With the rumor of a non-aggression pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union circling the globe, the United States created a strict intelligence campaign known as the Venona Program to monitor Soviet diplomatic actions. Decryption of what was thought to be Soviet diplomatic messages revealed an extensive Soviet espionage network that was functioning within the United States. These cables linked this espionage to the Soviet “secret police” the Komityet Gosudarstvennoy Bezopasnosti (KGB).
This caused a transformation of the Venona Program into a counter-intelligence network aimed at warding off this highly effective Soviet espionage attack. Unfortunately, the success of the Venona Program was undermined by the United States lack of internal security, as Soviet agents rose into the high ranks of both the United States government and global military research divisions unchecked. With origins dating back to the creation of the Army Signal Intelligence Service (SIS), the effectiveness of the United States intelligence program has been relatively successful in its duties.
The establishment of the SIS in 1929 set the stage for cryptanalysis that would ultimately lead to allied victory during World War II, as the Pacific theatre was opened up by the “cracking” of Japanese “Purple” code. However, the true success of the United States intelligence program is only seen through close scrutiny of its counter-intelligence program. As the events of World War II became increasingly volatile, a fear was growing in the United States State as well as War Department that an alliance between Nazi Germany and the Soviets would allow the Axis (Germany, Italy, and Japan) to focus its attacks solely on the U.
By 1928, Stalin had ousted Trotsky and the rest of the Left opposition. In four years, Stalin had single handedly taken major steps away from Lenins collective leadership and free inter party debate and replaced them with his autocratic dictatorship. Stalin began to secure predominant power over the communist party and the state by destroying passive opposition from the peasantry and former Lenin ...
S.. This paranoia spurred the creation of a United States counter-intelligence program that would ultimately transform this paranoia within the government into widespread panic. The counter-intelligence program was started in 1943 by Colonel Carter Clark of Army Intelligence (G2), with its authority placed under the control of the SIS. It was formed to provide intelligence on Soviet military and diplomatic actions. Its highly trained team of linguists, code specialists, and school teachers were charged with decrypting Soviet encrypted cables. However, the task was one that was virtually impossible.
Soviet encryption was an ingenious process that involved use of a one-time pad known as a Petsamo Codebook. Its two step cipher required the cipher clerk to transfer his message into a set of four digit numbers assigned to specific letter groups. The groups were then combined into five letter groups by taking one number from the group following it. Using a one-time pad an additional number was added that could later be taken out by the receiver of the message who also used an identical one-time pad. The clerk then placed the numbers from the codebook beneath the numbers of the text and found their sum.
In the final step, the clerk converted the five number groups into five letter groups by substituting Latin letters. When done correctly this process is unbreakable. However, with the lack of computers to generate a series of numbers on the one-time pads in coupling with the high demand for the pads caused by a Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union (USSR), pages were often duplicated. After eight months of work Lieutenant Richard Hallock, a peacetime archeologist, discovered these lapses in the Soviet cryptographic system. The reuse of these one-time pads began the slow and tedious process of decrypting soviet cables.
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This discovery opened what would later be called “the Pandora’s Box of Troubles. ” The program continued, and as hundreds of Soviet messages were painstakingly decrypted, a vital discovery was made. The messages that had been thought to be Soviet diplomatic cables were not diplomatic at all. The cables were found to be messages between KGB residences in the United States addressed to the Communist Directorate in Moscow. The discovery was appalling. Thus the cables were linked to a Soviet espionage network in the United States.
The fears of Communist supplanting Democracy originally produced by the Red Scare of 1918 were ultimately reality. Through sweat-and-brow translation, the SIS discovered that 5 different Soviet cryptographic systems were in use. One was used for each of the following: trade representatives, diplomats, KGB, GRU (Soviet Army General Staff Intelligence Directorate), and GRU Naval; however, most of the decrypts were made from KGB cables. In December 1946, Meredith Gardner, the principle translator and analyst for the SIS decrypted a message which contained the leading scientists on the Manhattan Project (the creation of the atomic bomb).
Although the message was two years old, a series of messages containing top secret information were decrypted in the months between January and May 1947. Someone inside the War Department General Staff was providing information to the Soviets. The Venona Program was quickly converted from intelligence to counter-intelligence. Unfortunately, although the messages were being partially if not completely decrypted, the Soviets used such an intricate system of covernames that it was impossible to identify the Soviet field officers who were being addressed.
The covernames used were often from mythology, Russian names, and even fish. For instance, Roosevelt was fittingly assigned the covername “Kapitan,” or translated in English “captain. ” The close connection between the Soviet espionage network, “The Red Orchestra,” and the KGB caused panic within the United States government as an extreme threat of Communism was now visible. The KGB was a highly effective force of Soviet intelligence. Each residence of the KGB, which had locations in places such as New York and San Francisco, reported directly to the First Chief Directorate (FCD) led by General Pavel Fitin in Moscow.
Intelligence services of any country play a vital role in its security as well as in support of its national interests. The U. S. Intelligence Community (IC) today is a federation of about 16 separate governmental agencies (United States Intelligence Community, 2009) that monitor information worldwide and domestically in pursuance of America’s national interests. The IC has undergone fundamental ...
Their role as the “secret police” of the Soviet Union allowed them to quickly infiltrate high positions within the United States government. The KGB officers were often referred to as “workers” or “cadre,” most of which came illegally to the United States, smuggled by merchant ships. Ironically, smuggling of espionage agents was occurring through the Lend-Lease act, in which the United States loaned the USSR weaponry with which to battle Germany. Soviet crews of seamen and officers who were sent to be trained on how to operate U. S. machinery were often Soviet espionage agents who would then infiltrate the U.
S.. The KGB had a strong connection with the American Communist Party, and recruited a number of members from within their ranks. A decrypted letter from Communist International (Comintern) proved the KGB connection to both Comintern and the National Communist Parties. The Daily Worker, the newspaper of the American Communist Party often had hidden recruitment statements to promote involvement of its members as KGB spies. In 1952, under the National Security Act the National Security Agency (NSA) was created in a responsive effort by Harry S. Truman to reverse his dissolution of U. S.
Intelligence Services after World War II. With headquarters at Arlington Hall Station, a converted women’s college, the NSA staff hired a handful of highly trained code specialists, school teachers and linguists, similar in structure to its predecessor the SIS. The NSA took over the counter-intelligence program and continued the decryption of Soviet cables with the help of rapidly evolving technological advances that included an electronic decryption machine, the Bombe. In 1961, the program which had been known by such names as Bride, Bourbon, Whiskey and Drug was finally renamed its existing name, Venona
Program. The effects of the Venona Program were not seen fully until its involvement in the struggle between Democracy and Communism during the Cold War. With the capturing of Elizabeth Bentley, a handler of espionage agents and member of the Communist Party underground along with the defection of Igor Gouzenko another rogue agent, the Venona Program finally had all of its wheels turning. Their testimony revealed the identity of a handful of Soviet agents and led to their arrest. With their help, the process of connecting codename to field officer began.
... the Soviet Union. Several ex-Soviet agents warned the government about Communism and their underground espionage. ... information about uncovering Soviet agent came along with the Venona Project. The Venona project was originally ... established an anti-Communist loyalty-security program in March of 1947 and set ... overthrow or destruction of any government in the United States, to print, publish, edit, issue ...
Both the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and British intelligence (MI-5) became involved. Maurice Halperin, head of the research section of the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), provided the Soviets with intelligence on every major codebreak that was made by United States counter-intelligence services. Furthermore, Roosevelt’s most trusted advisor Lauchlin Currie warned the KGB residencies of developments in FBI investigations of Soviet agents. The KGB was able to give these agents ample warning so that they would not only be able to escape further detection, but also continue their work without need to defect to the USSR.
Alger Hiss was another Soviet espionage agent in existence within the high ranks of the government. His actions provided the Soviets with intelligence of the Allies negotiating status during World War II, as well as setting the playing field for hegemony and later shielding Communism from outside influence by the Iron Curtain, the symbolic, ideological, and physical boundary separating Communism from Democracy. With this information the USSR was able to counter U. S. negotiating abilities—later they could call military bluffs during the Cold War.
William Perl, a young aeronautical scientist for the United States Air Force research division provided the KGB directorate in Moscow with intelligence on the creation and implementation of jet engine and aircraft innovation. His work was so successful that during the Korean War, it was suspicious that not only was the Soviet MIG-15 equal to the United States fighter planes, it was in fact far more advanced. These research discoveries were in coupling with one of the most detrimental espionage attacks ever conducted upon U. S. soil.
The Manhattan Project was the most common covername for research in the capabilities of harnessing atomic energy to be used for creation of a bomb. The atomic bomb was a technology that ultimately brought end to World War II. Its complex formula of extracting weapons grade uranium from normal uranium was top secret. However, a major espionage attack upon the Manhattan Project had begun. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, both American citizens and firm constituents of the American Communists Party, worked to pass the secrets of atomic energy.
In 1949, the Soviet Union exploded their first atomic bomb. This event was so significant because it began the great arms race. The arms race in effect was the beginning of the Cold War. The events that led up to and followed the soviets first atomic bomb changed the United States of America forever. Everything from the fear of Russia launching a nuclear attach to paranoia of espionage. Julius and ...
In coalition with Ethel’s brother David Greenglass, a mechanic who was working on the project, Julius and his wife helped pass on information about the American “super weapon,” the atomic bomb. Two other physicists of the project, Klaus Fuchs and Theodore Hall also contributed in providing Soviet’s intelligence on the subject. Specifically, they were involved in the transmission of the formula for extracting weapons grade uranium from normal uranium, as well as providing techniques for the implosion of the particles. The espionage attack even went as far to provide technical plans of the production facilities.
Ultimately, this attack on the project was the reason that the Soviets were able to create their own atomic bomb so fast. Their ability to produce atomic bombs allowed the USSR to parry United States atomic bomb threats and caused hundreds of thousands of casualties attributed to the Korean War. Had the United States been able to counter Soviet espionage, the Korean War could have been easily diverted for the Soviet would be no match for U. S. technological advances. The testimony of the two Soviet agents ultimately called for the arrest of 349 U.
S. citizens, 200 of which were at the top of the Washington bureaucracy. There were so many spies in the government that secrets had not really been secrets at all. It was a paradox of interests with a lot of finger pointing. Ultimately the Venona Program was so secret that even President Truman was unknowing of its existence (ironically he was the one who lobbied for its institution).
However, since the Venona Program was held as above top secret, the decision not to release its translations made conviction of Soviet espionage agents tough.
Even as many were sentenced to the death penalty, many doubted their guilt. The NSA was also held under such top secret conditions that it was often labeled “No Such Agency. ” The Venona Program was nicknamed the “sacred secret” for the importance it held in identifying the amount of espionage that was occurring in the United States; only the select few who were on what became known as the “Bigot List” ever knew of its existence. The effectiveness of the Venona Program is particularly tough to analyze. The cryptanalysis that was occurring allowed he United States to pinpoint Soviet espionage attack. Unfortunately, the thoroughness of Soviet ciphers made the task of code breaking extremely difficult. Even though over 3000 cables were broken in the entirety of the Venona Program that is relatively nothing compared with the total number of messages sent by espionage agents. However, the Venona Program was responsible for the arrest and conviction of over 200 Soviet spies who were scattered in both the bureaucracy of Washington and the high ranking offices of military research divisions.
The breakup of the Soviet Union was a pivotal event of the 20the century that changed significantly the political environment of the world. Million of people in Eastern Europe awakened from a bad dream as the communism collapsed. Poland and Ukraine are two of the countries that have come out of the Communist block and embarked in a transition, from the general characteristics of a Communist ...
Without the discovery of these infiltrators the Cold War would have taken on a vastly different persona. Soviet agents such as Alger Hiss, who had revealed America’s negotiating status to the Soviets, if undetected could have been able to provided intelligence on which American threats were bluffs. Furthermore, had the existence of Soviet agents in the military research divisions not been revealed, the Soviet’s would have been able to counter ever new discovery that was produced on United States soil, just as they had done for the atomic bomb.
The true success of the Venona Program cannot be judged righteously without first examining the effectiveness of the Soviet espionage campaign. Soviet agents were able to infiltrate some highest agencies and programs which were in existence within the United States. Their system of gathering intelligence was so effective that even with every analyst in the NSA working on breaking their ciphers, they were always one step behind.
Oliver Kirby, former operations director of the NSA recounts his views on Soviet intelligence: “Only through Venona do you get some idea of how thoroughly and how successfully Soviet Intelligence infiltrated the United States, Venona is the tip of the iceberg because we were only able to read a portion of the traffic. We found a couple hundred names and we still do not know who all of them are. ” The Venona Program was only able to reveal the existence of a handful of Soviet agents who played an active role in the Soviet espionage ring.
The few messages it did decrypt were often so outdated due to the time it took to translate each individual message, that the decrypts were basically worthless. While the Venona Program failed to counter the barrage of Soviet espionage that was taking place, it was successful on one account. The discovery of these agents allowed the United States to be more cautious in its actions and understand the true nature of Soviet diplomacy. During the Cold War, the United States could efficiently prevent direct attack upon American soil by assuring that espionage agents would not be able to report their diplomatic and military status back to Moscow.
William Crowell, a deputy director who was brought onto the Venona Program in the early 1960s revealed the distinction between success and failure in cryptanalysis in his statement that “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. ”
In conclusion, the Venona Program was engaged in an ultimately insurmountable battle with Soviet espionage system and its effectiveness was undermined by the vulnerability of the United States to outside attack. The NSA played a crucial role in revealing the existence of these agents, but was powerless to prevent further intrusion by outside agents. The pain-staking work it took to understand the identity of just one agent was time enough for dozens of additional agents to infiltrate American agencies.
The never ending process of cryptanalysis was unable to prevent or halt Soviet espionage; it was only effective in bringing caution into the United States in a way that hadn’t been seen since the Red Scare in 1918-21. The Venona Program’s above top secret classification made it the greatest secret of the Cold War, and was responsible for confirming the guilt of the Rosenberg’s and Albert Hiss, supporting claims against Whittaker Chambers and Elizabeth Bentley, and “sparking off molehunts on three continents. ”