History and goals of the tradition of annual reviews
The specific nature of work of special services responsible both for national security and foreign intelligence has throughout the ages required operating as covertly as possible and certain mystery has always surrounded it. In the information society it is no longer possible to act completely undercover, therefore more and more special services have understood the need of being more open and notify the public of their activities.
Certainly the degree of openness is dependant on the nature of the special service - security agencies not dealing with criminal proceedings and not having the rights of the police are in a more difficult position to speak thoroughly about their activities. The same applies to foreign intelligence services.
The Estonian Internal Security Service is among the special services that also have the function of an investigative agency and the rights of the police. As we need to conduct criminal proceedings in more complicated areas that generate great public interest such as counterintelligence, maintenance of constitutional order, corruption of higher officials, crimes against humanity, hiding from the public is not possible or expedient.
It is our position that without large-scale public support and public trust it is very difficult to be successful in performing the duties assigned to the Internal Security Service. However, it is impossible to gain support if nothing is known about your activities or even your existence. Therefore we have tried to be as open as possible when speaking about our profession, goals and results of activities.
The second and not less important goal is informing the public of possible security risks and threats. In the form of an annual review we possess a simple but effective tool in achieving the aforesaid goals. An annual review is above all meant for the whole population of Estonia but also for international public - ranging from enthusiasts interested in special services to students and journalists. Colleagues from our partner services constitute also an important target group.
Hopefully it is self-evident that the specific nature of special services sets quite strict limits on openness - operations, life and health of the employees of the organisation or those who have aided the Republic of Estonia should not be compromised; nor is it wise to disclose one's work methods, tactics and plans of action to the opponents.
The first annual review of the Estonian Internal Security Service was published in 1998, being one of the first publications of its kind in the world. In compiling an annual review we set ourselves the objective that besides being informative it would also be interesting and easy to read. We are pleased to note that the interest of Estonian public in our annual reviews has increased year by year and in the past years publication of the annual review has become a significant media event in Estonia, attracting some media attention even in neighbouring countries. The feedback received from our partner services also confirms that we have taken the right path.
Where is the annual review of the Internal Security Service available?
The annual reviews in paper format are available in the National Library, in the libraries of the University of Tartu, the University of Tallinn and the Public Service Academy as well as in county central libraries.
Web editions of our annual reviews are available at our web site.