Does Cosmic Top Secret = Access to the Secrets of the Universe?
U.S. military personnel and government contractors support operations all over the world, and quite of a few of them work hand in hand with one or more of the 26 North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries. Some of this work involves information that is classified, thus the appropriate level of clearance must be granted. Does that mean in order to get access you have to undergo another background investigation? The answer is no. Each country is responsible for ensuring their personnel are vetted and investigated at the appropriate level before being granted access to classified information. They must also follow the NATO Security Agreement that outlines the rules for clearance and access to NATO classified information The security office for each nation provides the clearance information to NATO for input into a central registry, however, before being granted access to NATO classified information, you must first undergo a NATO security briefing. Here are the different types of NATO classifications and what they mean:
Cosmic Top Secret (CTS) – Applied to information that would cause exceptionally grave damage to NATO and is the essentially the same as U.S. Top Secret.
NATO Secret (NS) – This is the same as U.S. Secret, information that would cause serious damage to NATO.
NATO Confidential (NC) – Applied to information which would be damaging to the interests of NATO.
NATO Restricted (NR) – This is for information that if disclosed would be disadvantageous to the interests of NATO but is not classified. This would be similar to For Official Use only or Sensitive But Unclassified.
ATOMAL – ATOMAL information can be U.S. Restricted/Formerly Restricted Data or U.K. Atomic information that has been officially released to NATO, and can be classified at all three levels (CTS, NS, and NC). Note: For U.S. personnel you must have been issued a “Q” clearance by the DOE prior to be allowed access to NATO ATOMAL information. The only exception to this is NASA personnel who need access to information concerning aeronautical and space activities; they would need to be cleared for access to NR.
So despite the all-powerful sounding title of being cleared at the Cosmic level, normal procedures for access to any classified or restricted data dictates that a legitimate need to know and the appropriate level of clearance is needed prior to being granted eligibility.