Saturday, August 18, 2018

CLEARANCES don't equate to ACCESS

It's a SECURITY LEVEL, not a Clearance!

We keep seeing this drivel on the concept of CLEARANCES and Trump's canceling of Brennan's CLEARANCE, and suddenly, everyone who can spell it is suddenly an EXPERT.

A clearance is like a driver's license; you are tested, you are then granted authority for ACCESS to restricted information ranging from FOUO to Top Secret/SCI.

Our experience derives from commanding a unit composed of Intelligence Special Agents who trained others and conducted background investigations to determine the suitability of candidates for CLEARANCES, and all that entails.

We will now share with you the exciting details of what a CLEARANCE entails so you can SHARE with all the EXPERTS with whom you come in contact, and recognize the depths of buffoonery you see on all the "news" programs.

1) US Citizens [and an occasional foreign national] are eligible for a CLEARANCE adjudication. 

2) To obtain a CLEARANCE, one undergoes a background investigation, ranging from a LAC [Local Agency Check] and/or NAC [National Agency Check] to determine if one has a criminal or subversive background and is suitable for a position of Trust and Responsibility in the Military or in the Government, even for the lowest ACCESS.

 A two-year SPECIAL BACKGROUND INVESTIGATION [SBI] may determine if one qualifies and be ADJUDICATED for Top Secret/SCI ACCESS, and categories above.

[Notably,the background investigation on Senator Obama produced a recommendation 
that he not be granted a Clearance due to his association with known terrorists, and the 
lack of true documentation on his personal history; as such, he was denied access to 
classified information while he was in the Senate. As POTUS, he became the ultimate 
adjudicator and declared ACCESS for himself -- although much 
Intelligence was withheld from him] 

3) The CLEARANCE means you have passed the first level of the background investigation, when the investigator determines that one is recommended
"... for a position of TRUST AND RESPONSIBILITY.

the recommendation is downgraded to UNSUITABLE, and all ACCESSES are revoked!

The dividing line here is ACCESS! The CLEARANCE procedure allows the adjudicator to open the door to varying levels of ACCESS on the basis of NEED TO KNOW.

[As some of you may recall, Top Secret ACCESS was afforded, by Obama, to his driver, whom he then appointed to the National Security Council.]


1) FOUO: Basic administrative data pertaining to employees, their addresses and phone numbers.

2) CONFIDENTIAL [US or NATO], routinely granted to the lowest level of employment on the basis of exposure to some sensitive data -- e.g., family information of officials; basic information on Military units or logistics; SOPs, etc., generally it is information which is preferable to not release in the public domain.
[unauthorized release is punishable by fines and/or imprisonment]

3) SECRET,  (US or NATO)which entails occasional exposure to SENSITIVE material, the exposure of which could damage national security. There are multiple categories and compartments here, to include NOFORN (No Foreign Dissemination), LIMDIS [Limited Distribution], EYES ONLY (limited to only a few recipients],  etc.

4) TOP SECRET [there are multiple categories/compartments here].
ACCESS is restricted to a small percentage of those with CLEARANCES FOR ACCESS TO EXTREMELY SENSITIVE INFORMATION.  This category requires extensive background checks [SSBI], although a SECRET clearance can be administratively upgraded to a Top Secret level of ACCESS by a commander or senior executive

[For Example:
PVT Manning: Sex Change
Get Out of Jail Free!
Private Bradley Manning's clearance allowed him to access Confidential information, but was administratively upgraded to SECRET by his unit commander in the 10th Mountain Division to process Intelligence information. 

Another administrative order inexplicably upgraded his ACCESS to Top Secret/SCI, during which he illegally delivered hundreds of thousands of classified documents to Wikileaks; he was court-martialed and sentenced to 35 years in prison -- but was pardoned by President Obama.  

Manning's chain of command suffered no punishment for their laxity in management of Top Secret Intelligence Information; that criminal case has yet to be pursued, although the 10th Mountain Division also produced the series of Commandants and Superintendents of West Point which allowed communists to matriculate and be commissioned]

5) SCI (Sensitive Compartmented Intelligence [restrictions are based on Methods & Sources of the Intelligence]. Each compartment requires a "Read-In"and brief, with a signed Non-Disclosure Agreement [NDA] as it reveals the Method of Collection of this Intelligence.
Unauthorized disclosure has penalties in excess of $10,000 and/or 10 or more years in prison.

 6) SAP (Special Access Program) One step above TS/SCI, requiring special conditions for ACCESS, frequently requiring a polygraph examination, and further background checks and updates.

7) Other [Special Access Black Programs]
An Adjudicator determines the CLEARANCE level of ACCESS. Another level of Adjudicator will determine ACCESS based on "NEED TO KNOW". These programs are conducted in the Special Operations arena, or, in highly technical operations (e.g., Project Blue Book).
The Need to Know caveat is extremely restrictive, and US Presidents [including Carter, Clinton, and Obama] were excluded from most of those programs.

The POTUS does not determine Clearances, or revoke them. It's an Administrative process.
On occasion, the POTUS will determine special ACCESS, and he can end that as well. To be clear, former Presidents and political appointees do not need Clearances to be granted ACCESS after they leave office.  In effect, the current POTUS can grant ACCESS if the expertise of these individuals is needed.  [Mr Kissinger should never be granted such access].

No further ACCESS for Brennan
In Brennan's case, Mr Trump simply cuts off his ACCESS, as he should to all former government executives and appointees.  He should also suspend "Clearance" granted to companies spawned by Obama appointees [e.g., Brennan and Clapper] to ensure they do not obtain ACCESS to classified material.

Jimmy Carter once granted ACCESS to a Colombian national on loan to the State Department; to our  horror, he was granted ACCESS to the Bureau of Intelligence & Research [INR] Library where he was reading highly restricted Intelligence reports; when we complained to the Librarian, he advised that Carter himself had granted ACCESS - even though it was a national security violation.

As Editor of the Black Book at the Pentagon, our access was virtually unlimited since a NEED TO KNOW existed about the Intelligence we reported in the Black Book - each level of which was tailored to meet the NEED TO KNOW ACCESS of groups of recipients, all of whom had ACCESS to Top Secret Intelligence, but, each group had levels of ACCESS to certain types of Intelligence based on SOURCES and METHODS of collection.

Very often, we would determine the NEED TO KNOW of the members of the group, which include senior flag rank officers and senior executives. 

Before retiring, we were offered the position of Inspector General of the BLACK PROGRAMs reporting to only one Assistant Secretary of Defense. On the advice of a close friend, we turned down the position since our friend advised that virtually all of those who had held the position were deceased -- indicating that, once one's NEED TO KNOW expired, one's utility expires as well.  [Our friend died of an incurable decease the following year].

We recommend to Mr Trump that he REVOKE ACCESS to ALL former Obama appointees, to include Admiral McRaven, who has now disgraced himself in the National Security Arena.


Under the Obama Administration, background investigations were contracted out to private company [USIS]; the investigations generally consisted of a quick phone call to a listed friend or neighbor asking if they would recommend the subject for a clearance. 
According to DOJ charges, USIS conducted 665,000 fake background checks between 2008 and 2012.

Among the USIS background checks were 3,900 IRS employees.