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the level of protection.2 (Other officials who reproduce or extract classified information must apply the same classification that was in the original source material.) The system provides that such information may be designated as either top secret, secret, or confidential. Information is to be classified only if, at the least, unauthorized disclosure could be expected to damage national security. The categories of information eligible for classification include “scientific, technological, or economic matters relating to the national security” and “cryptology,” but there is a specific exemption for “[b]asic scientific research information not clearly related to the national security” (Exec. Order No. 12356, 47 Fed. Reg. 14877 (1982)).

The government must have some preexisting connection with the information in order to classify it. Although the Reagan order deleted a provision in the previous order prohibiting the classification of research information that was not itself the fruit of access to classified information until the government had acquired a proprietary interest, the information subject to classification is still defined to include only that information that is “owned by, produced by or for, or is under the control of the United States Government” (Exec. Order No. 12356, 47 Fed. Reg. 14883 (1982)). The safeguarding requirement, which applies only to employees, contractors, licensees, or grantees, suggests the limits of governmental power.

A person is eligible for access to classified information only upon a determination both that the individual is trustworthy—a status that is customarily demonstrated by a security clearance at an appropriate level—and that access is essential to the accomplishment of lawful and authorized government activities. Each agency is required to establish a system to assure adequate protection of classified information, and a variety of statutes impose stringent penalties for wrongful behavior in connection with the information.

Classification is the most stringent of the five control systems because it serves to control all access to the information. The other systems of control are directed at communications with foreign nationals and, in some cases, only at communication through publication.


The chief controls on the export of technical data arise under the Export Administration Act (EAA) (50 U.S.C. App. Section 2401 et seq.) and the Arms Export Control Act (22 U.S.C. Section 2778).3 The EAA,


The order requires “an employee, contractor, licensee, or grantee” who originates information that is believed to require classification to safeguard the information pending a classification determination by an authorized official.


Other control systems may be important in particular situations. For example, regulations administered by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission or the Department of Energy govern the export of technology relating to nuclear equipment and materials.

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