image Protecting Classified Information

Classified Information



A security clearance is a privilege, not a right. When you accept the privilege of access to classified information, you are also accepting the responsibilities that accompany this privilege.

This guide informs you of your responsibilities and provides information to help you fulfill them. Briefly, you are expected to: 

  • Comply with standards of conduct required of persons holding positions of trust. This includes recognizing and avoiding behavior that might cause you to become ineligible for continued access to classified information.
  • Report to your security office changes in your personal life that are of security interest, including planned marriage or cohabitation, certain outside activities, foreign contacts, and other changes as described in Self-Reporting on Your Personal Activities.
  • Report to your security office or a counterintelligence office any information that comes to your attention regarding known or suspected foreign intelligence activity directed against yourself, a fellow co-worker, your organization, or any other national interest.
  • Report to your security office any information that raises doubts about the reliability or trustworthiness of any co-worker or other person with access to classified or other protected information. This responsibility is discussed in Reporting Improper, Unreliable or Suspicious Behavior.

Failure to comply with these responsibilities may result in adverse administration action including revocation of your security clearance. Deliberate violation for profit may be prosecuted. The Nondisclosure Agreement you signed when accepting your security clearance assigned to the U.S. Government the legal right to any payments, royalties or other benefits you might receive as a result of unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

When we study the history of foreign intelligence activities against the United States, one thing becomes very clear. When our adversaries or competitors are successful in obtaining classified or other sensitive information, it is usually due to negligence, willful disregard for security, or betrayal of trust by our own personnel.

bullet  The Bottom Line
Pogo, a popular cartoon character from the 1960s, coined an oft-quoted phrase: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." That sums it up. We – not our foreign adversaries or competitors – are the principal source of the problem, but we can also become the solution. You and I and all others who hold a security clearance are the first line of defense against espionage and loss of sensitive information. Together, if we fulfill our responsibilities, we have the power to protect our national security and economic interests

Receiving your security clearance is a bit like a school graduation or a religious ceremony such as marriage. It is a rite of passage that marks a permanent change in your life. You accept new responsibilities and will be expected to meet them. Your responsibility to protect the classified information that you learn about is a LIFELONG obligation. It continues even after you no longer have an active security clearance. Your signed Nondisclosure Agreement is the only form held on file long after you retire (50 years!).





Please read the Security and Privacy and 508 Accessibility Notice

This page was last updated on: November 28, 2001