Review and Accountability
Lawfulness is the leading principle of national security activities. Its key elements are laid down in the National Security Act and other legislation. Admittedly, its application must not be restricted to the observance of normative rules. As a consequence of the application of the principle of lawfulness, the Office is only obliged to restrict rights under the relevant laws if it is required by the security of the Republic of Hungary and by the protection of its interests. At the same time, the special means and methods of clandestine information gathering only apply if there is no other way to obtain data for performing the tasks that are defined in the Act and other legislation. A fundamental guarantee and precondition for the lawful operation of the Constitution Protection Office is the enforcement of constitutional supervision, which is performed by the Parliament through the National Security Committee. Parliamentary supervision is not only a primary condition for enforcing lawfulness, but it also ensures the enforcement of the required guarantee aspects for national security service staff. Also, it guarantees that the Office can perform its duties independently from the interests of political parties. Furthermore, it guarantees that the Government’s directory and administrative role will not result in the expropriation of the National Security Services by the State.
Excerpt from Act CXXV of 1995 on the National Security Services
Parliamentary Supervision of the National Security Services
(1) Parliament shall carry out the parliamentary control of the national security services through the participation of its National Security Committee (hereinafter: Committee). The Chairman of the Committee may only be a member of the Opposition at all times.
(2) The Minister shall inform the Committee about the general activity of the National Security Services regularly but at least biannually.
(3) The Government shall inform the Committee about its decisions related to the National Security Services through the Minister.
(4) In performing parliamentary supervision, the Committee may
a) ask the Minister, and the Director General of the the National Security Services while notifying the Minister, for information about the country’s situation in terms of national security, and the operation and activity of the National Security Services;
b) ask the Minister of Justice, the Minister in charge of Civil National Security Services, the Minister of Defence and the Directors General for information about the authorisation procedure defined in Sections 56 and 59;
c) examine complaints indicative of any unlawful activity by the National Security Services; if the complainant does not accept the result of the examination defined in Section 11(5), and if the weight of the complaint makes the examination justified according to the vote of at least one-third of the Committee members, it shall inform the affected party about the Committee’s findings;
d) ask the Minister to conduct an examination and inform the Committee about its result if it supposes that any national security service has engaged in unlawful or anomalous activities;
e) conduct a fact-finding examination, with the right to access to the relevant documents on file with the National Security Services and to interview the staff of the National Security Services, if it detects an unlawful operation of any national security service, and if it finds such examination reasonable in the course of the procedure defined in paragraphs c) and d), and in Section 27(4);
f) call on the Minister to take the necessary steps for examining liability and to inform the Committee about the result of the examination if it detects any unlawful or anomalous operation of any national security service;
g) shall give its opinion on the detailed draft budget of the national security services, the items of the budget of other organizations entitled to gather intelligence related to such activities, and the detailed draft report on the execution of the Annual Budget Act, and shall make a proposal during the debate on the bills to Parliament to adopt the bill in question;
h) prior to their appointment, shall hear the persons nominated to the offices of directors general, and shall take position on their suitability;
(5) If the aspects of exercising its supervisory competence necessitate, the Committee may call upon staff members of the National Security Services to provide expert consultancy, with the simultaneous notification of the competent Director General.
(1) The Committee shall receive the general evaluation reports - that are of significance in terms of national security - prepared by the National Security Services and those prepared for the Government.
(2) The Committee is entitled to have access to the information reports of the National Security Services on common matters that are not related to specific cases.
(3) The Minister shall immediately notify the Committee if the National Security Services initiate or pursue information gathering concerning a Member of Parliament or a direct relative living in the same household. The Member of Parliament concerned shall not receive information on such activity.
(1) In the course of the parliamentary supervision exercised by the Committee, the obligation of the Minister and the National Security Services shall not extend to provision of information, with the exception laid down in subsection (2), the disclosure of which would risk a vital national security interest related to the protection of the method in the specific case or of the source (the identity of the contributing person).
(2) In the course of examining any unlawful activity of the National Security Services, the Committee, with the consent of two thirds of its members, may oblige the Minister and the Director General to provide data about the method of covert intelligence gathering in Hungary which is indispensable for assessing unlawfulness. Data obtained in this way can only be used during the Committee’s procedure.
Organs Supervising Constitution Protection Office Lawfulness
- Parliament’s National Security Committee
- Minister of Interior
- State Audit Office
- Parliamentary Commissioner for Data Protection