The Classification Process

Overview of the classification process (see Classified evidence in a court martial):

Just to give an idea of the scope of the classification process. Around 4,000 employees have the ability to classify information. In order for a document to become classified, four conditions must be met:

  1. Someone with the necessary authority must classify the information (Original Classifying Authority or OCA)
  2. The information must be owned by the United States, or be produced by or for it or under its control
  3. The information must fall within one of the categories listed in section 1.a. of this chapter (the 7 categories of national security information.)
  4. The OCA must determine that: 1) Unauthorized disclosure of the information could be reasonably expected to cause damage to national security and 2) the potential damage is identifiable or describable.

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If these requirements are met, the OCA must determine the appropriate level of classification. If any doubt exists regarding the level, the lower level of classification should be chosen. If information is produced by a person or agency that does not have the authority to classify information, but it believes that the information should be classified, it should treat that information as if it were classified. That information should then be transmitted to an agency with OCA authority. The OCA must then decide whether or not to classify that information within 30 days.

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Too Much Secrecy: Overclassification Hampers Cooperation, FEDERAL TIMES, Sep. 13, 2004

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