The Director of National Intelligence last week issued a new directive on “critical information,” also denominated “CRITIC,” which refers to national security information of the utmost urgency.
“Critical information is information concerning possible threats to U.S. national security that are so significant that they require the immediate attention of the President and the National Security Council,” the directive explains.
“Critical information includes the decisions, intentions, or actions of foreign governments, organizations, or individuals that could imminently and materially jeopardize vital U.S. policy, economic, information system, critical infrastructure, cyberspace, or military interests.”
See “Critical Information (CRITIC),” Intelligence Community Directive 190, February 3, 2015.
Interestingly, any intelligence community official can designate information as “critical,” thereby hotlining it for Presidential attention. “Critical information may originate with any U.S. government official in the IC,” the DNI directive says.
Moreover, “CRITIC reporting may be based on either classified or unclassified information.” However, “CRITIC reporting should be based solely on unclassified information only if that information is unlikely to be readily available to the President and the National Security Council.”
The threshold for critical information is fairly high. It includes such things as a terrorist act against vital U.S. interests, the assassination or kidnapping of officials, a cyberspace attack that produces effects of national security significance, and so on.
Confusingly, the term critical information (CRITIC) is used differently in the Department of Defense.
According to the latest DoD Dictionary of Military Terms, “critical information” means “Specific facts about friendly intentions, capabilities, and activities needed by adversaries for them to plan and act effectively so as to guarantee failure or unacceptable consequences for friendly mission accomplishment. Also called CRITIC.”