Bill Gates Has Top Secret Clearance

An interesting tidbit in an otherwise mundane AP story: Microsoft executives Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer have Top Secret clearances from the Defense Department.

OTB roving correspondent Richard Gardner passed on the tip and noted that this isn’t surprising, on reflection, since Microsoft does a lot of encryption and other IT work for the government and “SEC rules require executives to know what their underlings are up to.” He also speculates that “A clearance could allow classified intel briefings before Gates meets with foreign leaders.”

It makes a lot of sense, really, given Microsoft’s position and, contrary to the movie depictions of these things, a security clearance is not the equivalent of a library card. Gates can’t simply get access to information; he has to have the proverbial “need to know.”

On a personal level, I find it rather amusing that Gates and Ballmer, who are billionaires several times over, have what amounts to a free ticket to a high paying government job. As noted here numerous times, the longstanding backlog on security background checks makes those with an existence clearance, especially a Top Secret, a hot commodity in the defense and homeland security sectors.

FILED UNDER: Economics and Business, Intelligence
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. On a personal level, I find it rather amusing that Gates and Ballmer, who are billionaires several times over, have what amounts to a free ticket to a high paying government job.

    Somehow, I doubt that Mr. Gates or Mr. Ballmer would consider any government job “high paying.”

  2. James Joyner says:

    charles: Oh, no doubt. That’s what makes it so amusing.

    It’s in the same category as the fact that Shaquille O’Neal gets free sneakers and sports drinks pursuant to advertising contracts. It’s not like he can’t afford his own.

  3. DC Loser says:

    Many private sector execs have clearances, as they are often pulled into meetings with goverment leaders as “graybeards” providing free advice on a variety of issues. Also could be that they are privy to other sensitive issues like CIA NOC covers under their companies’ activities.