EU’s false terror alarm fooled Finnish government

Friday, December 22, 2006 at 6:31 | Posted in eu, Finland, terrorism | Leave a comment

Helsingin Sanomat writes that the Finnish government was brought to a chaos in October as foreign minister Erkki Tuomioja and several senior civil servants did not understand that an SMS message about a “major terror alarm” was actually a rehearsal organized by EU. Mr. Tuomioja received the message in the middle of a press conference with Swedish foreign minister Carl Bildt in Helsinki on 30th October. The message was sent by EU’s situation center in Brussels.

The message said that five major cities in Europe had been targets of terror attacks, including a Twin Towers style attack in London. It also reported about attacks against the banking area of Frankfurt and downtown Vienna. An air carrier destinated to Helsinki would also have been hijacked.

EU’s situation center sent the message to all EU capitals but an exceptionally large number of civil servants received it in Finland because of the Finnish presidency. Several civil servants in the president’s and prime minister’s offices and the Foreign Ministry reportedly started to re-schedule their appointments. The mistake was cleared within 10 minutes before anybody managed to inform the general public.

The confusion was caused by missing information in the SMS that it was a rehearsal. The message was coded as CCA EX06 which was the code name of the rehearsal. The rehearsal was supposed to test how adequately EU’s Council and Comission would react in a major crisis.

The situation center’s director William Shapcott said that he heard about the misunderstanding for the first time when asked about it by reporters yesterday. “This is surprising”, Shapott said and denied that similar misunderstanding would have taken place in any of the other 24 EU capitals. Apparently, several EU offices issued a press release on 31st October saying that there is “room for improvement” in taking advantage of communication technology.

The rehearsal started at 13.30 Central European Time and ended at 20.00. Several civil servants received a large number of text messages in their cell phones all afternoon and evening about further developments of the “terror attack” reporting about major disasters in several cities.


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