Intelligence: Rational Security Classifications?


November15, 2006: After decades of complaints about the haphazard way in which documents were classified as secrets, the U.S. Army has a plan, to do it in a more systematic way. In the past, any of the many people with authority to "classify" documents, could use whatever criteria they saw fit to stamp a document "confidential", "secret" or "top secret". No more. Now, the classifier has to be able to justify, sort of, what level of secrecy is imposed. For example, "confidential" is for data that, if it got out, would result in some damage to national security. For a "secret" classification, there would have to be serious damage. A "top secret" designation would have to involve potential exceptionally grave damage. It's still a judgment call, but at least there are now some guidelines. Until now, over-classifying often had the effect of keeping useful information from your own people. It's why non-government analysts can often uncover "secret" information, and then discover that the troops who need it, do not have access to the official version. Happens all too often.

There are also unclassified secrets. Stuff like "for official use only" and "not for public distribution." These items, often training materials for the troops and civilians working for the military, now require some justification. That would not be too difficult to conjure up, but at least now you have to make an effort before you go crazy with the red stamp.




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