A whopping 4.2 million people have access to classified government information, according to a new government report. That’s a far cry from the 2.4 million estimate the Government Accountability Office came up with just two years ago, and, the Washington Post points out, it’s just over a million shy of the total population of the greater Washington, DC, area.
It’s the first time the government has produced a complete tally of its clearances. A member of the Federation of American Scientists called the figure “astonishingly large,” and “another reminder of how quickly the national security bureaucracy has expanded over the past decade." Of those with access, more than a million are private contractors, and nearly as many private contractors have top secret clearances as federal workers. (Read more security clearance stories.)