Trump Raid: What Each Document's Classification Means

The FBI seized nearly a dozen sets of highly classified material from former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago home last week, according to the search warrant.

At the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ), a court unsealed the FBI search warrant executed at Trump's home, revealing the descriptions of the items seized.

Federal investigators have been looking into claims that Trump was improperly holding on to federal documents and records at his Palm Beach resort for months. The FBI raid last week came after officials believed Trump was in possession of classified federal documents that were not included in the 15 boxes of records turned over to the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) earlier this year.

According to the warrant, federal agents were investigating potential violations of three federal statutes, including the Espionage Act. The other laws deal with the concealment, mutilation or removal of government records and the destruction, alteration or falsification of records in federal investigations.

Trump Classified Documents
Former President Donald Trump departs Trump Tower on August 10, 2022, in New York, on his way to the New York attorney general's office for a deposition in a civil investigation. The FBI seized several sets of classified documents from Trump's Mar-a-Lago home last week, according to an unsealed search warrant. Julia Nikhinson/AP Photo

Agents seized 11 sets of records from the estate that were described as "Various classified/TS/SCI documents." Four sets of documents were labeled "top secret," three sets were labeled "secret" and three sets were marked "confidential." Each classification designates a certain level of security.

Documents are labeled "Top Secret" (TS) if the information "reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security," according to a 2009 executive order that defines classified national security information. The classification can be given only by the president, vice president or agency heads and officials designated by the president

Sensitive Compartment Information, or SCI, refers to classified national information concerning intelligence sources, methods or analytical processes, according to the Computer Security Resource Center (CSRC). These materials are required to be protected within formal access control systems established by the director of national intelligence (DNI).

The executive order says that documents are classified as "Secret" if the information is deemed to be able to cause "serious damage" to national security if revealed.

"Confidential" is the least sensitive classification. It is applied to information that could be "reasonably expected to cause cause damage to the national security" if disclosed.

The president, vice president or an agency head can authorize secret and confidential classifications, as well as a senior agency official given "Top Secret" classification authority by the agency head. The authorizers must be given training in proper classification.

Before the search warrant was released and the nature of the documents seized was known, Trump said on his Truth Social account that the documents taken were "all declassified."

Classified information can be declassified by the official who authorized the original classification, that person's successor or the supervisory official of either the originator or the successor. The DNI may also declassify, downgrade or direct the declassification or downgrading of information.

Materials can be declassified if they no longer meet the standards for classification under the 2009 executive order or if an official determines that the public interest in disclosure outweighs the damage to the national security that might be expected from the release of the information.

A written memo signed by the president is required to declassify information. Any agency with some stake in the classified information should be consulted. The president may decline suggestions from the agency.

Additionally, the executive order says that government officials cannot take classified information home. Classified information requires special authorization to be removed from official premises.

"An official or employee leaving agency service may not remove classified information from the agency's control or direct that information be declassified in order to remove it from agency control," the order says.