Over The Top Secret
Classified above top secret.
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(permanent link) added: 2013-02-22 19:19:38 sponsor: Discar (last reply: 2013-07-09 19:50:59)

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General Maynard: Mr. President, I'm here to bring you up to speed on a program we've been running out of Cheyenne Mountain for the past seven years.
President: I've already had my top secret briefing.
Maynard: Yes, Mr. President. But not this.
-- "Inauguration," Stargate SG-1

You know the trope. In order to emphasize just how ridiculously important something is, it is classified as "Above Top Secret." Maybe it has a special name, maybe it doesn't, but the point is that people who thought they were privvy to every secret are...not.

See also Classified Information, Up to Eleven, and Serial Escalation. If an entire organization is classified such, you're likely looking at an instance of No Such Agency.

Not to be confused with Above Top Secret, which is a website about conspiracy theories.


Examples:

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[[folder:Film]]

  • In G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the title organization is described as above top secret. Of course, sometimes it seems like everyone on the planet knows about them, so it's one of those examples.
  • In Men In Black 3, J is told that the exact details of what happened between his partner K and Boris the Animal is above his pay grade. He's a senior agent only a step or two below the chief, so he's quite surprised. Shortly thereafter, he finds out about time travel--which is also above his pay grade.
    J: Okay--I need a raise.
  • The President doesn't learn about the secret laboratory beneath Area 51 until the aliens begin their invasion in Independence Day. President Whitmore promptly fires his Chief of Staff Nimzicki for keeping the President in the dark about such a crucial asset.
  • During Transformers, a high-ranking Sector 7 officer shows the Secretary of Defense some video of a Decepticon taken by a Mars probe that was reported having crashed, saying that it was "classified above top secret."
  • 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).
  • Anyone who even mentions General Warren Monger's secret monster storehouse in Monsters vs. Aliens receives a dart to the neck and passes out instantly.
  • In the Marvel Cinematic Universe, One-Shot The Consultant sees SHIELD Agent Jasper Sitwell realizes this, then lets it slide, since he's talking to a right-hand man of the director, they're both highly ranked, and considering the nature of secrets kept, there are some things better off not known.
    Sitwell: ...and they think we have him?
    Coulson: What's your clearance level?
    Sitwell: Heh, level 6, same as you.
    [beat]
    Sitwell: Oh come on, there's a level 7?

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[[folder:Literature]]

  • In The Laundry Series, the Laundry is classified under a portion of the British Official Secrets Act that is itself classified.

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[[folder:Live Action TV]]

  • The Stargate Program in the Stargate Verse.
    • In a variant, it's only above top secret for the United States--China insists they are not going to make any effort to help America maintain The Masquerade, and Russia and other countries are only placated by giving them stakes in the Atlantis mission and similar expeditions.
    • The trope is discussed directly a few times in Stargate SG-1.
      • In "Touchstone" Col. Maybourne tells SG-1 they're not cleared for some information, they point out they have the highest possible security clearance, and Maybourne says that that's only true within the military and Area 51 is a civilian operation.
      • In "Seth" Jack and Jacob Carter use this on an ATF special agent who's investigating a cult run by a Goa'uld hiding on Earth.
      • And then of course there's the page quote, where the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs is briefing the newly elected President Hayes on the stargate program.
  • There's an episode of The Avengers where it's mentioned that British Intelligence has at least two secrecy classifications: "Top Hush" for regular top secret material, and for anything exceptionally sensitive, "Button Lip".
  • Scandal sometimes deals with government secrets that are deemed too sensitive to be revealed to the President's Chief of Staff or even the President himself. In particular the work Huck did for the government was so horrifyingly illegal that his record is kept secret from the White House even after Huck becomes the main suspect in an attempt on the President's life.

  • Zig-Zagged on Bones. The Victim of the Week was ex-CIA, and the CIA won't tell Booth & Brennan anything because they don't have high enough clearance. Booth points out that he does have high enough clearance. The CIA man makes Brennan leave the room though, because she doesn't. As she's leaving (and in full view of the CIA man) Booth assures her that he'll fill her in later.
  • 7Days
    • The project itself is so classified the President knows nothing about it. After a couple of encounters with Parker he does know he is part of something and is determined to find out. His clearance is insufficient
    • There was an episode where Parker had a run in with some unit, and stated he had a very high clearance level. A soldier from the unit stated he has a level high enough to shoot Parker on the spot.
  • The X-Files is filled with these, some of which being so secret that it seems no one really seems to know the secret information, only knowing bits and pieces of it.
    Deep Throat: There are limits to my knowledge, Mister Mulder. Inside the intelligence community, there are so-called "black organizations." Groups within groups conducting covert activities, unknown at the highest levels of power.

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[[folder:Video Games]]

  • In Alpha Protocol, the titular program is stated to 'not exist.' "And the agencies that suspect we might exist? They don't exist either." It's so top secret that no one even knows where the base is; even top-level agents are drugged unconscious and shipped halfway around the world before being woken up.

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[[folder: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).
  • 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.

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Quotes tab:

ATF Agent James Hamner: You guys Special Forces?
Col. Jack O'Neill: Also classified.
Hamner: I was talking to your commanding officer, Colonel.
Jacob Carter: He's right. It's classified.
Hamner: I have top level clearance.
Jack: Oh, not top enough.
Hamner: You have a rather insubordinate subordinate, General.
-- "Seth", Stargate SG-1
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