But what’s behind the odd titles?
, author of “The Secret Sentry: The Untold History of the National Security Agency,” explains that most of the NSA’s code names are no more than computer-generated sequences of words.
“Some computer has a strange sense of humor,” he said. “I’ve never met an egotistical giraffe. I’m waiting for ‘Rusticrhubarb.’ There are only so many words in the English language.”
They are intentionally random so as to avoid indicating the kind of operation it is or whose identity is being protected, Aid says.
Witness some of the other cable-intercept programs included in the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Aid’s wackier favorites include “Moneyrocket” (targeting counterterrorism in the Middle East, Europe and Asia), “Shiftingshadow” (Afghanistan and Pakistan), and “Yachtshop” (worldwide Internet metadata).
And then there’s the mysterious “Steelflauta,” which sounds as if it could be related to Whitetamale. (A flauta is a rolled taco.)
The NSA’s daily workings are rife with code names. Missions, programs, operations, companies and individuals are assigned them. The bizarre lexicon then shows up in slide presentations — which made up the bulk of Snowden’s document dump.
For example, Aid says, the telecom companies that participated in the PRISM program were given nifty (and random) aliases. Verizon is “Stormbrew,” while AT&T is “Fairview.”
Yet some names seem intentionally chosen. An operation for hacking into Mexican officials’ e-mails just happened to be called Whitetamale? And PRISM, for example, seems to evoke the program’s mission. “That one does actually sound like a human sat down” and created it, he said.
And sometimes it seems that there’s a sly sense of humor at work. The NSA’s first cable-intercept program, created during the Cold War, was called “Shamrock,” though it was eventually shuttered after criticism from Congress. Its replacement? The NSA dubbed it “Blarney.”
What’s broken on the Hill
The U.S. Capitol dome’s two-year, $60 million restoration project has been a long time coming.
The cast-iron dome, constructed 150 years ago — and championed by then-Sen. Jefferson Davis (D-Miss.) before he went off to run the Confederacy — has not had a complete renovation since 1960, according to the Architect of the Capitol.
The architect’s office is constantly working at restoration of the Capitol. It’s now doing an extraordinary restoration of the murals on the first floor of the Senate side of the Capitol, tediously retouching the walls to restore them to their original 19th-century design.