[govinfo] GovInfo News -- 11-09-06

  • From: "Patrice McDermott" <pmcdermott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2006 10:45:36 -0500

Patrice McDermott, Director
202-332-OPEN (6736)

Army Revamps How Information Is Deemed Classified
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 8, 2006; A03

U.S. Army intelligence has developed a new blueprint 
http://www.fas.org/sgp/othergov/dod/methodology.pdf for standardizing the way 
national security information is classified, recognizing that determining 
whether a particular document is "confidential" or "top secret" is ultimately 
up to the judgment of individuals, according to a memo distributed last month 
by Lt. Gen. John F. Kimmons, the Army's deputy chief of staff.

The memo states that presidential directives and Army regulations that provide 
the basis for classification of security information are "broad and not clearly 
defined," so that the responsible individual's "determination of security 
classification is purely subjective."

The comments offer a rare view of one service's methods for classifying 
information at a time of debate over government openness. In the past few 
years, the leaking of classified information has been the subject of 
congressional investigations, criminal indictments and Supreme Court decisions, 
but almost no attention has been focused on what information has become 
classified and how that system works.

"Over classification is costly, inefficient and can cause slow downs to 
development/operation," the Army memo says. "Under classification," it adds, 
"can cause compromise, inadvertent disclosures and confusion."

The memo notes that even when a document within the Army system is deemed 
unclassified, that "does not mean that it is automatically releaseable to the 
public." A category called "Controlled Unclassified Information" allows 
information to be protected from public view. This category includes the label 
"For Official Use Only," which can involve things such as "internal rules and 
practices of the agency," trade secrets, intra-agency memos that "are part of 
the decision-making process" and records that invade a person's privacy.

The memo also says a compilation of individually unclassified items can be 
considered classified "if the compiled information reveals an additional 
association or relationship" that otherwise would not be apparent.

But before even unclassified information can be released, according to the 
memo, "a competent authority, specifically the Public Affairs Officer, must 
review and determine that the information is releasable to the public."

The Army memorandum attempts to describe the harm to national security or to 
U.S. foreign relations that would result from unauthorized disclosure of 
various types of classified information. The label "confidential" is put on 
information that, if disclosed, would result in "damage" to national security; 
"secret" when disclosure would result in "serious damage"; or "top secret" when 
it would cause "exceptionally grave damage."

These categories do not include even higher levels of classification, such as 
"Sensitive Compartmented Information," which normally refers to intelligence 
gathered electronically that, if disclosed, could result in the loss of 
sensitive sources or methods of collection.
The Army is seeking to set its classification standards at the same time that 
Director of National Intelligence John D. Negroponte has part of his staff 
working to establish common classification standards for the 16 agencies that 
make up the intelligence community so they can share one another's secret 

A spokesman for Negroponte's office declined to comment on the Army document.

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