With the recent arrest of Massachusetts Air National Guardsman Jack Teixeira, who is charged with leaking U.S. classified documents, the importance and implementation of heightened national security cannot be understated.

Many people may be familiar with the basic concept of Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities, or SCIFs. These specialized safe houses are designed to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access, disclosure, or compromise. But there are several little-known facts about these unique facilities that may come as a surprise to you.

Here are just four things about SCIF security that you may not know, and why they are an essential part of our nation’s continued defense.

  • Different Documents Require Different Levels of Clearance: Believe it or not, “Confidential” is the bottom rung of the clearance ladder, followed by “Secret,” with “Top Secret” taking – well – the top slot. Top Secret documents are those that are considered to pose “exceptionally grave damage” to national security if leaked. “SCI” – or Sensitive Compartmented Information – is a subset of Top Secret information hailing from intelligence sources. Access to SCI is even more stringent, requiring special security clearances and additional protocols – which is where the SCIF comes in.
  • No Cell Phones Allowed: As you might imagine with a safe room designed to keep prying eyes and ears at bay to protect the nation’s top secrets – the select few professionals permitted to access a SCIF are subject to rigorous standards. Perhaps one of the biggest? “No cell phones allowed.” If necessary, outgoing calls can be made only on a secure line. While authorized personnel are permitted to take notes, those notes, as you may have guessed, immediately become classified and are housed in safes inside the SCIF.
  • Rooms Without a View: Generally speaking, SCIFs are constructed without windows. Because Sensitive Compartmented Information Facilities are intended to prevent interlopers from spotting classified secrets, they are built to precise specifications outlined in a laundry list of standards known as the ICD 705. As a potential point of vulnerability, windows often are left on the drawing-room floor. However, if windows are permitted by an accrediting official for certain scenarios, they must be non-opening and outfitted with a litany of additional safeguards, including TEMPEST (Telecommunications Electronics Materials Protected from Emanating Spurious Transmissions) countermeasures.
  • SCIFs Can Be Ordered to Go: When most people picture a SCIF, they imagine a permanent, fixed location with thick concrete or steel walls, secure entry points, and state-of-the-art technology. But did you know? Some SCIFs are designed to be portable and can be set up and dismantled quickly. These portable SCIFs can be used in situations where a temporary workspace is needed, or when a secure location is not readily available. They are particularly useful in emergency response situations, where sensitive information needs to be transmitted quickly and securely.

The world of security is constantly evolving, and SCIFs are no exception. With myriad threats, dangers, and potential oversights, such as the most recent Pentagon leaks, emerging, increased scrutiny will be placed on the tools used to protect Top Secrets, while debates surrounding the number and efficacy of security clearances will no doubt be waged.

As new technologies are adapted and implemented, the safeguards designed to protect them must grow by leaps and bounds, as well.

Today’s SCIFs rely heavily on advanced electronic systems like biometric scanners, intrusion detection systems, and secure videoconferencing technology. In addition to these technologies, there are evolving best practices for physical construction and design to create more secure environments.

The Secom team regularly plans, installs, monitors, and maintains professional SCIF solutions and facilities throughout the country, typically with no associated upfront costs. We remain one of a select few UL 2050 certified security providers nationwide authorized to provide UL 2050 and DoD monitoring services on existing facilities, and our specialists can service any government system within a 4-hour radius of our Columbia, Md. headquarters.

Reach out to our team today to learn more.