HomeQuestionsLaws and Executive Orders Governing Declassification

FAQ Topic

Please explain classification by compilation?

Classification by compilation is an aggregation of pre-existing unclassified items of information. The compiled information may be classified if it reveals an additional association or relationship that meets the standards for classification and is not otherwise revealed in the individual items of information. Bringing together information that is already classified from more than one source document is not a compilation; it is derivative classification. However, information from multiple sources that is already classified at one level may result in a higher level of classification when it is compiled.

 

Please explain Controlled Unclassified Information (CUI)?

CUI shall serve as the exclusive designation for identifying unclassified information throughout the Executive Branch that requires safeguarding and dissemination controls, to the extent consistent with applicable statutes, regulations, and Government-wide policies. CUI designation shall not be deemed dispositive for purposes of applying the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. §552). If there is significant doubt about whether information should be controlled as CUI, it shall not be so controlled.

Information that currently does not have a security classification pursuant to the criteria of the Executive Order (but may have in the past), but which may be withheld from the public because disclosure would cause a foreseeable harm to an interest protected by one or more of the nine Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) exemptions. CUI shall be considered as being For Official Use Only (FOUO). See FOIA exemptions.

 

Please explain derivative classification?

According to Executive Order 13526, derivative classification means the incorporating, paraphrasing, restating, or generating in new form information that is already classified, and marking the newly developed material consistent with the classification markings that apply to the source information. Derivative classification includes the classification of information based on classification guidance. The duplication or reproduction of existing classified information is not derivative classification.

 

Please explain Security Classification Guides (SCGs)?

Agencies with original classification authority are required by EO 13526, to prepare classification guides to facilitate the proper and uniform derivative classification of information. The SCGs outline the exact information that requires classification, the level of classification, the justification and the duration. Providing SCGs prevents over or under classification of information and assists in ensuring that guidelines are applied to the information in a uniform manner.

 

Please explain the difference between reviewing a document for release and reviewing information for declassification?

Reviewing information for declassification means using classification guidance to determine if a piece of information has been judged by an Original Classification Authority to require protection against public release because such release could harm U.S. national security. Even if no classified national security information exists in a document, that document still may not be releasable in its current form. Reviewing a document for release means that, even after a determination that no classified information exists in the document, information in the document is protected from release for other reasons, and that information must be redacted before the document can be released. The "other reasons" for protecting information from release can be found in exemptions 2 through 9 of the Freedom of Information Act.

 

Please explain why AFDO exempts Foreign Government Information?

Foreign government information (FGI) is information provided to the United States by a foreign government or governments, an international organization of governments or any element thereof, with the expectation that the information, the source of the information or both are to be held in confidence. The premature release of FGI could be expected to adversely impact relations between the government, its allies or both and the United States.

 

What authorities does AFDO use to maintain the document classification after 25 years?

Executive Order 13526 states that an agency head may exempt from automatic declassification specific information, the release of which should clearly and demonstrably be expected to:
(1) reveal the identity of a confidential human source, a human intelligence source, a relationship with an intelligence or security service of a foreign government or international organization, or a non human intelligence source; or impair the effectiveness of an intelligence method currently in use, available for use, or under development;
(2) reveal information that would assist in the development, production or use of weapons of mass destruction;
(3) reveal information that would impair U.S. cryptologic systems or activities;
(4) revel information that would impair the application of state-of-the-art technology within a U.S. weapon system;
(5) reveal formally named or numbered U.S. military war plans that remain in effect, or reveal operational or tactical elements of prior plans that are contained in such active plans;
(6) reveal information, including foreign government information, that would cause serious harm to relations between the United States and a foreign government, or to ongoing diplomatic activities of the United States;
(7) reveal information that would impair the current ability of United States Government officials to protect the President, Vice President, and other protectees for whom protection services, in the interest of the national security, are authorized;
(8) reveal information that would seriously impair current national security emergency preparedness plans or reveal current vulnerabilities of systems, installations, or infrastructures relating to the national security; or
(9) violate a statute, treaty, or international agreement that does not permit the automatic or unilateral declassification of information at 25 years.

 

What does it mean when a document is classified?

Classified means that an Original Classifying Authority has determined that public release of this information would damage our national security. There are only three types of classified information.
i. TOP SECRET: is the highest level of classification of material on a national level. Such material would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if made publicly available.
ii. SECRET: Such material would cause "grave damage" to national security if it were publicly available.
iii. CONFIDENTIAL: Such material would cause "damage" or be "prejudicial" to national security if publicly available.

 

What does it mean when documents are Excluded, Exempted, or Referred?

When a document is EXCLUDED it means it contains Restricted Data (RD) or Formerly Restricted Data (FRD) covered by the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended and 10 CFR 1045.. The Executive Order 13526 expressly prohibits the automatic declassification of documents containing Restricted Data or Formerly Restricted Data. Documents marked as containing RD or FRD are EXCLUDED must be reviewed by the Department of Energy who will determine if the information can be removed from the RD/FRD category. . When the Department of Energy determines that an RD or FRD designation may be removed, any remaining information classified under the Order must be referred to the appropriate agency for review 
When a document is EXEMPTED it means the document contains current and properly classified information. The Executive Order 13526 permits nine EXEMPTIONS to the Automatic declassification of documents 25 years and older. 
--1: reveal the identity of a confidential human source, a human intelligence source, a relationship with an intelligence or security service of a foreign government or international organization, or a non-human intelligence source; or impair the effectiveness of an intelligence method currently in use, available for use, or under development.
--2: reveal information that would assist in the development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction;
--3: reveal information that would impair U.S. cryptologic systems or activities;
--4: reveal information that would impair the application of state-of-the-art technology within a U.S. weapon system;
--5: reveal formally named or numbered U.S. military war plans 
that remains in effect, or reveal operational or tactical elements of prior plans that are contained in such active plans;
--6: reveal information, including foreign government information, that would cause serious harm to relations between the United States and a foreign government, or to ongoing diplomatic activities of the United States; 
--7: reveal information that would impair the current ability of United States Government officials to protect the President, Vice President, and other protectees for whom protection services, in the interest of the national security, are authorized;
--8: reveal information that would seriously impair current national security emergency preparedness plans or reveal current vulnerabilities of systems, installations, or infrastructures relating to the national security; or
-- 9: violate a statute, treaty, or international agreement that 
does not permit the automatic or unilateral declassification of 
information at 25 years.

When a document is REFERRED it means an agency uncovered classified records or information embedded in a document originated by another agency which meets the criteria for referral under the EO 13526. The finding agency identifies those records for referral to the originating agency for disposition determination.

 

When will information AFDO exempts from E.O. 13526 become declassified?

Information classified under E.O. 13526 becomes declassified under the following conditions:
a. After a predetermined period of time has elapsed since the issuance of the record in question (typically 10, 25, or 50 years), at which point the Original Classification Authority (OCA) for the information in question has previously judged that the information can be released to the public.
b. After an event occurs whose occurrence the OCA has previously determined marks the point after which information becomes declassified.