Sunday, February 7, 2016

Well that was fast…

One of the most interesting aspects of Cold War intelligence history is whether the spies recruited by the Western intelligence agencies (mainly CIA and MI6) were supplying real information or whether they were double agents. In his recent article ‘Doubles Troubles: The CIA and Double Agents during the Cold War’, Benjamin B. Fischer (former Chief Historian of the Central Intelligence Agency) makes the case that in Cuba, East Germany and the USSR practically all the CIA agents were in reality under the control of the enemy security services.

The author says:

During the Cold War the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) bucked the law of averages by recruiting double agents on an industrial scale; it was hoodwinked not a few but many times. The result was a massive but largely ignored intelligence failure. The facts are available from official sources.

I thought that the article was very interesting and that’s why I linked to it back in January. The article also mentioned Adolf Tolkachev, the so called Billion Dollar Spy. Fischer said:

The CIA touts Adolf Tolkachev as its ‘‘billion-dollar spy’’ during the 1980s, asserting that the Soviet electronics researcher saved the Pentagon several times that amount in research and development (R&D) and production costs with purloined information on Soviet military radar and avionics. I believe, however, that Tolkachev was a double agent, in fact the precursor to the dangles who came after his 1985 arrest………..Tolkachev was not the only double on the CIA’s payroll. SE Division was handling another agent encrypted EASTBOUND, who also was selling information on military radars. Soviet and East German sources have confirmed that the anonymous agent was a double. I believe that Tolkachev and EASTBOUND were fraternal twins.’

This article which appeared in a journal with a limited readership seems to have attracted a lot of attention. The 'great' researchers of the National Security Archive have immediately followed up with the transcripts of a Politburo discussion on Tolkachev.

I don’t know why this organization was so interested in this case or how they were able to follow up Fischer’s article so quickly. Since they have such 'superior' investigative skills they could also look into the compromise of Allied codes and ciphers in WWII. That’s research that I’d like to see!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

German signals intelligence files in the Russian national archives

At the end of WWII parts of the German state archives were captured by the Soviet forces and taken to the Soviet Union. There they were placed in various Soviet state archives and kept out of reach of researchers. With the fall of the Soviet Union these archives were opened to researchers but not many people have taken advantage of that. Thankfully some of these German documents have recently become available online. The website of The Russian-German project to digitize German documents in the archives of the Russian Federation has uploaded a large number of German documents from WWI and WWII.

The site says:

As a result of the anti-Hitler coalition victory in the Second World War, documents of Nazi Germany turned up in many countries, including Russia. Largest collections of German documents are kept in the Federal archives of the Russian Federation (State Archive of the Russian Federation (GARF), the Russian State Military Archive (RGVA) and the Russian State Archive of Socio-Political History (RGASPI)), and in the Central Archive of the Russian Ministry of Defense (TsAMO). The project to digitize German documents was initiated by the administration of the Russian President in 2011. It is executed by the Russian Historical Society, the Ministry of Defense and the Federal archival agency with support from the German Historical Institute in Moscow. Coordination committee, overseeing the digitization project, is headed by S.E. Naryshkin, the Chairman of the State Duma of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.’

Regarding German sigint activities during WWII, the search terms ‘Nachrichten Aufklärung’ and ‘horchtruppen’ bring up many interesting documents. For example:

Baudot traffic




Reports of Kommandeur der Horchtruppen Ost
















Reports of Nachrichten Aufklärung Auswertestelle 2







I will be adding some of this information in my essays.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Interesting articles from academic journals

There are several journals that deal with military and intelligence history and I try to follow some of them in case they publish articles that deal with signals intelligence. Here are some interesting articles from 2015 and early 2016:

Cryptologia







Intelligence and National Security




International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence






Journal of Slavic Military Studies


Sunday, January 10, 2016

Compromise of US cipher teleprinter in 1944

When the United States entered WWII several cryptosystems were in use by its armed forces and diplomatic service. The Army and Navy used a small number of SIGABA cipher machines for their high level traffic and had to rely on a large number of hand systems, such as the M-138-A and M-94 strip ciphers and the War Department Telegraph Code 1919, Military Intelligence Code, War Department Confidential Code codebooks, for the rest of the traffic. The State Department relied almost exclusively on hand systems, specifically the codebooks A1, B1, C1, D1, Gray, Brown and the M-138-A strip cipher.

In the course of the war modern cipher machines were designed and built to replace the old systems and securely cover all types of traffic. In 1942 the M-209 device was used in the field and in 1943 the cipher teleprinters Converter M-228 - SIGCUM and SIGTOT were introduced in communications networks. In the summer of ’43 a new speech privacy device called SIGSALY became operational and the first system was used on the link Pentagon-London.  In late 1943 the CCM - Combined Cipher Machine was used in the Atlantic and in 1944-45 the British relied on the CCM as much as they did on their own Typex

By the end of the war the Americans were using several types of cipher machines, all offering a high level of security. William Friedman, head of cipher research at the Army Security Agency, stated in his 1945 reports that the primary US cipher machines SIGABA and Converter M-228 had proven completely secure against enemy cryptanalysts.

In the report ‘Security of our high-grade cryptographic systems’, dated March 1945 he said:

We come now to what, in the circumstances, must be considered as the strongest and most reliable evidence—that which is inferential in and is based upon German cryptography itself. We know so much about their practices that we can deduce and assess their cryptographic theories and thus determine the stage of development they have reached not only in cryptography but also in cryptanalytics. The overwhelming evidence is that they are far behind us and have no appreciation of solution techniques which we now regard as commonplace’.



To summarize: At the risk of sounding boastful, it will be stated that the Japanese are not as good as the Germans, and the latter are not as good as we are in cryptography and especially in cryptanalysis…… the conclusion must therefore be clear: They cannot read and are not reading our high-grade cipher traffic’.




We know now from Ticom reports that neither the Japanese nor the Germans had the slightest success in their efforts to solve messages in the Sigaba, though the Germans certainly tried hard enough. The absolute security of Army and Navy high command and high echelon communications throughout the war was made possible by the Sigaba’.



Results of Ticom operations have established that neither the Germans nor the Japanese were successful in their efforts to solve our Sigcum traffic, despite its great volume, and it is my belief that had we used this machine for secret radio-teletype communications no serious harm to our security would have followed’.



Was Friedman correct? Were all high grade US cipher machines secure during the war?