By Debbie Gregory.
A security clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information or to restricted areas.
A security clearance alone does not grant an individual access to specific classified materials. Rather, a security clearance means that an individual is eligible for access. In order to gain access to specific classified materials, an individual should also have a demonstrated “need to know” the classified information for his or her position and policy area responsibilities.
There are three levels of security clearances: Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret, which correspond to the levels of sensitivity of the information that a cleared individual will be eligible to access.
The process to obtain a security clearance must be initiated by a sponsoring federal agency and is usually paid for by the requesting agency.
The determination of whether the granting or continuing of eligibility for a security clearance is based upon careful consideration of 13 guidelines:
(1) allegiance to the United States; any act , association or sympathy that aims to overthrow the Government of the United States or alter the form of government by unconstitutional means.
(2) foreign influence; potential for foreign influence that could result in the compromise of classified information.
(3) foreign preference; any indication of a preference for a foreign country over the United States.
(4) sexual behavior that involves any criminal offense.
(5) personal conduct; refusing cooperation for any required testing, questioning or paperwork.
(6) financial considerations; financially overextended to be at risk of having to engage in illegal acts to generate funds.
(7) alcohol consumption; in excess, which could lead to bad judgement.
(8) drug involvement; could lead to impaired social or occupational functioning.
(9) emotional, mental, and personality disorders;
(10) criminal conduct; creates doubt about a person’s judgment, reliability and trustworthiness.
(11) security violations; raise doubts about an individual’s trustworthiness, willingness, and ability to safeguard classified information.
(12) outside activities; especially those relating to foreign interests
(13) misuse of information technology systems; compromised ability to properly protect classified systems, networks, and information.