Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Compromise of OWI - Office of War Information communications

In 1942 the US government created a new organization called the Office of War Information, headed by Elmer Davis. This organization absorbed the functions of several other government departments such as the Office of Facts and Figures (OWI's direct predecessor), the Office of Government Reports, the Division of Information of the Office for Emergency Management and the Foreign Information Service.

The OWI had representative in countries abroad and participated not only in news gathering activities but also Anti-Axis propaganda and even espionage. Especially in Bern, Switzerland the local station, headed by Gerald Mayer, cooperated closely with the OSS - Office of Strategic Services station of Allen Dulles.
The book ‘Hitler, the Allies, and the Jews’, p265 says about Mayer:

Gerald Mayer was officially OWI’s man in Bern but in fact he was Allen Dulles’s cover and right hand man
The same book mentions an OWI message from Mayer to Elmer Davis from May 1944, decoded by the German codebreakers. The Germans were not the only ones reading OWI communications from Bern.

The Finnish codebreakers also read these messages, as can be seen from a decode found in the Finnish national archives:
Bern-Washington 9.3.1944 No.1438 (to Elmer Davis OWI from Mayer)


Monday, July 28, 2014

Svetova Revoluce and the codes of the Czech resistance

At the end of the First World War the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and out of its ruins emerged several new countries. One of these was Czechoslovakia, containing the Czech areas of Bohemia and Moravia together with Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia in the east.

In the interwar period Czechoslovakia followed a foreign policy supportive of France and was part of the Little Entente. The country had a stable democracy and its industrial resources were large (based on the Skoda works) for such a small country. However there were two important problems affecting Czech national security. On the one hand the rise of Nazi Germany and its rearmament was a clear security threat. At the same time there were serious problems with the German and Slovak minorities that resented Czech rule.  

Czechoslovakia contained a large number of minorities that were dissatisfied with the ruling Czech establishment. Especially the German minority made up roughly 23% of the population (according to the 1921 census) and a large part of it was concentrated in the border with Germany called Sudetenland. Many of the Sudeten Germans wanted for their areas to be unified with Germany and in the 1930’s Hitler’s Germany supported the demands of the Sudeten German Party. These claims were rejected by the Czech government of Edvard BeneŇ° and as the Czech crisis threatened Europe with a new war a conference took place in Munich between the governments of Germany, Italy, Britain and France 

Without support from Britain and France the Czech government was forced to cede the Sudeten territories to Germany and also lost other disputed areas to Hungary and Poland. Even though Germany had succeeded in absorbing the Sudeten areas and in weakening Czechoslovakia that did not stop Hitler’s offensive plans and in March 1939 German troops invaded and occupied the rest of the country. From then on the country was ruled by Germany and special attention was given to its heavy industry which produced weapons for the German armed forces.
During the war the Czech Government in Exile, headed by BeneŇ°, was based in London and had regular communications with the Czech resistance. The most daring operation of the resistance was the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, protector of Bohemia and Moravia and former head of the Reich Main Security Office. However after this episode the Germans took many security measures and were generally able to keep the resistance activities under control. In this area they took advantage of the insecure communications between the resistance and the Czech intelligence service, operating from Britain.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Compromise of Soviet codes in WWII

Signals intelligence and codebreaking played an important role in WWII. British and American codebreakers solved many important Axis crypto systems, such as the German Enigma machine and the Japanese Navy’s code JN25. 

Historians have not only acknowledged these Allied successes but they’ve probably exaggerated their importance in the actual campaigns of the war.
Unfortunately the work of the Axis codebreakers hasn’t received similar attention. As I’ve mentioned in my piece Acknowledging failures of crypto security all the participants suffered setbacks from weak/compromised codes and they all had some successes with enemy systems. 

Britain, the Soviet Union and the United States did not have impenetrable codes. In the course of WWII all three suffered setbacks from their compromised communications.
After having dealt with the United States and Britain it’s time to have a look at the Soviet Union and their worst failures. 

Move along comrade, nothing to see here
Compromises of communications security are usually difficult to acknowledge by the countries that suffer them. For example since the 1970’s countless books have been written about the successes of Bletchley Park, yet detailed information on the German solution of Allied codes only started to become available in the 2000’s when TICOM reports and other relevant documents were released to the public archives by the US and UK authorities.

In Russia the compromise of their codes during WWII has not yet been officially acknowledged and the archives of the codebreaking organizations have remained closed to researchers. This is a continuation of the Soviet policy of secrecy.
The Soviet Union was a secretive society and information was tightly controlled by the ruling elite. This means that history books avoided topics that embarrassed the regime and instead presented the officially sanctioned version of history. Soviet era histories of WWII avoided references to codes and ciphers and instead talked about ‘radio-electronic combat’ which dealt with direction finding, traffic analysis and jamming (1).

After the fall of the Soviet Union several important government archives were opened to researchers and this information has been incorporated in new books and studies of WWII. However similar advances haven’t taken place in the fields of signals intelligence and cryptologic history. Unlike the US and UK that have admitted at least some of their communications security failures the official line in Russia is that high level Soviet codes were unbreakable and only unimportant tactical codes could be read by the Germans. Even new books and studies on cryptology repeat these statements (2).
However various sources such as the TICOM reports, the war diary of the German Army’s signal intelligence agency Inspectorate 7/VI and the monthly reports of the cryptanalytic centre in the East Horchleitstelle Ost clearly show that the Germans could solve even high level Soviet military and NKVD codes.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Update

I have uploaded TICOM report DF-111 ‘Comments on various cryptologic matters’. Acquired through the NSA’s FOIA office. Available from my Google docs and Scribd accounts.

I have rewritten Soviet Diplomatic Code 26 and the elusive Dr Roeder using information from DF-111.