Government security clearances have become quite the hot topic of conversation and it has revealed just how little the average American knows about them. Most Americans were unaware that any ex-officials continued to hold clearances after they retired and the controversy has inevitably raised the question why that should be so.
For those that do not know, security clearances are for individuals who need access to classified information and that could be for a variety of reasons. Those individuals undergo a background check and their “personal and professional history affirmatively indicates loyalty to the United States, a strength of character, trustworthiness, honesty, reliability, discretion, and sound judgment,” according to an executive order pertaining to access to classified information.
Aside from allegiance to America, officials also look at sexual behavior, financial situations, alcohol and drug use, mental health and potential foreign influences when making the determination if a person will be granted a security clearance in a complex and detailed process. The form to be filled out requesting such a clearance is more than 100 pages in length, and investigators interview the individual applying as well as friends, family, and other references. Some agencies such as the CIA and FBI can also require individuals to sit for a polygraph test.
But also linked to that security clearance is a “need to know” in terms of what kind of information should or could be accessed. For instance, this means if you are John Brennan and no longer working as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency you do not necessarily need to know anything about China’s spying on the United States. Or do you?
As Zero Hedge notes, “if you transition into a directorship or staff position of a major intelligence or security contractor, which many retirees do, you might need to retain the qualification for your job, which makes the clearance an essential component in the notorious revolving door whereby government officials transit to the private sector and then directly lobby their former colleagues to keep the flow of cash coming.