Sensitive Compartmented Information

Sensitive Compartmented Information

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Sensitive compartmented information (SCI) is a type of United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 classified information
Classified information in the United States
The United States government classification system is currently established under Executive Order 13526, the latest in a long series of executive orders on the topic. Issued by President Barack Obama in 2009, Executive Order 13526 replaced earlier executive orders on the topic and modified the...

 concerning or derived from sensitive intelligence sources, methods, or analytical processes. All SCI must be handled within formal access control systems established by the Director of National Intelligence. Although some sources refer to SCI control systems as special access programs
Special access program
Special access programs in the Federal Government of the United States of America are security protocols that provides highly classified information with safeguards and access restrictions that exceed those for regular classified information...

 (q.v.), the intelligence community itself considers SCI and SAPs distinct kinds of controlled access program.

SCI is not a classification. It has been called "above Top Secret," but information at any classification level may exist within an SCI control system. When "decompartmented," this information is treated no differently than collateral information at the same classification level.


Eligibility for access to SCI is determined by a Single Scope Background Investigation
Single Scope Background Investigation
A Single Scope Background Investigation is a type of United States security clearance investigation required for Top Secret, SCI and Q access, and involves agents contacting employers, coworkers and other individuals...

 (SSBI) or periodic reinvestigation. Because the same investigation is used to grant top secret clearances, the two are often written together as TS/SCI. Eligibility alone does not confer access to any SCI material. One must receive explicit permission to access an SCI control system or compartment. This process may include a polygraph or other approved investigative or adjudicative action. Once it is determined a person should have access to an SCI compartment, they sign a nondisclosure agreement, are "read on" or indoctrinated, and the fact of this access is recorded in a local access register or in a computer database. Upon termination from a particular compartment, the employee again signs the nondisclosure agreement.

Control systems

SCI is divided into control systems, with are further subdivided into compartments and sub-compartments. These systems and compartments are usually identified by a classified codeword. Several such codewords have been declassified. The following SCI control systems, with their abbreviations and compartments, are known:
SI: SI is the control system covering communications intelligence. SI stands for Special Intelligence, the UKUSA term for communications intercepts. The previous title for this control system was COMINT, but this was deprecated in 2011. Several now-retired codewords protected SI compartments based on their sensitivity, generally referred to as Top Secret Codeword (TSC) and Secret Codeword (SC). These codewords were UMBRA for the most sensitive material, SPOKE for less sensitive material, and MORAY for the least sensitive SI that required codeword protection. (These codewords were attached directly to the classification without reference to COMINT or SI, e.g. Top Secret UMBRA.) Another retired flag, ECI, was a type indicator used to group compartments of "Exceptionally Controlled Information." The only acknowledged SI compartments in current use are SI-GAMMA (SI-G) and SI-ABC (SI-ABC), in which ABC stands for three alphabetic characters. There is a GAMMA subcompartment identified by four alphanumeric characters.

TALENT KEYHOLE: TK covers the products of certain satellite and air-breathing overhead collection systems. The original TALENT compartment was created in the mid-1950s for the U-2
Lockheed U-2
The Lockheed U-2, nicknamed "Dragon Lady", is a single-engine, very high-altitude reconnaissance aircraft operated by the United States Air Force and previously flown by the Central Intelligence Agency . It provides day and night, very high-altitude , all-weather intelligence gathering...

. In 1960, it was broadened to cover all national aerial reconnaissance and the KEYHOLE compartment was created for satellite intelligence. TALENT KEYHOLE is now a top-level control system; KEYHOLE is no longer a distinct compartment. Known compartments include RUFF (IMINT
Imagery Intelligence , is an intelligence gathering discipline which collects information via satellite and aerial photography. As a means of collecting intelligence, IMINT is a subset of intelligence collection management, which, in turn, is a subset of intelligence cycle management...

 satellites), ZARF (ELINT satellites), and CHESS (U-2).

HUMINT, a syllabic abbreviation of the words HUMan INTelligence, refers to intelligence gathering by means of interpersonal contact, as opposed to the more technical intelligence gathering disciplines such as SIGINT, IMINT and MASINT...

 Control System. This system was simply designated "HUMINT" until confusion arose between collateral HUMINT and the control system. The current nomenclature was chosen to eliminate the ambiguity.

KLONDIKE: KDK protects sensitive geospatial intelligence.

BYEMAN: BYE is a retired control system covering certain overhead collection systems, including CORONA
A corona is a type of plasma "atmosphere" of the Sun or other celestial body, extending millions of kilometers into space, most easily seen during a total solar eclipse, but also observable in a coronagraph...

Oxcart or ox cart can mean:*Bullock cart, a cart pulled by oxen*CIA codename for the program to produce the Lockheed A-12 spyplaneSee also:*Ox-Cart Library*Ox-Cart Man*Red River ox cart...

. Most BYE content was transferred to TK.

Other SCI control systems may exist, depending on the purpose and originator(s).


SCI control system markings are placed immediately after the classification level markings in a banner line or portion marking. Sometimes, especially on older documents, they are stamped. The following banner line and portion marking describe a top secret document containing information from the notional SI-GAMMA 1234 subcompartment, the notional SI-MANSION compartment, and the notional TALENT KEYHOLE-LANTERN compartment:


(TS//SI-G 1234-M/TK-L//NF)

Older documents were marked with HANDLE VIA xxxx CONTROL CHANNELS ONLY or HANDLE VIA xxxx CONTROL CHANNELS JOINTLY, but this requirement was rescinded in 2006. This marking led to the use of the caveat CCO (COMINT Channels Only) in portion markings, but CCO is also obsolete.