Classified information and code names have long captured our imagination, representing hidden knowledge and covert operations. In this blog post, we breakdown classified information, exploring different classification levels and intriguing code names associated with clandestine programs. Let’s unravel the mysteries and shed light on these intriguing aspects of secrecy.

Confidential (C)

Confidential information, while requires careful handling. It encompasses data that, if disclosed, could have adverse effects on national security or sensitive operations. Examples include internal policy directives, limited-scale military exercises, and certain aspects of diplomatic negotiations.

Personnel with Confidential clearance can vary across different government agencies. It may include government contractors, administrative staff, or individuals working in support roles. For example, an executive assistant at a military base or a contractor involved in logistical operations may hold Confidential clearance.

Secret (S)

The Secret classification signifies information that demands strict protection. It covers materials that, if revealed, could cause significant harm to national security. Examples of Secret information include detailed intelligence reports on foreign governments, covert operations, and advanced research projects with potential military applications.

Government officials with Secret clearance often include mid-level intelligence analysts, military officers, and diplomats engaged in classified activities. For instance, a field operative in the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) or a military intelligence officer may have Secret clearance.

Top Secret (TS)

Officially, “Top Secret” is supposed to be the pinnacle of classified information. This classification denotes the highest level of sensitivity, guarding national security matters of utmost importance. Only authorized personnel with the appropriate clearance can access Top Secret information. Examples of the type of information with this label could include sensitive military plans, advanced weapon systems, and intelligence related to ongoing operations.

Authorized individuals with Top Secret clearance include high-ranking government officials, intelligence officers, military commanders, and select personnel involved in sensitive operations. For example, the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) or the Secretary of Defense would have Top Secret clearance.

Cosmic Top Secret (CTS)

Within the realm of international security, Cosmic Top Secret (CTS) is a classification level used by NATO. It protects highly sensitive information related to military operations, intelligence sharing, and strategic plans among member nations. CTS materials require strict access controls and are only available to authorized personnel with the highest security clearances.


During World War II, Ultra clearance was limited to a small group of Allied intelligence personnel, including cryptanalysts, codebreakers, and high-ranking military officers directly involved in deciphering encrypted enemy communications. Only those with a critical role in intelligence operations were granted Ultra clearance. This was also where Special Access Projects (SAP’s) really took off in the United States government, as coding access to information by a project-level clearance rather than tiered controls, created more specific need-to-know control points.

Special Access Programs (SAP)

Special Access Programs are classified initiatives that go beyond standard security clearances. These programs provide access to highly sensitive information and require additional scrutiny and compartmentalization. SAPs cover a broad range of topics, such as advanced military technologies, intelligence operations, and classified research projects.

Access to Special Access Programs is highly exclusive and typically limited to individuals directly involved in specific classified initiatives. This may include senior defense officials, intelligence operatives, scientists, and contractors with specialized expertise. For example, individuals working on advanced weapons development projects or classified intelligence operations would require SAP clearance. These programs can also be hybridized with SCI and Code-word clearances.

Sensitive Compartmented Information (SCI)

Sensitive Compartmented Information refers to information that is compartmentalized within a classified program. It involves access to specific compartments containing particularly sensitive intelligence. Authorized individuals must possess the appropriate clearance and a “need-to-know” basis for each compartment they access. SCI is crucial for safeguarding highly sensitive data.

Code-word Clearance

Code-word clearances are typically limited to a select few individuals with a specific “need-to-know” and involvement in projects or operations associated with the codeword. For instance, scientists working on classified research projects, senior military commanders overseeing sensitive military campaigns, or intelligence officers involved in covert operations may be granted code-word clearance.

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