Thursday, December 09, 2010

WikiLeaks: What do the terms mean?

Last 28 November, the public was bombarded with over a quarter of a million US embassy cables. Many were shocked when another world was suddenly revealed. The "behind the scenes" activities of top-ranking government officials coming in to full view of the public domain.
The following cables were released by WikiLeaks:
  • 15, 652 secret (6.2%)
  • 101,748 confidential (40.5%)
  • 133,887 unclassified (53.3%)
However, not everybody understands what the classification levels mean. Each country has its own definition of secret, confidential, and unclassified information.
Wikipedia--note, it's not WikiLeaks--gives the following definition of government classification of information.
Classification levels
Although the classification systems vary from country to country, most have levels corresponding to the following British definitions (from the highest level to lowest):
Top Secret (TS) The highest level of classification of material on a national level. Such material would cause "exceptionally grave damage" to national security if made publicly available.
Secret Such material would cause "grave damage" to national security if it were publicly available.
Confidential Such material would cause "damage" or be "prejudicial" to national security if publicly available.
Restricted Such material would cause "undesirable effects" if publicly available. Some countries do not have such a classification.
Unclassified Technically not a classification level, but is used for government documents that do not have a classification listed above. Such documents can sometimes be viewed by those without security clearance.
Click here for your country's definition of terms.

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