I was absolutely astounded to read this article in the Washington Post.
More than 4.2 million people have security clearances for access to classified information, a number that vastly outstrips previous estimates and nearly rivals the population of metropolitan Washington.
The number was disclosed in a new report that was mandated by Congress and marks the first time that the government has produced a detailed accounting of the clearances issued to federal, military and contract employees.
The official count is so much greater than previous estimates that it caught security experts off-guard. Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists said the new total is an “astonishingly large figure” and “another reminder of how quickly the national security bureaucracy has expanded over the past decade.”
. . .
The vast majority of clearance holders are federal employees or members of the U.S. armed services. But more than a million contractors also have access to classified information. Remarkably, nearly as many contractors hold top secret clearances (524,990) as do federal workers (666,008).
There's more at the link. Bold print is my emphasis.
This is so mind-bogglingly stupid as to defy reason! I've held a top-level security clearance myself, although in another country, and I know the extreme measures that were taken to clear me to get it (it took almost six months, even though I'd already been through four security checks for lower-level clearances). I also know that for such confidential items of information, the fewer people who know them, the more secure they are. It's an old truism that the risk of a secret being compromised rises exponentially with the number of people knowing it.
If we now have over four million people with security clearances, I'm willing to bet that at least half of them, probably two-thirds of them, and perhaps as many as three-quarters of them, don't actually need to know the information that's being so freely provided to them. This is being driven by bureaucratic bloat, not necessity! Also, if so many know our secrets right now, is it any wonder that organizations like Wikileaks can get their hands on so many of them? Or that our national rivals like China and Russia are able to obtain so much of our proprietary information?