Factbox: Levels of Classification for Government Information

On Monday, U.S. National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster and other members of the Trump administration responded to published reports that President Donald Trump revealed highly classified information to Russian officials in the Oval Office earlier this month.

What are the levels of classified information?

Top Secret
Secret
Confidential

What do the levels mean?

The levels indicate the importance of the classified information to national security, including military plans or weapons systems; foreign government information; intelligence activities, sources or methods; foreign relations or activities of the U.S.; or scientific or technological matters relating to national security.

The disclosure of the following information could reasonably be expected to cause: 

Top secret — exceptionally grave damage to the national security.

Secret — serious damage to the national security.

Confidential — damage to the national security.

How were the classification levels determined?

The current classifications were put in place by Executive Order 13526, which was signed by President Barack Obama in December 2009. 

Sources: Government Publishing Office, Presidential Documents; U.S. Department of Defense, Defense Security Service

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