As part of a small project, I mocked up a "confidential" "NSA" document. While it isn't real, friends are saying that it's convincing enough that I should place some text at the bottom saying

Please note that this is only a replica, and in no way intends to masquerade as a real NSA document.

Should I add anything else, i.e. also saying "We (the creators) do not have the authority to create real NSA documents."?

  • So for your project, I'm certain you have messed up correct classification... and that's a dead give away. Unless you went on a dedicated hunt and even then... Now, I do know that for training purposes, when learning correct classification practices, there are disclaimers so that a realistic training mock up isn't considered classified for any purposes other than the training scenario. If you think it's realistic, put a disclaimer saying its classified for simulated purposes and that nothing in the document is classified by the U.S. government.
    – hszmv
    Apr 24 '18 at 19:24

Yes. You should put a disclaimer on the document or in a watermark. Government officials charged with enforcing national defense secrecy laws are not good at getting jokes and could easily assume it is real, and once you are accused, even wrongfully, of a national security offense related to classified documents, getting due process let alone a quick dismissal of the case, can be expensive and difficult, if it is possible at all.

  • 2
    This is the correct answer, as far as I remember my briefing on classified documents. Even if the classification is in breach of official guidelines, violating the restrictions of that classification can still constitute an offense. This can be a real nuisance - a misclassified document may need to go through a formal, controlled destruction process.
    – MSalters
    Apr 24 '18 at 13:35

If the point is just to have a fake classified document for an example or illustration, I'd put a fake organization name on it. Like don't make it the NSA, make it the MSA, and make your own logo for it.

I've made fake documents for examples in software user guides and that sort of thing. When I can I deliberately make them ridiculous so that no rational person would think they're real. Like if I was going to make a fake classified document, I wouldn't make the text be about some real international crisis or controversial political issue. I'd make it be about a zombie apocalypse or something of that sort. That way, most people should quickly realize it's deliberately fake, and if someone doesn't and actually tries to take you to court, you can make them look ridiculous.

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