Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Remembrances of VENONA
National Security Agency ^ | ^ | 11 July 1995 | | Mr. William P. Crowell

Posted on 08/05/2003 5:39:20 AM PDT by ckilmer

Remembrances of VENONA

Posted on 05/06/2003 8:39 AM PDT by ckilmer

Remembrances of VENONA


National Cryptologic Museum

NSA Home Page

Note: The following are the remarks made by Mr. William P. Crowell, Deputy Director of NSA when the declassification of the VENONA project was announced at CIA Headquarters on 11 July 1995. Mr. Crowell retired from NSA on 12 September 1997.

In the early 1960's, shortly after joining NSA, I was one of a small but fortunate group of agency employees invited to a meeting with Frank Rowlett, one of the eminent NSA cryptologists who had been so successful during World War II. For over an hour Frank told us stories about the successful exploitation of codes and ciphers during the war. He spoke about how those successes had helped U.S. military leaders and the forces under their command win crucial battles and make strategic choices. But, he was very careful to avoid claiming that cryptography had won any battles. That distinction---between providing information that can make a difference---and using information to make a difference is still an important one and certainly applies to the results that were achieved in the successful breaking of the codes and ciphers known as VENONA.

Twelve years later I was assigned as a manager in an NSA division that included the VENONA project. In a very short time I came to appreciate that VENONA was an absolutely fascinating story of the personal determination and dedication of a small group of cryptanalysts. It was, in addition, a brilliantly intellectual cryptanalysis effort. Lastly, VENONA was a model of outstanding interagency cooperation.

I also realized it was a story of considerable historical moment and that someday, when the need and responsibility to protect the sources and methods involved was diminished, it would be made public. That time has now come and today we give the first of the over 2200 VENONA translations to historians to judge. But, as we make this release, I think it is most appropriate that we recognize the extraordinary people who did the work.

The story of the efforts to attack Soviet KGB and GRU traffic began in February 1943 when a young woman, Miss Gene Grabeel, was assigned to organize, characterize, and analyze thousands of encrypted Soviet diplomatic messages. Through nearly a decade following, a number of analysts, by dint of their dogged determination, slowly made headway against a family of extremely sophisticated, double-encrypted cryptographic systems. They painstakingly extracted information, a word or two at a time, from one of the most challenging systems that had ever been exploited.

The first and most significant breakthroughs against the VENONA cryptosystems were made without even the most rudimentary computers or other sophisticated tools which we are accustomed to using today.

While the Soviet traffic that was ultimately read under the VENONA project spanned the years 1942-46, efforts to exploit it continued for decades. This was due to the agonizingly slow and difficult process in which sometimes only one or two words at a time were wrenched grudgingly from the code. Each new recovery came with the elation akin to finding a pearl in an oyster. But each recovery also led to renewed work as each message had to be reviewed to see if that code group was present and, if it was, then the enlarged context was checked and scrutinized to see if it provided clues to other unrecovered code groups. Similarly, as counterintelligence information based on the decrypts was passed to the FBI and the FBI investigated the leads, new information was developed which sometimes enabled new breaks into the code. Then the process would begin all over again.

People continued to work on VENONA so long as the possibility remained that counterintelligence information might be developed that could possibly reveal new agents or espionage activities that might still be active. When it was no longer reasonable to expect that those named in 1942-45 might still be alive or active in an espionage role, then ongoing efforts to continue to break the VENONA cryptosystems was terminated.

From the early days of WWII, Arlington Hall assembled teams of gifted linguists and cryptographers of the highest intellectual caliber to work against the German and Japanese codes and subsequently on the VENONA project. These were linguists like the brilliant and dedicated bookbreaker, Meredith Gardner who came with outstanding credentials in six or seven languages and who made some of the first, really vital breakthroughs against the VENONA systems -- like 1st LT Ferdinand Coudert who came with a BA and an MA from Harvard in Slavic studies, a law degree from Columbia University, and a working knowledge of French, German, Russian, Serbo-Croatian, Bulgarian, and Japanese -- and like CAPT William B.S. Smith, a contemporary of Coudert's from Harvard who knew French and Breton and who had been an editor at the prestigious Columbia University Press. It included cryptographers like Genevieve Feinstein, Gene Grabeel, Cecil Phillips, and Dr. Richard Leibler, just to name a few. They and their colleagues brought a fearsome intellectual firepower to bear on various aspects of the VENONA puzzle with astounding, but hard won success.

As I mentioned, VENONA also was characterized by unprecedented interagency cooperation. First and foremost was the cooperation between the intelligence and law enforcement communities. This cooperation began with Wes Reynolds, the FBI liaison to Arlington Hall, and is typified by the close, cooperative efforts of Bob Lamphere who became the FBI's direct link to VENONA. There is no clearer example of synergism in the early days than these cooperative relationships. VENONA also included cooperation with HUMINT collectors and international intelligence partners in prosecuting counterintelligence leads.

A word about the VENONA cryptosystems---they should have been impossible to read. They consisted of a code book in which letters, words, and phrases were equated to numbers. So a code clerk would take a plain text message and encode the message using numbers from the codebook. This would have presented a significant challenge itself depending on how long the code book was used. However, the messages were further modified, in other words double-encrypted, by use of a one time pad. The use of a one time pad effectively randomizes the code and renders it unreadable. The key to the VENONA success was that mistakes were made in the construction and use of the one time pads---a fact that was discovered only through brute force and analysis of the message traffic.

Once sufficient breakthroughs had occurred, it became clear that the Soviet diplomatic traffic was encrypted in several similar systems and that it included KGB and GRU espionage traffic in addition to diplomatic and trade messages. Gradually a picture of a massive Soviet espionage effort began to emerge from the work of the VENONA team.

In deciding to declassify and release the VENONA translations, we gave the utmost consideration to the appropriate protection of individuals' privacy rights. It is not our desire or our responsibility to further interpret the VENONA translations---they will speak for themselves and the historians will help us understand and put them in context. But today, it is also our privilege to recognize the efforts and sacrifices of the VENONA team members publicly for the first time. Seldom do intelligence officers get the chance to talk about successes. The VENONA project is one of the best, and I am proud to have had a small part in telling the story.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News
KEYWORDS: chambers; hiss; mccarthy; nsa; rosenberg; venona
Books on the venona: The Venona Secrets: Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors

Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America

The really interesting thing that venona shows is that there were a lot more russian communist spies than were actually arrested. In fact, McCarthy's numbers roughly correspond to the number spies that the Venona cables point to. So whether McCarthy knew about the Venona cables or not--he was essentially right.

Because much of the left's brief against America was based on the assumption that the USA would do mass murders as the russians did. The assumption was that the McCarthy hearings were a show trial like the ones done in Russia at Stalin's behest. Those show trials Stalin used as a pretext for mass murder.

That was never in the cards. (But that did not stop the left from believing their vigorous opposition to McCarthy stopped a pogrom.)

That the full truth about the spies for russia did not come out at the time ie during the late 40's and early 50's --has caused the USA grievious harm.

1 posted on 08/05/2003 5:39:20 AM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
more fr links

2 posted on 08/05/2003 5:40:43 AM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
Venona Bump.

Ann Coulter discussed this at length in Treason. Libs don't like talking about Venona because it exposes their lies.

3 posted on 08/05/2003 5:47:26 AM PDT by Credo
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
...and Venona proved factually that Alger Hiss - a man appointed to very high positions within both the FDR and Truman administrations, who advised FDR at Yalta to abandon Poland and the rest of Eastern Europe to Communism - was a Soviet agent dedicated to the destructiobn of America. FDR and Truman, and the entire Democrat liberal establishment, defended Hiss and persecuted his accusers (most especially McCarthy). But there is more.

The Rosenburgs were also proven factually by Venona papers to have been Soviet agents. Yet, to this day, liberal academics do not acknowledge the facts, trying to paint the Rosenburgs as victims of a vast right wing conspiracy. That the FDR adminsitration was stupidly complicit in the passing of nuclear secrets to the sinister government of Stalin is one thing. But that Truman referred to Stalin as "Uncle Joe" and ignored the warnings of the FBI regarding the Soviet agents in his own adminsitration is appalling.

Just think: because of liberal blindness, liberal administrations aided the passing of technology to a government dedicated to destruction of the United States and its liberties. As a result of the carelessness of liberal adminstrations, the U.S and the free world lived for decades in a cold war, with nuclear arsenals threatenlingly bristling. And during those years, liberals tried to unilaterally disarm the U.S.!

Venona exposes liberal Democrats either as stupid or deliberate as enemies of the state, in many cases. They are blind to the facts and support enemies of the United States because of some kindred sentiment they share with antiAmerican agents. It may be a desire to force socialized medicine upon us, or suppression of religious sentiment in the public forum, or encouraging abortion for the babies of nonwhite citizens (40% of all abortion clinics are in the inner city, in the middle of nonwhite "ghettos"), or whatever leads to dominance of citizens' lives by government.

It is a shame, but not a surprise, that the release of Venona papers in 1995 was not publicized by mainstream media. They are a rich vein revealing liberal political efforts to destroy liberty and the U.S.

And NEVER forget: Bill Clinton treated the first attack on the World Trade Center as a criminal rather than the political matter that it was. He feared disrupting an oil supply that might drag down the economy, the only thing he had going for him politically. The result: Clinton and his liberal cronies ignored the signs of the massive attack to come on 9/11 and did little to prevent it. Clinton gave his political fortunes a higher priority than American lives.

This pattern is familiar, isn't it? Clinton learned well from his liberal forbears. And I believe Hitlery will be even more coldblooded in her pursuit of power.

4 posted on 08/05/2003 6:18:05 AM PDT by TheGeezer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
I recently read an article on the "have you no decency" remark to McCarthy, giving the real story. Can't seem to find it now. Did anybody else see that?
5 posted on 08/05/2003 6:22:37 AM PDT by dsc
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
Oh, one other aside: the Democrat party was fined over $700,000 after the 2000 election, in large part for soliciting and accepting bribes from foreign agents.

Remember Gore's Buddhist temple visit?

When the Democrat party cannot obtain funds from citizens of the United States, it goes abroad to fund its campaigns! Can you imagine just how much our national interests suffer to pay back Chinese political contributions?

The Constitution supports dissent, but it does not support treason!

6 posted on 08/05/2003 6:25:29 AM PDT by TheGeezer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: TheGeezer
The Russian Communists of the 30's & 40's worked the US the way the Chinese communists worked the USA in the 1980's 90's. That is the spade work the russian communists did in the 1930's paid off in the 1940's. Similiarly the spade work the chinese communists did in the 1980's paid off in the 1990's.

7 posted on 08/05/2003 6:30:13 AM PDT by ckilmer
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 6 | View Replies]

To: TheGeezer
Didn't Venona reveal that Julius Rosenberg's code name was 'liberal'? If so, how fitting.

IIRC, Alger Hiss was not assigned a code name by his Soviet handlers; but copious documentation including travel records proved indisputably that Hiss was a Soviet agent.

8 posted on 08/05/2003 6:37:12 AM PDT by shhrubbery!
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
Its hard not to observe the similarities. Rooskis in the State Department and Manhatten Project. Red Chinese targeting the Clintons and Algore.
9 posted on 08/05/2003 7:01:11 AM PDT by Eric in the Ozarks
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 7 | View Replies]

To: ckilmer
10 posted on 08/05/2003 7:03:39 AM PDT by VOA
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Eric in the Ozarks
Don't forget the Gore family's ties to Soviet bag man Armand Hammer. Hammer's father was a founder of CPUSA.
11 posted on 08/05/2003 7:31:16 AM PDT by HISSKGB
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794 is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson