A Guide to Secret Government Code Names

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Who picks government code names? It varies. The C.I.A. randomly selects code names — called cryptonyms, or crypts — from a list of pre-approved names. But C.I.A. officers can skip that process and pick their own. That is most likely how the agency ended up with hacking tools named RickyBobby and EggsMayhem. Somewhere, there is a former classics scholar who can claim responsibility for choosing Anabasis, the epic Greek military tale, as the cryptonym for a C.I.A. operation in Iraq.

Military operations get code names, too, and random selection has its downsides. When a blitz on Iraqi weapons sites was randomly given the name “Operation Bolton” by the British Ministry of Defense, the name divided residents of the town of Bolton.

Want to know more? To find out all about these code names, and what Crossfire Hurricane means (and where it came from!), click through to this article at the New York Times.