Five times CIA hid awful programs in boring names

Five times CIA hid awful programs in boring names

The Office of Technical Service won’t be there for your broken radio

Written by
Edited by Beryl Lipton

Take it from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) - if you want to get away with murder, just say you’re committing a “potentially involuntary of redistribution of consciousness.” Here’s five times the Agency used jargon to get away with the jarring.

5. Office of Policy Coordination (OPC)

It sounds like they did: Meetings about meetings

What they actually did: Coups, murder

According to their charter, the OPC was responsible for American “propaganda, economic warfare, preventive direct action, including sabotage, antisabotage, demolition and evacuation procedures; subversion against hostile states, including assistance to underground resistance groups, guerrillas and refugee liberation groups, and support of indigenous anti-communist elements in threatened countries of the free world.” Whew.

The OPC was eventually merged with the CIA in 1951, in the hopes that it might reign in the skullduggery a bit. Guess how that turned out.

4. Technical Services Division (OTS)

It sounds like they did: I.T.

What they actually did: Mind control experiments

MK was the Agency’s internal designation for its research wing, which is where MKULTRA comes from, which is where you get the Agency running brothels so they can douse unsuspecting johns with LSD. Not bad for a group you’d “expect to fix radios,” as Emma Best put it.


It sounds like they did: Not Nazi things

What they actually did: Exactly Nazi things

ZIPPER was one of the CIA’s code names for the Gehlen Organization, an Agency-allied spy ring in West Germany. It was run by its namesake, Reinhard Gehlen, who was a former Nazi with a penchant for hiring other former Nazis, so this thing was chock full of Nazis. ZIPPER - which, incidentally, is a great name for a black lab - is not an entirely appropriate moniker for anything with enough Nazis in it to be described as “chock full.”

2. Common Interest Network (CIN)

It sounds like they did: Gatherings around their shared love of stamp collecting

What they actually did: Deep State-ery

CIN, illustratively pronounced like ‘sinister,’ was an informal group of ex-spies who met up a couple of times a year to have a few drinks, share a few stories, and coordinate efforts to manipulate perception of the Agency in American media. You know. Normal retiree stuff.

1. Special Activities Division (SAD)

It sounds like they do: Birthday parties, group outings

What they actually do: Coups, murder

These days, the Agency’s covert actions are under the SAD banner, further divided in to the Special Operations Group (SOG), the paramilitary wing, and Political Action Group (PAG), which does psyops and subversion. While we can all agree that SAD/PAG is a kind of doofy label for the overthrow of a democratically-elected head of state, there is something more than a little worrying that there’s a chance that the first drone strike on U.S. soil might get carried out because the Agency read too much into POTUS’ tweets.

A guide to CIA cryptonyms is embedded below. Find something interesting? Let us know via email, on Twitter, or on Facebook.

Image via Wikimedia Commons