What is Above Top Secret clearance? There are countless conspiracy theorists out there who develop all sorts of stories and legends about things members of the military have seen while working in jobs that have higher levels of access than the Top Secret security clearances. This leads many readers to ask, what exactly is “Above Top Secret?”
The Meaning of Above Top Secret
First of all, there’s no such thing as an actual clearance level that officially has that label, but there are actual clearances above the level of Top Secret itself. There may be people who want to convince you that it’s a level of security clearance so secret that the public isn’t even aware of it.
Don’t panic. Put away your tin foil hat and follow along as I provide the true background of the U.S. government classification system. There’s certainly information that people might consider above the level of Top Secret because the information is so sensitive that unauthorized disclosure could cause such a high level of harm to the national security, but the official name of such clearance is only sometimes referred to as “Above Top Secret”. Those very real security levels are also detailed below.
The Real Meaning Behind Security Clearances
Security clearances are no secret. The information they are set up to protect might be, but anyone who tells you otherwise is pulling your leg. There are three basic levels of security classification, regardless of whether you work for the Department of Defense (DOD), the Department of Energy (DOE), or any other department or agency within the U.S. government. These three general levels of classification are as follows.
- Confidential: Any information where unauthorized disclosure could cause damage to the national security. This is considered the lowest security clearance.
- Secret: Any information where unauthorized disclosure could cause serious damage to the national security. Many private corporation contractors who work on military or government contracts need to have Secret clearance in order to perform their work, sometimes simply because they will be working at a facility where they could potentially see or hear information classified as “Secret.”
- Top Secret: The highest security clearance available, this information has the potential for unauthorized disclosure to cause grave damage to the national security.
Top Secret is the highest level, and while there is no official level called "Above Top Secret", what can cause confusion (and why many scammers get away with their scam) is because there are extra protection measures that are in place beyond top secret and many official documents have actually referred to those levels as "above" Top Secret. Technically, these additional levels really are above and beyond the Top Secret clearance. There are two types of information that fall under this category.
SCI - Sensitive Compartmented Information
SAP - Special Access Programs
This means that even if one holds Top Secret clearance, they would not have access to SCI or SAP information. There's a great deal of speculation as to government or military programs that exist under SCI classification in particular - and this is where conspiracy theorists have a field day - but this classification is often very important for military research projects where scientists and technicians have a critical need to know specific aspects or components of a technology design, but really have no need to know the scope of the entire project. The fewer people who know what the entire purpose of the project is, the less likely there will be leaks to foreign intelligence agents.
When Top Secret Isn't Enough
Again, beyond having the necessary clearances listed above, a person must also have a "need to know" in order to access the information in order to perform their duties. Each agency operates its own security program, so having Top Secret security clearance at the DOD does not mean you also have Top Secret security clearance with the Department of Energy.
This means that if someone is trying to convince you that they have Above Top Secret security clearance, so they are able to "look up" details of some secret project - they're lying to you. Having the appropriate clearance to work on a specific project isn't enough, you also need to be provided with "need to know" status.
Hopefully, you know have a better understanding of the real classification levels, and you'll be able to identify when a scammer or fraud is attempting to convince you that they have (or had) access to secret government projects that don't exist.