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Revision of the National Security Files
  Background
In 1994 the Parliament passed a law which stipulates that individuals in certain important positions shall undergo a clearance procedure (defined in Act XXIII. 1994).
The Boards that have been established to carry out the procedure examine whether the person concerned used to belong to or co-operate with the former internal counterintelligence service (the political police), or receive any reports from it, or whether the person concerned used to be member of the Hungarian Nazi Party (Arrow Cross Party).

With regards to the Constitutional Court's statement, that there was a need to establish the institutional background of the right of self-determination of all those who had been surveyed, the parliament established the Office of Historical Documents in 1996. All available files of the internal counterintelligence service (defined in Act XXIII. 1994. modified by the Act LXVII 1996.) were handed over to this Office. In compliance with the Act XLVII. 2001. the Office was made over into State Archives, which was authorised to take over and preserve all archival files of the secret services and all those files that were no longer needed in discharging their duties.
The institutions that held the files, the national security services included, were obliged to hand them over to the Office: within 60 days of its establishment the files dated before 1980, then the ones between 1980-1990 until 28 February 2000. There was no need to hand over the files that 1. were necessary to the continuous and uninterrupted functioning of the national security services, laid down in the law, and 2. contained both the vital data that could lawfully be handled by the national security services and the data that could be handed over to the Office, and the separation of these data in the files proved technically impossible.
The Information Office met the scheduled deadline: it handed over in total 1788 archival items between 1997 and 2000, to the Office of Historical Documents. The overwhelming majority of these files has nothing to do with the current tasks of the Information Office, therefore their data content was qualified as not to be handled, while other items were those files that were unnecessary to discharging national security duties. Almost three-quarters of the files handed over were of an investigative type about the persons surveyed by the predecessor organisations. Beside some other files, the so called object files, that contained data on the emigrants' institutions, organisations, B ("personal") and M ("job") files of certain individuals chiefly from the '50s, were also handed over.

By revising and handing over the state security files, the Information Office has not put an end to the process. As time went by, the files, particularly those comprising together data both to be handled and not to be handled, had grown superfluous to the operation of the services. The fact that these were handed over or made available, presented no difficulties to the operation of the secret services. Pursuant to the laws in force at that time, the Information Office embarked on its periodical file revision in the autumn 2002. As a result around 1 million pages of national security intelligence files were handed over to the Office of Historical Documents at the beginning of December 2002. The date of origin of these files ranges from the '50s to 1989. The Information Office declassified most of these files, thus the Office poses no obstacles to their research.
Major items of these files:
  • Intelligence reports from 1957 to 1975 and briefs based on these reports, produced by the analytical department of the predecessor organisation, recorded on microfilms (210 film cassettes, appr. 650000 pages; the files produced before 1970 - some 400 000 pages - became non-classified).
  • Reports, assessments made by the analytical department in 1975, in total 1611 files, 3-4000 pages, were also deemed non-classified.
  • Files produced from decrypted materials, most of which are stored on microfilms and on paper (7 dossiers). The encrypted materials were produced by foreign ministries, embassies, and international organisations and were decipherd by the predecessor organisation (around 60 000 pages fiche and 17 rolls of film, around 50 000 pages); materials produced before 1970 (some 10 000 pages) became non-classified.
  • Cases (search files) and facility files on various people and organisations, with varying dates of origin but all produced prior to 1970. They make up 98 files, in 112 volumes (around 8000 pages) and they are no more classified.

The Act III. 2003 on revealing the intelligence activity of the previous regime and on the establishment of the Historical Archives of the State Security Services

The claim for unifying the files of the former state security services re-emerged in the summer 2002.
With the aim of revealing the activities of the former regime's secret services and of establishing the Historical Archives of the State Security Services, the Parliament passed the Act III. 2003, on December 23rd 2002. Except for some of its provisions, the Act entered into force on January 22nd 2003.

The purpose of the Act

  • With the aim of compensating the victims of communism, their rights for information self-determination were extended and the previously collected information was also made available for them.
  • In an effort to gain information about the mechanism of the operation of the dictatorship, the researchers were granted broader access to the files and the role of the former secret services was made public in a wider circle.
  • To draw a more clear-cut frontline between the activities of the state secret services during the Socialist-regime and the activities pursued by the democratic national security services. When it comes to revealing data, no important national security interests shall be impaired.

Data that can be held secret

As a principal rule, the law stipulates that the files of the secret services of the former regime cannot be considered state secrets, they become non-classified.

Those data in the state security files shall only remain state secrets, the disclosure of which would jeopardise national security interests to such an extent that the right to know the past and that of information self-determination must remain ignored. The law determines the details that constitute an exception of the principal rule.

Exceptions related to certain individuals:

  • data on individuals who were either members of the national security services or secretly co-operated with them in the entire period between the establishment of the national security services, (15 February 1990) and the establishment of the current government (26 May 2002) or only in part of that period;
  • the individual concerned would either face an expulsion from a foreign country, a prohibition to enter into a country or a criminal procedure.
  • in case the person concerned is uncovered he/she or of their relatives could face a crime gravely hurting or jeopardising their lives, safety, freedom;
  • the disclosure would entail uncovering the identity of a person under cover or an operational contact, and thus would damage the national security interests of the Republic of Hungary.

Exceptions related to the issues of the functioning of the state:

  • to discharge its legally defined duties the state body concerned - lawfully possessing the data - regularly and indispensably needs the data of the file;
  • declassification would lead to the disclosure of the tools and means of covert intelligence gathering and thus would hurt the national security interests of the Republic of Hungary;
  • declassification would undermine the communications security of the Republic of Hungary;
  • declassification would damage international obligations of the Republic of Hungary;
  • declassification would harm the bilateral relations of the Republic of Hungary or would cause damage to the assertion of its foreign political objectives;
  • declassification would damage the interests of the Republic of Hungary in enforcing its constitutional responsibility for the ethnic Hungarians living beyond the borders of Hungary;
  • declassification would be detrimental to the accomplishment of the defence political aims, international relations and defence capabilities of the country;
  • declassification would damage the national economic interests of the Republic of Hungary.

The damage made to the interests must be either evident or verifiable.

Historical Archives of the State Security Services

The Historical Archives of the State Security Services is the legal successor of Office of Historical Documents. The Speaker of the Parliament supervises its operation. Except for the files still ranked as classified, all files of the former state security services are handled by the Historical Archives of the State Security Services. The Archives' director- general and his deputy are appointed and discharged by the Speaker of the Parliament.

Persons entitled to have access to the files

For the benefit of the victims, the law has created more favourable conditions to grant access to the files; those who were gravely harassed in their personal rights, or were under surveillance, are entitled to get familiar with all files related to them and they are also allowed to make them public. From that time on, the law also entitles the person - once being under surveillance by the former state security services - to acquaint himself with all files needed to identify the covert, operational and official connections. It is a moral obligation here to decide for the benefit of the victim in case of confrontation of rights between the person conducting the surveillance and the other who experienced it.

One of the major goals of this law, exploration of the past, can be achieved by means of scientific research. The researchers have been provided with broad access rights to examine the former state security files. In an effort to prevent abuses, those are only considered scientific researchers who have received the research permission issued by the archival board. Access to sensitive data is strictly regulated. Regarding the data on political stance, party affiliation or criminal record the law includes no restrictions, like in the case of other sensitive data, since these data are so closely related to the operation of the state security bodies that this sort of restriction would hamper the scientific research. The law offers an opportunity for the members of political communities, though under tight conditions, to get acquainted with the operation of the former state security bodies. Once the documents are sanitised anyone can get acquainted with or publish the data handled by the archives. There is no need to sanitise a document if it was either public at its origin, was legally made public or was recorded at a public event. The law intends to contribute to the fact that the past of public figures could be acquainted with. Those are deemed public figures who held/hold power or are appointed to positions with public authority or who were/are opinion formers. Those persons are deemed to exercise public authority who have a real impact on decision making, be that in nation-wide or local issues. Pursuant to the law, anyone can get acquainted with or publish the data without sanitisation, necessary to the identification of a public figure as an employee in professional status, an operational contact or an agent. The archives call for the person concerned to make an official statement that he recognise to be a public figure. Should the person concerned refuse to recognise it, the person claiming to get acquainted with the data can appeal to the court, which takes a stance whether the person concerned is a public figure or not.

Handing over the files and the supervision of the process

After the law was enacted the bodies engaged in handling the files had
- 180 days to revise those produced before 1970;
- one year to revise those produced before 1980;
- two years to revise those produced before 14 February, 1990.
A three-member commission controls the revision of the classification of the files and the process of handing them over. The government, the president of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the president of the Hungarian Association of History respectively nominate the members of the commission.

The Historical Archives of the State Security Services shall be handed over the list of the files the classification of which has been maintained. In case the Archives deem it unjustified, it can appeal to the court that passes a resolution outside legal proceedings. The parties concerned and their attorneys are not allowed to be present during each other's hearings, no appeal lies.

The director-general of the national security service concerned makes a special list of those files that carry outstanding importance from a national security point of view and remain classified; the list shall be approved by a judge nominated by the Supreme Court. Those files will not figure in the list that is to be handed over to the Archives.

Implementation of the Act III. 2003.

Pursuant to the special decree of the director-general, the revision of the files shall be carried out by an ad-hoc work team within the Office (File Revision Work Team), which was established on the ground of the Office's Operational and Structural Rules.

The process of the file revision:
a) Stock-taking of the state security files and picking them up from the file departments;
b) Separation of state security files that fall under the authority of another organisation;
c) Revision of the files that on the ground of their content fall under the authority of the Office;
d) The stance that either the competent minister or other competent persons have to take regarding the classification of the document, on the basis of its content, if necessary;
e) The decision on the classification (be that maintained or removed) and record of it on the document concerned;
f) Separation of classified national security files carrying outstanding importance from the point of view of protecting national security interests;
g) Request for other state bodies which are authorised to revise the classification of the documents, providing them access to the files in order for them to decide to maintain or remove the classification;
h) Registration of the state security files with specially designed computer programme (data record);
i) To copy non-classified data for the Historical Archives of the State Security Services of state security files that contain both classified and non-classified data;
j) Inventory of the non-classified and declassified files (for the Archives), their preparation, handing over and transport to the Historical Archives of the State Security Services;
k) Inventory of the files that retain their classification. The lists will be sent to the Supervisory Board of Act III. 2003 and the Historical Archives of the State Security Services;
l) The director-general makes a special list of the files with special national security interests, which is then forwarded to a judge nominated by the Supreme Court;
m) Maintaining ties with the Act III. 2003 Supervisory Board and with the judge nominated by the Supreme Court, in addition providing for them the requested information and the opportunity to examine the files;
n) Upon the initiatives of the Act III. 2003 Supervisory Board the file has to be re-examined and the minister (under secretary) in charge of the civilian secret services has to be informed;
o) To make a record of the files that the judge, nominated by the Supreme Court, removes from the special list of state security files, made by the director-general;
p) Revision of the files falling under the authority of the Office but handled by the Office of Historical Documents, without listing;
q) To record on the files the revision, removal or maintenance of the classification of the files falling under the authority of the Office but handled by some other state bodies.

We have created the conditions for the civilian board, the "Act III. 2003 Supervisory Board", established to pursue the revision and handing over the files, to exercise its authority.

Handing over the files to the Historical Archives of the State Security Services

The Information Office finished the revision of the state security files by the deadline defined by the law. Under the provisions of the Act III. 2003 the Office handed over to the Archives 120 running meter state security files from the time before 1970 and 70 running meter from the time between 1970 and 1980 in January and February 2004.

In the case of 111 files retained under the special provisions of the law the Supervisory Board did not think it justified to maintain the classification and recommended declassification. The director-general of the Information Office accepted the recommendation, and had the classification removed (in one particular case he requested the stance of the competent senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs). These files have also been handed over to the Archives.

The files handed over to the Archives belong to various types: B (personal) and M (job) files of agents, files of foreign institutions, organizations and groups under control, intelligence reports, briefs for government agencies and sister services, communications security documents, data related to international cooperation, personnel files, financial documents, documents related to the administrative functioning of the service, training materials.

The Information Office has so far forwarded some 400 running meter state security files (including the files handed over previously and the microfilms counted in pages) to the Archives.




European Union
National security files