United States Government Secrecy - Classified Vs. Unclassified Information

Classified Vs. Unclassified Information

In the U.S., information is called "classified" if it has been assigned one of the three levels: Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret. Information that is not so labeled is called "Unclassified information". The term declassified is used for information that has had its classification removed, and downgraded refers to information that has been assigned a lower classification level but is still classified. Many documents are automatically downgraded and then declassified after some number of years. The U.S. government uses the terms Sensitive But Unclassified (SBU), Sensitive Security Information (SSI), Critical Program Information (CPI), For Official Use Only (FOUO), Limited Distribution (LIMDIS), or Law Enforcement Sensitive (LES) to refer to information that is not Confidential, Secret, or Top Secret, but whose dissemination is still restricted. Reasons for such restrictions can include export controls, privacy regulations, court orders, and ongoing criminal investigations, as well as national security. Information that was never classified is sometimes referred to as "open source" by those who work in classified activities. Public Safety Sensitive (PSS) refers to information that is similar to Law Enforcement Sensitive but could be shared between the various public safety disciplines (Law Enforcement, Fire, and Emergency Medical Services). Peter Louis Galison, a historian and Director in the Science Dept. at Harvard University, claims that the U.S. Government produces more classified information than unclassified information.

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