Recent claims by Albania's opposition that the government sold classified NATO information to Russia and Serbia have put authorities in Tirana in an unenviable position.
"The Albanian secret service (SHISH) head Bahri Shaqiri reportedly told a closed-door parliament meeting that NATO is alarmed".
While SHISH didn't publicly deny that characterisation, the parliamentary majority coalition began blaming the opposition for making the issue of Shaqiri's testimony public.
NATO's office in Tirana did not issue a comment, but former US Ambassador to Albania John Withers described situation as "complex".
Albania has been a member of NATO since April 2008, and the institution responsible for maintaining the security of Alliance information is the Department of Security of Classified Information (DSIK).
SETimes sought an explanation from DSIK's Director for Vetting and Central Registration Mark Ndreca.
SETimes: How is NATO classified information received, administrated and distributed? How do you ensure information is not leaked?
Mark Ndreca: The mutual exchange of information between Albania and NATO has been an ongoing process. It is based on specific and well-defined legal standards. Of course, in order to ensure the security of this information, it has been necessary to have in place a legal framework on classified information. All our legislation is based on the standards of the document of NATO security policy.
SETimes: Who has a right to access NATO classified information, and what procedures govern the process?
Ndreca: A person needs to fulfill certain criteria, and one of these is being equipped with adequate security certificates. Everyone who needs to know classified secret information needs to receive a security certificate. Naturally, the certification of the public administration is a dynamic process, conditioned by the need of the institutions to have access to information at a certain point of time.
There are a number of people who have already had access to NATO classified information due to the nature of their work. Our department gives out the certificates.
Related ArticlesMontenegro drafts first MAP Annual National Programme
NATO's Enyeart: BiH MAP challenged by elections
Romania backs NATO missile defence system
Bulgaria reassures Russia US anti-missile shield is not on agenda
Turkey takes over UN Security Council's rotating presidency
SETimes: Following vetting procedures, how many people have access to such information and who is disqualified?
Ndredca: The process of vetting is done in close co-operation with the national as well as partner intelligence units. At the same time, this process is done in co-operation with respective DSIK units in NATO member countries. Normally, when according to procedures someone is refused the right to access information, one should not continue to hold a work position that requires one to have access to classified information.
SETimes: Is your department aware of the parliamentary debate over whether the government has given out NATO information to non-members?
Ndreca: DSIK is the national authority responsible for the security of classified NATO information. Its duty is to supervise the activity of the institutions that are in possession of the classified information. We have not received any information from the intelligence services which confirm officials that have received the security certificate have spread classified information of NATO while unauthorised to do so.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.