Understanding the Different Levels of Security Clearance

Security clearance is approval from the government for a worker or contractor to access classified information. Three security clearance levels exist: Confidential (low), Secret (medium), and Top Secret (high). Regardless of the level, those intending to work for the government must undergo a rigorous background check and be deemed trustworthy and reliable. Any misconduct could lead to a denial or revocation of security clearance, affecting an individual’s career. Getting legal support is vital, whether seeking a particular security clearance level or contesting a revocation or denial.

Discuss your situation with our team at Claery & Hammond, LLP by calling us at (877) 362-3176 or contacting us online today.

Why Is Security Clearance Needed?

Security clearance is an essential part of working with confidential or sensitive information. It is necessary for government employees and contractors, military personnel, and other individuals who may be exposed to classified material.

Before being granted security clearance, workers must undergo a screening process to assess their criminal history, financial records, employment, psychological state, and other aspects of their lives.

The scrutiny required for security clearance allows the government to protect critical information and keep it from falling into the wrong hands. In other words, only those the government deems trustworthy can access confidential data, systems, and facilities.

The Security Clearance Levels

Different security clearance levels can be assigned depending on the type of information a worker needs to access and its potential impact to national security.

These levels include the following:

  • Confidential: This is the lowest security clearance level. The information workers might handle could damage national security. These individuals are restricted to basic systems, facilities, and data.
  • Secret: This is the middle security clearance level. The materials pose a more serious risk to national safety. Thus, workers are allowed access to only moderate levels of information, systems, and facilities.
  • Top Secret: This is the highest security level. Information getting into the wrong hands would pose a grave threat to national security. Individuals granted Top Secret clearance can access higher-level systems, facilities, and materials.

Having a specific security clearance does not necessarily mean that a worker will have full access to all information. They can only obtain materials up to their granted security level. Additionally, they will only receive data if it is needed to do their job.

What Are the Requirements for Obtaining Security Clearance?

To obtain any security clearance, a worker or contractor must undergo an extensive background check. Generally, the investigation involves examining all aspects of a person’s life and an interview.

The extent of review for each security level varies, depending on the sensitivity of the information that person will access. For instance, those applying for Top Secret clearance typically undergo a more rigorous screening process than those applying for Confidential security clearance.

Additionally, those with Top Secret clearance must be reinvestigated every 5 years. In comparison, Secret security clearances need to be reinvestigated only every 10 years.

Possible Consequences If Security Clearance Is Denied or Revoked

Losing or not being granted security clearance can be tough. A denial or revocation can happen if the individual is alleged to have engaged in misconduct, such as lying on the application or being convicted of a crime after clearance is granted.

If security clearance is denied or revoked, the individual will receive a statement of reasons specifying why the decision was made. The individual can submit a response to the notification, contesting the adverse action.

An adjudicating authority will review all information concerning the denial or revocation and may decide to uphold or reverse the action. The individual may appeal the decision if the denial or revocation is maintained. Whatever the appeal board finds will be final.

Get Legal Help with Your Security Clearance Matter

Obtaining or retaining security clearance, regardless of the level, can be intimidating. However, you do not have to go through it alone. With the assistance of an experienced attorney, navigating the application or appeal process can go much smoother. Your lawyer will understand the laws and regulations concerning this area and can provide informed counsel regarding your options.

At Claery & Hammond, LLP, we provide legal help with security clearance nationwide. Schedule a consultation by contacting us at (877) 362-3176.