A Look Back at “Classification Management”

09.22.10 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The theory and practice of national security classification policy in the late cold war years are exemplified and explored in back issues of Classification Management, the journal of the National Classification Management Society (NCMS), which is the professional society of classification officers and other security professionals.  Several back issues of the journal are now available online.

“Security Classification is the black sheep of the Information Science family,” wrote C.C. Carnes in the first issue (pdf) of Classification Management in 1965 (p.15).  “Everyone else is trying to expedite the flow of information.  People working in the field of Security Classification are trying to impede, control, and limit the flow of information.  However, we should not be blamed for this apparent perversity.  It serves a purpose.”

That purpose is discussed in depth and detail and with notable candor.

“LIMDIS controls came into existence largely to replace bogus security markings such as SNTK, MK, and CNTK,” explained Raymond P. Schmidt of the Navy (NCMS Viewpoints 1992 [pdf], at p. 34).

While much of the security policy content of the journals is now obsolete, they retain  historical, sociological and perhaps even anthropological interest.

The first couple of issues of the journal comprised “virtually the entire body of published information on the professional aspects of classification management” at that time, wrote NCMS President (and ACDA official) Richard L. Durham in 1966 (Vol. 2, p. 4).

A wide array of security policy issues were addressed over the years in Classification Management, including the dissemination of scientific and technological information, the conduct of classified research and development on university campuses, patent secrecy, and the unauthorized disclosure of classified information.

In the 1972 edition, a panel of reporters and government officials discussed the impact and meaning of the Pentagon Papers for classification management and freedom of the press (Vol. 8, pp. 64-75).

In 1990, Steven Garfinkel, the former director of the Information Security Oversight Office, memorably discussed “not the highlights, not the triumphs, but some of the low points” of his career as ISOO director up to that point.  “This is my tenth anniversary speech.  Ushers, please bar the doors.” (Vol. 26, pp.6-9).

The National Classification Management Society kindly granted permission to post several back issues of Classification Management and NCMS Viewpoints on the Federation of American Scientists website here.