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Government Information, Documents and Publications

Arguments abound over what constitutes government information and how that information might be subdivided into "documents", "publications", and more specific designations. Sometimes, it just depends on your point of view... .

Document
"... a piece of paper that has been sanctified by a bureaucrat" -- Hugh Rawson

Government Information
"... informational material published as an individual document at government expense or as required by law" -- US Federal Depository Library Act 1962

Records
May be permanent, temporary, unscheduled, etc. -- GSA Records Maintenance and Disposition System, US General Services Administration

Government Publication
"... a document produced in any form and issued under the authority of a government or one of its agencies" -- National Library of Canada

Documents
"... written material officially issued under a United Nations document symbol ... intended to serve as a basis for discussion at meetings of United Nations bodies. ... official records of meetings ... issued in the exercise of their functions ... " -- United Nations

Publications
"... destined to inform the public about the particular organization and its activities" -- United Nations

European Parliament Documentation
" ... a wide range of information sources -- both official documents produced and processed by the Parliament during the course of its work -- studies, brochures and other publications produced by the services of the Secretariat. The term also refers to different media -- both traditional paper documents and information in electronic form -- documentary databases, CD-ROMs and diskettes. ... a distinction should be made between official documents, which are free of charge, and publications which are sometimes assigned a cover price." -- Directorate General for Research, European Parliament

Green Paper
"...consultation document on central government policy. The Government may publish a green paper outlining policy on a matter and asking for feedback." -- Glossary of Terms, Local Government Glossary, Improvement and Development Agency, UK
Usually preliminary reports or "trial balloons"

White Paper
"... future policy on a particular subject. White papers often form the basis of a bill before it the government presents it to Parliament." -- Glossary of Terms, Local Government Glossary, Improvement and Development Agency, UK
Usually expresses policies which will be put forward as legislation.

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Status of Information

Public Domain / Unrestricted Access

Restricted Information

Definitions

Classified Document
"Any document containing classified information." -- Classified Matter Protection and Control, Inspectors Guide, US Department of Energy, September 2005


Classified Information
"Certain information requiring protection against unauthorized disclosure in the interests of national defense and security or foreign relations of the United States pursuant to federal statute or executive order. The term includes Restricted Data, Formerly Restricted Data, or National Security Information. The potential damage to the national security of each is denoted by the classification levels Top Secret, Secret, or Confidential." -- Classified Matter Protection and Control, Inspectors Guide, US Department of Energy, June 2002


"The term "EU classified information" (EUCI) means any information and material, an unauthorised disclosure of which could cause varying degrees of prejudice to EU interests, or to one or more of its Member States, whether such information originates within the EU or is received from Member States, third States or international organisations." -- CONSLEG: 2000Q3614 26/03/2003, Consolidated TEXT produced by the CONSLEG system of the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities


Levels of Classification
"EU TOP SECRET: This classification shall be applied only to information and material the unauthorised disclosure of which could cause exceptionally grave prejudice to the essential interests of the European Union or of one or more of its Member States.
EU SECRET: This classification shall be applied only to information and material the unauthorised disclosure of which could seriously harm the essential interests of the European Union or of one or more of its Member States.
EU CONFIDENTIAL: This classification shall be applied to information and material the unauthorised disclosure of which could harm the essential interests of the European Union or of one or more of its Member States.
EU RESTRICTED: This classification shall be applied to information and material the unauthorised disclosure of which could be disadvantageous to the interests of the European Union or of one or more of its Member States. No other classifications are permitted." -- CONSLEG: 2000Q3614 26/03/2003, Consolidated TEXT produced by the CONSLEG system of the Office for Official Publications of the European Communities


NATO has four levels of classified information: COSMIC Top Secret (CTS), NATO Secret (NS), NATO Confidential (NC), and NATO Restricted (NR)
NATO: "used to signify that the document is the property of NATO. This marking will be on all copies of documents classified RESTRICTED, CONFIDENTIAL or SECRET that are circulated within NATO"
NATO CLASSIFIED: "safeguarded according to the requirements (refer to Chapter 5 of this manual) for the handling of CONFIDENTIAL, SECRET and TOP SECRET material, with the exception that they will be kept separate from other types of protected / classified / unclassified information. NATO RESTRICTED documents shall be handled and safeguarded to the PROTECTED A level"
COSMIC Top Secret: "signifies that the document is the property of NATO, and is used exclusively on all copies of TOP SECRET documents circulated within NATO" [Canadian and International Industry Security Directorate]


"TOP SECRET: the compromise of this information or material would be likely: to threaten directly the internal stability of the UK or friendly countries; to lead directly to widespread loss of life; to cause exceptionally grave damage to the effectiveness or security of UK or allied forces or to the continuing effectiveness of extremely valuable security or intelligence operations; to cause exceptionally grave damage to relations with friendly governments; to cause severe long-term damage to the UK economy.
SECRET: the compromise of this information or material would be likely: to raise international tension; to damage seriously relations with friendly governments; to threaten life directly, or seriously prejudice public order, or individual security or liberty; to cause serious damage to the operational effectiveness or security of UK or allied forces or the continuing effectiveness of highly valuable security or intelligence operations; to cause substantial material damage to national finances or economic and commercial interests.
CONFIDENTIAL: the compromise of this information or material would be likely: materially to damage diplomatic relations (i.e. cause formal protect or other sanction); to prejudice individual security or liberty; to cause damage to the operational effectiveness or security of UK or allied forces or the effectiveness of valuable security or intelligence operations; to work substantially against national finances or economic and commercial interests; substantially to undermine the financial viability of major organisations; to impede the investigation or facilitate the commission of serious crime; to impede seriously the development or operation of major government policies; to shut down or otherwise substantially disrupt significant national operations.
RESTRICTED: the compromise of this information or material would be likely: to affect diplomatic relations adversely; to cause substantial distress to individuals; to make it more difficult to maintain the operational effectiveness or security of UK or allied forces; to cause financial loss or loss of earning potential to or facilitate improper gain or advantage for individuals or companies; to prejudice the investigation or facilitate the commission of crime; to breach proper undertakings to maintain the confidence of information provided by third parties; to impede the effective development or operation of government policies; to breach statutory restrictions on disclosure of information; to disadvantage government in commercial or policy negotiations with others; to undermine the proper management of the public sector and its operations." -- Manual of Guidance for Records, Records Management, The Coal Authority, Issue 1 - April 2000


"(1) 'Top Secret' shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.
(2) 'Secret' shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause serious damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe.
(3) 'Confidential' shall be applied to information, the unauthorized disclosure of which reasonably could be expected to cause damage to the national security that the original classification authority is able to identify or describe." -- Executive Order 12958 - Classified National Security Information, as Amended

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This page created and maintained by Linda Hansen.
Comments and suggestions to: lhansen16@gmail.com
Created: 1997/04/20 Last updated: 2010/08/18
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