As defined by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation, a Secret security clearance enables an individual to read or be briefed about national security information (on a “need to know” basis) with a Confidential or Secret classification. It differs from Top Secret clearance in that individuals with the latter clearance can enter FBI facilities without an escort, as well as having access to Top Secret information. To obtain a Secret security clearance, you must first have been hired for a government job (or a job with a civilian company that works with the government) that requires it. The Department of Defense will ask you to provide some background information and then it will perform the investigation. The process usually takes from 1-3 months.
Standard Form 86
The Standard Form 86 (SF 86) is available at your local FBI Field Office. SF 86 is entitled the “Questionnaire for National Security Positions,” and it is a 19-page form containing questions about your background. It asks for your Social Security number to establish your identity in their records,and asks questions about such things as prior court actions against you, your police record, your financial records, drug and alcohol use, your mental health, travel and contacts outside the U.S., employment and military history. It also asks for the names and addresses of several friends and family members who can vouch for you. The SF 86 must be typed or filled out in ink; in some cases you may be asked to submit it electronically.
Document FD-258 is the FBI applicant fingerprint card and you will need to let them take your fingerprints on an FD-258 at your local FBI field office. They will use this card to see if your prints are on file with the Federal Fingerprint Tracking System.
The FBI will do a records check with your local law enforcement agency and with other federal agencies such as the Defense Department, the FBI investigations database and the fingerprint database. It will also check your credit history. Though “glitches” in some of these areas will not necessarily automatically disqualify you from obtaining a Secret security clearance, they will make the investigation take longer.
You may be interviewed by the investigators, as well as members of your family and your friends. The purpose of these interviews is to determine whether you are honest, trustworthy, level-headed and loyal to the United States. You may be asked to bring identification to your interview, such as a driver’s license, birth certificate or passport. The investigators may also want to see documents pertaining to information you provided on your SF 86, such as divorce records or bankruptcy papers. They will let you know what to bring when they set up the interview.
If the investigation results in you being granted a Secret clearance, you will be asked to sign a non-disclosure agreement. This agreement states that you will comply with federal standards for protecting classified information and that, at the termination of your employment, you will return all classified information that may be in your possession to your former employer.