Ex-KGB 'No Longer an Issue,' Says Vaher (1)
With Estonia's third Russian mole in five years, this time an ex-KGB official, now under arrest, Interior Minister Ken-Marti Vaher has tried to quell concern over how many more people with such a past continue to work for Estonian intelligence.
Responding to the new scandal, former interior minister Jüri Pihl claimed he told Estonia's head of intelligence as early as in 2008 to retire all workers with a suspicious past. But a top official of the Interior Ministry, Erkki Koort, has told media that it is likely that more agents are yet to be found in Estonia.
In an Eesti Päevaleht interview, Vaher was pressed on whether there are any more ex-KGB still in the Internal Security Service (KaPo).
"It's no longer an issue," Vaher said. He would not give a more specific answer, though, saying that personnel questions are classified.
"First, [Vladimir] Veitman left KaPo in 2011. Second, KaPo's staffing is currently classified. Third, I can say about individuals [e.g. Veitman] with this background that this issue is no longer topical. The problem is gone."
Regarding the content and extent of intelligence that may have been shared with Russian agencies, Vaher hinted that Veitman could not have had a blanket overview of state secrets, as classified information is accessible on a need-to-know basis.
Seeing as Vietman's position was of a technical nature, the journalist speculated that Russia was given information on the technical details of Estonia's intelligence agency. "Yes, he worked in that field, but it should be understood that today's situation is not the same as it was in 2011."
Vaher submitted, nevertheless: "It is true though that damage was done to Estonia. To what extent is currently being investigated."
Vaher was then asked about the KGB archives that were taken out of Estonia in 1990s.
He said: "We have people who specialize in investigating the era of occupation and fit together the pieces of a shattered mosaic to get a picture of individuals who served here at the time. Estonia has a better overview of this than Russia. It is important that they do not know - and they don't - how much we know."
"That very same aggressive eastern neighbor, Russia, pays attention to every word, every sentence that is said about the work of security agencies. There is no point in making their job easier," Vaher said.
Last week, KaPo detained one of its own former employees, Vladimir Veitman, whom the agency suspects of having gathered classified information for years on behalf of a Russian intelligence service. A former KGB official, Veitman joined the Estonian intelligence service in 1991. He worked there as a specialist with clearance to classified information until he retired in 2011. According to officials, Veitman has admitted to the suspicions in questioning. Authorities have also recovered significant sums of cash related to the suspicions from various stashes.