Frequently Asked Questions
Questions about the Constitution Protection Office in general:
1) Is AH a secret police or a secret service?
Neither. Civil democracies do not have a 'secret police' since it is typically used for oppression and gathering data of a political nature in dictatorships.
It should be stressed that the law which provides a legal framework for the operation of the Constitution Protection Office (Act CXXV of 1995) contains the definition 'national security' and not 'secret service' as is often called by the media. Admittedly, the Office does use secret service means and methods to perform certain tasks by statutory authorisation, but their legitimacy is safeguarded by the designated judges and the Minister of Justice.
2) Does the Office keep files related to the former party state?
This was the goal of the establishment of the History Office in 1996, which was transformed to the Historical Archives of State Security Services (HASSS) in 2003. The AH maintains balanced cooperation with the archives in the matter. Under the relevant law (Act III of 2003), the Office gave the HASSS most files related to the former state security services.
3) Then what is secret about AH operations?
The Act on the National Security Services authorises the Office to perform intelligence gath-ering activities (without the affected individual’s or organisation’s knowledge) by secret ser-vice means and methods for a particular purpose and subject to appropriate control. The col-loquial terms surveillance and interception qualify as clandestine means and methods.
Questions about AH activities
1) What questions, filings and complaints does AH accept?
People can report any advice, knowledge and information to the AH which poses a threat to national security and falls within the competence of the Office by law. If the report falls with-in the competence of the police or any other law enforcement organ, we provide guidance for further steps.
2) Does the Office process complaints and questions sent by email?
If the complainant or reporting party can be identified, the Office does process the report. At the same time, the procedure must be conducted in compliance with Act CLV of 2009 on the protection of qualified data, and Act LXIII of 1992 on the disclosure of data of public interest, so a response can only be provided if the report meets all statutory criteria..
3) Who authorises AH to take measures for surveillance and interception of citizens?
The Constitution Protection Office was authorised to perform such tasks by Parliament under Act CXXV of 1995. Specifically, the AH promotes the assertion of the national security interests of Hungary by overt and covert information gathering, thus contributing to ensuring the country’s sovereignty and protecting its constitutional order.
The Constitution Protection Office can only restrict the fundamental right of citizens to the inviolability of private homes, private secrets and letter secrets, and to the protection of per-sonal data subject to strict statutory criteria. Intelligence gathering is proposed by the Office but it may only be authorised by the Minister of Justice or a designated judge of Budapest Metropolitan Court (Act CXXV of 1995, Section 56-58, - Gathering of Intelligence Subject to External Authorization).
4) Does AH engage in averting industrial espionage?
Industrial espionage is not normally commissioned by a secret service but by a corporate competitor. Information acquired in an unauthorised manner enables companies to save huge amounts of research and development costs, and familiarity with the other party’s strategies allows them to defeat their competitors.
As opposed to industrial espionage, business intelligence is an information gathering activity contravening the economic interests of individual countries, which is performed by commis-sion of the secret services of another state. The detection and prevention of this activity is a responsibility of the Constitution Protection Office.
5) Is it true that the National Security Services have access to the digital databases of public administration?
Not directly, but they can ask for data and have access to the documents underlying the rec-ords so as to perform their tasks by stating the legal grounds for and goal of the request. Any data exchange must be documented by both the requesting party and the recipient. Directors General make sure to prevent any unauthorised access, disclosure, alteration, deletion and de-struction of data and to provide protection against any unauthorised access
6) What use does AH make of the information gathered?
AH information gathering is not an end by itself but an activity performed under the National Security Act and according the cyclically updated specific tasks as defined by the Govern-ment in office from time to time. The information generated is aimed to provide efficient sup-port for the Government’s decision-making and to guarantee the security of Hungary and its inhabitants. To this end, the AH arranges, evaluates and analyses the data centrally, then informs the appropriate actors of the Government as necessary.
Given Hungary’s affiliation to the European Union and NATO, the Office performs a contin-uous exchange of information within close cooperation with the associated national security services, the police organs and with foreign secret services; thus, it provides them with infor-mation.
7) Why is the national security vetting important?
The fundamental goal of a national security vetting is to reveal such circumstances and poten-tial risks that may make the activities of individuals holding important and confidential jobs susceptible to influence or attack for unlawful purposes. This may have a negative impact on the security of not only the affected person but also Hungary. For details click here.
8) What is the use of the industrial security clearance?
Under paragraph 5m) of Act CXXV of 1995 , the Constitution Protection Office performs industrial security inspections within its competence at the request of the National Security Authority. The inspections aim to guarantee the conditions for the safe management of NATO’s classified data in business organisations (Civil Code Section 685c)), higher education institutions and research institutes. By the industrial security inspections, the Constitution Protection Office contributes to the procurement of the title 'Qualified Official NATO Supplier'. For details click here.
9) What is the Authoritative Register?
The Authoritative Register is a list that the National Security Services and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs keep of business companies that underwent preliminary qualification and were found suitable for participating at procurement procedures defined in Government Decree 143/2004 (29 April). The list contains the full name, address, seat and core activity of the particular company. For details click here.
10) Can AH arrest people?
Under the Act, the Constitution Protection Office is not entitled to take measures. According-ly, it can only perform an arrest procedure in cooperation with police organs.
Questions about AH staff
1) Can anyone seek a job at the Constitution Protection Office?
The Constitution Protection Office hires any person who meets all admission criteria. The admission procedure is an objective process which examines the suitability of people who ap-ply for executing secret service tasks from various perspectives. Work for the AH can be done by both men and women, so this is not a typical men-only military career.
2) Do the Office’s staff members qualify as soldiers or police officers?
AH staff members are professional members of national civil security services, do not qualify as police officers or soldiers, and hold a special public service status. The Office’s work re-gime is determined by discipline and hierarchy, which are characteristic of the armed forces. Staff members have ranks and in terms of criminal law, they are subject to the jurisdiction of military prosecution and justice services.
3) Are the Office’s staff members allowed to be members of political parties and to do political work?
Under Section 18 of Act XLIII of 1996 (Hsztv.), the professional members of civil national civil security services may not be members of political parties, and may not engage in political activities. Professional members of the AH may not undertake any public action on behalf or in the interest of any political party, and may not engage in any political activity on service premises or during the performance of service duties. Staff members must announce their candidacy at national and local elections. From the date of registration as a candidate and for the period of their mandate if elected, such members have their service status interrupted. If such members are not elected, they may continue their career in their original positions.
4) Do national security officers bear firearms?
Professional members of the National Security Services are entitled to bear service firearms. The detailed rules for the bearing, use and storage of service firearms are determined by the Minister. The use of firearms is regulated by Section 36 of the Act, including an exhaustive list of cases where national security officers may use their guns.