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The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) only shares certain information regarding national security with specially chosen officials who have security clearance. There are three levels of security clearance in the United States: confidential, secret and top secret. Top secret clearance is the highest security clearance level in the United States, and only individuals with this classification are privy to the most sensitive information within the United States government. People with top secret security clearance have access to “need-to-know” information that other law enforcement personnel do not.
Origins of Security Clearance
Executive Order 10450 gave certain United States agencies the legal right to determine who is trustworthy enough to have access to sensitive government information. Executive Order 10450 was signed into legislation by President Dwight D. Eisenhower on April 17, 1952. Each government agency that provides top secret clearance has the obligation to ensure that recipients are loyal to the United States, display good character and conduct, and pose no threat to national security.
Federal Agency Approval
Only federal government agencies can provide someone with top secret security clearance. These include federal law enforcement agencies (DEA, NCIS, FBI and Secret Service personnel), intelligence gathering agencies (NSA and CIA), diplomatic agencies (State Department) and civilian military agencies (DIA and DSS). Certain organizations such as research facilities and think tanks can also provide top secret security clearance, but only if they have a contract with a federal agency that is authorized to provide the clearance.
Top Secret Clearance Eligibility
In order to be eligible for top secret security clearance, you must be a United States citizen. You cannot simply apply for top secret clearance; the agency for which you are applying will determine which positions require top secret clearance. When you apply for one of these positions, an extensive background investigation will be conducted to determine if you are right for the position. Limited access to some information may also be granted temporarily to foreign national employees in rare circumstances.
Obtaining Top Secret Clearance
The process of obtaining top secret security clearance involves a comprehensive background investigation. Research is conducted to discover a person’s criminal history, as well as their credit history. United States citizenship will be verified, along with birth date, education and employment history, military service and residence. Interviews may be conducted with an individual’s family, spouse, neighbors and co-workers. Public records are searched for divorces or civil actions. Medical history may be reviewed if the individual has a history or substance abuse or mental illness. The candidate will also be involved in a personal interview.