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A security clearance is a status granted to individuals allowing them access to classified information, i.e., state secrets, or to restricted areas.


Security clearances are required for access to national security information, which may be classified at one of three levels: confidential, secret, and top secret.

The level of classification denotes the degree of protection required for information and the amount of damage that unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause to national security. Unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause (1) “damage,” in the case of confidential information; (2) “serious damage,” in the case of secret information; and (3) “exceptionally grave damage,” in the case of top secret information.[1]


  1. The White House, Exec. Order No. 12958, Classified National Security Information, §1.3 (Apr. 17, 1995) (as amended), 5 C.F.R. §1312.4 (2008).

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