Secret Service Codenames: What Do They Mean?

Assigning codenames is a famous tradition of the White House Secret Service.

Assigning codenames is a famous tradition of the White House Secret Service.



Obama’s Codename Announced

            In the past, we have known him as Sen. Barack Obama. In the past year, we have called him the Democratic candidate for the United States presidency. In the past two weeks we have deemed him the official President-elect of our country. And now, as assigned by the White House Communications Agency, he will be referred to under a new name, ‘Renegade,’ by the Secret Service.

            Since it’s creation under President Franklin Roosevelt’s administration, the White House Communications Agency, formerly known as the White House Signal Detachment, has been assigning code names to prominent political individuals, most notably those residing in the White House. Now that there are two new families entering the political scene, they are no exception to the naming process.

            The codenames for Obama’s family will follow the presidential tradition and begin with the same letter as his own, granting Michelle the new codename of Renaissance, and Radiance and Rosebud for their two young daughters. Likewise, Celtic and Capri will be utilized by the Secret Service for the new Vice President Joe Biden, and his wife Jill.

Developing a Codename

So what goes into a Secret Service codename? According to tradition, a codename is considered a ‘good’ codeword if it can be easily pronounced and understood via radio or telephone transmission. A qualified codeword should not be easily confused with other words and should be comprehendible regardless of language.

After meeting these requirements, it is then added to the list of ‘good’ words and ready for use by the WHCA. Over time though, these codenames can be changed or additional codenames may be chosen for multiple individuals.


Safety and Public Knowledge


            Many Americans wonder why these ‘secret’ codenames are available to the public, if they are created with the intention of political security. As times have changed, technology has allowed for the Secret Service staff to develop highly secured communication lines, making these codenames somewhat irrelevant.

            Codenames are still assigned and used though as a ritual of the White House. Out of respect, Secret Service agents still utilize these names to describe the locations of their protectee’s and to communicate quickly from one agent to another. All and all though, these codenames serve less purpose today than they have in the past.


Codename Meanings


            Some historians have come to recognize a trend in codenames and personality types, noticing that the two may be more related than we think. President George Bush was tagged Tumbler, with his wife Laura known as Tempo. Bill Clinton was referred to as Eagle, with Hilary and Chelsea living up to their titles as Evergreen and Energy during their administration.

Even though one Secret Service spokesman told the Washington Post that the names “should not be examined too closely for deeper meaning,” many people are questioning whether the names ‘Renegade’ and ‘Renaissance’ are too appropriate to their beholders personalities. If so, they will not only have to live up to their roles in the White House, but also live up to their “family” name.



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