Call me 'Bowhunter': A look back at Secret Service code names

Posted By KATE STANTON,  |  Sept. 4, 2012 at 10:55 AM
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Paul Ryan's Secret Service code name is officially "Bowhunter," GQ reported Monday, inspired by his passion for shooting and hunting. The vice presidential candidate and avid outdoorsman also appears in the latest issue of Deer and Deer Hunting magazine. Ryan's wife, Janna, will be known as "Buttercup."

Since Harry Truman's presidency, the White House Communications Agency, in conjunction with the White House and the Secret Service, has issued secret code names to prominent political figures and their families for their protection. President Barack Obama has long gone by the name "Renegade," whereas his opponent Mitt Romney chose "Javelin."

Thanks to encrypted communications technologies, code names don't have to be secret any longer. They're used now mainly for brevity, and because they're so fun.

Public servants under Secret Service protection are allowed to weigh in on their name choices, and some choose names that reflect their interests or backgrounds (as with Ryan). In keeping with tradition, families are usually assigned names that begin with the same letter. (Michelle Obama is known as "Renaissance," Sasha as "Rosebud" and Malia as "Radiance.")

Though some code names seem pretty obvious (Harry Truman went by "General"), others might raise an eyebrow. Here's a look at Secret Service code names of years gone by:

Ronald Reagan -- Rawhide

"Rawhide" referred to the late president's love of horses and Western films.

President Ronald Reagan on his ranch in 1985. (UPI/File)
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George H. W. Bush -- Timberwolf

Former President George Bush, with wife Barbara ("Snowbank").
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Karenna Gore -- Smurfette

Al Gore's daughter, Karenna, was 19 years old when she chose her own nickname, a decision she later regretted.

"Ever since four years ago, when I was put on the spot and told 'two syllables' and 'It has to start with an s,' I have been cringing in the back seat when identified as 'Smurfette'," Gore wrote in 1997.

Karenna Gore in 2000. UPI
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Todd Palin -- Driller

The husband of former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin (a.k.a. Denali), Todd Palin's code name was a nod to his previous work as an oil slope worker.

Todd Palin in 2008. (UPI Photo/Karl DeBlaker)
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Lyndon Johnson -- Volunteer

President Lyndon B. Johnson in 1967. (UPI PHOTO)
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Dick Cheney -- Angler

Former Vice President Cheney loved to fish.

Vice President Dick Cheney fishing in Wyoming in 2001. UPI
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Betty Ford -- Pinafore

Betty Ford, with her husband President Gerald Ford ("Passkey") in 1975. (UPI Photo/Files)
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Chelsea Clinton -- Energy

Chelsea Clinton, with her parents "Evergreen" and "Eagle" in 1995. UPI.
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Jenna Bush -- Twinkle

Jenna Bush in 2008. (UPI Photo/Roger L. Wollenberg)
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Meghan McCain -- Peter Sellers

When father John McCain ran for president in 2008, Meghan went by Peter Sellers, after the popular British comedian and actor.

Meghan McCain in 2010. UPI/Lori Shepler
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Ted Kennedy -- Sunburn

Sen. Ted Kennedy in 2000. UPI
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