Classified information is material that a government body deems to be sensitive information that must be protected. Access is restricted by law or regulation to particular groups of people with the necessary security clearance and need to know, and intentional mishandling of the material can incur criminal penalties. A formal security clearance is required to view or handle classified documents or to access classified data. The clearance process requires a satisfactory background investigation... Although "classified information" refers to the formal categorization and marking of material by level of sensitivity, it has also developed a sense synonymous with "censored" in US English.
- The U.S. classification of information system has three classification levels -- Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential -- which are defined in EO 12356.2 Those levels are used both for NSI and atomic energy information (RD and FRD). Section 1.1(a) of EO 12356 states that:
(a) National Security Information (hereinafter "classified information") shall be classified at one of the following three levels:
(1) "Top Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security.
(2) "Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security.
(3) "Confidential" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security.
- The key terms and their definitions are as follows:
- Reasonable--being in agreement with right thinking or right judgment; not conflicting with reason; not absurd; not ridiculous; being or remaining within the bounds of reason; not extreme; not excessive; moderate; not expensive; having the faculty of reason; possessing good sound judgment; well balanced; sensible.
- Could--past tense of can. Can--to be able to do, make, or accomplish.
- Expect--suppose, think, believe; to consider probable or certain; to consider reasonable, just, proper, due, or necessary.
- Cause--a person, thing, fact, or condition that brings about an effect or that produces or calls forth a resultant action or state; something that occasions or effects a result; the necessary antecedent of an effect.
- Exceptional--forming an exception; being out of the ordinary; uncommon, rare.
- Grave--involving or resulting in serious consequences; likely to produce real harm or damage; very serious.
- Damage--loss due to injury; injury or harm to person, property, or reputation; hurt; harm.
- The [U.S.] Inspector General for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI) has released its annual report on over-classification. Like most reports by government agencies on this subject, it acknowledges certain, minor bureaucratic problems with the way the classification system runs. But the Inspector General found “no instances” of violations of Section 1.7 of the Executive Order governing classification, which states:
- In no case shall information be classified, continue to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:
- conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;
- prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;
- restrain competition; or
- prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of the national security.
- Of course, the intelligence community conceals illegal and embarrassing information all the time. DNI’s position, though, is that this happens only by coincidence... The intelligence community’s claim that it is lawful and proper to censor evidence of torture should alarm us. So should the fact that the intelligence community’s inspector general—the official charged with uncovering evidence of waste, fraud and abuse—cannot find a single example of wrongful classification.