Against All Enemies Foreign and Domestic

 My Security Clearance

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I held a Top Secret (SBI) Security Clearance from 1985-1994 with many access codes some listed are:


(SCI), (SI), (SIGNIT, (UMBRA), (SPOKE), (MORAY), (COMINT), (DELTA), (GAMA), (VRK), (ECI), (CJ), (SIOP), (RSIOP),(500), (510), (908), (TK), (RUFF), (ZARF), (CHESS), (SI-TK), (YW),

roughly 50 additional  Top Secret Code Word Special Access Programs.  I also had access to multiple other allies Top Secret Code Word programs as well as NATO Top Secret Information.



A Security Clearance is a determination that a person is eligible for access to classified information. Need-to-Know is a determination made by a possessor of classified information that a prospective recipient, in the interest of national security, has a requirement for access to, or knowledge, or possession of the classified information in order to accomplish lawful and authorized government purposes.

Anyone being considered for access to Confidential or Secret clearance must submit to a Background Investigation (BI) by the Defense Security Service (DSS). Those who are candidates for Top Secret or SCI clearance must submit to a Single Scope Background Investigation (SBI). Being read into SCI/SAP programs often involves polygraph testing and additional background checks. Contractors and consultants typically have their background investigation conducted by the General Services Administration (GSA).

Once the investigation is completed the information is forwarded to the Central Clearance Facility (CCF) for final security determination. Any derogatory reports and additional investigations are also reviewed by the CCF to determine clearance maintenance.

All clearances require review and reinvestigation every five years for Top Secret clearances and 10 years for Secret/Confidential clearances. Contractors must have their clearances reviewed every three years.

The following types of investigations vary in scope of investigative effort to meet the investigative requirements for security determinations.

National Agency Check (NAC)
Each type of personnel security background investigation includes a NAC. The NAC consists of searches of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Security/Suitability Investigations Index, Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Identification Division, FBI Headquarters investigative files, Defense Clearance and Investigations Index, and other sources as necessary to cover specific areas of a subject's background. When required, credit searches are conducted in conjunction with a NAC.

Background Investigation (BI)
A personnel security investigation consisting of a NAC, credit search, personal interviews of subject and sources, written inquiries, and record searches covering specific areas of the subject's background during the most recent 5 years.

Single Scope Background Investigation (SBI)
A personnel security investigation consisting of a NAC, independent certification of date and place of birth directly from appropriate registration authority, credit search, personal interviews of subject and sources, written inquiries, and record searches, which cover specific areas of subject's background during the past 15 years. In order to receive Presidential access (YW) a complete life style background check is conducted as well.  An individual must be able to account for his whereabouts for the complete 15 years and give the name and address of at least one person that can verify the information.  No more than a 2 week time frame can be unaccounted for and be granted a SBI clearance.  For each name given the investigators will interview that individual and get 5 more names from the first individual to interview.  A SBI clearance can take up to a year to grant due to the dozens of interviews and officers required around the world.  The cost of the background check is about $80,000 now.  A NAC will be conducted on the subject's spouse or cohabitant. Additionally, a NAC will be conducted on other individuals bound to the subject by affection or obligation who may be subject to duress by a foreign power.   No one ever assumed that local US police forces would be a major source of duress.  I for one have learned that many US police forces will go to any lengths to protect their own and their image in the community including arresting my children and daily harassment and pressures beyond any legal means.  Foreign born immediate family members will be subjected to an Immigration and Naturalization Service check2.0 CLASSIFICATIONS

The most basic means of managing and controlling access to intelligence information is the classification system, which defines various levels of sensitivity to information and restricts access to those who have the appropriate levels of clearance and a need to know.

Simply having a classification does not automatically give access to information. Access is purely determined by the necessities of performing their assigned task. The authority for a consumer’s actual access to classified materials rests with the organizations chief security manager, typically referred to as the Special Security Officer (SSO). SSOs can confirm or deny a consumers access to specific information. This is to prevent abuse of the clearance system. A consumer with Top Secret access who works in communications cannot expect to walk into a nuclear weapons lab by virtue of his clearance alone.

The current classification system starts with three levels of classification (Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret), often referred to collectively as Collateral National Security Information. Layered on top of these three levels are at least nine additional protection categories. These include Department of Defense Special Access Programs (DOD SAPS), Department of Energy Special Access Programs, Director of Central Intelligence Sensitive Compartmented Information Programs (DCI SCI), and other material controlled by special access or bigot lists such as the war plans of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the operational files and source information of the CIA Operations Directorate.

Information which if disclosed to unauthorized parties could be reasonably expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.

Examples of exceptionally grave damage include armed hostilities; disruption of foreign relations vitally affecting the national securely; the compromise of vital national defense plans or complex cryptology and communications intelligence systems; the revelation of sensitive intelligence operations, and the disclosure of scientific or technological developments vital to national security.

2.1.2 SECRET
Information that if disclosed to unauthorized parties could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.

Examples of serious damage include disruption of foreign relations significantly affecting the national security; significant impairment of a program or policy directly related to the national security; revelation of significant military plans or intelligence operations: compromise of significant military plans or intelligence operations; and compromise of significant scientific or technological developments relating to national security.

Information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security.

Examples of damage include the compromise of information that indicates strength of ground, air, and naval forces; disclosure of technical information used for training, maintenance, and inspection of classified munitions of war; revelation of performance characteristics, test data, design. and production data on munitions of war.

Unclassified information is any information that need not be safeguarded against disclosure, but must be safeguarded against tampering, destruction, or loss due to record value, utility, replacement cost or susceptibility to fraud, waste, or abuse.

There are other types of information that require application of controls and protective measures for a variety of reasons. This information is known as "unclassified controlled information." This includes "For Official Use Only" information, "Sensitive But Unclassified" (formerly "Limited Official Use") information, "DEA Sensitive Information," and "DOD Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information." "For Official Use Only (FOUO)" is a designation that is applied to unclassified information that *may* be exempt from mandatory release to the public under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) if it meets a variety of stringent requirements. By definition, information must be unclassified in order to be designated FOUO. If an item of information is declassified, it can be designated FOUO if it qualifies under one of the restriction categories. This means that (1) information cannot be classified and FOUO at the same time, and (2) information that is declassified may be designated FOUO, but only if it fits into one of the listed exemption categories. Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) information is information originated within the Department of State that warrants a degree of protection and administrative control and meets the criteria for exemption from mandatory public disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. Before 26 May 1995, this information was designated and marked "Limited Official Use (LOU)." The LOU designation will no longer be used. DEA Sensitive information is unclassified information that is originated by the Drug Enforcement Administration and requires protection against unauthorized disclosure to protect sources and methods of investigative activity, evidence, and the integrity of pretrial investigative reports. The Administrator and certain other officials of the DEA have been authorized to designate information as DEA Sensitive; the Department of Defense has agreed to implement protective measures for DEA Sensitive information in its possession. DOD Unclassified Controlled Nuclear Information (DOD UCNI) is unclassified information on security measures (including security plans, procedures and equipment) for the physical protection of DOD Special Nuclear Material (SNM), equipment, or facilities. Information is Designated DOD UCNI only when it is determined that its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to have a significant adverse effect on the health and safety of the public or the common defense and security by increasing significantly the likelihood of the illegal production of nuclear weapons or the theft, diversion, or sabotage of DOD SNM, equipment, or facilities.

Information may be designated DOD UCNI by the Heads of the DOD Components and individuals to whom they have delegated the authority.


These are warning notices that further restrict access to information or its dissemination beyond its classification level. Typically only one of the three levels of classification will bear these markings. Such documents are marked by the primary classification then any additional handling instructions, such as


NOFORN (Special Handling Required - Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals)
This information is only cleared for US citizens with the appropriate clearance and need to know. Foreign nationals may not be given access to the information. It is applied to information that may compromise relations with an allied nation or threaten technical collection programs. It is not authorized for use in conjunction with the "AUTHORIZED FOR RELEASE TO" (REL) control marking.

Intelligence, even if it bears no restrictive control markings, may only be released in its original form to foreign governments with the permission of the originator and in accordance with existing nation security directives.

ORCON (Dissemination and Extraction of Information of Information Controlled
By Originator)
This marking may be used only on classified intelligence that clearly identifies or would reasonably permit ready identification of intelligence sources or methods that are particularly susceptible to countermeasures that would nullify or measurably reduce their effectiveness. Access to the information must be approved and monitored by the originating agency.

This control is typically only applied to Secret and Top Secret material. It is the most restrictive special handling instruction and is only applied when other controls would be inadequate.

PROPIN (Caution - Proprietary Information Involved)
This marking is used, with or without a security classification, to identify information provided by a commercial firm or private source under an express or implied understanding that the information will be protected as a proprietary trade secret or proprietary data believed to have actual or potential value.

This marking is used to identify classified intelligence that an originator has predetermined to be releasable or has been released, through established foreign disclosure procedures and channels, to the foreign countries/ international organization indicated.

Examples include RELUK (United Kingdom), RELROK (Republic of Korea), RELUKCANUKAUS (Canada, UK, and Australia), RELUNPROFOR (UN Protection Force) and UNNATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). Can also be noted as "REL TO"


The following special control markings are no longer used.

WNINTEL (Warning Notice - Intelligence Sources or Methods Involved)
Warning Notice - Sensitive Sources and Methods Involved
Warning Notice- Intelligence Sources and Methods Involved
Warning Notice - Sensitive Intelligence Sources and Methods Involved

SCI intelligence is classic "above Top Secret" information, and is the subject of endless speculation outside of the intelligence community. SCI information involves data regarding sophisticated technical intelligence systems such as those from reconnaissance satellites, aircraft, and submersibles.

Background investigations for SCI clearance are very stringent, beyond even that required for a TS clearance. No risk is acceptable for an SCI clearance and it is possible to hold a TS clearance and be denied SCI access.

Physical security measures for SCI material are also more extreme then for TS material, requiring that material remain in vaults or SCIFs (SCI Facilities). Even a Secret SCI document is protected with greater physical security then a plain TS one.

SI is one of several categories of SCI that deals specifically with communications or signals intelligence (SIGINT). There used to be various levels of sensitivity in SI, UMBRA being the most sensitive, SPOKE being less sensitive, and MORAY being the least sensitive compartment. To express the sensitivity the level was stamped along with the primary classification.

For example, a document page containing UMBRA SCI information would have been stamped TOP SECRET UMBRA and SPOKE SCI would be stamped SECRET SPOKE. This should not imply that having a Secret or Top Secret clearance would give access to SECRET SPOKE documents however. The consumer must possess the appropriate SCI clearance and be a part of the appropriate Special Access Program in order to access the information. It should be noted that UMBRA information was always Top Secret and SPOKE and MORAY always at least Secret, with SPOKE being "more secret" then MORAY.

This has recently changed however, and UMBRA, SPOKE, and MORAY are no longer authorized for use. Instead such documents are classified as SECRET COMINT or TOP SECRET COMINT.

4.1.1 COMINT
Within the TOP SECRET COMINT category there are further designators for especially sensitive data. Examples of past and present designations include DELTA and GAMMA, each of which has a further sub classification denoting specific operations or methods. Although current designations and their purpose are (obviously) not available older ones are illustrative. Typically these categories, more technically known as Codewords, are often classified themselves. Code words are selected in such a manner that the word used does not suggest the nature of its meaning or associated programs.

GAMMA was originally applied to intercepts of Soviet communications, and later, US antiwar leaders. Some subcategories of GAMMA included GABE, GANT, GILT, GOAT, GUPY, GYRO and GOUT. GAMMA GUPY referred to interception of radiotelephone calls by Soviet officials as they were driven around Moscow and GAMMA GOUT referred to interception of South Vietnamese government communications.

Thus an older document may bear the classification TOP SECRET UMBRA GAMMA GILT.

DELTA referred to intercepts of Soviet military operation information, such as the location of submarines and aircraft operations. Categories under DELTA included DACE, DICE, and DENT.

Other COMINT designators are VRK and ECI.

In addition to special compartments within the SCI categories a document may bear information as to its source. For example, a TOP SECRET COMINT DRUID document notes the information was derived from third-party intercepts.

Other designations can indicate the specific nations involved: ISHTAR (Japan), SETEE (Korea), DYNAMO (Denmark), RICHTER (Germany), and DIKTER (Norway).

TK SCI is the product of overhead collection systems, known as "National Technical Means", such as satellites and reconnaissance aircraft.

Compartments of TK include RUFF and CHESS. ZARF is no longer a Codeword in use, TOP SECRET TALENT KEYHOLE ZARF documents are now just TOP SECRET TALENT KEYHOLE.

RUFF pertains to information produced by imaging satellites. ZARF indicates SIGINT obtained by satellite. CHESS is imagery obtained from reconnaissance aircraft.

A typical classification may be TOP SECRET TALENT KEYHOLE or TOP SECRET ZARF UMBRA for older documents.

In practice, SI and TK clearances, representing access to the product of national technical collection methods, are awarded jointly. Hence the term "SI-TK clearance" is more common then the terms "SI clearance" or "TK clearance." SI-TK clearance gives individuals access to the products of the sensitive systems, not information concerning the systems themselves.

Information about the type of system, location, orbit, or capabilities is not available simply because the consumer has a SI-TK clearance. Clearances for such information is granted on a system-by-system basis in what is called the BYEMAN classification. BYEMAN
BYEMAN contains many compartments, each one pertaining to a specific system or process. SIGINT satellites have BYMAN compartments named RHYOLITE, AQUACADE, CHALET, VORTEX, JUMPSEAT, and MAGNUM. Imaging satellites fall under the KENNAN, LACROSSE, GAMBIT, HEXAGON, and CORONA compartments. If the BYEMAN codeword is discovered (typically through leaks to the press) it will be changed. Thus the list given above may or may not be codewords still in use.

There are many other SCI categories, over 100 at last count. Examples include the NSAs VER, The Navy's SNCP (Special Navy Control Program) and M (MEDITATE) programs.

Special Access Programs are created to control access, distribution, and protection of particularly sensitive information. Each SAP is given a "nickname" which consists of two unassociated, unclassified words that are used to reference the project. An example would be BLUE BOOK, ECHO MIRAGE, or SENIOR ICE. Individuals who gain access to a SAP must be "read-on" to the project, where they are briefed, sign various documents, and are often given polygraph tests or further background checks.

Material from SAPs are often given caveats that are even more restrictive then ORCON. A TOP SECRET/ECHO MIRAGE/ORCON document may have restrictions above and beyond even normal ORCON control.

Use of deadly force is absolute in the protection of many SAP’s. The damage to the country’s security would be extreme in the release of such material.  So yes Virginia the saying “If I told you, I’d have to kill you!” is for real and did not originate in Hollywood.



This site was last updated 05/12/05