During WWII a level of clearance called "Bigot" was adopted by the allies. This was (to my understanding) done in order to create a smaller circle of individuals who were cleared to know information, than the previous highest clearance level (i.e. the planning of operations Neptune and Overlord).

I have two questions (which the mods might decide to break up?):

  1. Where did the name "Bigot" come from? The other clearance levels seem rather appropriately named (i.e. Confidential, Secret, Top secret, etc.). Is their an etymological reason for using "Bigot"? Was the name picked out of a code book?

  2. Are there any other clearance levels that have been created/used outside of the standard*?

*When I say "standard", I am referring to any clearance level that is regularly used or was created for regular use.

  • 2
    I guessing the first question will be fantastically hard to answer definitively given that it applies to the highest level of security in what was basically an intelligence agency, but Wikipedia has a couple guesses.
    – Comintern
    Nov 1 '15 at 14:44
  • 4
    You have what is shown in wikipedia. Anyone who ever had a clearance won't even be able to comment about if it is still (or ever was) an active code word.
    – CGCampbell
    Nov 1 '15 at 16:26

"Bigot" wasn't a clearance level, it was an additional layer of security along with clearance levels. A clearance level like "secret" means it requires people viewing it to have passed a security check of the appropriate level.

In addition to having the required security clearance for the information (which could be any clearance level) you usually have to be approved to see that specific information. Thus, the "Bigot List". Today it would be called sensitive compartmentalized information or special access programs many, many of which exist within various government departments.

Rather than have people walking around with blanket security clearances who can potentially know too much about too many things, special access programs add a layer of security by ensure that the fewest people possible know only the secrets they need to know. Compartmentalization is a powerful security measure. This has often been referred to as "need to know" or (inaccurately) "above top secret".

There were many other programs like this. "Bigot" was the name for the list of people allowed to know details of Overlord. @o.m. already mentioned Magic (intelligence coming from a US code breaking project) and Ultra (intelligence coming from British GC&CS). Any major operation would have its own secrecy and deception plan. For example, Operation Overlord, the invasion of France, required a great number of compartmentalized information both to keep the time and location for the invasion a secret and for their deception plan, Operation Bodyguard which included Operation Fortitude.

Whether they had additional code names beyond the operation name, I don't know.

  • 3
    +1. Having worked in the classified world some, there are classification levels (Secret, Top Secret, etc.) but if you don't have need to know for the information, you should still not have it. Random catchy codenames like "BIGOT" are used so that certain groups of information can be talked about relatively publicly (eg: on personnel records) without divulging actual secret info. Compare with TEMPEST
    – T.E.D.
    Nov 2 '15 at 15:11
  • When I was in the service (40 years ago), having a clearance did not mean you could see anything up to and including that clearance level. You needed the necessary clearance and had to have demonstrated "need to know" before you would be granted access. I expect that the same rules are followed today. Nov 9 '20 at 22:40

A possible explanation: Supposedly some Allied military travel papers were stamped TOGIB rather than TO GIB (to Gibraltar) to indicate that the soldier was involved in classified missions. Wikipedia says so, and I seemed to remeber that Holt mentioned it in The Deceivers, but it isn't in the index.

Regarding other clearances, there was MAGIC/ULTRA, to name just one.


I am sceptical about the origins given for this here and elsewhere, as the reversal of TO GIB, as although there are many early references to BIGOT [and all the original Overlord maps I've seen are stamped BIGOT, some with a date on which they ceased to be BIGOT] all the etymological definitions I've seen are 21st century, so I feel likely to be suspect. My father was a BIGOT and told me that that phone conversations at the time started 'Are you BIGOTted?' and if affirmative 'Shall we Scramble?'. He also made flights to/from Gib, but never mentioned a connection. I think it more likely that as with other code words it just came from the list of random words designed to give no clue as to the nature of the operation it covered, as concisely described at https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_name


The code name BIGOT was established by Winston Churchill, it stood for British Invasion of German Occupied Territory. These were men who knew the entire Overlord invasion plan. They were severely restricted in their movements prior to the invasion.

  • 3
    According to Wikipedia, that etymology is unlikely: "However, the term "BIGOT", used to designate the highest level of military secrecy, appeared on amphibious operations planning documents prior to Operation Overlord. See, for example, the BIGOT map created for use in Operation Husky, the invasion of Sicily, which took place in 1943, preceding Operation Overlord, which occurred in 1944." Do you have references that address this point?
    – iayork
    Mar 23 '16 at 18:20

During ww11, I believe potential names for operations were recorded in one code book.Need a codeword? Just pick the next unused on the list.Simple.

  • 4
    Your answer would be improved with some proof stronger than "I believe".
    – Steve Bird
    Apr 16 '16 at 21:20

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