To truly understand just how rigorous and intrusive the process to get security clearance for the federal government is, take a look a Standard Form 86.
Formally known as the Questionnaire for National Security Positions, the document requires that an applicant disclose everything from mental illnesses, financial interests, and bankruptcy issues to any brush with the law and major or minor drug and alcohol use. The application also requires a thorough listing of an applicant’s family members, associates, or former roommates. At the bottom of each page, a potential employee must submit his or her social security number. Given the questionnaire’s length, that means if you’re filling out this document, you will write your social security number over 115 times.
On Friday, it was revealed that all of the data on Standard Form 86— filled out by millions of current and former military and intelligence workers— is now believed to be in the hands of Chinese hackers.
This not only means that the hackers may have troves of personal data about Americans with highly sensitive jobs, but also that contacts or family members of American intelligence employees living abroad could potentially be targeted for coercion. At its worst, this cyberbreach also provides a basic roster of every American with a security clearance.