Is it true that classified information is not allowed on the internet?

Is it true that US law does not allow classified information to be sent through the internet? I was under the impression that the military/feds had two parallel internets (JWCIS was one I believe) for secret and top secret info?


From Department of Defense Manual 5200.01 Volume 3 (Feb 24th, 2012){PDF}, page 54 (Enclosure 4, Section 3 (Transmission of Top Secret Information), subsection b):

Sections 4 and 5 of Enclosure 4 concern Secret and Confidential classifications and the above method is allowed. I don’t see anything else about transmitting any classified information over the internet “in the clear”.

So the answer is “YES” as long as the information is encrypted per NSA standards.

There are special control systems for classified information. If you’re referring to JWCIS as the internet, then yes it’s allowed. If you’re talking about the open internet like gmail and yahoo, then no it isn’t.

JWICS for Top Secret; SIPRNET for Secret and Confidential.

Keep in mind that these communication networks that are approved for the transmission of classified information are also used for just about all information. Generally speaking there’s no separate server for classified or unclassified, the encryption is cheap enough we just send all the information through the classified server. We used Top Secret keying material, but I don’t recall any top secret information coming across, and rarely secret information.

I was going to respond to this, but I decided I couldn’t in GQ. :wink:

I think you are saying that servers on SIPRNET handle both classified and unclassified material. That is true. I don’t believe that classified information is ever handled on unclassified servers. Perhaps you are saying that classified but encrypted material is transmitted via unclassified networks? That would surprise me. Certainly SIPRNET maintains it’s own set of leased and protected lines for transmitting data.

Is it true that classified information is not allowed on the internet?

If we told you the answer, we’d have to kill you.


That may be true today, my experience is from the mid 1980’s. Yes indeed we used the local telephone lines to transmit classified information, once properly encrypted. The microwave shot we used was across “international waters” and there was at all times a Soviet “fishing trawler” bristling with antennas underneath. That was secure enough for Air Force Command level communications.

Consider the secretary typing into a computer some classified document that’s being stored on the internal hard-drive. Is this computer connect to the regular internet, such that the secretary can quick check their g-mail account? My guess is no, this computer is physically separate and only connected to the military internet and/or the computer is connected to an intranet that is encrypted before it connects to the regular internet.

Again, just guessing about how things are done today … only that Top Secret information must be encrypted (per NSA standards) before it’s transmitted electronically

I have no special knowledge on this but in reading about JWCIS it appears that it is decidedly not the Internet but a separate network (although I suppose it uses TCP/IP).

Do civilian government agencies use JWCIS and SIPRNET or are those only for the military?


I’d comment but I can’t.

Civilian agencies use various systems, including SIPRNET and JWICS. That’s all I’m going to say on the subject.

And to clarify, someone working on a SIPRNET system can’t just hop on Google or Yahoo. It is possible to send data across the various networks, but the architecture is set up in such a way that only a certified hub at the S6 is permitted to pass data from one to the other.

As for the OP’s question… No, classified data is not permitted to be sent over the regular, unencrypted internet. That said, once something is placed on the civilian internet it is impossible to remove. The courts have consistently held that the government doesn’t have the right to censor publication of classified material once it has made its way into the public, even if the method by which this occurred was illegal. Even if, hypothetically, the courts did authorize the censorship of classified material, there is no way the government could actually accomplish this.

Right. I was just going by how the OP framed the question.