Crossfire Hurricane: Is the code name a reference to Christopher Steele?

Earlier this month the NY Times published a lengthy article on “Crossfire Hurricane,” the FBI investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. One revelation in the story was the code name itself, which the Times pointed out came from the lyrics of the Rolling Stones’ song Jumpin’ Jack Flash.


Friday the Federalist published an interesting piece suggesting that the code name itself may be more significant than the NY Times is letting on. Why name an investigation into Russian collusion after an old Rolling Stones song? One possibility is that the reference to a British band was a subtle reference to former British secret agent Christopher Steele whose dossier was first briefed to a Rome-based FBI agent weeks before the FBI opened its investigation. But the Federalist piece suggests another possible link to Steele. A 1986 comedy film about a British secret agent on the run from the KGB. Its title: Jumpin’ Jack Flash:

Mick Jagger, one of the songwriters, said the song was a “metaphor” for psychedelic-drug induced states. The other, Keith Richards, said it “refers to his being born amid the bombing and air raid sirens of Dartford, England, in 1943 during World War II.”

Investigation names, say senior U.S. law enforcement officials, are designed to refer to facts, ideas, or people related to the investigation. Sometimes they’re explicit, and other times playful or even allusive. So what did the Russia investigation have to do with World War II, psychedelic drugs, or Keith’s childhood?

The answer may be found in the 1986 Penny Marshall film named after the song, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” In the Cold War-era comedy, a quirky bank officer played by Whoopi Goldberg comes to the aid of Jonathan Pryce, who plays a British spy being chased by the KGB.

The code name “Crossfire Hurricane” is therefore most likely a reference to the former British spy whose allegedly Russian-sourced reports on the Trump team’s alleged ties to Russia were used as evidence to secure a Foreign Intelligence Service Act secret warrant on Trump adviser Carter Page in October 2016: ex-MI6 agent Christopher Steele.


The article goes on to question whether or not attempts to write Steele and his dossier out of the origin story of the Crossfire Hurricane investigation have been and attempt to minimize the unverified dossier’s importance.

According to the thousands of favorable press reports asserting his credibility, Steele was well-respected at the FBI for his work on a 2015 case that helped win indictments of more than a dozen officials working for soccer’s international governing body, FIFA. In July 2016, Steele met with the agent he worked with on the FIFA case to show his early findings on the Trump team’s ties to Russia.

The FBI took Steele’s reporting on Trump’s ties to Russia so seriously it was later used as evidence to monitor the electronic communications of Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. But, according to Schiff and the Times, the FBI somehow lost track of reports from a “credible” source who claimed to have information showing that the Republican candidate for president was compromised by a foreign government. That makes no sense.

The code name “Crossfire Hurricane” is further evidence that the FBI’s cover story is absurd. A reference to a movie about a British spy evading Russian spies behind enemy lines suggests the Steele dossier was always the core of the bureau’s investigation into the Trump campaign.

As for the NY Times story which revealed the code name, the major theme of the piece seemed to be that the FBI went easy on the Trump campaign while holding the Clinton email investigation (code name: Midyear Exam) to a higher standard. But the Times seemed a bit overeager to make its case. For one thing, it intentionally misquoted a text by Peter Strzok to make it suggest the opposite of what it actually meant. The paper still hasn’t corrected that obvious error. The Times also claimed that no media outlet had reported on the Steele dossier prior to the election. That was false and the article now has the following correction:


An earlier version of this article misstated that news organizations did not report on the findings of the retired British spy Christopher Steele about links between Trump campaign officials and Russia. While most news organizations whose reporters met with Mr. Steele did not publish such reports before the 2016 election, Mother Jones magazine did.

That’s a fairly significant omission since Mother Jones not only reported on the dossier but had direct quotes from Steele in the piece.

I don’t think this proves conclusively that the code name was a reference to the 1986 film or to Steele but it makes a certain sense. The NY Times, in a separate story about code names, said it’s unclear who picked this particular code name or why:

The names do not reveal much about the underlying investigation. Think of them simply as a peek into the mind-set of the investigative team. Maybe the name was chosen with an eye toward marketing the eventual news release, or as an inside joke among agents.

In remains unclear who selected Crossfire Hurricane, but there is no doubt that it touched off a ferocious storm, and the winds continue to thrash the White House and the F.B.I. itself.

Was this a peak into the minds of the agents? An inside joke referring to Christopher Steele? Unless someone can demonstrate that this particular code name was chosen at random, this seems like a plausible reason. The other NY Times piece, the one revealing the code name, has enough obvious errors in it to make you wonder what else they missed.


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