Security Clearances

The National Security Authority provides security clearances, under certain conditions (see Law 11.12.1998), to control access to classified information.

A distinction is made between public and private sectors in terms of certificates and related application procedures. For more information on this, please visit: private companies, public administrations or international organizations.

 

Security clearances for legal entities and a security clearance for natural persons

What is the difference between a security clearance for legal entities and a security clearance for natural persons?

Security clearances are invariably first awarded at the level of the legal entity. This is the so-called Facility Security Clearance (FSC). Only once an FSC has been granted, its employees -natural persons, are able to apply for an individual security clearance. This is the so-called a Personal Security Clearance (PSC).

Applications for personnel security clearances must always be linked to a company or administration to which permission was given in advance by the NSA to deal with classified information.

In concrete terms, this means that:

As soon as the FSC is granted employees can apply for a personnel security clearance through the security officer of their organization. 

 

Determining the level and scope of a security clearance

When applying for a security clearance, the desired level and application area need to be identified. There can only be one level, but depending on the professional needs multiple application areas can be asked. Please note that a need to know must always be demonstrated.

The level and the application area of the security clearance is determined by the competent administration (Belgian or international). This information is available through the contractor. This information is normally included in the contract, the offer or the tender between the contractor or employer and the company or the employee. Subcontractors can obtain this information through their contractor.

For access to classified information the company or the organization, the appointed security officer(s), and the directors or senior management need to be holder of a security clearance of at least the same level as the highest classification level of the information.

For example, a company wanting to compete for a contract with classification degree ' secret ' and a contract with classification degree ‘confidential ',  must be holder of a security clearance of at least the level ‘secret'. This also applies to the appointed safety officer(s) and management. On the other hand, security clearances of individual employees may limit themselves to the level 'confidential', as their need to know may not extend beyond the contract with classification degree ‘confidential’.

In principle, companies can apply for facility security clearances up to the maximum degree ‘secret’, although their employees in exceptional cases (for example for NATO contracts) can obtain permission for clearances of the 'top secret' level.

In addition to the level of the security clearance, the scope or application area of the security clearance also is relevant. In Belgium one can request permission for three different fields of application:

  • National (Belgium)
  • NATO (NATO)
  • EU

A company wanting to participate in a classified tender by NATO, will need a security clearance 'NATO'. Below you will find a table with the different levels and application areas of security clearances:

NATIONAAL (België) TOP SECRET/TRES SECRET

SECRET/SECRET

CONFIDENTIAL/CONFIDENTIEL

NATO

COSMIC TOP SECRET

NATO SECRET NATO CONFIDENTIAL
EU

TRES SECRET UE/EU TOP SECRET

SECRET UE/EU SECRET

CONFIDENTIEL UE/EU CONFIDENTIAL

 

How to demonstrate a Need To Know?

The applicant requesting a security clearance for a company, administration, or an individual employee must always be able to prove a professional need.

Companies must add to each application an official document of their client that includes identification of the client and the required level of classification. The document may take the form of a public tender, a contract (offer), a contract clause or a motivated letter from the Government or contractor that imposes a security clearance. Subcontractors must obtain this document through their contractor.

Public administrations must motivate the need to know in a letter signed by the competent Minister or, in the case of international organizations, the Director.

The security officer shall motivate the need to know of employees.

 

What does a security clearance investigation entail?

Via a thorough investigation it is determined whether a company or a person meets all the conditions to handle classified information. This investigation is carried out by an intelligence and security service.

This investigation determines if the following safeguards are being met:

  • Secrecy in the processing of information
  • Integrity in the fulfilment of assignments
  • Loyalty towards the proper organization, as well as to the principles of the Belgian rule of law

These safeguards apply, in addition to companies and individuals, also to physical security and information security. For companies it is, therefore, also examined whether there are sufficient guarantees as to the means and methods used to protect classified information. In addition, the FPS Economy also performs an economic analysis of the company.