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Classified Information

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Running out of black ink again...
Joe Quincy: The report exists?
Leo McGarry: Well I can't tell you that, Joe; it was classified. But I can tell you it was classified by the Defense Department.
The West Wing, "Life On Mars"

Information which is kept secret from most people, on an organised basis. A trope common in espionage and military fiction. Truth in Television, of course; governments (and other organisations) do keep formal secrets. Classification systems can range from internal documents that everyone at a workplace can immediately access and make an unlimited number of copies; to very rigid and quite complex compartmentalized systems, where the holder must go through arduous background investigations and have an official “need to know” in order to get access to, in most cases, only a small part of the puzzle.

In fiction, this often materializes as red tape used by characters in order to withhold certain information from others. This occasionally leads to Poor Communication Kills. (And that's Truth in Television too.) Often Played for Drama, but sometimes it can also be Played for Laughs. In more cynical cases, the classification system is abused by corrupt politicians and obstructive bureaucrats to cover up their misdeeds and embarrassments.

Of course this leads to the question as to why would someone even bother to keep records of their misdeeds in the first place, as the only people who want to know are either the people already doing them or people who want to access them to expose what is inside. This is the equivalent of keeping incriminating evidence with yourself for no reason.

Compare I'd Tell You, but Then I'd Have to Kill You, Conveniently Interrupted Document, and Plausible Deniability. See also Over-the-Top Secret for the "greatest secret in the world" stuff, and Loose Lips for the dangers of accidentally letting slip useful bits of information in passing.


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    Anime and Manga 
  • In Lucky Star Patricia Martin (who's cosplaying as Mikuru Asahina) references Haruhi Suzumiya by saying "Classified information" when Kagami asks her what's in the juice they're serving at the Cosplay Café.
  • Spy X Family: A good half of the personal details in Loid's profile in Volume 1 are redacted out, essentially anything that would reveal something about his background. When his birth name's given in Mission 62-1, it's redacted out, with his childhood code name Advisor being used instead.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in The Walking Dead; the scientist for the Center for Disease Control who's carrying the cure for the Zombie Apocalypse refuses to reveal any further details because they're classified. Turns out he's actually a school teacher making up stories so people will protect him.
  • The Punisher MAX version of Bullseye used to be a military lawyer who'd never fired a gun before suddenly disappearing for several years, and upon his return, had become a deranged assassin whose bodycount would put most armies to shame, and that's not even touching the atrocities he commits even when no one is paying him. Exactly what happened to turn him into this is unknown, while working for the Kingpin, a lawyer finds the army files on Bullseye, but mentions that most of the info has been blacked out or redacted to hell, and what little info is there makes no sense.
  • Ultimate Galactus Trilogy
    • After retrieving the Vision, everything about her and Gah Lak Tus was classified information of the highest level.
    • Sam has to call the woman "Black Widow, because he's not cleared for real names.
    • The Kree also have it. Only the Supreme Intelligence fully knows about Gah Lak Tus, and this knowledge is only passed to high-ranked Kree military leaders on a need-to-know basis. The Kree are not ready for this knowledge, and they would all gone mad if they knew the full details.

    Fan Works 
  • Abraxas (Hrodvitnon): The existence of the abandoned Monarch outpost is buried under a ton of this.
  • The Dresden Fillies: In Chapter 17 of False Masks, when classified events are being discussed, the phrase is used:
    “Really?” Bronze asked. “So just what did you do? The only thing I heard about that incident was that some crazy pony tried to kidnap the Elements of Harmony.”
    “That’s all you’re going to hear,” Lt. Surge barked, drawing shocked stares and glares from everypony at the table, but he didn’t waver until Princess Luna frowned at him. Under her stare, he unbent just enough to add, “It’s classified information.”
    “So what do you know about it, buddy?” Dash asked challengingly.
    Lt. Surge’s ears laid back in annoyance. “Nothing. I don’t even know what level of clearance you need for it. I suspect that there are only three or four ponies outside of those directly involved who know what actually happened.”
  • Evershade: As said by an MCO agent:
    Linda gave a regretful nod, and settled herself back firmly in her seat. "It's policy to try and keep the confidentiality of some mutants, especially younger ones. We keep records of them, but public information is classified for a reason."
  • In Imaginary Seas, due to being recognized as one of the Olympians, Percy's Servant stat sheet is redacted and abbreviated by the Interstellar Emigration Treaty that brought the gods to Earth. This conveniently serves as a Framing Device to slowly reveal Percy's capabilities over the course of the story, as more of the restrictions are lifted each time he breaks out new abilities in a fight.
  • Olive's Last Partner: Todd's Heel–Face Turn and his attack on Precinct 13579 is so confidential that not even Olive and Oscar know the full story of what happened to him. The only one who does know is Oprah, and she has a ruling in place that no one is allowed to talk about him to the extent that just uttering his name is a violation.

    Films — Animated 
  • Bolt:
    Mittens: So you got superpowers. Does that make you some kind of superdog?
    Bolt: That information is classified.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Captain America: The Winter Soldier, S.H.I.E.L.D.'s system of clearance levels appears again. Steve's a little unhappy with how Nick Fury continues to hide information from him.
  • Interstellar: The Endurance mission in its entirety, especially the wormhole. It was discovered fifty years before the events of the movie, and afterwards ignored by everyone but NASA until Just Before the End.
  • The James Bond story & film For Your Eyes Only is named after a real document security level: don't show to anyone, even if they have the same clearance as you (or higher).
  • The MonsterVerse started with Godzilla (2014) has Title Sequences using redacted text for both credits and exposition on the history of the title monster. Although when paused right before the redaction, the combination of text and credit makes for funny sentences ("The record of monster clashes is EDITED BY JOSH SCHAEFFER, ACE to reflect ongoing battles").
  • Resident Evil (2002): the team leader is giving an Info Dump about the Umbrella research lab under Raccoon City.
    A top-secret research facility owned and operated by the Umbrella Corporation. The Hive houses over 500 technicians, scientists and support staff. They live and work underground. Their research is of the highest importance. Its nature is...classified.
  • Short Circuit: when Stephanie first meets Ben and Newton, she asks them what the purpose of these advanced robots is (prototype weapons).
    Ben: It's top-secret crap.
    Stephanie: Yeah, I figured.
  • My Favorite Martian has an example when a Man in Black investigating the site of a crashed ship complains that they're not going to get anything out of this... just like "that Roswell fiasco". His boss immediately reprimands him, reminding him that "not only is that incident classified, but it never happened!"
  • In Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn, at the end a couple of SPARTAN-IIs take off their helmets, revealing surprisingly young faces. One of the cadets asks how old they are, to which Kelly replies "That's classified". At the time, the IIs were roughly 14-15 years old (with the Master Chief himself having only turned 15 less than two months ago), and their existence had not yet been made public.
  • In Top Gun, Maverick is shown to harbor considerable angst over what happened to his father, which feeds into his insecurities. Late in the film, his instructor finally reveals that his father died heroically, trying to save as many of his unit as he could. Unfortunately, the records of the engagement were classified, keeping Maverick in the dark, and his instructor even admits he's putting his own career at risk by revealing the truth.
  • Project Genesis, which was a major plot point in both Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, is a highly classified project. Just to be read in on the basics of the project requires security authorization from a flag officer, and McCoy gets picked up by Federation Security when he starts blabbing a little too loudly about it in a spaceport bar (the fact he was also trying to charter a ship into a restricted area of space did not help).
  • In Star Trek Into Darkness. Scotty refuses to authorize the experimental long-range photon torpedoes Starfleet are trying to load onto Enterprise (and actually resigns in protest over the issue, because of the risk to the ship).
    Scotty: With all due respect, photon torpedoes run on fuel. Now I cannae detect the type of fuel in these compartments because it's shielded. So I asked for the specifications and he said... (jerks his thumb toward Starfleet Security mook)
    Security mook: It's classified.
    Scotty: It's classified. So I said, "No specs, no signature! "
  • In Airplane! Ted Striker tells Elaine the time, approach direction and height of a bombing raid. He can't tell her when he'll be back as that's classified.
  • Subverted in a USAF Cold War Instructional Film on signals security. The protagonist listens to an intercepted recording of an airman inquiring about a project, only to be told it's secret. He assumes that this is an example of good security, but it's pointed out that by alerting the enemy that the project was secret, they'd know to listen for any mention of that project name in future.
  • Parodied in American Ultra, where Lasseter opens a document to find it entirely redacted except for about five words.
    How am I supposed to read this?
  • In Robowar, The Squad are deliberately told nothing at all about the mission they're being sent on in order to keep the Killer Robot they are supposed to destroy a secret. The hope is that they will know nothing about the mission "before or after", and are only told that their mission is to "beach two rafts" on "an island". Naturally, they are utterly unprepared and nearly everyone is killed.

  • Michael Crichton uses this effectively in his novel The Andromeda Strain. Files about the Wildfire Project are stamped CLASSIFIED, with a warning that if an unauthorized person reads it they could be sentenced to 20 years in jail and/or a fine of $20,000. When Hall asks about the warning, Leavitt observes that it's wrong.
    Leavitt: Don't you believe it.
    Hall: Just a scare tactic?
    Leavitt: Scare, hell. If the wrong person reads this file, he just disappears.
  • Galaxy of Fear once has Tash given free rein at a computer in an Imperial research facility because she's logged in as a guest and can only get at public data. She quickly runs up against classified things... and manages to log in as someone with clearance to see them, because she guesses the amazingly obvious password. Later in the series there's an Un Reveal related to classified information.
  • Harry Potter:
    • In Prisoner of Azkaban, the locations of the Marauders. When Harry first sees the Marauder's Map in the possession of Fred and George, he isn't shown on the map, but once he is holding the map he is shown on it. He still does not seem to see the original Marauders on it, even when one is in his dorm. (This is different from the movie.)
    • Percy's reasoning for not telling Ron, Harry and the others about the Triwizard Tournament's coming to Hogwarts in Goblet of Fire:
      "It's classified information until such time as the Ministry sees fit to release it," said Percy stiffly. "Mr. Crouch was quite right not to disclose it."
      "Oh, shut up Weatherby," said Fred.
  • In Haruhi Suzumiya, "Classified information" is basically Mikuru's Catchphrase ("Kinsoku jikou", in Japanese), since she's a time traveler and she can't reveal too much about the future she's from. She's actually an interesting variant; the reason she says "classified information" is because of an information censor that was placed inside her that is always monitoring her speech to make sure she doesn't spill any futuristic time-breaking Info Dumps. She's surprised that when the restriction is lowered she can speak normally about things she couldn't say before.
    Mikuru: I used classified information to contact the future or for classified information... But when I hadn't heard from classified information for a week I thought something was wrong. And then classified information... I was so shocked that I classified information, but there was no classified information... What should I do?
  • In The Laundry Files, The Laundry operates on a complicated codeword system. Things aren't simply classified into levels like "Secret" and "Top Secret", but each particular secret thing one might need to know about is assigned its own codeword, and you need to be cleared for it individually. For instance (and an illustration of just how impenetrable it gets), just being cleared for ANNING BLUE SKULL and CASE NIGHTMARE GREEN doesn't mean you get to know anything about DEEP SEVEN, BLUE HADES, or CASE BROCCOLI GOLDENEYE. The Laundry being on occult intelligence agency, it's literally impossible to deliberately spill the beans on a codeword to anyone not briefed on it.
  • A variation in Slayers has Xellos and his Catchphrase "This is a secret!" ("Sore wa himitsu desu!" in the original Japanese.)
  • The War Against the Chtorr. A robot is sent into an alien dome to flash it with EMP, hopefully killing any man-eating alien worms before The Squad follows. A footnote helpfully informs us that an EMP-grenade will cook or curdle any living matter within a radius of (CLASSIFIED). A single charge will yield as many as (CLASSIFIED) usable pulses. There is also the tendency of the flash to destroy any unshielded electronic gear within the larger radius of (CLASSIFIED).
  • In Halo: Last Light, Veta Lopis continually gets frustrated with Fred-104's replies to her questions being several different varieties of "it's classified". Lopis is a local investigator, tasked with finding a serial killer, while the UNSC is present on Gao to recover the culprit, which happens to be a Forerunner ancilla. Later, Lopis is contacted by a mysterious woman on her radio, who, when asked for her name, replies that it's classified. Lopis then starts calling her "Ms. Classified". It's actually Serin Osman, the protege of ONI head Admiral Parangosky.
  • Able Team:
    • In "Texas Showdown", Able Team are sent to infiltrate a mercenary army after two previous attempts resulted in the agent's deaths. Carl Lyons says the Big Bad must have people working for him in the US government, but Hal Brognola assures Able Team that all their operations are top secret. Gadgets Schwarz silently displays a stack of files on previous agents, each labelled TOP SECRET and DISAPPEARED, PRESUMED DEAD.
    • In "Reign of Doom", Able Team is being smuggled through a civil war in Syria when they're stopped at a roadblock. The officer in charge demands to know what's in the truck, why they'd risk traveling at this time, why a 'Soviet' officer (actually a CIA agent) is with them...
    Gadgets: What did you tell them?
    CIA agent: Hey, is it my job to give out the facts? I told him straight — it's a secret.
  • Very common in Tom Clancy works. The Ryanverse, being about the inner workings of the CIA, discusses classification all the time. Ryan, as an analyst, only sees information as needed for what he's working on.
    • As Acting Deputy Director of Intelligence in Clear and Present Danger, Ryan is told that "need-to-know" still applies as an excuse to keep him out of the loop of the SHOWBOAT and RECIPROCITY operations.
    • When Ryan becomes president in Executive Orders, things get a little more lax: he'll tell someone "that information does not leave this room", and they nod and agree.
    • The security surrounding certain highly classified information figures prominently in The Hunt for Red October. Intelligence from CARDINAL in particular, the CIA's mole in the office of a Politburo member, has only a select few cleared to see it, with even fewer being cleared to see the data before it's been sanitized to disguise its origin. Those not cleared for the raw data don't even know the CARDINAL code name, instead being given a different name which is changed regularly.
  • The entire premise of Solar Warden is that there's an entire secret government program that deals with aliens. Apparently, they also possess a sizable Space Navy built using alien tech. When the main character first witnesses a UFO while on a covert mission to North Korea, he's told in no uncertain terms to forget what he saw and never repeat it to anyone. When he gets back home and asks his girlfriend whether she believes in aliens, he receives a call that threatens her life if he persists (this is despite them going to a nudist beach, so presumably their phones have been bugged). He's eventually invited to join the program and learns that there are multiple factions in the government that have their own goals involving the aliens. In the second book, it's also revealed that Project Stargate (involving remote viewing) was never actually shut down despite the official cover and continued in secret.
  • Rod Allbright Alien Adventures: When Rod learns of the existence of aliens, Captain Grakker defaults to "Classified information!" to shut down questions that he doesn't want to answer to an Earthling — or just doesn't want to talk about. Rod fires it back when Grakker asks an insensitive question about his Disappeared Dad.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Spoofed on 3rd Rock from the Sun:
    Officer Don: The FBI are coming into town tomorrow.
    Dick: What for?
    Officer Don: That's classified.
    Tommy: You have no idea, do you?
    Officer Don: That's also classified.
  • In Blackadder Goes Forth, Captain Darling is outraged when Blackadder correctly predicts that the plan for the next big battle is to have everyone leave their trench and walk slowly towards the enemy. "That's classified information!"
  • Blake's 7: in "Horizon", the Liberator encounters a planet on the edge of the galaxy protected by a forceshield. They try to find out more information from their Master Computer, Zen. Blake later gets a Federation flotilla to crash into the forceshield, betting their lives that the flotilla is no better informed than they are.
    Blake: What are the surface conditions on Horizon?
    Zen: Negative information.
    Blake: Population?
    Zen: Negative information.
    Blake: Well, is there any information on Horizon?
    Zen: Negative.
    Blake: Well, is the information on Horizon classified?
    Zen: Negative information.
    Vila: Well, that was a whole lot of nothing.
  • The Boys (2019): Invoked as a reason for Translucent's disappearance (as Vought doesn't want to admit their Supes are vulnerable at a time when they're pushing for Military Superheroes), though the PR men realize that being slightly more specific will work better, so they say he's on a mission in South America to investigate MS-13.
  • Le Bureau des Légendes: In this espionage thriller, characters repeatedly tell each other, if you don't know, you're not supposed to know. Various documentation is marked classified. Just try to work out exactly who knows what.
  • Doctor Who: "Hide": The Doctor easily convinces Palmer he's with Military Intelligence as he knows top secret information about Palmer's service in SOE. He then uses this trope when Palmer asks about his sonic screwdriver.
  • Fleming: The Man Who Would Be Bond. While searching for a German nuclear scientist, Ian Fleming is stopped at an American checkpoint. He shows his authorization and when the American officer asks what he's doing in the area, snobbishly fobs him off with this trope. The American points out there are still SS units operating in the area and normally he'd provide an escort, but if Fleming's going to act like a jerk he won't bother.
  • Friends: In the episode with Charlie Sheen as Phoebe's navy boyfriend, he fields any questions about submarines with, "I really can't say." Even innocuous ones like, "Do you get to look through a periscope?"
  • Played for laughs in Graceland. Crime lord Bello needs someone to retrieve a package dumped off the coast of California. FBI Agent "Johnny" Tuttoro, who was once a Navy Seal trainee, is able to pass himself off as an active Seal pulling jobs on the side for extra cash because all information about active Seals, including their missions and identities, are classified. When Bello questions Johnny and his qualifications, he replies to everything with "That's classified, sir" to Bello's mounting frustration. That is, until the final question...
    Bello: If you won't answer my questions, how do I know if you can do this?!
    Johnny: [Considers for a moment] You know Osama's body?
    Bello: Yes?
    Johnny: Well, it used to be on the ocean floor.
    Bello: [Does a shocked double take] Is that true?
    Johnny: No, that's classified, sir.
  • Regulary occured on JAG.
    • In "Tribunal", Sturgis is assigned as co-defense counsel for the fictional Al-Qaida No 3 in the military tribunal held aboard a warship, and has an Army Special Forces captain on the stand to answer questions about unconventional warfare by US Forces and that of unlawful combatants. The implication of the final question being that there's not always a distinct difference between them.
    Sturgis: One final question. On certain operations, Special Forces personnel remove all insignia. Your dog tags, anything that could identify you. Is that correct?
    Army Captain: That's classified, sir.
    Sturgis: Let the record reflect that was not a no.
    • One episode even has the title "Need To Know", in which Harm, Mac and Sturgis are assigned to get information declassified on a submarine which was lost at sea on a CIA mission off the Soviet coast in 1968.
    Catherine Gale, CIA attorney: If the Navy insists on convening a court of inquiry, the proceedings will have Top Secret level 1 protection. Inasmuch as the Angel Shark mission was in fact classified Top Secret level 2 that means that information and materials, which in accordance with Executive Order 12356, as well as OPNAVINST 5510.1 and DoD Directive 12043, require level 2 protection, may not be presented in level 1 proceedings. Clear?
    Commander Harmon Rabb: Oh, yeah. I think I get it. We can't tell the court why it needs to be declassified because the reason it's classified is classified.
    Catherine Gale, CIA attorney: You've got it.
  • Murdoch Mysteries: "That's top secret" is practically government agent Terrence Meyers's Catchphrase, much to the frustration of the Toronto Constabulary, who take the view that knowing what's actually going on might help them solve the murder of the week. Subverted in "Confederate Treasure":
    Murdoch: And what's the Government going to do with all of this found money?
    Myers: That's top secret.
    Murdoch: Really?
    Myers: No, not really. I have no idea. That's not my job.
    Murdoch: What exactly is your job, Mr Myers?
    Myers: Well, that is top secret.
  • Quiller. In "The Tango Briefing", Quiller asks what the mission objective is and gets this trope from Loman. In fact it's so classified even Loman doesn't know, though he's supposed to be running the mission.
  • Comes up from time to time as an obstacle to relationships in Stargate SG-1. When you're a member of an elite military team that regularly travels to other planets risking your life to protect humanity from existential threats while importing advanced alien technology, covering that up makes for some awkward conversations with family, friends, love interests, etc. One episode also had SG-1 investigate the theft of tech from their alien allies (or friends). O'Neill confronts Colonel Maybourne, who tells him that it's classified. Jack points out that he has the highest security clearance possible. Maybourne counters that he has the highest military clearance. Shocked, Jack asks if it's a civilian operation, and Maybourne doesn't reply, but his non-reply is telling.
  • Star Trek
    • Star Trek: The Next Generation: Captain Picard receives a "Code 47" transmission. The computer even tells Picard that the information in this transmission is not to be shared with anyone unless absolutely necessary and there will be no record made of it being received.
    • Star Trek: Voyager introduces to the Omega Directive. Classified as Captain's level and above, the Omega Directive supersedes all other Starfleet General Orders and regulations including the Prime Directive. Any captain in the field who encounters an Omega molecule is to immediately report it to Starfleet Command, which becomes a problem for Janeway when Command is tens of thousands of light years away.
    • Star Trek: Discovery:
      • The Season 2 finale explains why the ship, the spore drive, Section 31, and Spock's adopted sister are never mentioned in any chronologically future installments. Starfleet classifies all knowledge of them after the Discovery permanently travels to the 33rd century and forces all participants to stay quiet under penalty of treason.
      • Similarly, the existence of the Mirror Universe is also classified, in particular, how they got there, the fact that Captain Lorca had come from there, the fact that the U.S.S. Defiant would end up there, and the fact that the Captain Georgiou working for Section 31 had previously been the Terran Emperor in that universe. This introduces some complications early on when Burnham has to avoid providing Captain Pike with some pointedly relevant information about one of their associates in Section 31. One way or another, Pike figured it out by the time he and Georgiou part ways, when she playfully announces her secret identity, and Pike laughs it off with a knowing wink.
      • And finally, the details of Spock's treatment at a Starfleet psychiatric care facility is classified at an unusually high level after he is accused of murdering three medical personnel and escaping.
    • Star Trek: Picard:
      • In "The End Is the Beginning", Hugh is the Executive Director of the Borg Reclamation Project, yet he's not permitted to view Ramdha's Romulan dossier even though she's his patient in the Disordered Ward.
      • Later in the same episode, Hugh is astonished that Soji somehow knows that the imperial scout ship Shaenor with its 26 Romulan passengers was the last vessel assimilated by the Artifact because no one outside the Tal Shiar has access to that information.
      • In "Absolute Candor", Soji lampshades that the records on the Borg databases are classified.
      • Later, Narek informs Soji that Romulan passenger lists aren't made public, unlike Terran ones.
      • In "Broken Pieces", Enoch explains to Raffi that the octonary star system doesn't appear on modern Romulan star charts, but it was present in their ancient star maps. The general public has been led to believe that it's apocryphal, but it's actually a Zhat Vash cover-up to keep the location of the "Conclave of Eight" a secret.
    • Star Trek: Strange New Worlds continues from DIS with Pike, Spock, and Number One refusing to talk about what happened to the Discovery to anyone else, even Admiral Robert April, the previous captain of the Enterprise. The only time this is violated is when Pike allows Number One to reveal the reason for the Kylie having warp technology (they observed the Battle of Xahea with their telescopes and used that knowledge to develop a warp bomb) in front of La'an, who isn't cleared to know. In a later episode, Spock mind-melds with La'an in order to jog her memory on her past as a prisoner of the Gorn, but the echo of his goodbye to Michael is heard by La'an, who points out that Spock's official records don't mention a sister.
  • A running gag on Twin Peaks was that Major Briggs was unable to discover any details of his job, and would simply respond "That's classified" to most questions.
    Bobby: Dad? What is it that you... do?
    Major Briggs: That's classified.
  • The West Wing: As the series focuses on high levels of government this naturally comes up several times for varying reason. Characters who don't have clearance to know something are often asked to leave a room or given files with redacted text to cover what they aren't allowed to know.
  • Common on The X-Files since most of what they work with has either been buried to make the FBI look good or has been buried because it's part of the conspiracy. Mulder's connections often get him information he never should have seen, though usually the classified information itself is completely bogus and has been "classified" to legitimize it.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Played for Laughs when Calvin attempts to invoke this trope - as an answer to a school test question.
    "Where is Plymouth Rock? I am not presently at liberty to divulge that information, as it might compromise our agents in the field."

  • In The Chimera Project arc of Cool Kids Table, Void's file is almost entirely blacked out.

    Tabletop Games 

    Video Games 
  • Primarch Victus uses this in a rare out-of-character moment to avoid having to explain the Turian fail-safe planet-destroying bomb on Tuchanka in Mass Effect 3.
    • Given the context of the game, Shepard can often pull this to avoid having to explain his missions to people who don't need to know. Culminates to when you avoid explaining why Commander Bailey should release an incredibly dangerous mercenary leader.
    Bailey: That's just a fancy way of saying "mind your own damn business".
  • In Halo 2, a Gunnery Sergeant asks Johnson how he survived the previous game. This is a bit of Lampshade Hanging for players who are probably wondering the same thing (the reason is given in Halo: First Strike.)
    Master Gunnery Sergeant: So, Johnson, when you gonna tell me how you made it back home in one piece?
    Sergeant Johnson: Sorry, Gunns. It's classified.
    Master Gunnery Sergeant: Huh! My ass!
    • Defied later in the game, upon seeing a Halo ring Commander Keyes wants information and (rightly) makes it clear she will not tolerate this as an answer.
    Commander Keyes: I want all the information you've got on the first Halo. Schematics, topography, whatever. I don't care if I have the clearance or not.
    Cortana: Yes, ma'am.
  • In Halo: Reach, the dossier of Noble Six is mostly blacked out, according to Carter, though he mentions that he was able to access even what ONI didn't want him to know. Supplemental material indicates that much of Six's career which was blacked out was their time as a lone wolf assassin who single-handedly took out entire insurgent groups, a test pilot in a top-secret space fighter program, and as a UNSC admiral's "private grim reaper", the latter of which made said admiral reluctant to part with Six until he was all but ordered to.
  • Many of the documents in Control have at least one blacked-out word or phrase, usually more.
  • One of the books you can read in Total Distortion is a transcript of dimensionauts that first visited the Distortion Dimension and encountered the Metal Lord, with a disclaimer at the front explaining that sensitive areas have been blacked out for national security reasons. You can read it in the first place because you paid to be teleported to the same dimension.
  • In Stories Untold, the third chapter, The Station Process includes a microfilm handbook meant for decoding number station broadcasts. At one point, one of the operators finds the acronym "GCS" among the signals she forwards to you, and a chart at the back of the handbook refers to this, with its meaning and most of the chart redacted. It actually stands for "Glasgow Coma Scale", a way of measuring the consciousness of a patient, foreshadowing the fact that you, James Aition, were in a 2-week coma and overheard part of your assessment at some point.

    Visual Novels 
  • In Double Homework, everything about Dr. Mosely/Zeta and her experiment falls under this.
  • The Great Ace Attorney: Iyesa Nosa and Satoru Hosonaga claim this when pressed on the slip-ups they made during their testimonies.

  • Subverted in Every Button Hurts the Other Guy in that much of the information that Fang Mao-Yin deals with is classified, but this doesn't stop her from absentmindedly letting most of it slip.
  • Grrl Power:
    • The comic is mostly about a government/military organization which employs people with superpowers. As such, it handles and generates its share of secret information. Unfortunately, not everyone who happens to gain superpowers and who's willing to work for the organization really takes the subject seriously enough — as, for example, here.
    • ARCHON keeps some of the precise details of its supers secret for tactical reasons. Most of their upper limits (such as speed and strength) are classified, as are some of their powers. Anvil's kinetic absorption is classified (though most people figure it out quickly), Dabbler's alien/demonic origin is classified, and Maxima's ability to shift her stats around is so secret even her own teammates don't know about it. Sydney's comm-ball is doubly classified since telepresence and truthsight are both most useful when the enemy doesn't know about them, and her two unknown orbs are classified so that the team doesn't have to admit they don't know what they do.
  • Nedroid: There is blacked out text in this strip.

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation:
    • The main wiki does this with [REDACTED] and ███████, making a situation report read like a list of Noodle Incidents. In-universe, if you had a higher security clearance level then the software you were using to access the Foundation's database would let you see what's behind all of the redactions. [DATA EXPUNGED] means that the information has been removed from the database entirely, so no one will see it regardless of their clearance level.
    • The Memetics and Infohazards Division makes information censor itself. If You Cannot Grasp the True Form of the classified material, you don't get the information.
  • Red vs. Blue: CT really doesn't want to share his information. It classified.
    Sarge: Classified as what?
    CT: Classified as something I can't tell you, now stop fishing for information!
    Grif: You can't tell us, or you won't tell us?
    CT: I can't tell you... which is convenient, because I don't want to tell you.
  • In Simple Complications a few of the main characters ended up discovering some classified information in the second volume, which is beginning to cause major problems for them in the third volume.

    Western Animation 
  • The Penguins of Madagascar:
    • "Operation: Plush and Cover":
      Skipper: I'm waiting for my away team to report before declaring Defcon Red.
      Marlene: Uh-huh. Real quick: what's Defcon Red?
      Skipper: Classified. Just hope you never live to see one, sister.
    • "Otter Gone Wild", after a cage is produced from Hammerspace:
      King Julien: Uh, where did that cage come from?
      Kowalski: Sorry, that information is classified.
    • Between Agent X and Alice:
      Alice: X, eh? Is that the name your mommy gave you?
      X: Mother never told me my real name. Said it was classified.
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy has the "Junior CIA" school club, which is less than informative about the exact nature of the club, as the representative just says that everything Billy asks is classified information. When Billy manages to guess something right, the agent says He Knows Too Much and Billy is dragged off to be made a member.

    Real Life 
  • The USA has a "compartment" scheme that goes alongside the more familiar scheme of "levels" (unclassified, confidential, secret, top secret). The idea is that there are lots and lots of people who are cleared to know classified information in general, but that doesn't necessarily mean that they should be allowed to see any specific classified document; there's a much shorter list of people allowed access to each document's "compartment". For instance, there might be a compartment for all documents relating to the shiny new jet fighter that the Air Force is developing, and then subcompartments for each component. This often goes along with the notion of "need to know", i.e. secrets should only be revealed to people who have an acceptable reason for needing to know about it (the engineer designing the jet fighter's radio probably doesn't need to know about its engines, and vice versa). There's also the sub-classification called NOFORN, which means that anyone who the security rules would classify as a foreigner (such as non-US citizens and US citizens in the employ of a non-US based company) is not permitted to see this information no matter what their clearance level is.
    • By Congressional rule, there are, in fact, only four levels of classification allowed, as mentioned above. The compartmentalization system was developed, in part, to get around those restrictions by citing "need-to-know" requirements (also because the more people know a secret, the more likely the secret is to leak).
  • In many modern legal systems, courts can order the media not to report certain facts that emerged during cases, such as the identities of witnesses who may be in need of protection - an order known as an injunction. It emerged in 2011 that some English and Welsh courts have been known to order so-called 'super-injunctions', which not only require non-publication of facts of the case but also suppress the fact that an injunction exists; and at least one 'hyper-injunction', which also forbids discussion of the existence of the injunction with journalists, lawyers, or members of Parliament. At least one such injunction was subverted by an MP talking about it in parliament (since he was protected by "parliamentary privilege" and there was nothing stopping the media reporting what he said about the injunction).
    • Similarly, telephone and Internet companies may be served with an order to allow the government to access communications and to refrain from disclosing the fact. Some organizations have developed a workaround by posting a "warrant canary" statement that they have not been served with any secret subpoenas, which would be taken down if that situation changed, implicitly revealing what happened in a way that might get around the gag order.
  • In the Soviet Union of old, a real classification existed, and is still retained in modern Russia: "Of Special Importance" (Osoboy vazhnosti)l which is more secret than Top Secret.
  • There's a variation where information might not be classified, but it might be restricted due to concerns such as privacy. In general, mishandling documents with individual's home addresses, phone numbers, or other personally identifiable details can get you into trouble in many lines of work. And then you get into specialized things like attorney-client-privilege or medical information. Leaking any of this information might not be directly harmful to the organization, but it can be very harmful to those individuals, leaving the organization open to financial or legal consequences. A lawyer that breaks attorney-client privilege, for example, can be disbarred, while a doctor that breaks doctor-patient privilege opens themselves up to a massive civil lawsuit.
    • Confess in Confidence works this way too. A Catholic priest is bound to tell no one — not police, not lawyers, not even The Pope himself — what the priest has heard in a sacramental confession, under pain of immediate excommunication and possible laicization (dismissal from the priestly state). Needless to say, it is the most serious of Serious Business. There are records of priests being executed when they refused to break the Seal of Confession.