More than 4 Million Americans Have Access to Classified Information, Including 1 Million Contractors

Friday, September 23, 2011
The duty of keeping secrets in the U.S. government does not belong to a small cadre of officials or military leaders. Rather, more than 4.2 million people have security clearances for access to classified information—a figure that’s far larger than what watchdogs had ever guessed. Of the total, 1,419,051 have top secret security clearance, including 524,990 contractors.
After years of keeping the number of security clearances a secret, the government finally published the total in a new report ordered by Congress (Annual Intelligence Authorization Act on Security Clearance Determinations for Fiscal Year 2010).
The number of security-clearance holders—who could practically fill up Washington, DC, by themselves—caught security experts off-guard. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said the total is an “astonishingly large figure” and “another reminder of how quickly the national security bureaucracy has expanded over the past decade.”
Only two years ago the Government Accountability Office estimated that about 2.4 million people held clearances.
The vast majority of clearance holders are federal employees or members of the U.S. military. But more than one million contractors also have access to classified information.
-Noel Brinkerhoff
Number of Security Clearances Soars (by Steve Aftergood, Secrecy News)


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