Due to an ongoing investigation conducted by the Department of Justice and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the current Director of Naval Intelligence, Vice Admiral Ted Branch, has had his security clearance suspended for the past 9 months. According to information in an article posted recently on Federal News Radio, Branch is part of an investigation into the bribery scandal involving Glenn Defense Marine Asia which has thus far resulted in charges against the company owner, three Navy officers, one retired officer and one NCIS agent.
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.
The latest step in the wave of security clearance reform is a renewed effort to apply ‘continuous monitoring’ to security-cleared professionals. The 2014 Intelligence Authorization Bill included a provision for ‘continuous evaluation’ – a requirement for agencies to evaluate public records such as credit histories and criminal backgrounds. Such electronic records would reveal information that would otherwise only appear in a periodic reinvestigation or as the result of a cleared professional self-reporting an issue.