What Is a Top Secret Clearance?

흥신소 A top-secret clearance, or Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI), enables access to highly classified information. Cleared workers must follow rules that are laid out in Executive Orders and Federal law.


Those seeking to obtain a top secret clearance must fill out the Standard Form 86, a lengthy questionnaire about personal and professional history. The process also includes extensive record checks and interviews of neighbors and acquaintances.

Background Investigations

The security clearance process provides a thorough examination of your character, finances, patriotism and trustworthiness. Investigators review information on your national record checks and conduct interviews with people who know you. Generally, investigators look at your personal history from the past five to seven years. Investigators also interview your developed character and employment references, as well as perform more in-depth interviews on a case-by-case basis. If you are seeking a Top Secret clearance or participating in special access programs, investigators will do more in-depth field work, including analyzing your social media accounts and conducting public records searches at rental offices, law enforcement agencies, banks, credit bureaus, employers and schools.

Investigators will check to see if your name and Social Security Number appear on any list of known terrorists, convicted felons or other high-risk individuals. They will also look at your education, employment and military background, and examine any international travel or foreign contacts you have. Generally, a few minor blemishes on your record won’t disqualify you, but a history of drug or alcohol abuse, financial instability or serious mental illness may be a red flag for the investigation. It’s important to answer all questions on the questionnaire truthfully. If investigators discover you’ve omitted or misrepresented information, it could delay the process and possibly result in an adverse adjudicative decision.

Reliability Status

Top secret clearance 흥신소 is a level of security that allows people to access information that the government deems highly sensitive. This information could have serious ramifications for the nation’s security if it were disclosed to the wrong person. The information can only be accessed by people who have a “need to know” and who are granted a clearance that allows them access to this information.

Getting a top secret clearance requires a higher level of investigation than a confidential or secret clearance. It also requires a special SF-86 form that asks questions about an individual’s finances, foreign travel and assets. It is not unusual for the government to find issues in the background investigation that can impede someone’s ability to obtain this clearance. These issues can be anything from false information on a background check form to drug use or alcohol abuse to associations with terrorists and other groups.

In order to obtain a top secret clearance, an employee must first get a reliable status clearance from CSIS. This involves verification of identity, background, credentials, finances, character references, a law enforcement inquiry and an open source inquiry. They also have to take a polygraph examination and complete a security assessment. This is an extensive process that takes a lot of time, but it can lead to some lucrative opportunities for those who have the right skills and can pass these tests.

Access Requirements

A federal agency’s security staff can only grant a clearance to someone with both the appropriate level of sensitivity and a need to know the information. Even a top-secret clearance cannot give access to all classified information; only certain levels of information are classified as sensitive, such as Confidential, Secret and Top Secret.

The sensitivity and risk levels of a position determine the type of investigation required, with lower-level positions receiving less intrusive investigations than higher-level ones. In general, the higher the level of clearance needed, the more interviews are conducted. This allows investigators to confirm information on your application and discover things that would have slipped through automated systems.

Applicants for a Top Secret clearance must complete the Standard Form (SF) 86, which requires extensive personal information, including details of previous jobs and relationships. SF-86 also asks for answers to questions related to criminal records and terrorist activities.

The Department of Defense (DoD) issues about 88 percent of the nation’s security clearances. For DoD civilians, military personnel and contractors with a clearance, the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Activity Consolidated Adjudications Facility (CAF) makes decisions about denials, revocations and continued eligibility for a clearance. If the CAF decides that an individual should not have a clearance, he or she can appeal to the appropriate DoD or military service Personal Security Appeal Board.


In addition to a more in-depth investigation than is required for a Secret clearance, people who hold a Top Secret clearance must be willing to cooperate fully with investigators and be trustworthy. Unlike a clearance at the Confiential level, it does not include access to information protected by Special Access Programs (SAPs), such as Sensitive Compartment Information (SCI) or Restricted Data (RD).

Cleared federal contractors and former military personnel who work with classified information must also sign a statement agreeing to comply with the restrictions of the Official Secrets Act. Cleared personnel who have a federal job with security requirements are commonly required to sign this statement when they first get the position and then again at regular intervals while working on sensitive national security projects.

In addition to completing the SF-86 and cooperating with investigators, a person who wants a Top Secret clearance must be prepared to undergo Tier 5 reinvestigation at five-year intervals. This type of reinvestigation replaced the SSBI (Single Scope Background Investigation) in October 2016. It is also needed for people who have DOE “Q” access authorizations, SCI access or some other SAP access or who occupy critical sensitive positions. This level of investigation is more extensive than the SSBI and may include an expanded subject interview or an Expandable Focused Investigation, as well as foreign travels, asset checks and field investigations, in order to develop all potentially relevant information for adjudicative consideration.