Hans Jahr very kindly left a comment here on Cipher Mysteries recently, pointing me at a treasure trove of declassified NSA documents relating to William Friedman.

Some of these had already been declassified by different NSA mechanisms: but even so, there’s simply so much new material to go through here that it’s enough to make your head spin.

Of course, I’ve started trying to go through these (e.g. there’s not that much new on the Voynich Manuscript, but there’s a lot on the role of Typex II in the post-WW2 years), but it’s going to take a while. Please feel free to browse and search yourselves, and let me know if you stumble onto anything interesting. 🙂

Incidentally, given that Friedman evaluated the Chaocipher in 1942, there may well be some Chaocipher-related correspondence in there somewhere for Moshe Rubin to find. (There’s a large Excel spreadsheet briefly listing out all the items).

Speaking of whom, Moshe Rubin also very kindly dropped me a email about an NSA page containing recently declassified Beale Papers documents.

As you’d expect, many have dated badly and many others are of little use, but that still leaves many other interesting things in the heap. Browse and enjoy; and if you do happen to find something about four miles from Buford’s Tavern… 🙂

More generally, though, the NSA has posted up a list of declassified topics: this includes not only Friedman and Beale, but also VENONA, the death of John F. Kennedy, UFOs, etc etc.

Yet personally, I’m more interested by this unbelievably long list of declassified code/cipher stuff, which includes items relating to just about every country that ciphered anything in the first half of the 20th century. It took me half an hour to speed read through the titles alone!

I picked out a few choice items, firstly on Double Transposition (more on that in a few days’ time):-

NR 1479 CBKH37 6021A 19401200 TRAINING PAMPHLET NO. 40 DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHERS NUMERICAL SOLUTION
NR 1871 CBLI66 4262A 19340000 GENERAL SOLUTION FOR THE DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHER
NR 2017 CBLJ73 6206A 19450212 GERMAN POW REPORTS ON DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHER SYSTEM USED BY AMERICAN
NR 4608 ZEMA36 13947A 19430200 SIGRED-2 INSTRUCTIONS FOR USING DOUBLE TRANSPOSITION CIPHER

Next, some documents on secret writing (at least one person here likes that 🙂 ):

NR 3464 CBQM37 4000A 19200000 SECRET INKS
NR 3465 CBQM37 4852A 19430109 POSTAGE STAMP CODE – ANTHONY E. SCOTTINO CASE
NR 3468 CBQM37 863A 19431129 SECRET WRITING
NR 3469 CBQM37 896A 19430326 WORKSHEETS OF THE LAB BRANCH ON SECRET INK TESTS
NR 3470 CBQM37 897A 19430601 MISCELLANEOUS PAPERS ON POW CENSORSHIP AND SECRET WRITING
NR 3471 CBQM37 898A 19440331 LETTERS CONTAINING SECRET WRITING CONDEMNED BY LAB AFTER EXAMINATION

There’s a report on the Zimmerman Telegram:-

NR 1872 CBLI66 4263A 19380000 ZIMMERMAN TELEGRAM OF JANUARY 16, 1917 AND ITS CRYPTOGRAPHIC BACKGROUND

A few pages I’ll try to get around to looking at before very long:-

NR 3552 CBSC73 6101A 19430500 SECURITY OF ALLIED CIPHERS
NR 3857 ZEMA109 46120A 19431113 UNITED KINGDOM “EXAMPLES OF OPERATIONAL EXPERIENCE IN THE USE OF PIGEONS BY THE R.A.F.”
NR 4660 ZEMA42 4410A 19420120 INTERCEPT OF CARRIER PIGEON MESSAGE

And finally, a fair few photos:-

NR 4181 ZEMA169 41048A 19170000 PHOTOGRAPH. WILLIAM F. FRIEDMAN, SIS, ASA, NSA
NR 4195 ZEMA169 41111A 19420000 PHOTOGRAPH: BRIG. JOHN H. TILTMAN, UK
NR 4693 ZEMA46 41289A 19450000 PHOTOGRAPHS: EQUIPMENT – BOMBE

13 thoughts on “Declassified NSA documents…

  1. bdid1dr on June 17, 2015 at 4:20 pm said:

    Nick, I hope you meant ‘get around TO looking at? Dang near overwhelmed with ‘goodies’, so to speak?
    😉

  2. Hi Nick,

    Thanks for the kind words re the NSA page about the Beale Papers, and for conjecturing that there may be a Chaocipher-related document in the Friedman treasure trove.

    Truth be told, it was one of the first things I searched for when I found out about the William F. Friedman Collection on NSA’s site. And a treasure trove it most certainly is! Searching the collection does not find the word ‘chaocipher’, but there is one reference to John F. Byrne. Henry E. Langen was editor of the American Cryptogram Association between 1952-1956. For more information about him and John F. Byrne, see the page “Information about Henry E. Langen”.

    Friedman did not analyze Chaocipher in 1942; he did analyze it in 1922 as a civilian cryptanalyst under the Chief Signal Office in the US War Department. In a letter to Byrne dated 7 September 1922 Friedman wrote “… I made a personal report based upon my findings reached ‘long ago’ …”. The alluded-to report has not yet been found: FOIA requests to NSA have not turned up anything, Rose Mary Sheldon’s excellent “The Friedman Collection: An Analytical Guide” does not mention it. Searches to date in the US National Archives (NARA) have not uncovered it (although there is _much_ work needed to track it down).

    Maybe one of your US readers living in the vicinity of Washington D.C. would be willing to take upon him/herself the challenge of locating Friedman’s 1922 Chaocipher report in NARA?

    Moshe

  3. Escher7 on June 18, 2015 at 7:45 am said:

    Of course you know the Excel list can be searched by keywords like “Voynich”, “Beale” etc.

  4. bdid1dr on June 18, 2015 at 9:24 pm said:

    In ref to a doc approved for Release by NSA on 01-12-2007 pursuant to E.O. 12958, as amended ST 51667 :

    The ref doc I refer to, above, is a message being sent by “Rockstar” from the USS Saratoga, requesting immediate assistance. This message does not ref by ship name, but by ref:
    TO RUQKRQ/CINCUSNAVEUR ——(you can read for yourselves in the approved for release issued on 01-12-2007.

    There is more to this document, but does not refer to the recipient radioman nor the recipient ship name.
    IF the recipient ship was the air craft carrier “Ticonderoga”, I would be able to identify at least one of the radiomen on the “Ticonderoga” who most likely later became known as the “Zodiac” killer. The California State Police Investigators have a huge file on the Zodiac. Apparently, even today, they give no information from their archives.

  5. bdid1dr on June 19, 2015 at 9:59 pm said:

    Does anyone know of any files being released about Alan Turing’s solving the Chaocipher? I vaguely remember watching a British (PBS?) documentary on Turing’s machine. Do I remember correctly that he was working for Bletchley Park (Brigadier General Tiltman’s codiology team)?

  6. bdid1dr: unfortunately, you’ve got about ten things wrong in a row there. 🙁

  7. bdid1dr on June 20, 2015 at 3:58 pm said:

    So, Alan Turing wasn’t working for the codiology teams at Bletchley Park (Brigadier General Tiltman’s HQ)? Is it a case that British codiologists are not going to be ‘in the picture’ so to speak? Or is it that Turing was a homosexual, and thus scorned by Tiltman’s team?
    It is in our records that Tiltman, at least, came to the US and collaborated for a while with Friedman and fellow codiologists. I’m not too sure what happened to Turing, meanwhile.
    Sad….. 🙂

    Or is it all a ‘fairy’ tale?

  8. bdid1dr on June 21, 2015 at 12:52 am said:

    Well, Friedman was a frequent visitor to Tiltman’s Bletchley Park. There is at least one record of Tiltman visiting the US Government’s military codiology operations (which eventually evolved into the National Security Agency). I shall re-visit my notes (which mostly concerned Tiltman’s attempts to de-code the so-called Voynich manuscript).
    Sorry if I’ve led anybody astray.
    Online, one can find various ‘photostat’ copies of some of the Voynich manuscript’s illustrations. One that the Brig was not able to decode was the carnation/Dianthus.
    One can pull up some of Tiltman’s efforts by the identification: DOCID: 631091 VOYNICH MANUSCRIPT

  9. bdid1dr on June 26, 2015 at 5:37 pm said:

    Nick & Moshe, I’ve just realized that credit is not being given to another cryptanalyst who was working with Friedman: Friedman’s wife.
    🙂

  10. bdid1dr on July 2, 2015 at 4:45 pm said:

    I reiterate that D’Imperio was probably NOT following the ‘bosses’ orders when compiling/editing/publishing “Elegant Enigma”. Her book is a mishmash of ‘pondering’ and guesswork — none of which was helpful in ‘decoding’ B-408. So, I roll my eyes at references to D’Imperio or “Elegant Enigma”.
    One of my favorite unsolved ‘VMS’ illustrations is folio 33v: Scabioseum Caucaseus:
    Line 1: curalium sanatio (an ointment for treating scabies)
    Line 2: which scabies are in the soil/dirt
    Line 3: the plant mixed with oil can treat heat rash
    Line 4: Wash & clean often as necessary with warm water.

    Get past references to sunflower (no connection). Also, “Pincushion Plant” is an incorrect reference to what the plant ‘looks like”. But do follow up the botanical nomenclature for the plant’s origin: Caucasia.

    You can find a full photostat in Tiltman’s DOCID: 631091
    😉

  11. bdid1dr on July 10, 2015 at 4:05 pm said:

    Also found in DOCID 631091 is Tiltman’s attempt to decode the Dianthus (Caryotid), and The Turban Ranunculus . Both of which I’ve translated, line by line.
    You can find the all three of the botanical specimens I’ve been discussing in Boenicke mss 408. Also the Saffron Crocus (as opposed to the water lily).

  12. bdid1dr on July 11, 2015 at 8:49 pm said:

    Nick, in re the 1922 Chaocipher (the Friedmans’ efforts & report) would there have been a full military division/library/storage agency, at that time, either in European or North American military communications? Seems to me the influenza epidemic (1914-1918?) was causing the deaths of civilians and military records division personnel ‘everywhere’.

  13. kltten on May 4, 2016 at 7:23 pm said:

    NSA approved like a gajillion files for release 01-12-2007 under those same conditions, mostly relating to the U.S.S. Liberty. From what I can gather, “Rockstar” was the Liberty’s codename.

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