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Protecting
Classified Information

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Overview

A security clearance is a privilege, not a right. When you accept the privilege of access to classified information, you are also accepting the responsibilities that accompany this privilege. This guide informs you of your responsibilities and provides information to help you fulfill them.

Your responsibility to protect the classified information that you learn about is a LIFELONG obligation. It continues even after you no longer have an active security clearance.

The Nondisclosure Agreement you signed when accepting your clearance is a legally binding agreement between you and the U.S. Government in which you agreed to comply with procedures for safeguarding classified information and acknowledged that there are legal sanctions for violating this agreement. Deliberate violation for profit may be prosecuted. This agreement assigned to the U.S. Government the legal right to any payments, royalties or other benefits you might receive as a result of unauthorized disclosure of classified information. Your signed Nondisclosure Agreement is the only form held on file long after you retire (50 years!).

The various topics in this module of the Security Guide discuss procedures for handling, marking, safeguarding, and communicating classified information. The regulatory basis for these procedures is Executive Order 12985, Classified National Security Information, dated October 13, 1995, as amended March 28, 2003. National guidance for implementing this order is in the Information Security Oversight Office (ISOO) Classified National Security Information Directive No. 1, September 22, 2003.  Many individual departments, agencies, and offices also have their own implementing regulations, for example, Department of Defense Regulation 5200.1, Information Security Program.

Failure to comply with these procedures may result in adverse administration action including revocation of your security clearance. When we study the history of foreign intelligence activities against the United States, one thing becomes very clear. When our adversaries or competitors are successful in obtaining classified or other sensitive information, it is usually due to negligence, willful disregard for security, or betrayal of trust by our own personnel.

bullet  The Bottom Line
Pogo, a popular cartoon character from the 1960s, coined an oft-quoted phrase: "We have met the enemy, and he is us." That sums it up. We – not our foreign adversaries or competitors – are the principal source of the problem, but we can also become the solution. You and I and all others who hold a security clearance are the first line of defense against espionage and other loss of sensitive information. Together, if we fulfill our responsibilities, we have the power to protect our national security and economic interests
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