clinton e.o. on national security classification

EXECUTIVE ORDER 12,958
April 17, 1995
CLASSIFIED NATIONAL SECURITY INFORMATION

superceded by Executive Order 13,292, March 25, 2003
Federal Register version in PDF

  1. PART 1 ORIGINAL CLASSIFICATION
    1. Section 1.1. Definitions.
    2. Section 1.2. Classification Standards
    3. Section 1.3. Classification Levels.
    4. Section 1.4. Classification Authority
    5. Section 1.5. Classification Categories
    6. Section 1.6. Duration of Classification
    7. Section 1.7. Identification and Markings
    8. Section 1.8. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations
    9. Section 1.9. Classification Challenges
  2. PART 2 DERIVATIVE CLASSIFICATION
    1. Section 2.1. Definitions
    2. Section 2.2. Use of Derivative Classification
    3. Section 2.3. Classification Guides
  3. PART 3 DECLASSIFICATION AND DOWNGRADING
    1. Section 3.1. Definitions
    2. Section 3.2. Authority for Declassification
    3. Section 3.3. Transferred Information
    4. Section 3.4. Automatic Declassification
    5. Section 3.5. Systematic Declassification Review
    6. Section 3.6. Mandatory Declassification Review
    7. Section 3.7. Processing Requests and Reviews
    8. Section 3.8. Declassification Database
  4. PART 4 SAFEGUARDING
    1. Section 4.1. Definitions
    2. Section 4.2. General Restrictions on Access
    3. Section 4.3. Distribution Controls
    4. Section 4.4. Special Access Programs
    5. Section 4.5. Access by Historical Researchers and Former Presidential Appointees.
  5. PART 5 IMPLEMENTATION AND REVIEW
    1. Section 5.1. Definitions
    2. Section 5.2. Program Direction
    3. Section 5.3. Information Security Oversight Office
    4. Section 5.4. Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel
    5. Section 5.5. Information Security Policy Advisory Council
    6. Section 5.6. General Responsibilities
    7. Section 5.7. Sanctions
  6. PART 6 GENERAL PROVISIONS
    1. Section 6.1. General Provisions
    2. Section 6.2. Effective Date

This order prescribes a uniform system for classifying, safeguarding, and declassifying national security information. Our democratic principles require that the American people be informed of the activities of their Government. Also, our Nation's progress depends on the free flow of information. Nevertheless, throughout our history, the national interest has required that certain information be maintained in confidence in order to protect our citizens, our democratic institutions, and our participation within the community of nations. Protecting information critical to our Nation's security remains a priority. In recent years, however, dramatic changes have altered, although not eliminated, the national security threats that we confront. These changes provide a greater opportunity to emphasize our commitment to open Government.

NOW, THEREFORE, by the authority vested in me as President by the Constitution and the laws of the United States of America, it is hereby ordered as follows:

PART 1 ORIGINAL CLASSIFICATION

Section 1.1. Definitions.

For purposes of this order:

(a) "National security" means the national defense or foreign relations of the United States.

(b) "Information" means any knowledge that can be communicated or documentary material, regardless of its physical form or characteristics, that is owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government. "Control" means the authority of the agency that originates information, or its successor in function, to regulate access to the information.

(c) "Classified national security information" (hereafter "classified information") means information that has been determined pursuant to this order or any predecessor order to require protection against unauthorized disclosure and is marked to indicate its classified status when in documentary form.

(d) "Foreign Government Information" means:

(1) information provided to the United States Government by a foreign government or governments, an international organization of governments, or any element thereof, with the expectation that the information, the source of the information, or both, are to be held in confidence;

(2) information produced by the United States pursuant to or as a result of a joint arrangement with a foreign government or governments, or an international organization of governments, or any element thereof, requiring that the information, the arrangement, or both, are to be held in confidence; or

(3) information received and treated as "Foreign Government Information" under the terms of a predecessor order.

(e) "Classification" means the act or process by which information is determined to be classified information.

(f) "Original classification" means an initial determination that information requires, in the interest of national security, protection against unauthorized disclosure.

(g) "Original classification authority" means an individual authorized in writing, either by the President, or by agency heads or other officials designated by the President, to classify information in the first instance.

(h) "Unauthorized disclosure" means a communication or physical transfer of classified information to an unauthorized recipient.

(i) "Agency" means any "Executive agency," as defined in 5 U.S.C. 105, and any other entity within the executive branch that comes into the possession of classified information.

(j) "Senior agency official" means the official designated by the agency head under section 5.6(c) of this order to direct and administer the agency's program under which information is classified, safeguarded, and declassified.

(k) "Confidential source" means any individual or organization that has provided, or that may reasonably be expected to provide, information to the United States on matters pertaining to the national security with the expectation that the information or relationship, or both, are to be held in confidence.

(l) "Damage to the national security" means harm to the national defense or foreign relations of the United States from the unauthorized disclosure of information, to include the sensitivity, value, and utility of that information.

Sec. 1.2. Classification Standards

(a) Information may be originally classified under the terms of this order only if all of the following conditions are met:

(1) an original classification authority is classifying the information; (

(2)) the information is owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government; (

(3)) the information falls within one or more of the categories of information listed in section 1.5 of this order; and (

(4)) the original classification authority determines that the unauthorized disclosure of the information reasonably could be expected to result in damage to the national security and the original classification authority is able to identify or describe the damage.

(b) If there is significant doubt about the need to classify information, it shall not be classified. This provision does not:

(1) amplify or modify the substantive criteria or procedures for classification; or (

(2)) create any substantive or procedural rights subject to judicial review.

(c) Classified information shall not be declassified automatically as a result of any unauthorized disclosure of identical or similar information.

Sec. 1.3. Classification Levels.

(a) Information may be classified at one of the following three levels:

(1) "Top Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(2) "Secret" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(3) "Confidential" shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.

(b) Except as otherwise provided by statute, no other terms shall be used to identify United States classified information.

(c) If there is significant doubt about the appropriate level of classification, it shall be classified at the lower level.

Sec. 1.4. Classification Authority

(a) The authority to classify information originally may be exercised only by:

(1) the President;

(2) agency heads and officials designated by the President in the Federal Register; or

(3) United States Government officials delegated this authority pursuant to paragraph (c), below.

(b) Officials authorized to classify information at a specified level are also authorized to classify information at a lower level.

(c) Delegation of original classification authority.

(1) Delegations of original classification authority shall be limited to the minimum required to administer this order. Agency heads are responsible for ensuring that designated subordinate officials have a demonstrable and continuing need to exercise this authority.

(2) "Top Secret" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President or by an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2), above.

(3) "Secret" or "Confidential" original classification authority may be delegated only by the President; an agency head or official designated pursuant to paragraph (a)(2), above; or the senior agency official, provided that official has been delegated "Top Secret" original classification authority by the agency head.

(4) Each delegation of original classification authority shall be in writing and the authority shall not be redelegated except as provided in this order. Each delegation shall identify the official by name or position title.

(d) Original classification authorities must receive training in original classification as provided in this order and its implementing directives.

(e) Exceptional cases. When an employee, contractor, licensee, certificate holder, or grantee of an agency that does not have original classification authority originates information believed by that person to require classification, the information shall be protected in a manner consistent with this order and its implementing directives. The information shall be transmitted promptly as provided under this order or its implementing directives to the agency that has appropriate subject matter interest and classification authority with respect to this information. That agency shall decide within 30 days whether to classify this information. If it is not clear which agency has classification responsibility for this information, it shall be sent to the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office. The Director shall determine the agency having primary subject matter interest and forward the information, with appropriate recommendations, to that agency for a classification determination.

Sec. 1.5. Classification Categories

Information may not be considered for classification unless it concerns:

(a) military plans, weapons systems, or operations;

(b) foreign government information;

(c) intelligence activities (including special activities), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology;

(d) foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources;

(e) scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security;

(f) United States Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities; or

(g) vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, projects or plans relating to the national security.

Sec. 1.6. Duration of Classification

(a) At the time of original classification, the original classification authority shall attempt to establish a specific date or event for declassification based upon the duration of the national security sensitivity of the information. The date or event shall not exceed the time frame in paragraph (b), below.

(b) If the original classification authority cannot determine an earlier specific date or event for declassification, information shall be marked for declassification 10 years from the date of the original decision, except as provided in paragraph (d), below.

(c) An original classification authority may extend the duration of classification or reclassify specific information for successive periods not to exceed 10 years at a time if such action is consistent with the standards and procedures established under this order. This provision does not apply to information contained in records that are more than 25 years old and have been determined to have permanent historical value under title 44, United States Code.

(d) At the time of original classification, the original classification authority may exempt from declassification within 10 years specific information, the unauthorized disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security for a period greater than that provided in paragraph (b), above, and the release of which could reasonably be expected to:

(1) reveal an intelligence source, method, or activity, or a cryptologic system or activity;

(2) reveal information that would assist in the development or use of weapons of mass destruction;

(3) reveal information that would impair the development or use of technology within a United States weapons system;

(4) reveal United States military plans, or national security emergency preparedness plans;

(5) reveal foreign government information;

(6) damage relations between the United States and a foreign government, reveal a confidential source, or seriously undermine diplomatic activities that are reasonably expected to be ongoing for a period greater than that provided in paragraph (b), above;

(7) impair the ability of responsible United States Government officials to protect the President, the Vice President, and other individuals for whom protection services, in the interest of national security, are authorized; or

(8) violate a statute, treaty, or international agreement.

(e) Information marked for an indefinite duration of classification under predecessor orders, for example, "Originating Agency's Determination Required," or information classified under predecessor orders that contains no declassification instructions shall be declassified in accordance with part 3 of this order.

Sec. 1.7. Identification and Markings

(a) At the time of original classification, the following shall appear on the face of each classified document, or shall be applied to other classified media in an appropriate manner:

(1) one of the three classification levels defined in section 1.3 of this order;

(2) the identity, by name or personal identifier and position, of the original classification authority;

(3) the agency and office of origin, if not otherwise evident;

(4) declassification instructions, which shall indicate one of the following:

(A) the date or event for declassification, as prescribed in section 1.6(a) or section 1.6(c); or (B) the date that is 10 years from the date of original classification, as prescribed in section 1.6(b); or (C) the exemption category from declassification, as prescribed in section 1.6(d); and

(5) a concise reason for classification which, at a minimum, cites the applicable classification categories in section 1.5 of this order.

(b) Specific information contained in paragraph (a), above, may be excluded if it would reveal additional classified information.

(c) Each classified document shall, by marking or other means, indicate which portions are classified, with the applicable classification level, which portions are exempt from declassification under section 1.6(d) of this order, and which portions are unclassified. In accordance with standards prescribed in directives issued under this order, the Director of the Information Security Oversight Office may grant waivers of this requirement for specified classes of documents or information. The Director shall revoke any waiver upon a finding of abuse.

(d) Markings implementing the provisions of this order, including abbreviations and requirements to safeguard classified working papers, shall conform to the standards prescribed in implementing directives issued pursuant to this order.

(e) Foreign government information shall retain its original classification markings or shall be assigned a U.S. classification that provides a degree of protection at least equivalent to that required by the entity that furnished the information.

(f) Information assigned a level of classification under this or predecessor orders shall be considered as classified at that level of classification despite the omission of other required markings. Whenever such information is used in the derivative classification process or is reviewed for possible declassification, holders of such information shall coordinate with an appropriate classification authority for the application of omitted markings.

(g) The classification authority shall, whenever practicable, use a classified addendum whenever classified information constitutes a small portion of an otherwise unclassified document.

Sec. 1.8. Classification Prohibitions and Limitations

(a) In no case shall information be classified in order to:

(1) conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error;

(2) prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency;

(3) restrain competition; or

(4) prevent or delay the release of information that does not require protection in the interest of national security.

(b) Basic scientific research information not clearly related to the national security may not be classified.

(c) Information may not be reclassified after it has been declassified and released to the public under proper authority.

(d) Information that has not previously been disclosed to the public under proper authority may be classified or reclassified after an agency has received a request for it under the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. 552) or the Privacy Act of 1974 (5 U.S.C. 552a), or the mandatory review provisions of section 3.6 of this order only if such classification meets the requirements of this order and is accomplished on a document-by-document basis with the personal participation or under the direction of the agency head, the deputy agency head, or the senior agency official designated under section 5.6 of this order. This provision does not apply to classified information contained in records that are more than 25 years old and have been determined to have permanent historical value under title 44, United States Code.

(e) Compilations of items of information which are individually unclassified may be classified if the compiled information reveals an additional association or relationship that:

(1) meets the standards for classification under this order; and

(2) is not otherwise revealed in the individual items of information.

As used in this order, "compilation" means an aggregation of pre-existing unclassified items of information.

Sec. 1.9. Classification Challenges

(a) Authorized holders of information who, in good faith, believe that its classification status is improper are encouraged and expected to challenge the classification status of the information in accordance with agency procedures established under paragraph (b), below.

(b) In accordance with implementing directives issued pursuant to this order, an agency head or senior agency official shall establish procedures under which authorized holders of information are encouraged and expected to challenge the classification of information that they believe is improperly classified or unclassified. These procedures shall assure that:

(1) individuals are not subject to retribution for bringing such actions;

(2) an opportunity is provided for review by an impartial official or panel; and

(3) individuals are advised of their right to appeal agency decisions to the Interagency Security Classification Appeals Panel established by section 5.4 of this order.

PART 2 DERIVATIVE CLASSIFICATION

Sec. 2.1. Definitions

For purposes of this order:

(a) "Derivative classification" means the incorporating, paraphrasing, restating or generating in new form information that is already classified, and marking the newly developed material consistent with the classification markings that apply to the source information. Derivative classification includes the classification of information based on classification guidance. The duplication or reproduction of existing classified information is not derivative classification.

(b) "Classification guidance" means any instruction or source that prescribes the classification of specific information.

(c) "Classification guide" means a documentary form of classificat