CLASSIFIED INFORMATION is material that a government body claims is sensitive information that requires protection of confidentiality, integrity, or availability. Access is restricted by law or regulation to particular groups of people, and mishandling can incur criminal penalties and loss of respect. A formal security clearance is often required to handle classified documents or access classified data. The clearance process usually requires a satisfactory background investigation. Documents and other information assets are typically marked with one of several (hierarchical) levels of sensitivity—e.g. restricted, confidential, secret and top secret. The choice of level is often based on an impact assessment; governments often have their own set of rules which include the levels, rules on determining the level for an information asset, and rules on how to protect information classified at each level. This often includes security clearances for personnel handling the information. 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 . A distinction is often made between formal security classification and privacy markings such as "commercial in confidence". Classifications can be used with additional keywords that give more detailed instructions on how data should be used or protected.
Some corporations and non-government organizations also assign sensitive information to multiple levels of protection, either from a desire to protect trade secrets , or because of laws and regulations governing various matters such as personal privacy , sealed legal proceedings and the timing of financial information releases.
With the passage of time much classified information becomes much less sensitive, and may be declassified and made public. Since the late twentieth century there has been freedom of information legislation in some countries, whereby the public is deemed to have the right to all information that is not considered to be damaging if released. Sometimes documents are released with information still considered confidential obscured (redacted ), as in the example at right.
* 1 Government classification
* 2 Typical classification levels
* 2.1 Top Secret (TS) * 2.2 Secret * 2.3 Confidential * 2.4 Restricted * 2.5 Official * 2.6 Unclassified * 2.7 Clearance * 2.8 Compartmented information
* 3 International
* 4 By country
* 4.4 People\'s Republic of
* 5 Corporate classification * 6 Traffic Light Protocol * 7 See also * 8 References * 9 External links
The purpose of classification is to protect information. Higher classifications protect information that might endanger national security . Classification formalises what constitutes a "state secret" and accords different levels of protection based on the expected damage the information might cause in the wrong hands.
However, classified information is frequently "leaked" to reporters by officials for political purposes. Several U.S. presidents have leaked sensitive information to get their point across to the public.
TYPICAL CLASSIFICATION LEVELS
Although the classification systems vary from country to country, most have levels corresponding to the following British definitions (from the highest level to lowest).
TOP SECRET (TS)
KGB traitors list seen in Museum of Genocide Victims Vilnius: originally marked top secret
Top Secret is the highest level of classified information.
Information is further compartmented so that specific access using a
code word after top secret is a legal way to hide collective and
important information. Such material would cause "exceptionally grave
damage" to national security if made publicly available. Prior to
The Washington Post
“IT IS DESIRED THAT NO DOCUMENT BE RELEASED WHICH REFERS TO EXPERIMENTS WITH HUMANS AND MIGHT HAVE ADVERSE EFFECT ON PUBLIC OPINION OR RESULT IN LEGAL SUITS. DOCUMENTS COVERING SUCH WORK FIELD SHOULD BE CLASSIFIED \'SECRET\'.” April 17, 1947 Atomic Energy Commission memo from Colonel O.G. Haywood, Jr. to Dr. Fidler at the Oak Ridge Laboratory in Tennessee. As of 2010, Executive Order 13526 bans classification of documents simply to "conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error" or "prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency".
Secret material would cause "serious damage" to national security if it were publicly available.
In the United States, operational "Secret" information can be marked with an additional "LIMDIS", to limit distribution.
Confidential material would cause damage or be prejudicial to national security if publicly available.
Restricted material would cause "undesirable effects" if publicly available. Some countries do not have such a classification; in public sectors, such as commercial industries, such a level is also called and known as "Private Information".
Official (Equivalent to US DOD classification FOUO – For Official Use Only) material forms the generality of government business, public service delivery and commercial activity. This includes a diverse range of information, of varying sensitivities, and with differing consequences resulting from compromise or loss. OFFICIAL information must be secured against a threat model that is broadly similar to that faced by a large private company.
The OFFICIAL classification replaces the Confidential and Restricted classifications after April 2014 in the UK.
Unclassified is technically not a classification level, but this is a feature of some classification schemes, used for government documents that do not merit a particular classification or which have been declassified. This is because the information is low-impact, and therefore does not require any special protection, such as vetting of personnel.
A plethora of pseudo-classifications exist under this category.
Clearance is a general classification, that comprises a variety of rules controlling the level of permission required to view some classified information, and how it must be stored, transmitted, and destroyed. Additionally, access is restricted on a "need to know " basis. Simply possessing a clearance does not automatically authorize the individual to view all material classified at that level or below that level. The individual must present a legitimate "need to know" in addition to the proper level of clearance.
In addition to the general risk-based classification levels,
additional compartmented constraints on access exist, such as (in the
Government information about nuclear weapons often has an additional marking to show it contains such information ( CNWDI ).
When a government agency or group shares information between an agency or group of other country’s government they will generally employ a special classification scheme that both parties have previously agreed to honour.
For example, the marking ATOMAL, is applied to U.S. RESTRICTED DATA
or FORMERLY RESTRICTED DATA and
For example, sensitive information shared amongst
* European Commission , has 5 levels, EU TOP SECRET, EU SECRET, EU CONFIDENTIAL, EU RESTRICTED, and EU COUNCIL / COMMISSION. (Note that usually the French term is used.)
* TRÈS SECRET UE/EU TOP SECRET: information and material the
unauthorised disclosure of which could cause exceptionally grave
prejudice to the essential interests of the
* Organisation for Joint Armament Cooperation , a European defence organisation, has three levels of classification: OCCAR SECRET, OCCAR CONFIDENTIAL, and OCCAR RESTRICTED. * ECIPS , the European Centre for Information Policy and Security, has 4 levels of Security Information, COSMIC (TOP SECRET), EC-SECRET, EC-CONFIDENTIAL and EC-COMMITTEES.
Facsimile of the cover page from an East German operation manual
for the M-125
Most countries employ some sort of classification system for certain
government information. For example, in
On 19 July 2011, the National Security (NS) classification marking
scheme and the Non-National Security (NNS) classification marking
The Australian Government Security Classification system now comprises TOP SECRET, SECRET, CONFIDENTIAL and PROTECTED. A new dissemination limiting markers (DLMs) scheme was also introduced for information where disclosure may be limited or prohibited by legislation, or where it may otherwise require special handling. The DLM marking scheme comprises For Official Use Only (FOUO), Sensitive, Sensitive: Personal, Sensitive: Legal, and Sensitive: Cabinet.
Documents marked Sensitive Cabinet, relating to discussions in Federal Cabinet, are treated as PROTECTED at minimum due to its higher sensitivity.
Further information: Security Clearances in
Background And Hierarchy
There are two main types of sensitive information designation used by the Government of Canada: Classified and Protected. The access and protection of both types of information is governed by the Security of Information Act , effective December 24, 2001, replacing the Official Secrets Act 1981. To access the information, a person must have the appropriate level of clearance and a need to know.
In addition, the caveat "For Canadian Eyes Only" may be used to restrict Classified or Protected information to only Canadian citizens with the appropriate level of clearance and need to know.
SOI is not a classification of data per se. It is defined under the Security of Information Act, and unauthorised release of such information constitutes a higher breach of trust, with penalty of life imprisonment.
* military operations in respect of a potential, imminent or present armed conflict * the identity of confidential source of information, intelligence or assistance to the Government of Canada * tools used for information gathering or intelligence * the object of a covert investigation, or a covert collection of information or intelligence * the identity of any person who is under covert surveillance * encryption and cryptographic systems * information or intelligence to, or received from, a foreign entity or terrorist group
* Top Secret: This applies when compromise might reasonably cause exceptionally grave injury to the national interest. The possible impact must be great, immediate and irreparable. * Secret: This applies when compromise might reasonably cause serious injury to the national interest. * Confidential: When disclosure might reasonably cause injury to the national interest.
Protected information is not classified. Protected information pertains to any sensitive information that does not relate to national security and cannot be disclosed under the access and privacy legislation because of the possible injury to particular public or private interests.
* Protected C (Extremely Sensitive protected information): is used to protect extremely sensitive information, which if compromised, could reasonably be expected to cause extremely grave injury outside the national interest. Examples could include bankruptcy, identities of informants in criminal investigations, etc. * Protected B (Particularly Sensitive protected information): is used to protect information that could cause severe injury or damage to the people or group involved if it was released. Examples include medical records, annual personnel performance reviews, income tax returns, etc. * Protected A (Low-Sensitive protected information): is applied to low sensitivity information that should not be disclosed to the public without authorization and could reasonably be expected to cause injury or embarrassment outside the national interest. Example of Protected A information could include employee number, pay deposit banking information, etc.
Federal Cabinet (Queen\'s Privy Council for
PEOPLE\'S REPUBLIC OF CHINA
A building in
Under the 1989 "
* Major policy decisions on state affairs; * The building of national defence and in the activities of the armed forces; * Diplomatic activities and in activities related to foreign countries and those to be maintained as commitments to foreign countries; * National economic and social development; * Science and technology; * Activities for preserving state security and the investigation of criminal offences; and * Any other matters classified as "state secrets" by the national State Secrets Bureau.
Secrets can be classified into one of three categories:
* Top secret (绝密): Defined as "vital state secrets whose disclosure would cause extremely serious harm to state security and national interests"; * Highly secret (机密): Defined as "important state secrets whose disclosure would cause serious harm to state security and national interests"; and * Secret (秘密): Defined as "ordinary state secrets whose disclosure would cause harm to state security and national interests".
In France, classified information is defined by article 413-9 of the Penal Code. The three levels of military classification are
* Très Secret Défense (Very Secret Defence): Information deemed extremely harmful to national defense, and relative to governmental priorities in national defense. No service or organisation can elaborate, process, stock, transfer, display or destroy information or protected supports classified at this level without authorization from the Prime Minister or the national secretary for National Defence. Partial or exhaustive reproduction is strictly forbidden. * Secret Défense (Secret Defence): Information deemed very harmful to national defense. Such information cannot be reproduced without authorisation from the emitting authority, except in exceptional emergencies. * Confidentiel Défense (Confidential Defence): Information deemed potentially harmful to national defense, or that could lead to uncovering some information classified at a higher level of security.
Less sensitive information is "protected". The levels are
* Confidentiel personnels Officiers ("Confidential officers") * Confidentiel personnels Sous-Officiers ("Confidential non-commissioned officers") * Diffusion restreinte ("restricted information") * Diffusion restreinte administrateur ("administrative restricted information") * Non Protégé (unprotected)
A further caveat, "spécial France" (reserved France) restricts the document to French citizens (in its entirety or by extracts). This is not a classification level.
Declassification of documents can be done by the Commission consultative du secret de la défense nationale (CCSDN), an independent authority. Transfer of classified information is done with double envelopes, the outer layer being plastified and numbered, and the inner in strong paper. Reception of the document involves examination of the physical integrity of the container and registration of the document. In foreign countries, the document must be transferred through specialised military mail or diplomatic bag . Transport is done by an authorised convoyer or habilitated person for mail under 20 kg. The letter must bear a seal mentioning "PAR VALISE ACCOMPAGNEE-SACOCHE". Once a year, ministers have an inventory of classified information and supports by competent authorities.
Once their usage period is expired, documents are transferred to archives, where they are either destroyed (by incineration, crushing or electrical overtension ), or stored.
In case of unauthorized release of classified information, competent authorities are the Ministry of Interior , the Haut fonctionnaire de défense et de sécurité ("high civil servant for defence and security") of the relevant ministry, and the General secretary for National Defence. Violation of such secrets is an offence punishable with 7 years of imprisonment and a 100,000 Euro fine; if the offence is committed by imprudence or negligence, the penalties are 3 years of imprisonment and a 45,000 Euro fine.
The Security Bureau is responsible for developing policies in regards
to the protection and handling of confidential government information.
In general, the system used in
Four classifications exists in Hong Kong, from highest to lowest in sensitivity:
* Top Secret (絕對機密) * Secret (高度機密)
* Confidential (機密)
* Temporary Confidential (臨時保密)
* Restricted (限閱文件/內部文件)
* Restricted (staff) (限閱文件(人事)) * Restricted (tender) (限閱文件 (投標)) * Restricted (administration) (限閱文件 (行政))
Restricted documents are not classified per se, but only those who have a need to know will have access to such information, in accordance with the Personal Data (Privacy) Ordinance.
In addition to national security classifications there are two additional security classifications, In Confidence and Sensitive, which are used to protect information of a policy and privacy nature. There are also a number of information markings used within ministries and departments of the government, to indicate, for example, that information should not be released outside the originating ministry.
Because of strict privacy requirements around personal information, personnel files are controlled in all parts of the public and private sectors. Information relating to the security vetting of an individual is usually classified at the In Confidence level.
Main article: Classified information in Russia
Some Swedish examples of markings attached to documents that are to be kept secret. A single frame around the text indicates Hemlig, which can be equal to either Secret, Confidential or Restricted. Double frames means Kvalificerat hemlig, that is, Top Secret.
The Swedish classification has been updated due to increased NATO/PfP cooperation. All classified defence documents will now have both a Swedish classification (Kvalificerat hemlig or Hemlig), and an English classification (Top Secret, Secret, Confidential, or Restricted). The term skyddad identitet, "protected identity", is used in the case of protection of a threatened person, basically implying "secret identity", accessible only to certain members of the police force and explicitly authorised officials.
Security classifications in the UK Main article: Classified
information in the
Until 2013, the
Government documents without a classification may be marked as UNCLASSIFIED or NOT PROTECTIVELY MARKED.
This system was replaced by the Government Security Classifications Policy , which has a simpler model: TOP SECRET, SECRET, and OFFICIAL from April 2014. OFFICIAL SENSITIVE is a security marking which may be followed by one of three authorised descriptors: COMMERCIAL, LOCSEN (location sensitive) or PERSONAL. SECRET and TOP SECRET may include a caveat such as UK EYES ONLY.
The U.S. classification system is currently established under
Executive Order 13526 and has three levels of
classification—Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret. The U.S. had a
Restricted level during
World War II
The U.S. government insists it is "not appropriate" for a court to
question whether any document is legally classified. In the 1973
Daniel Ellsberg for releasing the Pentagon Papers , the judge
did not allow any testimony from Ellsberg, claiming it was
"irrelevant", because the assigned classification could not be
challenged. The charges against Ellsberg were ultimately dismissed
after it was revealed that the government had broken the law in
secretly breaking into the office of Ellsberg's psychiatrist and in
tapping his telephone without a warrant. Ellsberg insists that the
legal situation in the U.S. today is worse than it was in 1973, and
TABLE OF EQUIVALENT CLASSIFICATION MARKINGS IN VARIOUS COUNTRIES
(STATE) TOP SECRET SECRET CONFIDENTIAL RESTRICTED
Bosnia and Herzegovina
China, People\'s Republic of Juémì (绝密) Jīmì (机密) Mìmì (秘密) Nèibù (内部)
Foreign Service: Fortroligt (thin Black border)
Euratom EURA TOP SECRET EURA SECRET EURA CONFIDENTIAL EURA RESTRICTED
Korea , South I(Il)-geup Bimil, 1급비밀 II(I)-geup Bimil, 2급비밀 III(Sam)-geup Bimil, 3급비밀 Daeoebi, 대외비
Matinding Lihim Secret
Mahigpit na Lihim Confidential
GEHEIM / SECRET VERTRAULICH / CONFIDENTIEL INTERN / INTERNE
NISPOM Appendix B ¹ In addition,
Private corporations often require written confidentiality agreements and conduct background checks on candidates for sensitive positions. In the U.S. the Employee Polygraph Protection Act prohibits private employers from requiring lie detector tests, but there are a few exceptions. Policies dictating methods for marking and safeguarding company-sensitive information (e.g. "IBM Confidential") are common and some companies have more than one level. Such information is protected under trade secret laws. New product development teams are often sequestered and forbidden to share information about their efforts with un-cleared fellow employees, the original Apple Macintosh project being a famous example. Other activities, such as mergers and financial report preparation generally involve similar restrictions. However, corporate security generally lacks the elaborate hierarchical clearance and sensitivity structures and the harsh criminal sanctions that give government classification systems their particular tone.
TRAFFIC LIGHT PROTOCOL
The Traffic Light Protocol was developed by the Group of Eight countries to enable the sharing of sensitive information between government agencies and corporations. This protocol has now been accepted as a model for trusted information exchange by over 30 other countries. The protocol provides for four "information sharing levels" for the handling of sensitive information.
Economic Espionage Act of 1996 (U.S.)
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