Riigikogu backs off from US Embassy issue

Toompea loss.

PHOTO: Toomas Huik / Postimees

Committees at Riigikogu shy away from discussing the topic of US Embassy hirelings surveying people in Tallinn, claiming this is not their competency.

Constitutional Committee chairman Kalle Laanet told Postimees the committee is currently not intending to discuss the issue.

«Pursuant to the newspaper article, security at Embassy is being executed under interior ministry supervision (on basis of cooperation agreement) and in case of doubt the police will react. On the basis of the existing information there is no need to discuss the topic at Constitutional Committee,» observed Mr Laanet.

He went on to explain that Riigikogu does feature a Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee, tasked with supervision of surveillance agencies.

Initially, Legal Affairs Committee chairman Heljo Pikhof told Postimees the committee would tackle the topic next Monday. A day later Ms Pikhof specified thus: «The issue raised belongs to Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee. The Legal Affairs Committee will not be treating this topic on Monday.»

As for Security Authorities Surveillance Select Committee chief Ken-Marti Vaher, he said that the committee has met with interior minister, and has also touched the surveillance of people in the streets surrounding US Embassy and collecting their data.

«I am sticking to my assessment passed on Friday that this has not been surveillance, rather protection of the US Embassy regarding which Estonia and the United States of America are in cooperation based on an official agreement and which Estonia is obligated to ensure as country of location. Defence of the Embassy does also include survey to obstruct and to prevent as also covered by the official memorandum concerned,» said Mr Vaher.

And this was all the chairman had to say on the US Embassy surveillance topic.

Last Friday, Postimees wrote that a secret unit of US Embassy has for years been surveying people walking the city streets, collecting personal data citing security, and entering «loiterers» deemed suspicious into a global terror database.

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