Three Levels of Security Clearance

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Three Levels of Security Clearance

levels-of-security-clearanceWhen it comes to classified information, there are three levels of security clearance, each with their own responsibilities and different levels of access to information. The process for acquiring the clearance is the same, and it all starts with the Personal Screening, Consent and Authorization form. This reliability status is a prerequisite for all levels of security clearance and functions as the first level in the hierarchy of personal screening. Reliability Status (RS) grants the right to access documents that are protected with A, B, & C information, usually only accessed on a need-to-know basis. The reliability status is conducted by verifying personal data, conducting a full background check, and investigating references from an educational and professional background. Sometimes, a fingerprint check and credit check are requested, but not always required.

This Reliability Status is the lowest level of access available and is deemed mandatory when duties or tasks of a position or contract require access to protected information and assets, regardless of the duration of the assignment. Reliability Status is not considered security clearance, but instead, can be seen as a prerequisite for all clearances.
Access to more sensitive information, sites or assets requires a job candidate to go though the security clearance process, starting with the Security Clearance form. There are three levels of security clearance.


Confidential security clearance is the first level, a step above Reliability Status. In addition the RS checks, they may interview immediate relatives, check in with foreign employments and investigate all marriages or common-law relationships. All of these must be declared prior to investigation.

Confidential Security Clearance is the most basic level of security clearance and is granted to the majority of military personnel. The information available within a confidential security clearance is reasonably expected to cause damage to national security if disclosed to unauthorized sources. This clearance level needs to be renewed and reinvestigated every 15 years.


Secret Security Clearance is level two in the hierarchy. In order to be granted Secret Security Clearance, one must pass all requirements for RS and Confidential Security clearance as well as a more in depth investigation in personal history, finance, relationships and conduct.

The information that is classified as Secret is expected to cause severe damage to national security if released to those without clearance. This clearance level needs to be renewed and reinvestigated every 10 years.

Top Secret

Top Secret clearance is the highest level of classified information and protects information that could cause potentially grave damage to our national security if intercepted by unauthorized individuals. This clearance is granted only to those individuals who have passed the required clearances for RS, Confidential and Secret clearance investigations. In addition to all of the background investigations involved in Secret Clearance, Top Secret requires a deeply thorough investigation into foreign travel, assets, character references and a field check prior to granting clearance. Often, a polygraph will also be administered.

Top secret clearance has to be renewed and reinvestigated every five years and are only granted and renewed on a need-to-know basis.

Thousands of individuals rely on their security clearance to earn a living in the military and government sector, and those who feel they have been wrongly denied security clearance may be able to appeal the decision and regain the right to perform in their field. Call The Edmunds Law Firm today to schedule your free case analysis.

By | 2011-05-25T10:50:05+00:00 May 25th, 2011|

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