17 June 2020

Damage to the National Security

So, then, what "classified information" might be in Mr Bolton's book? I suggest first understanding what "classified information" is — and is not. As an aside, the remainder of the US government gives at least lip service to this as authoritative (references too numerous to track down during Phase II "reopening," with the nearest depository library both closed and 100km away).


a. Information shall be classified only to protect national security. If there is significant doubt about the need to classify information, it shall not be classified. Unnecessary or higher than necessary classification is prohibited by Reference (d).1 Information will be declassified as soon as it no longer qualifies for classification.

b. Classification may be applied only to information that is owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the U.S. Government. Information may be considered for classification only if its unauthorized disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause identifiable or describable damage to the national security and it concerns one of the categories specified in section 1.4 of Reference (d):

(1) Military plans, weapon systems, or operations (subsection 1.4(a));

(2) FGI2 (subsection 1.4(b));

(3) Intelligence activities (including covert action), intelligence sources or methods, or cryptology (subsection 1.4(c));

(4) Foreign relations or foreign activities of the United States, including confidential sources (subsection 1.4(d));

(5) Scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security (subsection 1.4(e));

(6) U.S. Government programs for safeguarding nuclear materials or facilities (subsection 1.4(f));

(7) Vulnerabilities or capabilities of systems, installations, infrastructures, projects, plans, or protection services relating to the national security (subsection 1.4(g)); or

(8) The development, production, or use of weapons of mass destruction (subsection 1.4(h)).

c. Information assigned a level of classification under Reference (d) or predecessor orders shall be considered as classified at that level of classification despite the omission of other required markings.


a. Information may not be classified, continued to be maintained as classified, or fail to be declassified in order to:

(1) Conceal violations of law, inefficiency, or administrative error.

(2) Prevent embarrassment to a person, organization, or agency.

(3) Restrain competition.

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

b. Basic scientific research and its results may not be classified unless clearly related to the national security.

3. LEVELS OF CLASSIFICATION. Information identified as requiring protection against unauthorized disclosure in the interest of national security shall be classified Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential. Except as otherwise provided by statute, no other terms shall be used to identify U.S. classified information.

a. Top Secret. 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 OCA3 is able to identify or describe.

b. Secret. 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 OCA is able to identify or describe.

c. Confidential. Confidential shall be applied to information the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security that the OCA is able to identify or describe.

1. Executive Order 13526, Classified National Security Information (29 Dec 2009).

2. Foreign Government Information.

3. Original Classification Authority.

1 DoDI 5200.01 (pdf of typescript), DoD Information Security Program: Overview, Classification, and Declassification (24 Feb 2012) Enc. 4 at 40–41 (explanatory footnotes supplied, typography corrected to usages in DODR 5200.1 (1983 printed ed.)).

It's rather clear that the Drumpf Administration is channeling Edmund Blackadder when dealing with bad actors.

BlackadderWhite House Counsel: Oh, incidentally, Baldrickcitizenactorspublishers are very superstitious. On no account mention the word "Macbethclassified" this evening, alright?

BaldrickCitizen: Why not?

BlackadderWhite House Counsel: It brings them bad luck and it makes them very unhappy.

BaldrickCitizen: Oh, so you won't be mentioning it either?

BlackadderWhite House Counsel: No… well, not very often.

Nob and Nobility, Blackadder III (ep. 4, 01 Oct 1987) ("redline" edits supplied).

"Damage to reelection chances" doesn't fall inside of ¶ 3. And before shrieking that Hunter Biden is even relevant, consider the problems with son-in-law Jared Kushner's security clearance — it's very much the pot calling the kettle black in the world of black information, while ignoring that black lives matter (all possible puns intended, including the difficult and never-mentioned ones not really concerning domestic race relations). In over a third of a century, nothing has changed for the party that holds itself out as expert on "national security."

I know all too well what the "review process" looks like, from both sides of the desk. More to the point, I know all too well how common overclassification is, and have personally observed how it is used in practice to obstruct justice (notwithstanding ¶ 2b, which overrules ¶ 1b(4)). And further details remain… classified (notwithstanding the third sentence of ¶ 1a).