Long-serving diplomat: State security clearance denial unjustified

Clyde Kull.
Clyde Kull. Source: Marko Mumm / Välisministeerium

On Tuesday, the first-tier Tallinn Administrative Court heard a complaint filed by Estonia's longest-serving diplomat Clyde Kull and former Estonian ambassador to France against the Internal Security Service (ISS), who have refused to extend his security clearance. The decision is due by July 15.

Kull may in a separate case face charges in relation to suspicions concern embezzlement by an official, while suspicions relating to mishandling of classified foreign information have been downgraded to a misdemeanor.

"Since I began working for the Estonian foreign service thirty years ago, my security clearance has been renewed at least eight times through the spring of 2021. I have devoted my entire 30-years of foreign service to the benefit of the Republic of Estonia and I can assure you that I have not provided any substantive or formal cause for the refusal of my state secrets clearance renewal," wrote Kull on Tuesday, before the beginning of the hearing, in his media address.

Kull stated that a security clearance is necessary for diplomatic duties. "Following the decision of the Estonian Internal Security Service not to renew my state secrets clearance on May 18 2021, I was recalled by presidential order on May 20 from my position as ambassador to France and the OECD. I am confident that a fundamental misunderstanding has occurred, and I seek to defend my legal rights," Kull wrote.

Kull's lawyers filed the complaint with the administrative court against the police's refusal to prolong Kull's state secrets clearance on June 17 2021, but it was dismissed on December 17. "The court decided that since I no longer hold a post needing access to state secrets, there is no grounds for evaluating the appeal," Kull explained.

Kull's lawyers, Aivar and Marko Pilv, filed an appeal to the second-tier Tallinn District Court, where it was upheld, and the case has been referred back to the Tallinn Administrative Court for substantive review.

The court will rule on Kull's appeal on July 15.

Separately, the prosecutor's office has been investigating Kull on suspicions of embezzlement (pertaining to representational costs) and the alleged mishandling of state classified information.

The prosecutor's office has not yet completed the preliminary investigation into the first suspicion, i.e. of embezzlement, which in May 2021 Public Prosecutor Inna Ombler said concerned thousands of euros and not more. The earlier suspicion regarding classified information handling has since been reduced to a misdemeanor, ERR News reported on June 9 this year.

Kull, 63, has previously said that the public prosecutor's office and the ISS have ruined his career.

Aivar Pilv stated last May that the activities under scrutiny stretched back 20-25 years and that this needs to be borne in mind when establishing the facts.

Kull remained a Ministry of Foreign Affairs employee after having been recalled as ambassador to France in May last year, a post he took on in December 2019, when the ISS investigation was first opened.

Kull is a former ambassador to Germany, Belgium, a former representative to the EU, and a former representative to NATO and to the UN. In October 2020 in his dual role as Estonia's Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) representative he presented then-President Kersti Kaljulaid's candidacy as secretary general of that organization.

He was awarded the Order of the National Coat of Arms (Riigivapi teenetemärk) Class V in 2001 and Class III in 2018.

The foreign ministry has, going on its public stance, backed him since the ISS investigation became public last May, and it was the latest effort to renew his security clearance starting from May 2021 after the previous clearance expired which has led to the current case Kull is pursuing.


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Editor: Kristina Kersa, Andrew Whyte

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