Marking Classified Information
Physically marking classified information with appropriate classification and control markings serves to warn and inform holders of the degree of protection required. Other notations aid in derivative classification actions and facilitate downgrading or declassification. It is important that all classified information and material be marked to clearly convey the level of classification assigned, the portions that contain or reveal classified information, the period of time protection is required, and any other notations required for protection of the information or material.
The following is a summary of the most commonly used document control markings. More detailed information is available via the Internet from a variety of sources.1 Classification and control markings and country designators authorized for use by the Intelligence Community are compiled in the Authorized Classification and Control Markings Register maintained by the DNI Special Security Center, Controlled Access Program Coordination Office (CAPCO).
Overall Classification Markings
The overall (i.e., highest) classification of a document is marked at the top and bottom of the outside cover (if there is one), the title page (if there is one), the first page, and the outside of the back cover (if there is one) or back side of the last page.
Each interior page containing classified information is marked top and bottom with the overall (i.e., highest) classification of the page. Each unclassified interior page is marked 'Unclassified" at the top and bottom. Interior pages that are For Official Use Only need to be marked only at the bottom. Blank pages require no markings.
Attachments and annexes may become separated from the basic document. They should be marked as if they were separate documents.
Additionally, every classified document must show, on the face of the document, the agency and office that created it and date of creation. This information must be clear enough to allow someone receiving the document to contact the preparing office if questions or problems about classification arise.
U.S. documents that contain foreign government information shall be marked on the front, "THIS DOCUMENT CONTAINS FOREIGN GOVERNMENT (indicate level) INFORMATION."
Computer files must be marked with appropriate headers and footers to ensure that anything that is transmitted or printed will have the applicable classification and associated markings.
All removable storage media and devices such as diskettes, CD-ROMs, cassettes, magnet tape reels, etc. must have an outer label with the appropriate markings.
Each slide must be marked on the slide itself or slide cover, as well as on the image that is projected.
Automated Information Processing Requirements
Use of automated information systems to route and control access to information requires standard procedures for how documents are marked. Classification and control markings must follow a specified format that enables automated systems to recognize the markings.
Any classified document, either in hard copy or automated, must contain a header and footer with the classification, any control markings, and declassification date or designation. These three elements -- classification, control marking(s), and declassification date -- must be separated by two forward slashes and no spaces. If multiple dissemination control markings are used, they are separated by a comma and no spaces, except that multiple SCI controls are separated by a single forward slash and no spaces. Declassification date must be marked by an eight-digit number (year, month, day), exemption category (such as X1), or as Manual Review (MR). This is illustrated by the following examples:
A control marking such as FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY cannot stand alone. It must be preceded by a classification as in:
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
When marking foreign government classified information, the classification is preceded by two forward slashes and countries are identified by an approved three-letter designator, as in //NATO SECRET or //DEU SECRET for Germany.
The title or subject of a classified document is marked with the appropriate classification abbreviation in parentheses -- (TS), (S), (C), or (U) immediately following and to the right of the title or subject. All documents containing information that requires control markings, regardless of classification, format, or medium, shall be portion marked. The overall classification of a document is equal to the highest classification level of any one portion found in the document.
Each portion of a classified document is to be marked with the appropriate classification abbreviation in parentheses immediately before the beginning of the portion. If the portion is numbered or lettered, place the abbreviation in parentheses between the letter or number and the start of the text. A portion is ordinarily defined as a paragraph, but also includes subjects, titles, graphics, tables, charts, bullet statements, sub-paragraphs, classified signature blocks, bullets and other portions with slide presentations and the like.
Portions of U.S. documents containing foreign government information are marked to reflect the foreign country of origin as well as the appropriate classification, for example, (U.K.-C). Portions of U.S. documents containing extracts from NATO documents are marked to reflect "NATO" or "COSMIC" as well as the appropriate classification, for example, (NATO-S) or (COSMIC-TS). Further information is available at Foreign Government Classified Information.
Point of Contact Marking
All intelligence reports shall include an Intelligence Community point of contact and contact instructions at the end of the report. This is required to expedite decisions on the sharing of the report.
Release to Foreign Countries/Organizations
In support of homeland security and coalition warfare, the U.S. Government has an increased need to share data with foreign countries, international organizations, and multinational forces. This has led to recent changes in the use of the "Released to..." (REL TO) control marking. This marking was previously only for use on intelligence information, but it is now authorized for use on all classified defense information.
Following the REL TO marking is a list of countries to which the information may be released through proper disclosure channels to specified foreign governments or international organizations. This list starts with USA and is followed by other countries listed alphabetically by the approved country code(s), international organization, or coalition force.
This format with // after the classification, a comma and space between each country, and with a lower case "and" with no comma before the last country code must be followed exactly to facilitate machine reading and sorting of the document. The approved three-letter country codes are available on the Internet at ftp.ripe.net/iso3166-countrycodes.txt. This marking shall appear at the top and bottom of the front cover (if there is one), the title page (if there is one), the first page and the outside of the back cover (if there is one). Each interior page containing classified information is marked top and bottom with the overall (i.e., highest) classification of the page.
When portion marking individual titles or paragraphs, the countries do not need to be listed unless they are different from the countries listed in the REL TO at the top and bottom of the page. For example: (TS:REL). If information is releasable to different countries than those listed in the overall REL TO marking, all the countries and organizations should be listed in the portion marking. For example: (S//REL TO USA, AUS, NZL and NATO).
The marking "Not Releasable to Foreign Nationals" (NOFORN) is still only authorized for use on intelligence that requires originator approval before being disclosed (see below).
Other Distribution Controls
In addition to its classification, intelligence information and certain scientific or technical information may also be subject to other controls on its distribution and handling. It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the control markings on classified information. If you are not sure, contact your security office. These control markings include:
Department of Defense also uses the marking Alternative or Compensatory Control Measures (ACCM) for classified information that requires special security measures 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 are defined as 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 project nickname. The ACCM designation is used in conjunction with the security classification to identify the portion, page, or document containing ACCM information.