Hungarian Government Releases NATO Secrecy Policy Document

22 September 2006

UPDATE – 11 OCTOBER 2006
In response to a subsequent HCLU request, the Hungarian National Security Superintendence recently released an additional, previously secret NATO document entitled “Directive on the Security of Information,” dated 2005. The directive, enacted in support of NATO Security Policy C-M(2002)49, contains mandatory provisions related to classification, marking and handling of sensitive information, and other issues. Requests for several more related documents remain pending in Hungary.


In response to a freedom of information request by Adam Foldes of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union (HCLU), the Hungarian security agency released a policy document, C-M(2002)49 (the “NATO Security Regulation”), which describes the information security policy followed by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and applied to its member countries. The document contains the agreement by which NATO parties collectively safeguard NATO classified information within their respective information security regimes and defines “principles and minimum standards to be applied by NATO nations and NATO civil and military bodies” to ensure proper protection of such information.

The HCLU sought information about the NATO policy after the Hungarian government in December 2005 proposed a new, highly-restrictive classified information act and justified the need for the law in part on the basis of compliance with both NATO and EU classification standards. The newly-released NATO Security Regulation came into force on June 17, 2002, superceding an earlier document entitled CM(55)15(Final). In its response to the HCLU request, the Hungarian National Security Superintendence stated that the earlier document could not be provided because NATO had ordered that all copies of it be destroyed when the new policy came into effect in 2002. The response letter also states that a 2004 NATO decision permitted member governments to publish the new Security Regulation. The document has also been posted on theWeb site of the National Security Superintendence, an independent body that reports to the Office of the Prime Minister and handles the protection of classified information from NATO, the EU, and other international bodies.

The disclosure was of particular significance because the governments of Canada, the United Kingdom, and the United States have previously refused to release this document and others regarding NATO information security policies in response to requests from Alasdair Roberts of the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University. Several other relevant NATO policy documents, including one covering public information disclosure, still remain secret.

In his book, Blacked Out: Government Secrecy in the Information Age, Alasdair Roberts describes how NATO’s imposition of strict classification standards on member countries has impeded the progress of open government laws, particularly in former Soviet bloc countries that have joined the alliance since the end of the Cold War. For example, in 2002, the Bulgarian government adopted the Classified Information Protection Act, closing Soviet-era secret police files that had been publicly accessible since 1997 and claiming that it was relying on NATO requirements in implementing the new, stricter secrecy policy. At that time, NATO would not release documents describing secrecy requirements imposed on member governments. (See Roberts, 2006, p. 129-30).

Documents

NEW NATO, “Directive on the Security of Information,” 2005

NATO Document C-M(2002)49, “Security Within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO),” 17 June 2002 [PDF]

Response letter from Hungarian National Security Superintendence to Adam Foldes of the Hungarian Civil Liberties Union [PDF]

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