In December, the White House updated language describing the criteria governing who can access secure information, but the change was not noticed until earlier this week.

The passage drawing the most criticism details if a federal employee’s sexual orientation factors into security clearance eligibility.

The regulations issued in December state that “no adverse inference … may be raised solely on the basis of the sexual orientation of the individual.”

The pervious regulations stated that “the United States government does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, or sexual orientation in granting access to classified information.” Those regulations came from an executive order issued by President Bill Clinton in 1995.

The change in verbiage has alarmed some members of Congress.

“The Bush Administration is waging a covert war on loyal federal employees who happen to be gay. The Administration first refused to enforce the policy that protects federal employees from discrimination based on sexual orientation. Now the Administration appears to be saying that federal employees can be denied security clearances if they are gay,” said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., ranking member of the House Government Reform Committee.

“A person’s sexual orientation should not be considered in determining eligibility for access to classified information. Sexual orientation has no relevance to a person’s reliability, trustworthiness or ability to protect classified information,” said Rep. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wisc., who is openly gay.

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, has requested a briefing about the changes. Collins chairs the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs.

The distinction between the two regulations was first discussed during a press briefing Wednesday when a reporter asked White House spokesman Scott McClellan why the Administration altered the language.

McClellan said the current language “reflects exactly what was spelled out in the executive order. Nothing has changed.”

McClellan’s press briefing can be found at

The current regulations concerning security clearances can be found at

The previous regulations can be found at