Polish security minister to clear out thousands of staff

A legislative proposal from Mariusz Kamiński the minister responsible for the security services if implemented could lead to the purge of many thousands of staff. It does so by denying access to protected information for those who served in the services during communist times, reports portal dziennik.pl.

At the moment many of them are working in the security services, the army and private security companies. Denying them access to protected information could end their careers. In order to work in the security services, police, army or businesses such as the defence industry, security guards and detective agencies it is necessary to be certified for access to protected information.

The government is pressing ahead with the legislation in order to make sweeping changes in security personnel. No one who served in the secret services or was their informer before 1989 will be able to obtain clearance for access to protected information. Many of these individuals were verified for further service in the secret services and allowed to stay post-1989. This will now change.

The opposition is criticising the measure as being too sweeping. They also point out that many such people have contributed to the development of Polish security forces since 1989 and it would be unfair to now retrospectively punish them. Some people working within the security industry argue that this measure will remove any competition for security jobs for those who had no pre-1989 record.

Another chapter in the decommunisation saga

The arguments on what should have happened at the end of communism in Poland in the security services, police and the military have been going on for decades. Law and Justice (PiS) politicians have always argued that there should be a mass clear out of those who served those services under communist rule and those who were informers of the secret police. Politicians with their roots in the previous system and liberals have tended to take a different view, arguing that there was a need to co-opt such people as long as they did not commit serious crimes.

Poland in the 1990s was not in the forefront of clearing out its military and security services. These processes ran much deeper in Germany where the take-over of East Germany by its western neighbour resulted in making security police files public and a mass clear-out of former Stasi staff.

Commentary

Mr Kamiński’s proposal is radical. Many feel that it is long overdue. Former communist officials have done very well in democratic Poland in the worlds of business, judiciary, finance, media and the security services. This led to a feeling of an injustice being done that they became the main beneficiaries of the freedom and democracy they once sought to suppress.

But there is also a strong security argument which will be made in favour of the changes. The communist security services were always strongly connected with the Russians. Now that Russia is a country which is hostile to Poland and Poland is in a western military alliance it may wish to minimise the risk of old ties resurfacing.

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