WASHINGTON -- U.S. officials say the number of people with access to some of the nation's most carefully guarded secrets topped 4.86 million people in 2011.
That's up from 4.7 million people granted security clearances the year before, likely reflecting new hires approved by Congress as part of expanded clandestine operations in the Obama administration.
The latest intelligence report to Congress also corrects previous figures, to reflect new guidance that everyone with access to such information be counted – even if they never used the data, or no longer hold a job that requires the clearance.
Clearance levels range from confidential to secret to top secret. Top secret clearances in 2011 numbered 1.4 million, slightly down from 1.43 million the year before.