Top Secret America: Security Cleared Population Tops 4.8 Million


The Department of Defense is now reportedly watching the news for any possible leaks of classified information. Perhaps, they should first take a look at the massive size national security state and re-evaluate. As Guerrilla Blog previously reported, the United States is spending billions of dollars per year to protect classified information. According to a report by the Information Security Oversight Office it cost $11 billion per year, and that doesn’t include the cost of protecting the secrets of spy agencies such as the National Security Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency.

Of course the difficulty of protecting classified information depends on how many people have access to that information. According to a new report, the number of people who have security clearances and access to the nation’s secrets is at the high number ever. As of the beginning of the fiscal year, 4.8 million individuals hold security clearances compared to 4.2 million in 2010 (which was later revised to 4.7 million). The Federation of American Scientists reports that these two reports are the first of their kind and actually suggest a new level of transparency:

The total clearance figure is composed of cleared government employees and contractors, at all clearance levels — Confidential, Secret and Top Secret. (The number of Top Secret clearances alone was over 1.4 million.) It includes all persons who have been cleared for access to classified information whether or not they have actually been granted such access. While the total reported figures are “likely to include some duplicate entries,” the report explains, efforts have been made to eliminate them and only “a minimal number of duplicates” remain.

The annual report on security clearances was required by Congress in the FY2010 Intelligence Authorization Act. It represents a new degree of transparency in national security classification policy. Until the first report was issued last year, only rough estimates of the size of the cleared population were available, and those estimates proved to be unreliable.

The latest ten-page report includes numerous details that are ordinarily withheld from public disclosure, whether they are classified or not. For example, the new report indicates that 5.3% of the security clearance cases that CIA processed last year resulted in denial of clearance. At NSA, the number of denials reached 8.0%.

Six of the seven intelligence community agencies that do their own clearance adjudications reported that they had cases that had been open for more than one year, the report said. The number of pending security clearance cases at CIA requiring more than one year to complete was 3,755 for government employees, and 732 for contractors.

Read more at Secrecy News.

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