Martin Arpo, deputy director of the Estonian Internal Security Service (ISS or KAPO), tells ERR in an interview that information the ISS has on the prime minister and her spouse is classified, which is why he cannot reveal whether the service has previously asked Kallas about her husband's Russia business. Arpo appeared in front of the Riigikogu Anti-Corruption Select Committee Monday.
What is the role of the ISS in processing NATO secrets clearance and where does the Foreign Intelligence Service (EFIS) come into it? Who handles NATO secrets access?
The certificate required to access classified NATO information requires a security check, which is in most cases carried out by the Internal Security Service, and in some cases by the Foreign Intelligence Service. There are specific cases in which it is handled by the latter. The certificate is issued by an authorized representative of national security, which is part of the Foreign Intelligence Service's tasks.
But is the check itself carried out by the ISS in the case of the prime minister?
The check is handled by the ISS and the certificate issued by EFIS.
Therefore, the authorized representative in question reviews the results of your security check and then either issues the certificate or refuses to do so – do I have it right?
In principle, yes.
Does the security check include an interview?
A conversation is indeed part of the security check.
Before the check, however, the person has to fill out a form describing their own links to Russia or those of their next of kin. That part is mandatory for everyone. Does that include describing the possible Russia ties of legal bodies owned by close persons?
To the best of my memory, there is no such direct question regarding close persons. The important thing to note is that the security check concerns the person and not their relatives.
In other words, you do not expect the person to know about their loved ones, and require the person to answer questions about themselves?
The person has to tell us what they know based on what they are being asked.
Is the background check involved carried out based on the form or before the person fill it out?
A background check is something else entirely. The security check is based on the form and other information. The form is just one part of data used for the security check. That is the most accurate way to put it.
The main thing is not to lie on the application. But is the person under the obligation to include every bit of potentially relevant information?
The important thing is for the person to answer the questions that make up the form and the interview honestly and openly.
Was the ISS aware of close business ties of leaders as concerns Russia, or is such knowledge even a priority for the service?
It is important for the ISS to be aware of security threats. The scale of such threats runs the gamut. No security service knows everything. The main thing is to concentrate on what's most important.
But if we have a prime minister, applying for NATO secrets access, among other things, and if their husband has a business active in Russia, should a proficient security service know about it nor not?
Again – our job is to know about real security threats. As concerns the prime minister of Estonia, their spouse, information we have or do not have on them, these things are covered by state secrets. And I will not be going into any further detail on it.
You say that you cannot tell me whether you asked the premier about her husband's business. Why are you not willing to tell us?
Because the information a person divulges, as well as other pieces that make up the security check, is strictly protected. That protection is in some ways even stronger than in the case of data the ISS collects based on the Security Agencies Act. It is necessary for people to trust the ISS in the security checks process, be certain that their information will not be discussed more broadly.
The purpose of the security checks is to determine whether the person can be entrusted with state secrets or not.
Editor: Marcus Turovski