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Security Clearance

A security clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information. Those trying to get a clearance may have questions such as how does one go about attaining a clearance? And, what are the different levels? As well as other questions. This area will allow those that have clearances offer advice and suggestions to those inquiring about clearances or upgrading their clearances.

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#1 Posted : Saturday, April 03, 2010 8:38:46 AM(UTC)

Rank: Newbie

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Joined: 4/3/2010(UTC)
Posts: 7

Hi , I am looking for knowledge.
What are the differences between the clearance levels? 
Is there a 'cliff notes ' version in "non-legalese" of the meanings ?
For example what is Public Trust clearance vs Secret clearance?
Are there extra questions or processes involved?
How do you know what clearance level that you currently hold - if the organization that you work for just states " you have been vetted"  welcome aboard.
thank you for the learning experience!
#2 Posted : Monday, April 05, 2010 3:08:16 AM(UTC)

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Joined: 11/10/2009(UTC)
Posts: 1,087

Dear Jayhawk,
In very general terms.
there are 3 levels of secuirty clearances (Confidential, Secret & Top Secret).
-A Confidential is good for 15 years.
-A Secret clearance is good for 10 years.
-A Top Secret clearance is good for 5 years, before a updated clearance is required.
A security clearance can be revoked, suspended, etc, at anytime for cause or to clarify an issue.
The clearance belongs to the Gov't, not the person (the applicant).
A SF-86 (Questionnaire for National Security Positions), version July 2008 is used by the security clearance applicant.
When granted a security clearance, the applicant is allowed to view (if needed) classified information and or work/visit/ etc., classified areas, buildings, facilities, etc., up to the level granted (if needed).
Many folks think that a SCI or a SAP are clearances.
They are not. They are catergories of access.
All security clearances use the same Adjudicative Criteria.
The differences between the level of clearances is the the higher the clearance level, the longer the background investigation.
If an applicant cannot be trusted with a Top Secret clearance they cannot be trusted with a Secret clearance and so forth.
People cannot "obtain, purchase and such" a clearance because they desire one or would like to have one.
The sponsor must show good reason why that person requires a security clearance.
All federal agencies use the same "13 Adjudicative Guidelines" in the granting or denying a clearance.
There are many adjudicative agencies within the civilian & military departments.
OPM conducts approximately 93% of all federal background investigations for the various agencies (about 100 agencies).
In spite of misunderstandings, Public Trust Positions (PTP) are not security clearances.
A SF-85P, Sept 1995 version (Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions) are used for PTP.
There are 3 levels of PTP (Low, Moderate + High).
When an applicant is granted a PTP, they are allowed (if needed) access to "Sensitive", but unclassified information and/or access to Sensitve buildings, facilities, areas, etc.
Example: A military installation, etc.
Each agency (sponsor) has different criteria for the granting of PTP. It usually depends on the mission of the sponsor. It is best to directly ask the sponsors themselves what those criterias are.
Then there is the SF-85, called the Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions (QNSP), Sept 1995 version.
The QNSP is neither a security clearance nor a PTP.
Basically, the QNSP is used to conduct NACI (National Agency Checks with Inquires) for non-sensitive civilian cases (contractors,  federal employees) submitted to OPM, to ensure they are suitable for the job. It is given to those applicants only after a "conditional offer" of employment has been made. It is to find out iof the applicant is reliable, trustwworthy, has good conduct & character.
Each of the above security clearance levels, PTP levels and the QSNP are different.
A security clearance investigation has a "national security" component to it, it ask (among other items) about foreign involvements, etc.
PTP & QSNP have a suitability component to it.
It is best to Google the above forms, contact the agency directly & ask details about your personal situation.
I am not sure how to answer your last question "how do you know what clearance level you currently hold". Best ask the security department, security manager, the person who you provided the paperwork to or the FSO.
The above are only just general information.
Hope this helps.
Jim Hennessey<br />Leesburg, VA<br />Federal Background Investigator (Ret.)<br />Security Clearance Consultant
#3 Posted : Monday, April 05, 2010 9:18:55 AM(UTC)

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Joined: 4/3/2010(UTC)
Posts: 7

You are awesome!  Thank you for the explanation!Star
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