Language in Senate Intell Bill Threatens Accountability of Security Clearance System

As drafted, the Senate's recently-released 2013 Intelligence Authorization bill deletes the requirement that the Intelligence Community report annually to Congress on security clearance determinations. These reports, which are prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), were required by the 2010 Intelligence Authorization Act. The latest report revealed that 4.8 million people are cleared for access to our government’s protected information.

Congress, and the public, need reliable information about the size and operation of the classified univese in order to have an informed discussion about the nation's security policies. In the two years that the ODNI's report has been produced, it has dramatically altered our conception of the size and scale of the personnel security clearance system. Prior to the reporting requirement, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) could only estimate the number of security cleared personnel, and its latest estimate was low by a factor of more than a million clearances. The ODNI's report helped prompt a GAO study that uncovered inconsistent and incorrect applications of the government's policies for awarding security clearances (We looked at the new GAO report here).

OpenTheGovernment.org and the Federation of American Scientists are gathering signatures for an organizational sign-on letter urging the leadership of the Intelligence Committees to preserve the existing reporting requirement. After the Senate passes its version of the bill, House and Senate negotiators will iron out differences between the Senate bill and the version the House passed earlier this year.

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