A Primer on Congressional Staff Clearances

Today Demand Progress Education Fund and the Project on Government Oversight are pleased to publish a primer on congressional staff clearances. It is the result of several years worth of research.

Security clearances govern access to classified information. While members of Congress are entitled to access classified information by virtue of the constitutional offices they hold and do not need security clearances, they must rely on their staff to sift through reams of information and brief them on issues. Those staff often do not hold sufficient clearances to access the requisite information, thereby undermining the support they can provide to their superiors and weakening Congress’s ability to legislate or conduct effective oversight.

This primer is a review, to the extent possible with the available information, of how the processes for staff clearance operate in the House of Representatives and Senate (though not in congressional support offices and agencies), who is able to obtain a clearance, and at what level a clearance can be obtained. It specifically focuses on “SCI,” or Sensitive Compartmented Information.

Read the full document here.