Access to Classified Information without a Security Clearance?
Can individuals access classified national security information without having undergone the background investigation process and been granted a security clearance? Normally the answer is no, but there are certain instances where the requirement is waived. Here are some of the exceptions:
The President and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives do not undergo the normal background investigation process and are not granted security clearances. They may be granted access to classified information relating to matters under the jurisdiction of the respective committees to which they are assigned and if access is needed to perform their duties in connection with such assignments. This does not apply to their staff members, who are required to undergo the investigation and clearance process just like everyone else.
State Governors may be granted access to specifically designated classified information on a “need-to-know” basis as long as that access serves national interests. Staff personnel of a Governor’s office requiring access to classified information are investigated and cleared just like everyone else.
Members of the U.S. Supreme Court, the Federal judiciary and the Supreme Courts of the individual States are not granted security clearances but may be granted access to classified information to the extent necessary to adjudicate cases being heard before these individual courts.
Attorneys representing military, civilian or contractor personnel, requiring access to classified information to properly represent their clients, are normally investigated and cleared upon certification of that access to specific classified information, on the part of the attorney concerned, is necessary to adequately represent their client.
Why are these people not required to undergo the security clearance process like everyone else you ask? Well, in most instances the pre-employment screening and background checks for these positions are conducted by the FBI or some other three letter intelligence agency and are just as, if not more, rigorous then a national security background investigation. Most skeletons of concern are rooted out for these positions that undergo intense public scrutiny. Also, non-disclosure agreements are required prior to being allowed access, which helps mitigate the risk. In closing, unless you are in one of the positions above, in order to gain access to classified information you will have to undergo the normal process like the rest of us.