Why “It was not marked classified” does NOT fly!

“Loose Lips…” – One Perspective on Classified Material and National Security

No, I never worked for the State Department. However, for the 25 years before retiring, I worked for top tier government contractors where exposure to classified material and information security were routine—almost daily occurrences.

ClassifiedHere are some of the rules that we were required to follow. Failure to comply was a sure way to immediately become unemployed and the penalties for mishandling classified information can be severe.

First, classified material was not ever transmitted via the company’s routine email network. If it was necessary to transmit or receive classified information via an email or electronic transfer, we entered a limited access (i.e., cleared personnel only) area (i.e., secure room), logged on to a cleared, secure network, and there we could exchange classified information. Note: Under special, usually prearranged conditions, an office, meeting certain security conditions, could become a temporary secure area.

There were also ways to arrange access to secure facilities when we were “on the road.” The fundamental rule was that we were expected to never compromise the security of classified (or potentially classified) information. Two people working on the same project could not discuss that project except inside a secure area. While in the cafeteria, for example, you were NOT to ask your coworker, “Did you complete that task we discussed?” referring to—even without mentioning—the classified project.

The point here is that in some sectors of industry and government, people take national security seriously. Personally, I find the careless handling of even potentially sensitive government information very worrisome—for two reasons: (1) to compromise what is supposed to be classified information can be detrimental to the security interests of the country—whether it is advanced technical data or sensitive diplomatic matters, and (2) it says something to me about the integrity of the individual(s) involved in the lax (or cavalier) handling of such information.

Incidentally, the fact that critical information is not specifically marked classified is not necessarily an excuse for not protecting what might be classified information. In our work environment, each of us knew enough about what we were working on to be able to recognize even potentially sensitive information and we were expected to treat it as such. Let me be a bit more blunt: to say “It was not marked classified” would be a poor excuse for mishandling potentially sensitive information, especially if that information was directly related to your job.

While it is possible that there is much information stored away and hidden under classifications levels that are unnecessary, or where classification is misused to hide some misdeed, it is not and was not within my authority to release or declassify any information without going through the proper security channels.

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5 Responses to Why “It was not marked classified” does NOT fly!

  1. Most recently this subject applies to Presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton. If a person does not have the capability within her area of responsibility to recognize sensitive information enough to treat it as such, marked or unmarked, speaks volumes to me about her qualifications to be the leader of the free world. Actually, I really don’t think she is not capable of doing the right thing, I just think she chooses not to, for whatever reason, and her soap box about protecting women’s rights needs to be kicked out from under her. My values about human rights aren’t anywhere near where she stands. I wouldn’t trust her to lead me down a garden path much less to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

  2. Another comment by Mechele Gentry:That’s something I don’t understand either. In my last 15 years with the Dept of Justice, I would have NEVER sent information from work to my personal email account or even have done any case work on my personal computer, there was never any possibility that I would even think of mixing the two. I don’t get it…that just cannot be justified.

  3. GP Cox says:

    Thank you confirming my opinions with fact!

  4. merlinjr01 says:

    You are more than welcome.

  5. thatssojacob says:

    Hmmm. All this personal info sharing as a craze is kind of nuts. Whatever happened to just don’t post stuff!

    By the way, you’ve been chosen as one of today’s nine blogs in That’s So Jacob’s Ninth Month Blog Challenge! I challenge you to find nine blogs you find interesting and give them a comment to brighten their day…well, eight other blogs and mine 🙂 Copy this message in your comment and enjoy your new blog friends!

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