A secret unit of the United States Embassy in Tallinn has for many years been spying on residents of the Estonian capital and collecting their personal data for security reasons. Those whose behavior raises suspicions end up in a terror database, the Estonian Postimees newspaper wrote on May 29.
According to the paper, a team of five people hired by the Americans is spying daily on people's movements in central Tallinn, namely: near Solaris Shopping Center, the central office building of Eesti Gaas, and Hotel Olumpia (the are buildings located within 250-300 meters from the U.S. Embassy). They are paid salaries for writing reports on security and potential risks. They produce five or six reports each month.
To become of interest to the "team of spooks" one needs to spend some time around the embassy and nearby buildings or simply walk past the diplomatic mission a few times, or take a few pictures with a photo camera. Past reports included, for example, a mother who would often wait for her child from a nearby school, an old lady who walked a dog in a park and even a group of alcoholics who drank booze in the park. A car which stopped nearby could be stopped and inspected a few days later by ordinary police officers who might ask, among other things: what were you doing around the embassy building a few days ago?
Data concerning anyone who fell under the radar of the secret service are stored in the U.S. government's worldwide database called SIMAS (Security Incident Management Analysis System). The unsuspecting people might not even understand why they were denied a U.S. visa.
A document seen by the newspaper proves that this activity has been taking place with the approval and assistance of the Estonian Interior Ministry.
"That this paper has become available to you is definitely bad news. This could, to some extent, make the Americans' work in Estonia more difficult," an informed official told the newspaper.
This is the world's first documentary proof of how the Americans are spying and on whom, while guarding their embassy, and what consequences it might have for people moving in the streets, the newspaper said.
The U.S. Embassy asked the journalists to take this matter "responsibly."
Embassy spokesman Bradley Hurst admitted that the embassy runs a program to detect suspicious activity around its buildings.
This is one of ordinary security measures because the safety of our staff and visitors, both Estonians and Americans, is a priority for the U.S. government across the world, he said.
This is not a secret or intelligence program, he said.
We fully respect the local laws and our security measures were determined in talks with the Estonian government, the spokesman said.
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