Legislation & policy analysis

Senate increases access to sensitive information, a move called for by Issue One

Each senator will now be allowed to designate one aide in their office to receive top secret or sensitive compartmented information (TS/SCI) clearance. This policy change was announced by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and reported by Politico. By increasing access to vital information, this policy shift will enable Congress to conduct more thorough oversight of the executive branch and empower every senator to make informed decisions.

TS/SCI information includes national security updates, reports on emerging threats, data on the spending and operations of the military, and up-to-date intelligence. The amount of information designated as TS/SCI tripled between 2007 to 2017, but just 1/3 of senators had a staffer with this clearance level before Leader Schumer’s announcement.

Issue One called for this shift in our fiscal year 2022 recommendations to the Senate Appropriations Committee. Pushing for broader TS/SCI information access has also been a long-term goal of our partners at Demand Progress and the Project On Government Oversight, who collaborated to release this insightful primer on how the clearance process in the Congress works.

It is important to note that designating a staffer for TS/SCI clearance does not automatically give them access to classified information, but it does make them eligible for access if they can also demonstrate a need-to-know.

The work isn’t over. Currently, members of the House of Representatives are afforded up to two staffers with a TS clearance. However, they cannot access TS/SCI information, despite a push for this change from members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Alongside our partners, Issue One will continue to advocate for greater access to the information that will allow Congress to perform its constitutional duty and serve the American people.