Tuesday, August 09, 2005

"Venona and the Cold War": the origins of the Venona Project

This is another piece of fundamental importance to picture out the real dimension and depth of the Soviet Espionage against USA during the World War II.

Excerpt from the book "Venona : Decoding Soviet Espionage in America" by authors John Earl Haynes, Harvey Klehr

The Venona Project began because Carter Clarke did not trust Joseph Stalin. Colonel Clarke was chief of the U.S Army Special Branch, part of the War Department Military Intelligence Division, and in 1943 its officer heard vague rumor of secret German_Soviet peace negotiations. With the vivid example of the August 1939 Nazi-Soviet Pact in mind, Clarke feared that a separate peace between Moscow and Berlin would allow Nazi Germany to concentrate its formidable war machine against the united States and Great Britain. Clarke thought he had a way to find out whether such negotiations were under way.

Clarke's Special Branch supervised the Signal Intelligence Service, the Army elite group of code-breakers and the predecessor of th National Security Agency (NSA). In February 1943 Clarke ordered the service to establish a small program to examine ciphered Soviet diplomatic cablegrams. Since the beginnings of World War II in 1939, the federal government had collected copies of international cables leaving and entering the United States. If the cipher used in the Soviet cables could be broken, Clarke believed, the private exchanges between Soviet diplomats in the united Sates and their superiors in Moscow would show whether Satin was seriously pursuing a separate peace.

The coded Soviet cables however, proved to be far more difficult to read than Clarke expected, American code-breakers discovered that the Soviet Union was using a complex two-part system involving a 'one-time pad' code that in theory was unbreakable, The Venona code-breakers, however, combined acute unintellectual analysis with painstaking examination of thousand of coded telegraphic cables to spot a Soviet procedural error that opened their cipher to attack. But by the time they had rendered the first messages into readable text in 1946, the war as over and Clarke initial goal was moot. Not dis the messages show evidence of a Soviet quest for a separate peace. What they did demonstrated however stunned American official. Messages thought to be between Soviet diplomats at the Soviet consulate in New York and the Peoples Commissariat of Foreign Affairs in Moscow turned out to be cables between professional intelligence filed officers and Gem. Pavel Fiton, head of the foreign intelligence directorate of the KGB in Moscow. Espionage, not diplomacy, was the subject of these cables. One of the first cables rendered into coherent text was a 1944 message from KGB officers in New York showing that the Soviet Union had infiltrated America most secret enterprise, the atomic bomb project (Manhattan project).

By 1948 the accumulating evidence from other decoded Venona cable showed that the Soviets had recruited spies in virtually every major American government agency of military or diplomatic importance. American authorities learned that since 1942 the United States had been the target of a Soviet intelligence officers and hundreds of Americans,many of whom were members of the American Communist party (CPUSA). The deciphered cables of the Venona Project identify 349 citizens, immigrants, and permanent residents of the United States who had had a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence agencies. Further, American cryptanalyst's in the Venona project deciphered only a fraction of the Soviet intelligence traffic, so it was only logical to conclude that many additional agents were discussed int the thousand of unread messages. Some were identified from other sources, such as defector testimony and the confessions of Soviet spies.

The deciphered Venona messages also showed that a disturbing number of high-ranking U.S government official consciously maintained a clandestine relationship with Soviet intelligence agencies and had passed extraordinarily sensitive information to the Soviet Union that had had seriously damaged American interests. Harry White – the second most powerful official in the US treasury department, one of the most influential officials in the government, and part of the American delegation at the founding of the United Nations – had advised the KGB about how American diplomatic strategy could be frustrated. A trusted personal assistant to President Franklin Roosevelt, Launchlin Currie, warned the KGB that the FBI had started an investigation of on of the Soviets' key American agents, Gregory Silvermaster. This warning allowed Silvermaster, who headed a highly productive espionage ring, to escape detection and continue spying. Maurice Halperin, the head of a research section of the office of strategic Services (OSS), them America's chief intelligence arm, turned over hundreds of pages of secret American diplomatic cables to KGB. William Perl, a brilliant young government aeronautical scientist, provided the Soviets with the results of the highly secret test and design experiments for American jet engines and jet aircraft. His betrayal assists the Soviet Union in quickly overcoming the American technological lead in the developments of jets. In the Korean War, U.S. Military leaders expected the Air Force to dominate the skies, on the assumption that the Soviet aircraft used by North Korea and Communist China would be no match for American aircraft. They were shocked when Soviet Mig-15 jet fighters only flew rings around U.S. Propeller-driven aircraft but were conspicuously superior to the first generation of American jets as well. Only the hurried deployment of America newest jet fighter, the F-86 Saber, allowed the United States to match the technological capabilities of the MIG-15. The air Force prevailed, owing more to the skill of American pilots than to the design of American aircraft.

And then were the atomic spies (....)

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