|Updated: 03-Jun-2004||NATO Speeches|
12 May 2004
Q: Mr. Rychak, thank you for joining us today. You are the Director of the NATO Office of Security. The NATO Office of Security played a crucial role in protecting NATO from foreign espionage during the Cold War. But is the Office still necessary today, when the former adversaries have become partners and actually work here at NATO Headquarters?
Rychak: Good day. I think that's actually a good question. The protection of sensitive information within this Alliance remains a very important responsibility of my office. I think that one only needs to read the newspapers to realize that governments, facilities, institutions like NATO need to continue to take prudent measures to protect its information; to protect its information from theft, from negligence, from compromise, from computer hacking, from espionage.
This Alliance operates on a fundamental principle that information coming into NATO is freely shared with all its members. Much of the information that the nations provide is sensitive in nature and needs to be protected. The nations provide this information with the confidence and the assurance that NATO as an institution will adequately and properly protect it. If these assurances can't be provided, obviously that will create a reluctance on the part of the members to provide the information therefore, we do have very robust protective measures in place to protect the nations and NATO's sensitive information.
Q: What does the daily work of the Office involve?
Rychak: Simply stated, the NATO Office of Security, the NOS as we refer to it, is responsible broadly for the protection of people, information and facilities. To accomplish this mission we have three functional categories of programs. The first is dealing with policy, specifically via the NATO Security Committee. We develop, revise, update policies that are NATO-wide in terms of their application to protect information, people and facilities and we combine that with an inspection program where we inspect the programs that are in place by the nations, by partners and by organisations with which we have security agreements to ensure that they are properly protecting the information of NATO to the standards that we've established.
We have a second functional area that I would categorize as protective responsibilities. The NATO Office of Security is responsible for protecting NATO Headquarters. The Headquarters security guard force, the fire unit which is also an emergency medical unit as well, fall within the Security apparatus. We also administer in this program physical security, industrial security, computer security that we call InfoSec. We're playing a major role in looking at the design of the new NATO Headquarter facility to ensure that it incorporates adequate security features and measures.
And the final functional category is within a branch that we call Security Intelligence. The Security Intelligence Branch has responsibility for counter intelligence, for personnel security, they develop threat assessments for Alliance activities and they serve as the principle liaison with the nations' Security and Intelligence Services. And there is a Committee referred to as the Special Committee that's composed of the Heads of the Security Services of the Alliance that meets here at NATO at least twice a year that the NATO Office of Security administers.
Q: Terrorism is of course is a major threat to security today. Some say we live in an age of terror: September 11, the attacks in Madrid. How has this impacted the work that you do?
Rychak: Well I don't think there's anyone in a similar position in government or an international organisation who hasn't been impacted by the tragic events of September 11th as well as Madrid and the incidents in Turkey and elsewhere. It's very much caused all of us to closely examine the security and protective measures that we have in place and to improve where necessary and appropriate. Certainly force protection, which is a military terminology, for the protection of our people is of very high priority and one which we continue to focus on very closely.
Q: Are there any security scenarios that keep you, as Director of NOS, awake at night?
Rychak: There's a couple but I'll mention one and that's the threat of an attack by weapons of mass destruction. Certainly this has been a concern, it's very much in the public arena. It's an area that, of course, we look at very closely not only from a defensive standpoint but also in a much broader context in NATO as to how we can best counter this very serious concern. Clearly, the governments of this Alliance have recognized that this is an important issue and I think all recognize that to effectively combat the threat of the use of weapons of mass destruction will require the concerted and aggressive effort of the world community. But certainly this is an area that I and many others have a great deal of concern about.
Q: What would you tell the citizens of Brussels, or family and friends of NATO staff working here concerned about a possible attack against NATO Headquarters?
Rychak: Well I'd tell them that we take security very seriously at NATO, not only at Headquarters but at all NATO facilities around the world. We very closely monitor the threat environment. We have excellent relationships with the Belgian police and security organisations as well as very cooperative relationships with the Alliances Security Services who provide very good input on a daily basis in terms of information that's relevant in terms of security.
We are constantly examining the level of protection that's in place, and we make improvements and changes as appropriate and necessary.
Q: A question we frequently receive from our public by email actually: How can someone obtain security clearance to work with or for NATO?
Rychak: The first thing they need do is receive an offer for employment with NATO because the clearance process doesn't begin until that happens. Once an offer is made then it's the responsibility of the country from which the candidate is from to initiate the vetting process and to actually issue a clearance. My office normally will facilitate that process with the National Security authorities of the country that's involved but again we've got to be careful that we don't get the cart in front of the horse - the job offer has to be extended first - and then the nations.. the appropriate nation will follow up with the necessary clearance process.
Q: In closing, do you think we will ever again have the same sense of security we had before September 11 and will we ever see an end to terrorism on the scale of what happened in New York on the tragic day and what recently happened in Madrid?
Rychak: Ever can be a long time and I certainly hope that we do see an end at some point. NATO is contributing in a number of very significant areas in combating terrorism. Governments in this Alliance clearly recognize that this needs to be a long term multi-faceted effort that elicits the support of governments throughout the world to combat this serious, serious threat of terrorism.
For the foreseeable future, stringent security measures are and will continue to be put into place to protect public transportation, critical infrastructures, government facilities and potential terrorist targets around the world and I'm afraid that this will be the norm for the foreseeable future.
Q: Mr. Rychak, thank you.