Shredding Practices for Classified Documents

Shredding Practices for Classified Documents Featured Image

Classified documents contain sensitive data that require legal protection to ensure national security. The government and related agencies have a system for classifying information based on certain categories and criteria. In the US, there are three levels of classification: Top Secret, Secret, and Confidential. Executive Order 13526 lays out the authority to classify information. Classified documents are taken seriously by the government, and so should their shredding.

Government departments and contractors may need to handle classified documents. Classified documents can include briefings, files, maps, blueprints, plans, and more. Careful handling and secure destruction are critical in minimizing the chance of unauthorized access to this information.

Classified Document Approved Shredding Methods

The federal government has approved three primary methods to destroy classified documents.

  1. Incineration: Incineration is the process of burning materials to ash. Burning prevents any possibility of reconstruction. The EPA regulates incinerator standards that may vary by location.
  2. Wet pulping: Wet pulping uses water or chemicals to break down documents and remove the ink. It is preferred over incineration because the pulp can be recycled into new paper products.
  3. Shredding: Shredding is the most common destruction method for documents. The process uses blades to cut and grind papers into tiny pieces.

While each technique has its own benefits, shredding is the most effective and affordable destruction method. Incineration can have negative ecological effects and strict regulations based on where you are located. Pulping can be labor-intensive. Shredding is easily accessible, safe, and economical.

When to Shred Classified Information

Classified documents should be shredded as soon as they are no longer needed. Based on your department, the documents may require a specific shredding schedule, or a they may require a certain number scheduled shreddings a year. Regular shredding reduces the need for handling and storage, reducing costs and the risk of compromise.

Types of Shredding for Classified Documents

Classified information requires top-security shredding methods. There are many shredding options available, but not all methods are suitable for highly sensitive documents.

Types of Shredding for Classified Documents Image

Strip-Cut Shredding

Strip-cut shredding is commonly seen in homes and offices that use a basic office shredder. The process cuts your documents into long parallel strips. Though it is a quick and easy destruction method, it is not recommended for confidential information. The long strips can be reconstructed fairly easily, leaving you at risk.

Cross-Cut Shredding

Cross-cut shredding uses vertical and horizontal blades to cut your documents into hundreds of pieces. It is a more secure method but still leaves a small possibility that your documents could be reassembled. Cross-cut shredding can be performed in a variety of sizes to increase security.

Pierce & Tear Shredding

Pierce and tear shredders use rotating blades to rip your documents apart. They can handle high volumes of documents and bulky materials. It is a high-security method that results in small, irregular-sized pieces that are extremely difficult to reconstruct.

Particle-Cut Shredding

Particle-cut shredding uses fine-toothed blades to grind your documents into tiny particles. The particles are so tiny, a maximum of only 4 characters can be seen on a single shred. This type of shredding provides maximum security and meets NSA requirements for shredding classified documents.

Mobile Shredding

Mobile shredding is an on-site shredding service that will come to your location to securely dispose of your documents. Our high-security mobile trucks meet document destruction standards for the DoD, NSA, and other government offices. Mobile shredding also allows you to personally witness the shredding of your documents.

Offsite Shredding

Offsite shredding better suits high-volume shredding needs. Shredding trucks come to you and pick up the documents, then deliver them to a secure shredding facility for destruction. It is a more affordable solution but does not allow you to witness your shredding live.

Both mobile and offsite services come with a certificate of destruction to verify the compliant shredding process.

All certified, professional shredding services offer secure destruction for your documents. However, when shredding is a matter of national security, it is best to use the most reliable shredding options available.

Contact Shred Nations for Classified Documents Shredding

Shred Nations partners with document destruction experts across the country. We have worked with government agencies and high-profile organizations to protect data and maintain legal compliance. Our partners offer specialized government document shredding to help you select the safest shredding options for classified document destruction.

Give us a call at (800) 747-3365 or fill out the form to connect with mobile and off-site shredding providers in your area and receive free quotes within minutes.