Some individuals working for the federal government – whether direct employees or contractors – may need access to classified national security information to do their jobs. If the information gets into the hands of the wrong person, it can be detrimental to the safety of the people of this nation. Because of this, before a person may have access to classified documents, they must receive a security clearance. Getting clearance requires an extensive investigative process to determine the individual’s trustworthiness. Unfortunately, some people might be denied security clearance for several reasons. Still, they can appeal the decision to prevent them from missing out on an employment opportunity.
Why Do Some Jobs Require Security Clearance?
Certain direct and contractor positions in the federal government require an individual to gain access to national security information that is typically confidential or classified. Having reliable and trustworthy individuals with security clearance allows employers to safeguard sensitive data that could pose a national security risk if leaked to the wrong sources.
A security clearance evaluates an applicant's loyalty and integrity. The process helps ensure that a person won't misuse or divulge national security information on purpose and is trustworthy enough to handle the data responsibly. Therefore, ensuring only qualified people have access to important national security information can help protect our country's national interests.
How Do You Get Security Clearance?
If you want a certain position within a government agency, you cannot first apply for security clearance and then for the job. The employer must make you a provisional employment offer conditioned upon completing the security clearance process.
At that point, you must complete the Standard Form 86 (SF86). The document contains various questions concerning your personal and professional life, such as your criminal history and marital/relationship status.
Once you submit the form, an agency will conduct a background check, which may include records reviews and interviews with you, your family, and your associates. The investigator will compare the information they receive with the details you provided on your SF86. The scope of the investigation will depend on the level of security clearance you need for your position.
The background check information will be sent to the agency you are seeking a job which determines your eligibility for security clearance.
Does a Security Clearance Allow You Access to All Classified Materials?
Being granted security clearance does not mean that you can access all classified materials. Two factors will affect what information you can receive. First is the need-to-know element. You can only get certain information if it’s necessary for you to perform job-related tasks.
Second is the level of security clearance you have.
The three levels are as follows:
- Top secret: This is the highest level. It is reserved for information that could cause “exceptionally grave damage to national security.”
- Secret: Materials in this classification could cause “serious damage to national security.”
- Confidential: This information could cause “damage to national security.”
You can only access materials in the same or a lower classification than the security level you have. For instance, if you have Secret clearance, you may receive Secret or Confidential information, provided that it’s required for your job.
Can Security Clearance Be Denied?
Yes, security clearance can be denied. Denials often occur because of inaccurate information or incomplete forms. They may also happen if the applicant’s trustworthiness has been deemed too low.
If your security clearance was denied, don’t be discouraged. You can appeal the decision by requesting a hearing. At the hearing, you can present information about why you feel the denial was unwarranted and provide documents and evidence supporting your claims.
A Lawyer Can Help with the Security Clearance Process
Whether you are just getting started on applying for security clearance or your application has been denied, it’s a good idea to contact an attorney for help. They can deliver the insights and assistance you need to prepare your forms or develop your appeal.
At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we handle every stage of the security clearance process. Call us at (877) 362-3176 or contact us online today.