Despite past security breaches, the FBI is providing top-secret clearances to 50 Washington, D.C., students this summer, says USA Today. The move is part of a recruiting effort to identify future agents and analysts. The program, in its second year, is the only one in the federal government that grants such access to students, some as young as 16, for paid research and clerical positions, said Joseph Persichini, the FBI assistant director who developed the program for inner-city teens. A top-secret clearance provides access to guarded government information.
Persichini said all of the recruits, ages 16 to 21, are required to pass background and polygraph examinations. “Our goal is to start a pipeline,” the assistant director said, referring to an early recruitment process that would ensure a steady stream of qualified future applicants from varied backgrounds. This year, the FBI is expected to hire nearly 300 agents and about 900 support staffers. In 2008, the bureau hopes to add 800 agents and 1,000 staffers. University of Toledo law professor David Harris questioned whether the investment of such responsibility in very young candidates is worth the risk. “I’m all for reaching out and getting kids interested in law enforcement at a young age,” Harris said. “But some kids that age can exhibit terrible judgment.”