CIA cryptonyms are code words seen in declassified documents of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency. There has been much speculation as to their meaning.
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.
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 is sometimes written LICOZY-3.
Partial list of digraphs and probable definitions
Years in brackets indicate when the digraph is known to have been in use, but may in many cases have been used long before or after the years shown.
CA, DT, EC, ER, FJ, HB, HO, HT, JM, JU, KM, LC, QK, SE, SC, WS, ZI
Partial list of CIA cryptonyms and probable definitions
Operations and Projects
- ARTICHOKE: Anti-interrogation project. Precursor to MKULTRA.
- AQUATONE: Original name for the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane Project. Succeeded by CHALICE.
- BLUEBIRD: mind control program
- CHALICE: Second name for the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane Project. Preceded by AQUATONE.
- CHERRY: Covert assassination / destabilization operation during Vietnam war, targeting Prince (later King) Norodom Sihanouk and the government of Cambodia. Disbanded.
- CONDOR: 1970s CIA interference in Latin American governments, some allege in the coup and assassination of Salvador Allende in Chile
- CORONA: Satellite photo system.
- DBACHILLES: 1995 effort to support a military coup in Iraq.
- ECHELON: worldwide signals intelligence and analysis network run by the UKUSA Community.
- GUSTO: Project to design a follow-on to the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane
- HTAUTOMAT: Photointerpretation center established for the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane Project
- HTLINGUAL: Mail interception operation.
- IDIOM: Initial work by Convair on a follow-on to the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane. Later moved into GUSTO.
- IAFEATURE: Operation to support UNITA and FNLA during the Angolan civil war.
- KEMPSTER: Project to reduce the radar cross section (RCS) of the inlets of the Lockheed A-12 Spy Plane
- LINCOLN: Ongoing operation involving Basque separatist group ETA
- LPMEDLEY: Surveillance of telegraphic information exiting or entering the United States
- MHCHAOS: Surveillance of antiwar activists during the Vietnam War
- MKDELTA: Stockpiling of lethal biological and chemical agents, subsequently became MKNAOMI
- MKNAOMI: Stockpiling of lethal biological and chemical agents, successor to MKDELTA
- MKULTRA: Mind control research. MKULTRA means MK (code for scientific projects) and ULTRA (top classification reference, re: ULTRA code breaking in WWII. Renamed MKSEARCH in 1964
- MKSEARCH: MKULTRA after 1964, mind control research
- MKOFTEN: Testing effects of biological and chemical agents, part of MKSEARCH
- OAK: Operation to assassinate suspected South Vietnamese collaborators during Vietnam war
- OXCART: Lockheed A-12 Spy Plane Project. Replaced GUSTO.
- PAPERCLIP: US recruiting of German scientists after the Second World War
- PHOENIX: Vietnam covert intelligence/assassination operation.
- PBFORTUNE: CIA project to supply forces opposed to Guatemala's President Arbenz with weapons, supplies, and funding; predecessor to PBSUCCESS.
- PBHISTORY: Central Intelligence Agency 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.
- PBSUCCESS: (Also PBS) Central Intelligence Agency covert operation to overthrow the Arbenz government in Guatemala.
- RAINBOW: Project to reduce the radar cross section (RCS) of the Lockheed U-2 Spy Plane. Succeeded by GUSTO.
- SHERWOOD: CIA radio broadcast program in Nicaragua begun on May 1, 1954.
- THERMOS: Unclassified codeword used in lieu of RAINBOW
- TPAJAX: Joint US/UK operation to overthrow Mohammed Mossadeq, Prime Minister of Iran
- TSS: Technical Services Staff
- WASHTUB: Operation to plant Soviet arms in Nicaragua
- AEFOXTROT: Yuri Ivanovich Nosenko, a Soviet defector
- AELADLE: Anatoliy Golitsyn, a Soviet defector
- AMLASH: Rolando Cubela Secades, a Cuban official involved in plot to kill Fidel Castro in 1963
- AMQUACK: Che Guevara, Argentinian guerrilla leader
- AMTHUG: Fidel Castro, president of Cuba
- ESQUIRE: James Bamford, author of "The Puzzle Palace"
- GPFLOOR: Lee Harvey Oswald, J.F. Kennedy's assassin
- GPIDEAL: John F. Kennedy, US president
- GRALLSPICE: Pyotr Semonovich Popov, Soviet defector
- JMBLUG: John S. Peurifoy, U.S. Ambassador to Guatemala
- KUMOTHER: James Jesus Angleton, head of the CIAs counter intelligence
- PANCHO: Carlos Castillo Armas, President of Guatemala, also RUFUS
- RUFUS: Carlos Castillo Armas, President of Guatemala, also PANCHO
- SKILLET: Whiting Willauer, U.S. Ambassador to Honduras.
- STANDEL: Jacobo Arbenz, President of Guatemala
- BGGYPSY: Communist
- ESCOBILLA: Guatemalan national
- ESMERALDITE: labor informant affiliated with AFL-sponsored labor movement
- ESSENCE: Guatemalan anti-Communist leader
- FJHOPEFUL: military base
- LCFLUTTER: Polygraph, sometimes supplanted by truth drugs: Sodium Amytal (amobarbital), Sodium Pentothal (thiopental), and Seconal (secobarbital) to induce regression in the subject.
- LIENVOY: Wiretap or Intercept Program
- RYBAT: Indicates that the information is very sensitive
- SLINC: Telegram indicator for PBSUCCESS Headquarters in Florida.
AEBARMAN, AEFOX, AEROPLANE, AVBLIMP, AVBRANDY, AVBUSY, CABOUNCE, CLOWER, ECJOB, ESGAIN, ESODIC, FJDEFLECT, GOLIATH, HBDRILL, HOPEFUL, JUBATE, JUBILIST, KUHOOK, KUJUMP, KUPALM, KURIOT, KUTUBE, LCPANES, LICOZY, LITEMPO, ODIBEX, PBCABOOSE,
- Cullather and PBSUCCESS document collection
- Leo D. Carl, The International Dictionary of Intelligence, Mavin Books, 1990, p. 107
- Phillip Agee, Inside the Company: CIA Diary, Stonehill Publishing, 1975, p. 48
- David Wise, Molehunt, Random House, 1992, p.19
- John Stockwell, In Search of Enemies, 1978
- Gregory W. Pedlow and Donald E. Welzenbach, The Central Intelligence Agency and Overhead Reconnaissance: The U-2 and OXCART Programs, 1954 - 1974, CIA History Staff, 1992.
- Richard M. Bissell, Jr., "[...] Cable Handling Procedures," SAPC-21143, 8 November 1957.
- DPD Contracting Officer, "Change of Project Funds Obligated under Contract No. SS-100," DPD-2827-59, 30 April 1959.