Classified Information in The United States - Levels of Classification Used By The U.S. Government - Unclassified

Unclassified is not technically a classification; this is the default and refers to information that can be released to individuals without a clearance. Information that is unclassified is sometimes restricted in its dissemination as Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU) or For Official Use Only (FOUO). For example, the law enforcement bulletins reported by the U.S. media when the United States Department of Homeland Security raised the U.S. terror threat level were usually classified as "U//LES", or "Unclassified - Law Enforcement Sensitive". This information is only supposed to be released to law enforcement groups (sheriff, police, etc.), but, because the information is unclassified, it is sometimes released to the public as well. Information that is unclassified but which the government does not believe should be subject to Freedom of Information Act requests is often classified as U//FOUO—"Unclassified—For Official Use Only". In addition to FOUO information, information can be categorized according to its availability to be distributed (e.g., Distribution D may only be released to approved Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Defense contractor personnel). Also, the statement of NOFORN (meaning "no foreign nationals") is applied to any information that may not be released to any non-U.S. citizen. NOFORN and distribution statements are often used in conjunction with classified information or alone on SBU information. Documents subject to export controls have a specific warning to that effect.

Finally, information at one level of classification may be "upgraded by aggregation" to a higher level. For example, a specific technical capability of a weapons system might be classified Secret, but the aggregation of all technical capabilities of the system into a single document could be deemed top secret.

Use of information restrictions outside the classification system is growing in the U.S. government. In September 2005 J. William Leonard, director of the U.S. National Archives Information Security Oversight Office, was quoted in the press as saying, "No one individual in government can identify all the controlled, unclassified, let alone describe their rules."

Read more about this topic:  Classified Information In The United States, Levels of Classification Used By The U.S. Government

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