Personnel security means all the security procedures that are applied to the individuals who are going to be granted access to NATO classified information.
The personnel security measures are meant:
• to prevent access of unauthorized individuals to NATO classified information;
• to guarantee that NATO classified information is disseminated based on the personnel security clearance, in strict compliance with the need-to-know principle;
• to allow the identification of the individuals who, by their actions, may endanger the security of NATO classified information and to forbid their access to such information.
The following steps are used in carrying out personnel security: eligibility, security clearance, endorsement and authorization of access to NATO classified information, revalidation, withdrawal of the personnel security clearance, control and briefing of the personnel.
Access to NATO classified information (NATO/CONFIDENTIAL, NATO/SECRET, and NATO/TOP SECRET) is granted based on the personnel security clearance issued by ORNISS and with the observance of the need-to-know principle.
There are two types of personnel security clearances:
• NATO Personnel Security Clearance Certificate, with a validity period of 3 years, that allows access to NATO classified information and documentation;
• Certificate of Security Clearance that authorizes the individual to participate in activities organized by the North-Atlantic Alliance where NATO classified information is circulated and for which the North-Atlantic Alliance requests such documents. This certificate is valid only for the duration of the activity referred to. The Certificates of Security Clearance are issued only to those individuals who are owners of NATO Personnel Security Clearance Certificates.
The access level granted by the personnel security clearance shall be similar to the classification level of the information to which the individuals need access in fulfilling their duties.
Access to NATO classified information based on the personnel security clearance shall observe the need-to-know principle that means: no individual is entitled solely by virtue, rank, appointment or PSC to have access to NATO classified information. The number of individuals having access to NATO classified information and documentation shall be limited to those whose activity and duties require handling such information.
The individuals who have been issued personnel security clearances and are to be granted access to NATO classified information shall be briefed on the regulations and norms for the protection of such information by the security officer of the organization. These individuals shall commit themselves, under signature, to ensure the protection of NATO classified information and to observe the provisions of the specific regulations related to the protection of classified information/security plans, when carrying out their assignments.
NATO Personnel Security Clearance Certificate shall be issued based on a written application, signed by the head of the organization and submitted to ORNISS through the Internal Registry.
The application shall be accompanied by the special Personnel Security Forms, filled in by the eligible individual and enclosed in a separate, sealed envelope.
The special forms corresponding to the level of access for which the issuance of the personnel security clearance is requested are offered to the eligible individual by the security structure/officer that shall also assist him/her in filling them in. The security structure/officer shall also observe the periods of time for sending the application in relation with the date when the individual’s access to NATO classified information is foreseen:
• for access to NATO/TOP SECRET – three months in advance;
• for access to NATO/SECRET – two months in advance;
• for access to NATO/CONFIDENTIAL – one month in advance.
Within 7 days since the receipt of the application, ORNISS shall send to the authority designated to conduct the vetting, the special application to start the vetting procedures for the individual to which the sealed envelope containing the special forms duly filled in will be attached.
After receipt of the forms, the designated authority shall conduct the vetting and shall send the conclusions, in writing, to ORNISS within the terms stipulated by law. The conclusions will state whether there are any security risks related to the individual for whom the vetting was requested.
As for the personnel belonging to the Romanian Intelligence Service, Ministry of National Defence, Foreign Intelligence Service, Ministry of Administration and Interior, Special Telecommunications Service, Guard and Protection Service, these institutions notify ORNISS on starting of the vetting procedures; NATO personnel security clearance certificate is issued upon a written request, signed by the head of the organization and addressed to ORNISS. The written request, which states that the vetting has been conducted, will register the conclusions related to the existence or nonexistence of any security risks or other relevant elements from the point of view of security.
The individuals who are to be cleared are those who, by virtue of their position and activity, need or are going to need access to classified information, participate in NATO activities or work within a NATO classified contract.
The vetting process is meant to reduce security risks, embezzlement or unauthorized dissemination of NATO classified information and materials.
In order to be granted access to NATO classified information, the Designated Security Authorities shall conduct the vetting, with the observance of the law in force on the responsibilities related to the protection of national classified information.
The main assessment criteria of an individual’s compatibility when is granted the security authorization, based on which the personnel security clearance is issued by ORNISS, focus on the circumstantial and character features which may generate security risks. Although these criteria apply to the individual who has to be cleared, the behavior, conduct, character, conceptions or life circumstances of the spouse or cohabitant may also be relevant and should be taken into account.
The criteria that should be considered for the individual, spouse or cohabitant are aimed at determining whether he/she:
• has committed or attempted to commit, conspired with or aided and abetted another to commit (or attempt to commit) any act of espionage, terrorism, treason or sedition;
• has attempted, sustained, participated in, cooperated and supported espionage or terrorism activities, or has supported individuals suspected of having committed such crimes, or who are members of organizations or foreign nations, which may threaten the security of NATO and NATO member or partner nations, or are associates of representatives of such organizations;
• is or has been a member of any organization that attempts or seeks the overthrow of the government of a NATO member/partner country by violent, subversive or other unlawful means;
• is or has been a supporter of any organization described at c) above, is or has recently been closely associated with members of such organizations in a way that may arise strong suspicions related to the individual’s trustworthiness;
The additional criteria taken into account refer to whether the individual:
• has deliberately withheld, misrepresented or falsified significant information, particularly of a security nature, or has deliberately lied in completing the personnel security form or during the security interview;
• has been convicted of criminal offences, or offences indicating habitual, criminal tendencies; has serious financial difficulties or there is an unexplainable difference between his living standard and his legally earned income; has a history of alcohol or drugs dependence; has or had a promiscuous behavior or sexual misconduct which may give rise to the risk of vulnerability to blackmail or pressure; has demonstrated by actions or through speech unreliability, dishonesty, incorrectness or indiscretion; has infringed the security regulations;
• is suffering or has suffered from any illness or mental condition which may cause significant defects in his judgment or make the individual unintentionally a potential security risk; in all such cases competent medical advice should be sought;
• may be liable to pressure through relatives or close persons who could be vulnerable to foreign intelligence services, whose interests are hostile to the security interests of NATO and NATO member or partner countries.
Level I of security clearance is conducted for confirmation regarding the issuance of the personnel security clearance for NATO/CONFIDENTIAL level (equivalent to SECRET). The confirmation for this level shall take into consideration:
• the checking of the correctness of the data written in the personnel security form;
• the minimum references from the working places and from the environment frequented (at least from 3 persons).
In the situations where the clarification of certain aspects is required, or at the request of the vetted person, the investigator can have a meeting with that person.
Level II of security clearance is conducted for the confirmation regarding the issuance of the personnel security clearance NATO/SECRET (equivalent to STRICT SECRET). The authorization for access to information classified NATO SECRET shall take into account:
• the checking of the correctness of the personal data stated in the personnel security form and in the supplementary form;
• the minimum references from the working places and environments frequented (at least from 3 persons);
• the investigation on the family members about the data stated in the Personnel Security Forms;
• a discussion with the vetted person.
Level III of security clearance is conducted for the confirmation regarding the issuance of the personnel security clearance NATO/TOP SECRET (equivalent to STRICT SECRET DE IMPORTANŢĂ DEOSEBITĂ). Access to information classified NATO/TOP SECRET shall be based on:
• the checking of the correctness of the personal data stated in the personnel security form, supplementary form and financial status;
• the enquiries to determine the antecedents at the present residence and at the former ones, at the present working place and at the former ones, and at the higher education institutions attended from age 18. The enquiries will not be limited only to hearing the persons indicated by the applicant;
• the enquiries on the relationship environment in order to identify potential security risks;
• a security interview with the vetted individual;
• if the enquiries show any psychological or behaviour defects, and with the individual’s consent, he can be subjected to a specific psychological test, restricted to the field that has to be clarified.
If during the vetting for any level there is information that highlights security risks, an additional background vetting, implying all the methods specific to the institutions with assignments in the national security field shall be conducted.
Depending on the security level, the investigation of the antecedents shall, gradually, include the following:
• National records – a checking will be made of the national security records, criminal record, central and local police records, and data base of the Trade Registry Office.
• Marital status and identity checking records – personal data and place of birth will be checked, and the identity shall be confirmed without any doubt.
• Citizenship status – the past and present citizenship and nationality of the individual shall be checked.
• Education – generally, the enquiry will show the schools, universities and other education institutions attended by the applicant from age 18.
• Employment – the enquiries will cover present and former employment with references being made to sources such as: employment records, annual performance and efficiency records of the activity developed, data provided by the heads of the organizations, heads of departments and colleagues.
• Interviews – discussions will be held with persons who can evaluate the individual’s background, activity and correctness.
• Central and local police records – the records of the central and local police in the neighborhood where the individual resided or worked substantial periods of time.
• Military service – the military service in the armed forces and type of discharge will also be verified.
• Foreign relationships – the existence of security risks due to pressure from foreign sources will also be checked.
• Financial status – the solvability and financial reputation of the applicant shall also be checked.
• Organizations – during the security investigation mentioned above, it will be determined if the applicant is or was a member or an associate of any organization, association, movement, group of foreign or national people that adopted or showed a policy of support or approval to commit acts of force or violence in order to affect the rights of other persons, or that seeks by unlawful means to overthrow the government of the NATO member or partner countries.
The personnel security clearance shall be issued based on the analysis of the vetting conclusions transmitted by the authority designated to conduct the vetting. If the vetting conclusions show the existence of security risks, it will be for ORNISS to decide whether they represent an obstacle for the issuance of the personnel security clearance. When there are elements that are not considered risks, but are relevant from the point of view of security, the security interests shall prevail, when taking the decision of issuance of the personnel security clearance.
Within 7 working days, ORNISS shall issue the personnel security clearance or shall inform about the denial of granting it to the applicant organization.
A copy of the notification regarding ORNISS’ decision of granting or not granting the personnel security clearance shall be sent to the authority that conducted the vetting.
The NATO Personnel Security Clearance Certificate is issued in two original copies. One will be kept at the Central Registry, while the other will be kept at the individual’s working place.
The Certificate of Security Clearance shall be issued, with the approval of the head of the organization, by the security structure/officer from the organization where the individual works. If there is no security structure/officer, the organization sends the application to ORNISS that shall issue the certificate. In such circumstance, the application shall be submitted to ORNISS at least two weeks before the applicant starts the activity requesting the certificate of security clearance.
A copy of the Certificate of Security Clearance shall be kept with the security structure/officer from that organization.
Validity of the NATO Personnel Security Clearance Certificate
Re-vetting of an individual shall be made if the issuance of a new personnel security clearance is necessary, if there are any security risks or at NATO’s request. A new personnel security clearance may be issued at the request of the organization, under the following circumstances:
• if, in carrying out his assignments, the individual needs access to NATO classified information of a higher level;
• if the validity period of the personnel security clearance previously held has expired;
• if there are modifications of the identity data provided in the personnel security clearance, the former security clearance is withdrawn and a new one will be issued.
Re-vetting shall be made without the issuance of a new personnel security clearance under the following circumstances:
• if there are modifications of the data stated in the previously completed personnel security forms;
• if there are any security risks during the validity period of the personnel security clearance;
• if the re-vetting of the individual is expressly required by North Atlantic Alliance structures or national security authorities from NATO member or partner countries.
ORNISS is the only institution authorized to withdraw the personnel security clearance. ORNISS shall inform the organizations about its decision to withdraw the personnel security clearances.
NATO personnel security clearance certificates and the certificates of security clearance are withdrawn under the following circumstances:
• at ORNISS’ request;
• at the request of the institutions which have initially applied for the issuance of the personnel security clearance, including the circumstance of its expiration;
• when the owner of the PSC leaves the institution or changes the working place, if the new working place does not imply handling NATO classified information;
• when the access level has changed.
In case of withdrawal of the personnel security clearance, the individual shall be forbidden access to NATO classified information.
After withdrawal, the NATO personnel security clearance certificates and the certificates of security clearance shall be destroyed, based on a written notice, and the authority that conducted the vetting shall be informed about it.
Access to information classified NATO/RESTRICTED shall be done at the level of the employing institutions, based on the approval given by the security structure/officer, with the endorsement of the head of the institution. The personnel security clearance is not required for access to this category of information.
If an individual has a personnel security clearance/access authorization to national classified information, he can also be issued a personnel security clearance for access to NATO classified information valid for the same secrecy level or for an lower level.
If the NATO classified information to which access is required under these circumstances is of a higher level than that for which the individual concerned has a personnel security clearance/access authorization, the necessary vetting shall be conducted according to the regulations in force.
The validity of the personnel security clearance for access to NATO classified information issued based on the personnel security clearance/access authorization to national classified information ceases when the validity period of the latter expires.
This material was drawn up based on the provisions of the following legal documents:
• Law no. 182/12.04.2002 on the protection of classified information, published in the Official Journal of Romania, Part I, no. 248 of 12.04.2002;
• Government Decision no. 585/13.06.2002 on the endorsement of National Standards for the protection of classified information in Romania, published in the Official Journal of Romania, Part I, no. 485 of 05.07.2002;
• Government Decision no. 353 of 15.04.2002 for the endorsement of Norms on the protection of NATO classified information in Romania, published in the Official Journal of Romania no. 315 of 13.05.2002;
• Government Emergency Ordinance no. 153/07.11.2002, published in the Official Journal of Romania, Part I, no. 826 of 15.11.2002, endorsed by Law no. 101/24.03.2003, published in the Official Journal of Romania, Part I, no. 207 of 31.03.2003.