The U.S. government provides detailed guidance on the marking of Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI) in the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM). This guidance includes requirements for labeling and marking SCI material, as well as procedures for the transmission and destruction of SCI material. Additionally, the U.S. government provides guidance on the handling and safeguarding of SCI material through the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) and other government agencies.
Sensitive compartmented information
Example of intelligence in secret meetings held by the French president Francois Hollande. The intelligence was collected by the National Security Agency and classified as TOP SECRET//COMINT-GAMMA//ORCON/NOFORN, and released in the form of a Global SIGINT Highlight on May 22, 2012.
Sensitive compartmentalized information (SCI) is a type of U.S classified information relating to or derived from intelligence sources, sensitive analytical methods or processes. All ICS must be handled within formal access control systems established by the Director of National Intelligence.
SCI is not a classification; SCI release has sometimes been called “above Top Secret”, but information at any classification level can exist within an SCI control system. When “decompartmented”, this information is treated as collateral information at the same classification level.
The federal government requires that SCI be processed, stored, used, or discussed in a manner Ease of compartmentalized sensitive information (SCIF).
Eligibility for access to the SCI is determined by a Single scope background investigation (SSBI) or periodic reinvestigation. Because the same investigation is used to grant Ultra-secret security clearances, the two are often written together as TS // SCI. Eligibility alone does not confer access to any specific SCI material; it is simply a qualification. Explicit permission must be given to access an SCI system or control compartment. This process may include a polygraph or other approved investigative or legal action.
Once it is determined that a person should have access to an SCI enclosure, they sign a confidentiality agreement, they are “read on” or indoctrinated, the fact of this access being recorded in a local access register or in a computerized database. When leaving a certain compartment, the employee signs the confidentiality term again.
The ICS is divided into control systems, which are subdivided into compartments and subcompartments. These systems and compartments are usually identified by a classified code word. Several of these codewords have been declassified. The following ICS control systems, with their abbreviations and compartments, are known:
- Special Intelligence (SI)
- Special Intelligence (so in the CAPCO manual, but always SI in document markings) is the control system that covers communication intelligence. Special Intelligence is a term for communications intercepts. The previous title for this control system was COMINT, but it was superseded in 2011.
The SI has several compartments, of which the following are known or declassified:
- Very Restricted Knowledge (VRK)
- Exceptionally Controlled Information (ECI), which was used to group together compartments for highly sensitive information, but has been deprecated as of 2011.
- GAMMA (SI-G, SI-G-AAAA, AAAA stands for 4 alphabetic characters to indicate subgamma compartments), which has subcompartments identified by four alphanumeric characters.
Several now-retired codewords protected SI compartments based on their sensitivity, commonly referred to as top secret codeword (TSC) and secret codeword (SC). These codewords were:
- UMBRA for the most sensitive material
- SPOKE for less sensitive material
- MORAY for the less sensitive SI that required codeword protection.
These three codewords, whose use ended in 1999, were attached directly to the classification without reference to COMINT or SI, eg Top Secret UMBRA.
- STELLARWIND (STLW)
- This codeword was revealed on June 27, 2013 when The Guardian published a draft NSA report general inspector about the electronic surveillance program STELLARWIND. This program was initiated by President George W. Bush shortly after the 9/11 attacks. For information about this program, a new security enclosure was created that received STELLARWIND as its permanent term of coverage on October 31, 2001.
- ENDSEAL (EL)
- It is of the american navy control system was revealed in the 2013 Classification Handbook. ENDSEAL information should always be classified as Special Intelligence (SI), so it is likely related to SIGINT or ELINT. It has two subcompartments: ECRU (EL-EU) and NONBOOK (EL-NK).
- TALENT KEY (TK)
- TK covers space-based IMINT (image intelligence), TO SIGN (signal intelligence) and MASINT (metering and signature intelligence) collection platforms; related processing and analysis techniques; and research, design and operation of these platforms (but see Reservation below). The original TALENT magazine was created in the mid-1950s for the U-2. In 1960 it was expanded to cover all national aerial reconnaissance (to later include SR-71 source images) and the KEYHOLE compartment was created for satellite intelligence. TALENT KEYHOLE is now a higher level control system; KEYHOLE is no longer a distinct compartment. Known compartments include RUFF (IMINT satellites), ZARF (ELINT satellites) and CHESS (U-2). The KEYHOLE KH-1 to KH-4b series were part of the new TALENT-KEYHOLE designation.
- HUMINT Control System (HCS)
- HCS is the HUMINT (human source intelligence) Control system. This system was simply designated “HUMINT” until confusion arose between the collateral (regular) HUMINT and the control system. The current nomenclature has been chosen to eliminate ambiguity. There are two compartments HCS-O (Operation) and HCS-P (Product). The HCS-OP tag was also used in the “Review of Former National Security Agency Contractor Edward Snowden’s Unauthorized Disclosures”.
- KLONDIKE (KDK)
- KLONDIKE protects sensitive geospatial intelligence. It has three main subcompartments: KDK BLUEFISH (KDK-BLFH, KDK-BLFH-xxxxxx, xxxxxx represents up to 6 alphanumeric characters indicating a BLUEFISH subcompartment), KDK IDITAROD (KDK-IDIT, KDK-IDIT-xxxxxx, xxxxxx represents up to 6 alphanumeric characters indicating a sub IDITAROD compartment) and KDK KANDIK (KDK-KAND, KDK-KAND-xxxxxx, xxxxxx represents up to 6 alphanumeric characters indicating a sub KANDIK compartment).
- RESERVE (RSV)
- RESERVE is the control system for National Recognition Office compartments protecting new sources and methods during the research, development and acquisition process. RSV-XXX, XXX represents 3 alphanumeric characters to indicate subbooking compartments.
- BYEMAN (bye)
- BYE, MAN is a retired control system that covers certain air collection systems, including CORONA and BUOY CART. Most BYE content has been ported to TK. BYE Special Handling content has been moved to Reserve.
SCI control system markings are placed immediately after grading level markings on a banner line or portion marking. Sometimes, especially on older documents, they are stamped. The following banner line and portion marking describe a top secret document containing information from the SI-GAMMA 1234 notional subcompartment, the SI-MANSION notional compartment, and the TALENT KEYHOLE-LANTERN notional compartment:
Older documents were marked with HANDLE VIA xxxx CONTROL CHANNELS (or “HVxCC”), HANDLE VIA xxxx CHANNELS ONLY (or “HVxCO”), or HANDLE VIA xxxx CHANNELS JOINTLY (or “HVxCJ”), but this requirement was rescinded in 2006. For example, COMINT documents were marked as HANDLING VIA COMINT CHANNELS ONLY. This marking led to the use of the embargo CCO (COMINT Channels Only) on portion tags, but CCO is also deprecated.
- Explanation of the US Classification System
- Codeword Magazine Critique at the CIA, March 1977
- DCID 3/29, Controlled Access Program Oversight Committee, June 2, 1995
- ICD 1, Policy Guideline for Intelligence Community Leadership, May 1, 2006
- ICD 705, Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities, May 26, 2010
- ICPG 704.1, Personnel Security Investigative Standards and Procedures Governing Eligibility for Access to Confidential Compartmentalized Information and Other Controlled Access Program Information, October 2, 2008
- Intelligence Community Registry and Authorized Manual of Classification and Control Marks v5.1, March 30, 2012
- National Reconnaissance Office Review and Writing Guide for Automatic Declassification of 25 Year Old Information, 2008
- Richelson, Jeffrey. The US Intelligence Community. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2008.
- UKUSA COMINT Agreement and its Appendices, 1951–1953
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