What is classified?

The question of "What should be classified?" comes up every now and then.
In particular, on 2015-09-20 a NYU Law professor
gave what looked like a screed from the Clinton campaign,
basically claiming that the U.S. classification system was and is dysfunctional.

She pointedly did not mention 18 U.S. Code, Section 798 in her "analysis".
This very helpfully is on the web,
courtesy of the Cornell U. School of Law.

Let's reprint a portion of their version of the section here.
I will take the liberty of italicizing what I consider to be
the most relevant parts most situations.

18 U.S. Code § 798 - Disclosure of classified information

(a) Whoever knowingly and willfully
communicates, furnishes, transmits,
or otherwise makes available to an unauthorized person, or publishes,
or uses in any manner prejudicial to the safety or interest of the United States
or for the benefit of any foreign government to the detriment of the United States
any classified information—
concerning the nature, preparation, or use of any code, cipher, or cryptographic system of the United States or any foreign government; or
concerning the design, construction, use, maintenance, or repair of any device, apparatus, or appliance used or prepared or planned for use by the United States or any foreign government for cryptographic or communication intelligence purposes; or
concerning the communication intelligence activities of the United States or any foreign government; or
obtained by the processes of communication intelligence
from the communications of any foreign government,
knowing the same to have been obtained by such processes—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years, or both.

As used in subsection (a) of this section—

The term “classified information” means information
which, at the time of a violation of this section,
is, for reasons of national security,
specifically designated by a United States Government Agency
for limited or restricted dissemination or distribution;

The terms “code,” “cipher,” and “cryptographic system” include in their meanings, in addition to their usual meanings, any method of secret writing and any mechanical or electrical device or method used for the purpose of disguising or concealing the contents, significance, or meanings of communications;

The term “foreign government” includes in its meaning any person or persons acting or purporting to act for or on behalf of any faction, party, department, agency, bureau, or military force of or within a foreign country, or for or on behalf of any government or any person or persons purporting to act as a government within a foreign country, whether or not such government is recognized by the United States;

The term “communication intelligence” means all procedures and methods used in the interception of communications and the obtaining of information from such communications by other than the intended recipients;

The term “unauthorized person” means any person who, or agency which, is not authorized to receive information of the categories set forth in subsection (a) of this section, by the President, or by the head of a department or agency of the United States Government which is expressly designated by the President to engage in communication intelligence activities for the United States.

Back to comments by KHarbaugh

Now let's take a look at the article,
with some comments by me:

Five myths about classified information
By Elizabeth Goitein
Washington Post Outlook, Sunday, 2015-09-20

The controversy over Hillary Clinton’s use of a private e-mail account while she was secretary of state has centered on
whether she used it to send or receive classified messages.
This focus obscures the larger question of whether Clinton’s setup affected
the State Department’s compliance with the Freedom of Information Act and legal requirements for federal agencies to retain records, as well as myriad other questions about agencies’ information-management practices.
Moreover, much of the commentary has been more confusing than illuminating,
because it fundamentally misunderstands how the classification system works.
Correct a handful of prevalent myths, and it’s clear that this aspect of the story reveals more about
our nation’s dysfunctional system for managing official secrets
than it does about Clinton.


[Whoa, whoa, whoa!
I'll certainly agree that her use of her private server certainly made far more difficult servicing FOIA requests,
but is that really more important than the possibility that she may have
allowed foreign governments to obtain access to special intelligence?]

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