What is a security clearance, certificate or advice?
Persons who, on account of their position, (must) have access to classified information, need to hold a specific clearance. The main purpose of this so-called ‘security clearance’ is to protect sensitive information by limiting the access to this information to those persons who may be expected to offer sufficient guarantees with respect to confidentiality, loyalty and integrity. This clearance is not just applicable to natural persons and is not necessarily related to the access to classified information. Legal persons who, for example, want to bid for government contracts in sensitive sectors, may also be screened. In addition, security clearances can be requested in connection with the implementation of treaties concluded by Belgium with other countries or with international or supranational institutions.
Security certificate for access to locations containing classified information
Certain authorities may require a security certificate for persons who need to be given access to locations where classified documents are stored, even though these persons are not required to read them . This refers to, for example, the situation of a visitor or a cleaning team. Until 2005, only a security clearance could be requested in such cases. However, the procedure for issuing a security clearance is extremely laborious and time-consuming. The legislator therefore provided for a simplified procedure.
Security certificate for a specific location or event
There is also a second kind of security certificate, i.e. a certificate for persons who want to access, for a limited period of time, rooms, buildings or sites related to functions of public authorities or to a specific national or international, diplomatic or ceremonial event, and where there is a specific threat (e.g. terrorism). In concrete terms, this refers, for example, to access to a European summit or other international meetings where participants, visitors, suppliers and journalists are screened.
Apart from a possible or an actual threat in a building or at a location, specific sites – due to their nature – may also be sensitive to threats. Consider the tarmac of an airport. Persons, who misuse the opportunity to access such a location, can cause serious harm to fundamental (national) interests. The same applies to persons who want to perform a specific function or task or who wishto obtain a specific permit. In all such cases, administrative authorities can request security advice before taking their decision regarding the permit, authorisation or appointment.