Navy Urges More Classification by Compilation

By October 1, 2008

In a newly released series of instructions, the Chief of Naval Operations has directed Navy classifiers to give greater attention to the possible need to classify compilations of unclassified information.

According to executive branch classification policy, compilations of information may be classified even when all of their component parts are unclassified.

Thus, the executive order on classification states (EO 13292, at section 1.7e): “Compilations of items of information that 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.”

Now, U.S. Navy classifiers have been told to “consider classification by compilation when updating SCGs [security classification guides] due to the large volume of data transmitted and stored on unclassified and classified Department of the Navy (DON) networks and websites.”

That language appears in each of a dozen Chief of Naval Operations Instructions issued on July 21, 2008 dealing with Navy security classification guides. The Instructions list the titles of many dozens of Navy classification guides on topics ranging from undersea warfare (pdf) to intelligence cover and deception (pdf).

Classification by compilation is a disputed area and a policy that lends itself to misuse since it involves even greater subjective factors than ordinary classification.

A careful but critical account of the subject prepared in 1991 for the Department of Energy is “Classification of Compilations of Information” (pdf) by Arvin S. Quist, June 1991.

Categories: Secrecy