Sending Office: Honorable Stephanie N. Murphy
Cosponsor the Protect America’s Secrets Act to Prohibit Government Officials with Interim Security Clearances from Accessing Highly Sensitive Intelligence
Current Cosponsors: Moulton, Panetta, Velázquez, Cooper, Hastings, Soto, Meng, Rice, Swalwell, Ruppersberger, Pingree
It is critical that we carefully control which U.S. government employees have access to our nation’s highly sensitive information. Such information, if disclosed to the wrong individuals or nations, could compromise the security of our nation and the safety
of our servicemembers, our intelligence professionals, and the general public. Thus, we have established a system that provides for certain information to be assigned a classification level and for government employees to undergo a background investigation
before they receive access to such information. The investigation is intended to ensure that the employee is of suitable character and has not engaged in personal conduct that could make him or her vulnerable to blackmail.
There is a broad consensus that the security clearance system is broken in fundamental respects. There are ongoing efforts to reform this system to make it more efficient and effective. They include establishing a new office within OPM to process clearances
and taking other steps to reduce the long delays that too many individuals face when seeking a clearance. In general, these efforts require time and funding. There are few easy fixes.
However, in light of recent events involving former White House staffer Rob Porter and current White House staffer Jared Kushner, there
is at least one simple and immediate step we can take to improve the security clearance system and the public’s faith in that system. It does not entail the appropriation of funding or the creation of any new bureaucracy. It requires only political
will and common sense.
H.R. 5057, the Protect America’s Secrets Act, would prohibit any U.S. government employee, including an employee working in the Executive Office of the President, from being granted access to “highly sensitive” information unless and until that
employee has undergone an appropriate investigation, received a favorable adjudication, and been granted a permanent security clearance, as opposed to a temporary or interim clearance. The term “highly sensitive” is defined in law—at 50 U.S.C. 3341(a)(4)—and
encompasses our most closely-held secrets, including information about special access programs and what is commonly known as sensitive compartmented information. The term would cover the President’s Daily Brief, a highly classified summary prepared by the
intelligence community that provides the president and a small group of executive branch officials with an update on world events and on our nation’s most sensitive intelligence activities.
On February 13, 2018, in testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats stated that: “[S]ometimes I think it’s necessary to have some type of preliminary clearance in order to fill a slot, but
. . . if that is the case the access has to be limited in terms of the kinds of information they can be in a position to receive or not receive.”
Consistent with what could be called the “Coats rule,” the bill would adopt the following limiting principle: unless you obtain a permanent security clearance following a full investigation, you should not be able to access highly sensitive information.
The bill would preserve the current ability of military personnel and other government employees
who have already been determined to be eligible for access to classified information based on a favorable adjudication of a completed investigation to be granted temporary access to a higher level of classification.
If you have any questions, or to cosponsor this legislation once it is introduced, please contact David Cox in Rep. Murphy’s office at
/s/Stephanie Murphy /s/Seth Moulton /s/Jimmy Panetta
Member of Congress Member of Congress Member of Congress
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