews.com. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  10. "Information Board Asks ISS to Investigate its Staff in Possible Embezzlement Case". News.err.ee. Retrieved 2015-05-07. 
  11. "Former Secret Service Staff Handed Jail Terms For Embezzlement". News.err.ee. Retrieved 2015-05-07.