Classified information in the United Kingdom, now called Protectively Marked Information, is a system used to protect information from intentional or inadvertent release to unauthorised readers. The system is organised by the Cabinet Office and is implemented throughout central and local government and the critical national infrastructure. The system is also used by private sector bodies which provide services to the public sector.

The system was formerly included in the Manual of Protective Security (MPS) which specified the impact of release and protection level required for each classification. Departments issued localised versions of the content of the MPS as appropriate to their operational needs.

The Security Policy Framework (SPF) now supersedes the Manual of Protective Security [1] and contains the primary internal protective security policy and guidance on security and risk management for HM Government Departments and associated bodies. It is the source on which all localised security policies are based and has been made publicly available.

System of classification[edit | edit source]

The system uses five levels of classification, supplemented with pigeonhole keywords:.[2] The keyword must be placed in all capital letters in the centre of the top and bottom of each page of a classified document. In descending order of secrecy these are:

Top secret
Information marked as Top secret is that which whose release is liable to cause considerable loss of life, international diplomatic incidents, or severely impact ongoing intelligence operations. Prior to the Second World War, the highest level was "Most Secret"; it was renamed so that the UK and US operated to a consistent system.
Secret
This marking is used for information whose side-effects may be life-threatening, disruptive to public order or detrimental to diplomatic relations with friendly nations.
Confidential
The effects of releasing information marked as Confidential include considerable infringement on personal liberties, material damage to diplomatic relations, or to seriously disrupt day-to-day life in the country.
Restricted
Information marked as Restricted is at a level where the release of the material will have effects such as significant distress to individuals, adversely affecting the effectiveness of military operations, or to compromise law enforcement.
Protect
Such information will cause distress to individuals, cause financial loss or improper gain, prejudice the investigation or facilitate the commission of a crime or disadvantage government in commercial or policy negotiations with others.

Handling[edit | edit source]

Access to protectively marked material is limited by a system of security clearance.

Protectively marked material must be accounted for in a manner appropriate to its classification level and disposal must be in accordance with the SPF. The act of destruction or disposal is included in the accounting process.

Descriptors[edit | edit source]

Protectively marked material may also be marked with a descriptor, or privacy marking, which identifies sensitivities around distribution and handling.

Examples of descriptors include, but are not restricted to:

  • Budget
  • Commercial
  • Honours
  • Management
  • Medical
  • Personal
  • Policy
  • Staff
  • Visits (domestic or foreign royalty and ministers)

Nationality caveat[edit | edit source]

Protectively marked material may bear a nationality caveat, a descriptor defining which nationality groups it may be released to. By default material in the UK is not caveated by nationality, the classification being sufficient protection.

Examples of nationality caveats include, but are not limited to:

  • UK EYES ONLY
  • CANUKUS EYES ONLY — Canadian, UK or US citizens.
  • AUSCANNZUKUS — Australia, New Zealand, Canada, UK and USA (the UKUSA Community, also known as the "Five-Eyes").

Codewords[edit | edit source]

Dissemination of already protectively marked material may be further limited only to those with a legitimate need to know using compartmentalisation by use of codewords. Examples of compartmented material would include information about nuclear warheads, fusion, and naval nuclear propulsion. In some case the existence of a codeworded compartment is itself classified.

Examples of codewords include, but are not limited to:

  • LOCSEN — has local sensitivity, and may not be shown to local officials.
  • NATSEN — has national sensitivity.
  • DEDIP, DESDEN — may not be shown to certain named officials.

Vetting[edit | edit source]

Access to protectively marked material is defined according to a vetting level which the individual has achieved. Vetting is carried out by individual departments to standards laid down in the MPS.

Vetting is intended to assure the department that the individual has not been involved in espionage, terrorism, sabotage or actions intended to overthrow or undermine Parliamentary democracy by political, industrial or violent means. It also assures the department that the individual has not been a member of, or associated with, any organisation which has advocated such activities or has demonstrated a lack of reliability through dishonesty, lack of integrity or behaviour. Finally the process assures the department that the individual will not be subject to pressure or improper influence through past behaviour or personal circumstances.[3]

Five levels of vetting exist:

Counter-Terrorist Check (CTC)[edit | edit source]

Personnel whose work involves access to locations where protectively marked material is held, in an otherwise secure manner. A CTC does not allow access to protectively marked material and would typically be required for reception, catering or cleaning staff in a public sector facility.

Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS)[edit | edit source]

A Baseline Personnel Security Standard (BPSS, commonly referred to as a BS and formerly known as Basic Check) allows routine and unrestricted access to material marked 'confidential' and below with occasional, supervised, access to secret material where required in the course of one's duties. A BS confirms identity, signature, address and employment/education.

Security Check (SC)[edit | edit source]

Security Check clearance allows routine and uncontrolled access to material marked 'Secret' and below with occasional, supervised, access to top secret material where required in the course of one's duties.

SC clearance will normally consist of:

  • a check against the National Collection of Criminal Records and relevant departmental and police records
  • in accordance with the Security Service Act 1989, where it is necessary to protect national security or to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom from threats posed by persons outside the British Islands, a check against Security Service records
  • credit reference checks and a review of personal finances

In some circumstances further enquiries, including an interview with the subject, may be carried out. The review period is set by vetting department but ten years is the norm.

Security Check Enhanced (SCE)[edit | edit source]

Security Clearance Enhanced allows routine and uncontrolled access to material marked 'Secret' and below with supervised access to top secret material where required in the course of one's duties.

SCE is a new level of clearance intended for those that carry out regular work related to top secret information but do not require unrestricted access to top secret documents. It came into use July 2007.

SCE clearance will normally consist of:

  • a check against the National Collection of Criminal Records and relevant departmental and police records
  • in accordance with the Security Service Act 1989, where it is necessary to protect national security or to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom from threats posed by persons outside the British Islands, a check against Security Service records
  • credit reference checks and a review of personal finances
  • an interview with the person being vetted and/or references from people who are familiar with the person's character in both home and work environment.

Developed Vetting (DV)[edit | edit source]

Developed Vetting allows routine and unrestricted access to material marked 'top secret' and below.

DV clearance will normally consist of:

  • a check against the National Collection of Criminal Records and relevant departmental and police records
  • in accordance with the Security Service Act 1989, where it is necessary to protect national security or to safeguard the economic well-being of the United Kingdom from threats posed by persons outside the British Islands, a check against Security Service records
  • credit references checks and a review of personal finances
  • an interview with the person being vetted - to ensure there is no evidence of i) bribes received or paid and ii) an opportunity for being bribed or blackmailed due to debt or embarrassing expenditure
  • references from people who are familiar with the person's character in both the home and work environment. These may be followed by interviews. Enquiries will not necessarily be confined to past and present employers and nominated character referees.
  • clearance is re-examined following any stressful encounter, this includes a psychological re-evaluation.

DV clearance is subject to review over a period not exceeding eighteen months.

See also[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

ru:Классификация секретной информации в Великобритании

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