The CIA's Internal Hunt for 'Sicko Jokes' Authors


Every office has them, those men or women who think the grossest jokes are the funniest. They tell them at the water cooler or spam them out in chain emails and it's just... exhausting. Apparently the CIA of the late 1980s was no different.

That's according to a declassified internal memo from 1988 in which the Agency launched an internal hunt to root out not Soviet spies, but the authors and keepers of a file known as "Sicko Jokes" that was floating around the spy organization's internal network.

"The purpose of this action is to identify all VM user disk space containing the file 'Sicko Jokes,'" reads a July 1988 memo from the Director of Information Technology in the CIA's analytic division. "It has come to the attention of this office that this file, which contains a list of highly offensive statements, is being circulated among users of the VM system in the DO [Directorate of Operations] Special Center. Several of our officers have received the file, unsolicited, and have been very troubled by its contents. It goes without saying that the material contained in this file does not belong on our highly sensitive computer systems and that the use of our computer facilities for this purpose is totally unacceptable."


The search took a couple weeks, but the CIA's technology officers eventually tracked down the "Sicko Joke" owners. 

"...[T]he Interatctive Systems Branch of Operating Systems Division, Engineering Group, Office of Information Technology, ran an application to check all the files on all disks of the Special Center VM System on 24 July 1988," says a response memo from August 1988. "The results were 6 disks by that name. The list of the disks and owner userids is being forwarded to you directly under a separate cover."

Unfortunately there do not appear to be any further declassified CIA documents relating to the "Sicko Jokes." Code and Dagger was considering filling a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to get a hold of the Sicko Jokes themselves... but then again, maybe some things are better left in the past.

[Like what you see and read on Code and DaggerBecome a Patreon and help keep the lights on. Do you have a tip or question? Reach out at]


Tomorrow's Nightmare: Drone Swarms in Space

On This Day: 'The Army Will Invade... Without Further Parley'