The 5 secret code words that define our era
The secret histories of the first decade and a quarter of the 21st century are already being written. The first drafts, arguably, are coded. My friend D.B. Grady and I chronicle the secret history of secrecy in our new book, Deep State: Inside the Government Secrecy Industry, which we've decided to make available on Amazon.com beginning today. I'm not going to use this space to flog you too often to buy the book, but when I do, I'll try to add some value.
Today, the history of national security since 2000 — in code words. These are the actual code words used by the government to delineate the secret programs that defined our era, for good and for bad.
1. GREYSTONE, or GST. GREYSTONE, all in caps, was what the CIA used to control information about its post-9/11 extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation technique programs. GST is the trigraph that's blacked out on many documents that the government has released through the Freedom of Information Act and other lawsuits. The term "GST" was revealed to the world by Dana Priest, but the government confirmed it accidentally, as I reported in 2009. The GST program was heavily compartmentalized. The torture part was kept separate from the travel part, for example, which is standard government practice. We still deal with the ramifications of this program today. Its legacy haunts our diplomacy, provides endless debates about our values and principles, and is still an open wound within the CIA.
2. MATCHBOX. As David and I reveal in the book, this was the classified code name for a parallel Department of Defense "special access program" called Copper Green. Sy Hersh broke the story in 2004 that interrogators under Copper Green were trained to use techniques that had been reverse-engineered by the military's agency that trained special operations forces on how to resist torture. Though officially segregated from the rest of the military, these compartmented programs helped foster a climate that incentivized the use of torture to gain tactical intelligence from prisoners at low-level facilities like Abu Ghraib.
3. RAGTIME is the current code name for the National Security Agency's special surveillance programs, including the domestic data collection and analysis portion revealed by The New York Times, Shane Harris, and other fine journalists.
4. Byzantine/Olympic series: These are two unclassified first words that accompany nicknames for classified programs involving defense against Chinese cyber-warfare and our own offensive cyber-warfare. David Sanger revealed that the U.S. cyber network attack that crippled Iranian centrifuges, known to the world as Stuxnet, was known to the government as Olympic Games.
5. Liberty series: One of the most fascinating developments in warfare over the past 10 years has been the rapid fusion of intelligence and operations on the battlefield as pioneered by the Joint Special Operations Command, which is the military's umbrella sub-command for special missions units and classified task forces. The ability to collect and collate signals intelligence of all types and to rapidly pass it on to forward-deployed units was a hallmark of JSOC operations in Iraq. "Liberty" is one of a series of different first words for nicknames of secret collection and analysis programs used by JSOC and other sensitive DOD activities. "Liberty Blue" refers to a modified RC-12 Guardrail plane that JSOC and the U.S. Air Force use to coordinate strikes against ground targets outside battlefields.