Proposal for Congressional Security Clearances

Tl;dr: In order to be considered for Congress, a person must first obtain a DoD “Secret” security clearance. To be considered for President, “Top Secret”.

 

There are three minimum federal requirements to serve in the House of Representatives or the Senate: Age, Citizenship and Residency. This note suggests a fourth: the candidate must undergo and pass a DoD Security Clearance.

 

Thousands of people get security clearances every year. About 5 million Americans have one. With a security clearance, you may legally be provided access to information that could be considered sensitive, from Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI) or For Official Use Only (FOUO) all the way to Top Secret / Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS/SCI). (Yes, the security world loves their acronyms!)

 

According to Wikipedia “There are three levels of DoD security clearances:

 

  • TOP SECRET – Will be applied to information in which the unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
  • SECRET – Will be applied to information in which the unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.
  • CONFIDENTIAL – Will be applied to information in which the unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security.”

 

To obtain a clearance, the requested application and subsequent interviews cover job history, education, family, friends, finances, drugs, alcohol problems and any police encounters. One of the key considerations relates to whether the person applying for a clearance could be blackmailed or otherwise compromised through financial or personal pressure. Basically: can this person be trusted with sensitive information?

 

Membership in Congress confers responsibilities that may include any and all aspects of civilian and military laws, budgets and governance. It seems only logical that Congressional prospects pass the same security clearance required of all contractors.

 

An additional benefit of the security clearance process is in support of campaign finance reform, as the acceptance of financial contributions that result in policy changes would disqualify one for a security clearance.

 

Certainly the clearance process is not fool-proof, as the SF-86 form and subsequent clearance adjudication is primarily based on self-reporting. See, for example, Michael Flynn who had received a security clearance despite being paid $500K by a Turkish lobbyist and other disqualifying offences. But it’s better than nothing, and offers a standard against which to be measured and live by.