“Asking someone about the archive was akin to setting them alight”
On Thursday, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader told the committee of inquiry into the archive of the Independent Service for Protection and Anticorruption (SIPA) that, at the time he was appointed in office, he was warned that there was a ticking time bomb at the ministry and that ticking time bomb is called the SIPA archive. Toader added that the archive of the Justice Ministry’s former intelligence service contains several types of documents: the employment record books of civil servants that had special statute within the National Penitentiary Administration (ANP), documents concerning private life, documents that belong with the National Archives, and classified documents.
“When I came at the MJ [Ministry of Justice], in an absolutely informal discussion, someone – not from the ministry, a known public person – was telling me, among other things: ‘At the MJ there is a ticking time bomb you have to be careful with. It’s called the SIPA archive.’ What I noticed: the fact that those you were asking (…) about the SIPA archive… it was as if you were setting them alight. (…) There are still MJ employees that were part of those commissions that had access to the SIPA archive at one point,” Tudorel Toader told the members of the committee of inquiry into the SIPA archive.
Toader said he formed an opinion about the archive, an opinion that was “somewhat close” to the truth within his grasp, and decided not to remain silent like his predecessors had done while hoping that the SIPA issue would not become public during their terms in office.
“I entered the archive, and I can’t say I know what’s there, but I pretty much know what it’s about. As presumed before, there were documents that were out of place there. The employment records of civil servants with special statute from the ANP, an absolute injustice because those people who worked were unable to prove their group, pay grade, seniority and all the rest, in order to collect their pension rights, rights as legitimate as possible, because they didn’t have access to the Archive. But for most part I saw heaps of employment record books. Most of them were there and it’s unjust after all, isn’t it? (…) But to have them behind a lock, a seal, and to say: I can’t give them to you because they’re there and I’m not allowed to… I believe it’s unnatural to say the least, not to say it’s profoundly unjust,” Tudorel Toader described the first category of documents he found inside the SIPA archive.
The Justice Minister also said he discovered documents pertaining to private life.
“Those documents… of course, observing this fundamental right, it was established via GD [Government Decision] that we won’t make them public, but the bearer, the person the information is about, has access to see them. Jokingly, more or less, they even have the chance to recall what they did, maybe they forgot so they can once again see and remember,” the minister explained.
Tudorel Toader said that a third category of documents he found inside the SIPA archive consists of documents that belong with the National Archives.
“Those documents shouldn’t sit there, they should be sent to the National Archives. After that, there may be state secrets. They too, of course, can be transferred to the SRI Archive or held in a Justice Ministry archive,” he said.
A final category of documents Tudorel Toader said he found inside the archive of the Justice Ministry’s former intelligence service consists of documents that may be classified documents.
“Based on the principle of symmetry – the one who does something can undo it –, the Justice Ministry, if it was the one that classified them on seeing their contents, can declassify them and what it finds there is to be once again distributed into categories. It may be information concerning the committal of a crime, and then it has the obligation to notify the prosecutor. It may be information concerning private life, and then it allows them to recall instances from their private lives; at any rate, after three months, the information concerning private life will be destroyed, in line with the GD in force,” Toader added.
“No clear record of those entering the SIPA archive. I have info on those who entered it without ORNISS certificate and I’ve notified DIICOT”
Present before the committee of inquiry into the SIPA archive on Thursday, Justice Minister Tudorel Toader also stated that he finds it unnatural that there is no clear record of the persons who entered the SIPA archive over the years and of whether they had certificates issued by the National Registry Office for Classified Information (ORNISS) or not. He explained he requested and received information on persons that entered the archive of the Justice Ministry’s former intelligence service without having ORNISS certificates, information that he has sent to the Directorate for the Investigation of Organised Crime and Terrorism (DIICOT).
“I’ve asked ORNISS – ‘please tell me if this or that person had a certificate on the date on which they entered the archive or not.’ And they answered. But the Justice Minister does not file charges. So then, in order to protect myself and to observe the law and my prerogatives, I didn’t publicly state that that person entered and had [a certificate], the other person entered and didn’t have one, the other person entered three times and on one occasion they had a certificate but on two occasions they didn’t. I knew, we all knew, that DIICOT was notified about guilty acts concerning the SIPA archive. I talked with the chief prosecutor and I sent him a cover letter informing him what others had informed me about: who entered the archive, what the ANP says about the certificates, what the Justice Ministry says, what ORNISS says,” Toader told the members of the parliamentary committee of inquiry into the SIPA archive.
“I talked with the chief prosecutor [of DIICOT] about that photocopy machine too; he said he’ll send someone to verify whether it’s sealed and to examine it. From now on it’s their business,” Toader added.
The Justice Minister said he finds it unnatural for the National Penitentiary Administration (ANP) not to have a record of the persons who entered the SIPA archive.
“There’s one thing I don’t find natural: the fact that I asked the ANP leadership: those who were entering the archive, how were they doing it? Were they showing up with the order in hand? Saying: I’m Popescu, the order empowers me to enter, I have an ORNISS certificate. And the guard there, did he have a book of entry in which he wrote: Mr Popescu, empowered by order so-and-so, arrived at the archive at this hour and left the archive at that hour. Whether he arrived alone or whether there was two of them, having for each of them a column with the time of arrival and time of departure. They said: we don’t have such a thing. It can’t be, it’s unimaginable. At a military unit within the ANP centre, in an archive everyone is talking all sorts of things about. How were they getting in? They said: they were coming with the order on them, showing the order and leaving. At what time were they arriving? At whatever time they did. And at what time were they leaving? At whatever time they did. And you were not writing this down? No. And do we know how many times they entered [the archive]? Do we have a book of entry? We don’t. I believe this is absolutely unnatural,” Tudorel Toader added.
“After a while, the ANP Director told me he found four registries of those who… I looked at them, I don’t know if they’re complete, you’ll see,” the Justice Minister concluded.
Four ex-Justice Minister to be summoned before SIPA inquiry cttee. Cttee members to visit archive
Serban Nicolae, Chairman of the parliamentary committee of inquiry into the SIPA archive, announced that next Wednesday, starting at 10 a.m., four former Justice Ministers who held office from 2004 to 2008 (Cristian Diaconescu, Monica Macovei, Tudor Chiuariu and Catalin Predoiu) will be invited before the committee, to be heard in connection with the archive of the Justice Ministry’s former intelligence service.
He said that, at the end of that day, the members of the committee will pay a visit to the ANP headquarters, where the SIPA archive is stored, in order to form an impression about the way such documents are stored, about the access area, the security measures taken.
“Among other things, we also must verify whether the relevant institutions or random observers noted any security incidents: unauthorised persons that gained access, persons that tried to take out, destroy or copy documents from the archive of this institution, or to manipulate in any other way the information contained there. (…) We should form an impression about the way this space was used: how it was arranged, what security measures were taken, surveillance cameras, security personnel, number of access points and so on,” Seban Nicolae added.
At the end of September, the joint plenum of the Lower House and the Senate approved the setting up of a parliamentary committee of inquiry into the SIPA archive.