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Greg Burnham

"Politics as usual" -- is unusual

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Defending Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton's email scandal this weekend, President Obama said to Chris Wallace [paraphrased]:

"Well, there's 'classified' and then there's CLASSIFIED."

-- The obvious implication being that there is some sort of distinction between two IDENTICAL words.

It was reminiscent of Bill Clinton--when facing possible impeachment--famously saying:

"It all depends on what your definition of the word 'is' is."

I'll tell you what it is. It's all BS.

What has happened to our country?

The oligarchs are not hiding in plain sight, they're not hiding at all.

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The obvious implication being there are different levels of classified. Geez! Was that too hard to figure out?

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The obvious implication being there are different levels of classified. Geez! Was that too hard to figure out?

For those who have actually had a security clearance, your above comment speaks to your lack of experience.

There is CLASSIFIED

There is TOP SECRET

There is NOFORN

There is EYES ONLY

[etc]

FYI: Obama went on to further say: "There's 'top secret' and then there's TOP SECRET."

No, Mr President. There are documents that are CLASSIFIED and there are documents that are not CLASSIFIED.

There are documents that are "simply" CLASSIFIED and there are documents that are CLASSIFIED as:

TOP SECRET or EYES ONLY or NOFORN (aka: No Foreign Dissemination) and so forth.

Yes, Len, it is what it is.

Edited by Greg Burnham

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The system varies from country to country, but here is a general guide.

Something becomes classified when its unauthorised release can damage the government. The level of damage determines the level of classification.

Anything that is not classified is unclassified.

The general classifications, in increasing order, are:

RESTRICTED

CONFIDENTIAL

SECRET

TOP SECRET

Sometimes there is need for additional details regarding the handling of the material. For example, there is Special Compartmentalised Information (SCI). This is a codeword that refers to a project, system or activity. The codeword normally changes between classifications.

For example, lets say that there is a programme where submarines go out and specifically get close to foreign military establishments in order to do electronic eavesdropping. A report that contains details of where a submarine went, who it listen to, what it found, etc, might be be classified TOP SECRET BICYCLE, where BICYCLE is the SCI codeword. Now, just because I have a Top Secret clearance does not mean I can read the report. I must have the Need To Know. If I do have that then the classifying authority will 'brief me in'. I'll be given a general overview applicable to that classification, told about restrictions associated with the codeword (e.g. may not travel to Russia without written permission), etc. If I am briefed in at the TS level then I will automatically be included in the lower levels. For example, a report that talks about the surveillance equipment used on the submarine but does not mention any detail about where it gets used or the information gathered might be classified CONFIDENTIAL APPLE. The report itself is only CONFIDENTIAL but APPLE refers to the same programme that BICYCLE referred to. Each classification uses a different codeword.

What this means that even if I only know the classification of an item (e.g. TOP SECRET BICYCLE) I know that the item is related to a programme (submarine eavesdropping).

Another special handling caveat, mentioned by Greg, is NOFORN or No Foreign Nationals. Regardless of the classification, if it says NOFORN then no foreign national is permitted to see the material without specific authority.

I think that when they are saying "Well, there's 'classified' and then there's CLASSIFIED." they could be referring to codeword / SCI.

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