Here’s What Trump’s ‘Nuclear Documents’ Could Be

For example, nuclear science and design files are uniquely classified as “Restricted Data.” These files are historically accessible through what is known as a Q Clearance, a special background check and access protocol. (And yes, the Q clearance is the “Q” in QAnon, a reference to that anonymous figure assumed clearance within the US government.)

The Restricted Data designation was created by the Atomic Energy Act at the start of the Cold War and is now administered by the Department of Energy, which oversees the country’s nuclear stockpiles and development. As nuclear historian Alex Wellerstein explained on Twitter, the goal was to build a classification outside of the defense institute that would give scientific knowledge more flexibility than just military applications.

“TS/RD” files are what are known as “born classified” in that, unlike other classified intelligence or scientific work, they are believed to be highly classified from the time they are created. In fact, nuclear design and science should opt out rather than opt for classification.

Meanwhile, NC2 documents — think documents related to how the presidential nuclear football works or how nuclear launch procedures would unfold — have historically had their own classification known as Extremely Sensitive Information (ESI), which again requires special access permissions.

Some of the reporting surrounding the Mar-a-Lago search, by Jonathan Karl and others at ABC News, says the FBI raid also involved what are known as Special Access Programs (SAPs), another unique classification category commonly concerned with the most sensitive covert operations and technical capabilities of intelligence and defense systems. (The intelligence community has its own equivalent of the military’s SAPs, known as CAPs or Controlled Access Programs.)

SAPs require someone to be specifically “read” into the program, meaning they must have a specific “need to know”, and the documents are closely tracked to see who has read them and where they are stored. Usually, individuals are “read” into a SAP in what amounts to a sort of mini-ceremony, meeting with a specially authorized security officer and signing a specific nondisclosure agreement for that SAP. Over the course of a civil servant’s career, the GSPs to which they have access are closely monitored.

In addition to SAPs, which focus on capabilities, there is another category of classified information known as SCI, “sensitive compartmentalized information.” This designation is usually used to protect what intelligence officials refer to as “sources and methods.” That could be, for example, the identity of a high-ranking asset in a foreign government, or how the NSA has managed to technically penetrate the communications networks of a foreign military. According to News week‘s William ArkinAt least some of the documents searched for in the FBI search related to “sources and methods.” And The Wall Street Journal reported this afternoon that a list of items removed from Mar-a-Lago contains “several classified/TS/SCI documents.”

SAPs and SCI are known by their own code names. For example, the long-standing classification for our satellite exploration was TALENT KEYHOLE, so documents protected by it were labeled “TS/SCI TALENT KEYHOLE.” (FBI Director Christopher Wray, believed to be part of the team that signed this week’s Mar-a-Lago quest, was somewhat of a player in the Bush administration’s showdown over one of the best-known and most infamous of recent SAPs. , STELLAR WIND, an NSA wiretapping program created after 9/11.)

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