The Levels of National Security Clearance and What You Should Know In Order to Avoid a Clearance Denial

Understanding the various levels of security clearance available and what each level entails can help you facilitate the application process when applying for national security clearance. More importantly, it can help you avoid a national clearance denial.

In the federal government, there are three categories of clearance. These can be classified as non-sensitive, public trust, and national security positions. Depending on what position is being applied for, a different level of security clearance will need to be requested.

The Five Levels of National Security Clearance

In the federal government, there are different degrees of sensitive information that can only be accessible to individuals on a “need to know” basis. Attaining a higher level of clearance can provide you with access to information that can only be accessed by a select group of people.

The following are the five levels of national security clearance.

  1. Top Secret Clearance – A person who has been able to obtain a top secret level of national security clearance has essentially demonstrated an unwavering sense of trustworthiness and loyalty, along demonstrating the ability to uphold high ethical standards. Holders of Top Secret Clearance have also generally agreed to keep all private, personal, and confidential information safe and secure.
  2. Secret Clearance – This level of security clearance is commonly referred to as Ordinary Secret. Similar to the Top Secret Clearance, Secret Clearance usually involves a certain degree of military involvement in the security clearance process. Individuals who have this form of clearance can significantly affect the nation’s security if sensitive information is related without pre-authorization.
  3. Confidential Clearance – A majority of military personnel will hold this level of security clearance. This level of clearance provides access to information that could be potentially damaging to the nation’s security if released without the proper authorization.
  4. Q Clearances – The aforementioned security clearances are used by a majority of federal government agencies. Nonetheless, the government offers two other levels of clearance, which includes the Q Clearance. Q Clearances allows access to information up to and possibly including Top Secret information. This level of clearance will come with a special designation to “restricted data”, and will also include specially cleared Q security areas.
  5. L Clearances – L Clearances are offered by the Department of Energy and provide access to sensitive data that may also include Top Secret information. This clearance can come with a designation of “formerly restricted data” that includes certain “limited” areas.

What the National Clearance Qualification Process Entails

There are a wide range of jobs that may require the need to obtain a national security clearance. Depending on the level of security clearance, certain amounts of sensitive information may be accessed. When applying for national security clearance, you can expect a thorough criminal and personal investigation, which is a process that will commence with the filing of the Standard Form 86, or SF-86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions. In order to understand the entire process and to ensure your application is free from avoidable mistakes, speak to an experienced attorney.

The attorneys at the Brett O’Brien Law, LLC, are highly skilled in the field of national security clearances. If you are applying for a federal position that requires you to file an SF-86, it is critical that you understand the process in order to avoid a clearance denial. In the event that you have previously applied and have received a notice of revocation, you are entitled to an appeal. Contact our attorneys today for a free case consultation.

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