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CIA cryptonyms are code names or code words used by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to refer to projects, operations, persons, agencies, etc. Most of the cryptonyms described in this article were in use at least from the 1950s to the 1980s and have since been retired from use.
The term "code word" was used by the CIA during the 1960s as a partial designation for a Top Secret report on a highly classified and sensitive intelligence topic, and for compartmenting information. In the context of discussing code words used in the President's Daily Brief (PDB) during the Johnson and Nixon administrations, former CIA Director Richard Helms wrote:
"At the time, the highest security classification was known as Top Secret/Code Word. In practice, the slug — as we called it — 'Top Secret/Code Word' was followed by a noun, so scrupulously chosen that even the most intuitive intruder could not associate a glimpse of the code word with the subject matter it protected. In my day there were a dozen or more of these tightly compartmented classifications of information. Aside from the President and a few others — usually the Secretary of State, Secretary of Defense, and National Security Advisor — no other government official was automatically cleared for 'all source' reports. The lesser recipients of specific code word data had to have a clearly established 'need to know' the substance of the compartmentalized report. Compartmentation, as we called it, is one of the most effective means of protecting sensitive data. As surely as Heaven gave us little green apples, it would be my luck to pick a five-letter noun that is in current use."
Top Secret/Code Word documents contained "highly classified and sensitive intelligence."
Format of cryptonyms
Each CIA cryptonym contains a two character prefix called a digraph, which designates a geographical or functional area. Certain digraphs were changed over time; for example, the digraph for the Soviet Union changed at least twice.
The rest is either an arbitrary dictionary word, or occasionally the digraph and the cryptonym combine to form a dictionary word (e.g. AEROPLANE) or can be read out as a simple phrase (e.g., WIBOTHER, read as "Why bother!"). Cryptonyms are sometimes written with a slash after the digraph, e.g., ZR/RIFLE, and sometimes in one sequence, e.g., ZRRIFLE. The latter format is the more common style in CIA documents.
Examples from publications by former CIA personnel show that the terms "code name" and "cryptonym" can refer to the names of operations as well as to individual persons. TRIGON, for example, was the code name for Aleksandr Ogorodnik, a member of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in what was then the Soviet Union, whom the CIA developed as a spy; HERO was the code name for Col. Oleg Penkovsky, who supplied data on the nuclear readiness of the Soviet Union during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. According to former CIA Director Richard M. Helms: "The code names for most Agency operations are picked in sequence from a sterile list, with care taken not to use any word that might give a clue to the activity it covers. On some large projects, code names are occasionally specially chosen — GOLD, SILVER, PBSUCCESS, CORONA. When Bob Kennedy requested a code name for the government-wide plan that Richard Goodwin was drafting, an exception was made. Goodwin was on the White House staff, and the plan concerned Cuba. Occasionally the special code names come close to the nerve, as did MONGOOSE." A secret joint program between the Mexico City CIA station and the Mexican secret police to wiretap the Soviet and Cuban embassies was code-named ENVOY.
Some cryptonyms relate to more than one subject, e.g., a group of people. In this case, the basic cryptonym, e.g., LICOZY, will designate the whole group, while each group member is designated by a sequence number, e.g., LICOZY/3, which can also be written LICOZY-3, or just L-3.
Partial list of digraphs and probable definitions
BG, CA, DT, ER, FJ, HB, HO, HT, JU, KM, QK, SC, SE, SG, WS, ZI
- AEFOXTROT: Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, a Soviet defector.
- AELADLE: Anatoliy Golitsyn, a Soviet defector.
- AMBIDDY-1: Manuel Artime.
- AMBLOOD-1: Luis Torroella y Martin Rivero, a CIA agent.
- AMCLATTER-1: Bernard Barker, one of the Watergate burglars.
- AMCRUZ or AMCRUX?
- AMLASH: Plan to assassinate Fidel Castro associated mainly with Rolando Cubela. AMLASH has been referred to as a "basically one-person Cubela operation".
- AMLASH-1: Rolando Cubela Secades, a Cuban official involved in plot to kill Fidel Castro in 1963.
- AMOT: Cuban exile informants of David Sánchez Morales.
- AMQUACK: Che Guevara, Argentinian (later Cuban) guerrilla leader.
- AMTHUG: Fidel Castro, Prime Minister of Cuba 1959-1976.
- AMTRUNK: A CIA plan by New York Times journalist Tad Szulc initiated in February 1963, also called the "Leonardo Plan," that was "an attempt to find disgruntled military officials in Cuba who might be willing to recruit higher military officials in a plot to overthrow Castro", as well as to overthrow the Cuban government "by means of a conspiracy among high-level ... leaders of the government culminating in a coup d'etat". AMTRUNK has also been described as a "CIA-DIA Task Force on Cuba", and as "a plodding bureaucratic effort" that "had worked for months to identify Cuban leaders who might be able to stage a coup".
- AMWHIP-1: Business associate of Santo Trafficante, Jr. who was in contact with Rolando Cubela (AMLASH) in 1963.
- AMWORLD: A plan initiated June 28, 1963, to overthrow the Castro regime in a coup on December 1, 1963 (C-Day), that would have installed Juan Almeida Bosque, a top ranking Cuban military officer, as the new head of state. Some Cuban exiles referred to C-Day as "Plan Omega".
- DBACHILLES: 1995 effort to support a military coup in Iraq.
- DBROCKSTARS: Iraqi spy ring recruited by the CIA shortly before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
- HTAUTOMAT: Photointerpretation center for the Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft project.
- HTKEEPER: Mexico City
- HTLINGUAL: Mail interception operation 1952-1973.
- HTNEIGH: National Committee for Free Albania (NCFA) [1949-mid1950s]
- HTPLUME: Panama
- JMADD: CIA air base near city of Retalhuleu, Guatemala 1960-1961
- JMATE: CIA Air operations office for the Bay of Pigs Invasion 1961
- JMBELL: CIA office (location unknown) 1961
- JMBLUG: John Peurifoy, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala.
- JMFURY: Preparatory strikes against Cuban airfields before Bay of Pigs Invasion 1961
- JMGLOW: CIA Washington 1961
- JMTIDE: CIA air base in Puerto Cabezas, Nicaragua 1961
- JMTRAX: CIA covert air base/training camp in Guatemala 1960-1961
- JMWAVE: CIA station in Miami (that operated against Cuba).
- JMZIP: CIA office (location unknown) 1961
- KMFLUSH: Nicaragua
- KMPAJAMA: Mexico
- KMPLEBE: Peru
- KUBARK: CIA Headquarters, Langley
- KUBASS: CIA Directorate of Science and Technology (DS&T)
- KUCAGE: CIA Overseas Paramilitary / Propaganda Operations
- KUCLUB: CIA Office of Communications
- KUDESK: CIA Counterintelligence department
- KUDOVE: CIA Deputy Director for Operations (DDO)
- KUFIRE: CIA Foreign Intelligence Staff
- KUGOWN: CIA Psychological and Paramilitary Operations Staff
- KUHOOK: CIA Paramilitary Operations Staff
- KUJAZZ: CIA Office of National Estimates
- KUJUMP: CIA Contact Division
- KUKNOB: CIA Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI)
- KUMONK: CIA Office of Political Analysis (OPA)
- KUMOTHER: James Jesus Angleton, head of CIA counter intelligence.
- KURIOT: CIA Technical Services Division.
- KUSODA: Center for CIA Security.]).
- KUTUBE: CIA Foreign Intelligence Staff.]).
- LCFLUTTER: Polygraph, sometimes supplanted by truth drugs: Sodium Amytal (amobarbital), Sodium Pentothal (thiopental), and Seconal (secobarbital) to induce regression in the subject.
- LCPANGS: Costa Rica
- LNHARP: United States Government
- LIENVOY: Wiretap or intercept program.
- LINCOLN: Ongoing operation involving Basque separatist group ETA.
- LIONIZER: Guatemalan refugee group in Mexico.
- LITEMPO: Spy network, operated between 1956–1969, to exchange information with Mexican top officers.
- LITEMPO-2: Gustavo Díaz Ordaz, President of Mexico 1964-1970.
- LITEMPO-8: Luis Echeverría, President of Mexico 1970-1976.
- MHCHAOS: Surveillance of antiwar activists during the Vietnam War.
- MKCHICKWIT: Identify new drug developments in Europe and Asia and obtain samples, part of MKSEARCH.
- MKDELTA: Stockpiling of lethal biological and chemical agents, subsequently became MKNAOMI.
- MKNAOMI: Stockpiling of lethal biological and chemical agents, successor to MKDELTA.
- MKOFTEN: Testing effects of biological and chemical agents, part of MKSEARCH.
- MKSEARCH: MKULTRA after 1964, mind control research.
- MKULTRA: Mind control research. MKULTRA means MK (scientific projects) and ULTRA (top classification reference, re: ULTRA code breaking in World War II. Renamed MKSEARCH in 1964.
- ODACID: United States Department of State/U.S. embassy
- ODEARL: United States Department of Defense
- ODENVY: Federal Bureau of Investigation
- ODOATH: United States Navy
- ODOPAL: Counterintelligence Corps, United States Army
- ODUNIT: United States Air Force
- ODYOKE: Federal government of the United States
- PBFORTUNE: CIA project to supply forces opposed to Guatemala's President Arbenz with weapons, supplies, and funding; predecessor to PBSUCCESS.
- PBHISTORY: CIA project to gather and analyze documents from the Arbenz government in Guatemala that would incriminate Arbenz as a communist.
- PBJOINTLY: Operation that built a tunnel from the American sector of Berlin, to the Russian sector.
- PBPRIME: the United States
- PBRUMEN: Cuba
- PBSUCCESS: (Also PBS) CIA covert operation to overthrow the Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954.
- POCAPON: Taketora Ogata, Japanese politician in the 1950s.
- PODAM: Matsutarō Shōriki, Japanese businessman and politician.
- QJWIN: European assassin. Also described as an "assassin recruiter".
- QKCIGAR: United States Government
- QKELUSION: West German Social Democratic Party (SPD)
- QKENCHANT: CIA program associated with E. Howard Hunt (1918–2007), who with G. Gordon Liddy and others, was one of the White House's "plumbers" — a secret team of operatives charged with fixing "leaks".
- QKFLOWAGE: United States Information Agency
- SMOTH: UK Secret Intelligence Service (MI6)
- TPBEDAMN: U.S. operation to counter communist subversion in Iran with propaganda and bribes.
- TPAJAX: Joint US/UK operation to overthrow Mohammed Mossadeq, Prime Minister of Iran.
- TPCREDO: Italy
- TPROACH: Yugoslavia
- TPTONIC: National Committee for Free Europe (NCFE)
- ZRRIFLE: An assassination plot targeting Fidel Castro
AEBARMAN, AEFOX, AEROPLANE, AVBLIMP, AVBRANDY, AVBUSY, CABOUNCE, CLOWER, ECJOB, ESGAIN, ESODIC, FJDEFLECT, GOLIATH, HBDRILL, HOPEFUL, JUBATE, JUBILIST, LCPANES, LICOZY, LPHIDDEN, ODIBEX, ODEUM, PBCABOOSE
Operations and projects
- Secret Service codename
- List of U.S. government and military acronyms
- Callsign#Military call signs
- 00 Agent#Origin of nomenclature
- List of military operations
- Helms 2003, pp. 378-379
- Wallace and Melton, pp. 88-102
- Helms 2003, p. 216
- Helms 2003, p. 197
- Weiner 2008, p. 258
- "Our War" in Angola, May 22, 1978. TIME Magazine.
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 878
- Escalante, p. 89
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 262
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 204
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 215
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 38
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 794
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 35
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 216
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009 p. 224
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 19
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 13
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 589
- Washington Post
- Bob Woodward, Plan of attack
- Research Aid: Cryptonyms and Terms in Declassified CIA Files
- George Washington University
- "El espía que impactó a México" (in Spanish). El Universal. Retrieved 2009-08-04.
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, pp. 35, 136
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 527
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 709
- Smith 2003
- OBOPUS/BGFIEND, RG263, Various documents, include Vol. 6, Box 47, National Archives, College Park, MD
- Sharp 2012
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, pp. 47, 50-51
- Steve Coll, Ghost Wars, p.372
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 894
- Pedlow & Welzenbach, p. 274.
- Contracting officer, Change of Project Funds Obligated Under Contract No. SS-100, Convair, San Diego, California, Project CHAMPION, DPD-2827-59, CIA, Washington, DC, 30 April 1959.
- Sharp 2012
- Sharp 2012
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 37
- Waldron & Hartmann 2009, p. 516
- Pedlow & Welzenbach, p. 129.
- Bissell, Richard M., Jr., "[...] Cable Handling Procedures," SAPC-21143, CIA, Washington, DC, 8 November 1957.
- OBOPUS/BGFIEND, AHMET KABASHI, RG263, Name Files, National Archives, College Park, MD
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 471
- Waldron & Hartmann 2005, p. 438
- Agee, Philip. 1975. Inside the Company: CIA Diary. Stonehill Publishing ISBN 0-14-004007-2, p. 48
- Carl, Leo D. 1990. The International Dictionary of Intelligence. Mavin Books, p. 107
- DPD Contracting Officer, Change of Project Funds Obligated under Contract No. SS-100. CIA DPD-2827-59, 30 April 1959.
- Escalante, Fabian. 1995. The Secret War: CIA Covert Operations Against Cuba, 1959-62 ISBN 1-875284-86-9
- Helms, Richard and Hood, William. 2003. A Look Over My Shoulder: A Life in the Central Intelligence Agency. Random House, pp. 378–379
- Pedlow, Gregory W. and Welzenbach, Donald E. 1992. The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954 - 1974. CIA History Staff
- Sharp, David (2012). The CIA’s Greatest Covert Operation: Inside the Daring Mission to Recover a Nuclear-Armed Soviet Sub. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas. p. 344. ISBN 978-0-7006-1834-7.
- Smith W. Thomas. 2003. Encyclopedia of the Central Intelligence Agency. Checkmark Books ISBN 0-8160-4666-2
- Stockwell, John. 1978. In Search of Enemies
- Waldron, Lamar and Hartmann, Thom. 2009. Legacy of Secrecy: The Long Shadow of the JFK Assassination. Counterpoint (LS)
- Waldron, Lamar and Hartmann, Thom. 2005. Ultimate Sacrifice: John and Robert Kennedy, the Plan for a Coup in Cuba, and the Murder of JFK Carroll & Graf Publishers (US)
- Wallace, Robert and Melton, H. Keith. 2008. Spycraft: The Secret History of the CIA's Spytechs from Communism to Al-Qaeda. Dutton
- Weiner, Tim. 2008. Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA. Anchor Books
- Wise, David. 1992. Molehunt. Random House, p. 19