Classified government documents like the ones the FBI took from Trump have distinctive covers that are tough to miss. Here's what they look like.

·3 min read
Photo scan of three documents
Documents considered classified by the government use covers such as these under a 1953 executive order for “protection in the interests of national defense” in Washington, June 23, 1971.Anonymous/Associated Press
  • Cover labels for classified government documents are bright blue, red, and orange.

  • Each cover instructs handlers to "protect it from unauthorized disclosure" for "national security."

  • On August 8, FBI agents seized 11 sets of classified documents from former President Donald Trump.

Classified information concealed by the government comes with colorful cover sheets. At least that's according to documents unearthed by the Federation of American Scientists as a part of its Project on Government Secrecy.

On August 8, FBI agents seized 11 sets of classified documents former President Donald Trump had stashed in his home office at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.

Included in the documents was secret information that only those with government-issued security clearances had access to. Trump claimed the documents had been declassified as soon as he left office, but experts say there is no evidence he followed procedure to do so.

The Justice Department subsequently released a photo that depicted sensitive documents strewn across the floor of an unknown location. The photo showed at least five documents with yellow cover sheets that were labeled "TOP SECRET/SCI" and at least one that read "SECRET/SCI."

classified and top secret records recovered in FBI mar-a-lago raid
A photograph of some of the classified materials that were uncovered after the FBI executed a search warrant at Mar-a-LagoDepartment of Justice

The sheets also read: "All individuals handling this information are required to protect it from unauthorized disclosure in the interest of the national security of the United States. Handling, storage, reproduction and disposition of the attached document will be in accordance with applicable executive order(s) statute(s) and agency implementing regulations."

In ascending order of importance to national security, the levels of classified documents are Confidential, Secret, and Top Secret.

A Confidential cover sheet is blue, Secret is red and Top Secret is orange. Unclassified information uses a green cover sheet.

Older versions of these cover sheets are shown in black and white.

Man putting secret documents in bag
A red Secret Cover sheetUS Department of Defense

The cover sheets are meant to protect classified information from "inadvertent disclosure," according to the National Archives Code of Federal Regulations.

The sheet is supposed to be attached to the document until it is reclassified or destroyed, and the sheets can be reused.

On the top half of the cover of each document, it warns that those "handling this information are required to protect it from unauthorized disclosure in the interest of the national security of the United States."

The cover forms are listed as Standard Forms 705, 704, and 703 by the US General Services Administration. According to the GSA site, the forms were last revised in August of 1985.

Government officials can order the cover sheets through the US GSA, according to their website.

The US GSA also provides labels for US property — like computer disks, computers, and CDS — that have classified government information on them, according to the National Archives.

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