Handling Classified Information

As an approved custodian or user of classified information, you are personally responsible for the protection and control of this information. You must safeguard this information at all times to prevent loss or compromise and unauthorized disclosure, dissemination, or duplication. Unauthorized disclosure of classified material is punishable under the Federal Criminal Statutes or organizational policies.

Your security officer or supervisor will brief you on the specific rules for handling classified information that apply to your organization. Here are some standard procedures that apply to everyone. 

Classified information that is not safeguarded in an approved security container shall be constantly under the control of a person having the proper security clearance and need-to-know. An end-of-day security check should ensure that all classified material is properly secured before closing for the night.

If you find classified material left unattended (for example, in a rest room, or on a desk), it is your responsibility to ensure that the material is properly protected. Stay with the classified material and notify the security office. If this is not possible, take the documents or other material to the security office, a supervisor, or another person authorized access to that information, or, if necessary, lock the material in your own safe overnight.

Classified material shall not be taken home, and you must not work on classified material at home.


Classified information shall not be disposed of in the waste basket. It must be placed in a designated container for an approved method of destruction such as shredding or burning.

E-mail and the Internet create many opportunities for inadvertent disclosure of classified information. Before sending an e-mail, posting to a bulletin board, publishing anything on the Internet, or adding to an existing Web page, you must be absolutely certain none of the information is classified or sensitive unclassified information. Be familiar with your organization's policy for use of the Internet. Many organizations require prior review of ANY information put on the Internet.

Classified working papers such as notes and rough drafts should be dated when created, marked with the overall classification and with the annotation "Working Papers," and disposed of with other classified waste when no longer needed.

Computer diskettes, magnetic tape, CDs, carbon paper, and used typewriter ribbons may pose a problem when doing a security check, as visual examination does not readily reveal whether the items contain classified information. To reduce the possibility of error, some offices treat all such items as classified even though they may not necessarily contain classified information.  

Foreign government material shall be stored and access controlled generally in the same manner as U.S. classified material of an equivalent classification, with one exception. See Foreign Government Classified Information.

Top Secret information is subject to continuing accountability. Top Secret control officials are designated to receive, transmit, and maintain access and accountability records for Top Secret information.  When information is transmitted from one Top Secret control official to another, the receipt is recorded and a receipt is returned to the sending official.  Each item of Top Secret material is numbered in series, and each copy is also numbered.

Some classified Department of Defense information is subject to special controls called Alternative or Compensatory Control Measures (ACCM). ACCM are security measures used to safeguard classified intelligence or operations and support information when normal measures are insufficient to achieve strict need-to-know controls and where special access program (SAP) controls are not required. ACCM measures include the maintenance of lists of personnel to whom the specific classified information has been or may be provided, together with the use of an unclassified nickname and ACCM designation used in conjunction with the security classification to identify the portion, page, and document containing such specific classified information. 

Sensitive Controlled Information (SCI) is subject to special handling procedures not discussed here.

Related Topics:  Mailing and Carrying Classified Materials, Protecting Sensitive Unclassified Information, Foreign Government Classified Information.



The Chroma Group, Ltd.