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PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:50 pm
by admin
by James Bamford
© 2001, 2002 by James Bamford




To Mary Ann
And to my father, Vincent
And in memory of my mother, Katherine

Table of Contents:

• Inside & Back Cover
• Acknowledgments
1. Memory
2. Sweat
3. Nerves
4. Fists
5. Eyes
6. Ears
7. Blood
8. Spine
9. Adrenaline
10. Fat
11. Muscle
12. Heart
13. Soul
14. Brain
• Afterword
• Appendixes
• Notes
• Index


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:51 pm
by admin

"James Bamford, who wrote one of the really good books about American intelligence twenty years ago, has now done it again.... Body Secrets has something interesting and important to add to many episodes of cold war history ... [and] has much to say about recent events." -- The New York Review of Books

"Body of Secrets is one fascinating book.... Chock-full of juicy stuff.... Interesting to read, well-written and scrupulously documented." -- Salon

"An engaging and informed history.... Bamford weaves a narrative about the NSA that includes.... many heretofore undisclosed tidbits of information." -- The Nation

"At times surprising, often quite troubling but always fascinating.... Writing with a flair and clarity that rivals those of the best spy novelists, Bamford has created a masterpiece of investigative reporting." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Body of Secrets adds fresh material about the world's nosiest and most secret body.... This revised edition will fascinate anyone interested in the shadow war." -- The Economist


James Bamford is the author of The Puzzle Palace, an award-winning national bestseller when it was first published and now regarded as a classic. He has taught at the University of California's Goldman School of Public policy, spent nearly a decade as the Washington Investigative Producer for ABC's World News Tonight with Peter Jennings, and has written extensively on national security issues, including investigative cover stones for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. He lives in Washington, D.C.


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:53 pm
by admin

My most sincere thanks to the many people who helped bring Body of Secrets to life. Lieutenant General Michael V. Hayden, NSAs director, had the courage to open the agency's door a crack. Major General John E. Morrison (Retired), the dean of the U.S. intelligence community, was always gracious and accommodating in pointing me in the right directions. Deborah Price suffered through my endless Freedom of Information Act requests with professionalism and good humor. Judith Emmel and Colleen Garrett helped guide me through the labyrinths of Crypto City. Jack Ingram, Dr. David Hatch, Jennifer Wilcox, and Rowena Clough of NSA's National Cryptologic Museum provided endless help in researching the agency's past.

Critical was the help of those who fought on the front lines of the cryptologic wars, including George A. Cassidy, Richard G. Schmucker, Marvin Nowicki, John Arnold, Harry O. Rakfeldt, David Parks, John Mastro, Wayne Madsen, Aubrey Brown, John R. DeChene, Bryce Lockwood, Richard McCarthy, Don McClarren, Stuart Russell, Richard E. Kerr, Jr., James Miller, and many others. My grateful appreciation to all those named and unnamed.

Thanks also to David J. Haight and Dwight E. Strandberg of the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and to Thomas E. Samoluk of the U.S. Assassinations Records Review Board.

Finally I would like to thank those who helped give birth to Body of Secrets, including Kris Dahl, my agent at International Creative Management; Shawn Coyne, my editor at Doubleday; and Bill Thomas, Bette Alexander, Jolanta Benal, Lauren Field, Chris Min, Timothy Hsu, and Sean Desmond.


"In God we trust, all others we monitor."
-- Intercept operator's motto
NSA study, Deadly Transmissions, December 1970

"The public has a duty to watch its Government closely and keep it on the right track."
-- Lieutenant General Kenneth A. Minihan, USAF
Director, National Security Agency
NSA Newsletter, June 1997

"The American people have to trust us and in order to trust us they have to know about us."
-- Lieutenant General Michael V. Hayden, USAF
Director, National Security Agency
Address on October 19, 2000

"Behind closed doors, there is no guarantee that the most basic of individual freedoms will be preserved. And as we enter the 21st Century, the great fear we have for our democracy is the enveloping culture of government secrecy and the corresponding distrust of government that follows."
-- Senators Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Rob Wyden
U.S. Senate Report, Secrecy in International and Domestic Policy Making: The Case for More Sunshine, October 2000


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:54 pm
by admin


His step had an unusual urgency to it. Not fast, but anxious, like a child heading out to recess who had been warned not to run. It was late morning and the warm, still air had turned heavy with moisture -- causing others on the long hallway to walk with a slow shuffle, a sort of somber march. In June 1930, the boxy, sprawling Munitions Building, near the Washington Monument, was a study in monotony. Endless corridors connecting to endless corridors. Walls a shade of green common to bad cheese and fruit. Forests of oak desks separated down the middle by rows of tall columns, like concrete redwoods, each with a number designating a particular workspace.

Oddly, he made a sudden left turn into a nearly deserted wing. It was lined with closed doors containing dim, opaque windows and empty name holders. Where was he going, they wondered, attempting to keep up with him as beads of perspiration wetted their brows. At thirty-eight years old, the Russian-born William Frederick Friedman had spent most of his adult life studying, practicing, defining the black art of code-breaking. The year before, he had been appointed the chief and sole employee of a secret new Army organization responsible for analyzing and cracking foreign codes and ciphers. Now, at last, his one-man Signal Intelligence Service actually had employees, three of them, who were attempting to keep pace close behind.

Halfway down the hall Friedman turned right into Room 3416, a small office containing a massive black vault, the kind found in large banks. Reaching into his inside coat pocket, he removed a small card. Then, standing in front of the thick round combination dial to block the view, he began twisting the dial back and forth. Seconds later he yanked up the silver bolt and slowly pulled open the heavy door, only to reveal another wall of steel behind it. This time he removed a key from his trouser pocket and turned it in the lock, swinging aside the second door to reveal an interior as dark as a midnight lunar eclipse.

Disappearing into the void,
he drew out a small box of matches and lit one. The gentle flame seemed to soften the hard lines of his face: the bony cheeks; the pursed, pencil-thin lips; the narrow mustache, as straight as a ruler; and the wisps of receding hair combed back tight against his scalp. Standing outside the vault were his three young hires. Now it was time to tell them the secret. Friedman yanked on the dangling cord attached to an overhead lightbulb, switched on a nearby fan to circulate the hot, stale air, and invited them in. "Welcome, gentlemen," he said solemnly, "to the secret archives of the American Black Chamber."

Until a few weeks before, none of the new recruits had had even the slightest idea what codebreaking was. Frank B. Rowlett stood next to a filing cabinet in full plumage: blue serge jacket, white pinstriped trousers, and a virgin pair of white suede shoes. Beefy and round-faced, with rimless glasses, he felt proud that he had luckily decided to wear his new wardrobe on this day. A high school teacher from rural southern Virginia, he received a degree in math the year earlier from Emory and Henry College, a small Virginia school.

The two men standing near Rowlett were a vision of contrasts. Short, bespectacled Abraham Sinkov; Brooklynite Solomon Kullback, tall and husky. Both were high school teachers from New York, both were graduates of City College in New York, and both had received master's degrees from Columbia.

Like a sorcerer instructing his disciples on the mystic path to eternal life, Friedman began his introduction into the shadowy history of American cryptology. In hushed tones he told his young employees about the Black Chamber, America's first civilian codebreaking organization. How for a decade it operated in utmost secrecy from a brownstone in New York City. How it skillfully decoded more than 10,000 messages from nearly two dozen nations, including those in difficult Japanese diplomatic code. How it played the key role in deciphering messages to and from the delegates to the post-World War I disarmament talks, thus giving the American delegation the inside track. He told of Herbert Osborne Yardley, the Black Chamber's hard-drinking, poker-playing chief, who had directed the Army's cryptanalytic activities during the war.

Then he related the story of the Chamber's demise eight months earlier. How the newly appointed secretary of state, Henry Stimson, had become outraged and ordered its immediate closing when he discovered that America was eavesdropping on friends as well as foes. Friedman told of the firing of Yardley and the rest of the Chamber's employees and of how the government had naively taken itself out of the codebreaking business.

It was a troubling prospect. If a new war were to break out, the United States would once again have to start from scratch. The advances achieved against Japan's codes would be lost forever. Foreign nations would gain great advantage while the United States clung to diplomatic niceties. Standing in the vault containing the salvaged records of the old Black Chamber, Friedman told his three assistants, fresh out of college, that they were now the new Black Chamber. The Army, he said, had given its cautious approval to secretly raise the organization from the ashes, hide it deep within the bureaucracy, and rename it the Signal Intelligence Service. The State Department, they were sternly warned, was never to know of its existence.

In late June 1950, America's entire cryptologic body of secrets -- personnel, equipment and records -- fit comfortably in a vault twenty-five feet square.


On the southbound lane of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, near the sleepy Maryland hamlet of Annapolis Junction, a restricted, specially constructed exit ramp disappears quickly from view. Hidden by tall earthen berms and thick trees, the ramp leads to a labyrinth of barbed-wire fences, massive boulders placed close together, motion detectors, hydraulic antitruck devices, and thick cement barriers. During alerts, commandos dressed in black paramilitary uniforms, wearing special headgear, and brandishing an assortment of weapons including Colt 9mm submachine guns, quickly respond. They are known as the "Men in Black." Telephoto surveillance cameras peer down, armed police patrol the boundaries, and bright yellow signs warn against taking any photographs or making so much as a note or a simple sketch, under the penalties of the Internal Security Act. What lies beyond is a strange and invisible city unlike any other on earth. It contains what is probably the largest body of secrets ever created.

Seventy-one years after Friedman and his three new employees gathered for the first time in their vault, with room to spare, the lineal descendant of the Black Chamber now requires an entire city to contain it. The land beyond the steel-and-cement no-man's-land is a dark and mysterious place, virtually unknown to the outside world. It is made up of more than sixty buildings: offices, warehouses, factories, laboratories, and living quarters. It is a place where tens of thousands of people work in absolute secrecy. Most will live and die without ever having told their spouses exactly what they do. By the dawn of the year 2001, the Black Chamber had become a black empire and the home to the National Security Agency, the largest, most secret, and most advanced spy organization on the planet.

Known to some as Crypto City, it is an odd and mysterious place, where even the priests and ministers have security clearances far above Top Secret, and religious services are held in an unbuggable room. "The NSA Christmas party was a big secret," recalled one former deputy director of the agency. "They held it at Cole field house but they called it something else." Officials hold such titles as Chief of Anonymity, and even the local newsletter, with its softball scores and schedules for the Ceramic Crafters Club, warns that copies "should be destroyed as soon as they have been read." Crypto City is home to the largest collection of hyperpowerful computers, advanced mathematicians, and language experts on the planet. Within the fence, time is measured by the femtosecond -- one million billionth of a second -- and scientists work in secret to develop computers capable of performing more than one septillion (1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000) operations every second.

Nearby residents can only guess what lies beyond the forbidden exit ramp. County officials say they have no idea how many people work there, and no one will tell them. Traffic planners from the county planning department, it is said, once put a rubber traffic-counting cord across a road leading to the city, but armed guards came out and quickly sliced it. "For a long time we didn't tell anybody who we were," admitted one agency official. "The focus was not on community activity. [It was] like everyone outside the agency was the enemy."

In an effort to ease relations with its neighbors, officials from the city gave Maryland's transportation secretary, James Lighthizer, a rare tour. But the state official was less than overwhelmed. "I didn't get to see a darn thing," he said.

At a nearby gas station, owner Clifford Roop says the people traveling into and out of the city keep to themselves. "They say they work for the DoD [Department of Defense]. They don't talk about their work at all." Once, when a reporter happened into the station and began taking a few notes, two police cruisers from the secret city lashed up to the office and demanded an ID from the journalist. This was not an unusual response. When a photographer hired by real estate developers started up a hill near Crypto City to snap some shots of a future construction site, he was soon surrounded by NSA security vehicles. "They picked him up and hauled him in and asked what he was doing," said Robert R. Strott, a senior vice president at Constellation Real Estate, which was a partner in the project. During interrogation the photographer not only denied attempting to take a shot of Crypto City, he said he had never even heard of NSA. Worried that occupants of an eleven-story office building might be able to look into the city, NSA leased the entire building before it was completed.

To dampen curiosity and keep peace with the neighbors, NSA director William O. Studeman, a three-star admiral, once gave a quiet briefing to a small group of community leaders in the area. "I do this with some trepidation," he warned, "because it is the ethic of the agency -- sometimes called in the vernacular the supersecret NSA -- to keep a low profile." Nevertheless, he gave his listeners a brief idea of NSA's tremendous size. "We're the largest and most technical of all the [U.S. intelligence] agencies. We're the largest in terms of people and we're the largest in terms of budget.... We have people not only here at NSA but there are actually more people out in the field that we have operational control over -- principally military -- than exist here in Maryland.... The people number in the tens of thousands and the budget to operate that system is measured in the billions of dollars annually -- billions annually."

A decade ago, on the third floor of Operations Building 1 at the heart of the sprawling city, a standing-room-only crowd packed a hall. On stage was Frank Rowlett, in whose honor an annual award was being established. As he looked out toward the audience in the Friedman Auditorium, named after his former boss, his mind no doubt skipped back in time, back to that hot, sticky, June afternoon in 1930 when he walked into the dim vault, dressed in his white suede shoes and blue serge jacket, and first learned the secrets of the Black Chamber. How big that vault had grown, he must have marveled.

For most of the last half of the twentieth century, that burgeoning growth had one singular objective: to break the stubborn Russian cipher system and eavesdrop on that nation's most secret communications. But long before the codebreakers moved into the sterile supercomputer laboratories, clean rooms, and anechoic chambers, their hunt for the solution to that ultimate puzzle took them to dark lakebeds and through muddy swamps in the early light of the new Cold War.


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:54 pm
by admin


The wet, fertile loam swallowed the corporal's boots, oozing between the tight laces like melted chocolate. The spring night was dark and cool and he was walking backward in the muck, trying to balance his end of the heavy box. More men followed, each weighted down with stiff crates that gave off the sweet aroma of fresh pine. Except for the chirping sound of crickets, and an occasional grunt, the only sounds to be heard were sudden splashes as the heavy containers were tossed from boats into the deepest part of the lake. Germany would keep its secrets.

It was the final night of April 1945. A few hundred miles away, in a stale bunker beneath Berlin, Adolf Hitler and his new bride bid a last farewell to each other, to the Reich, and to the dawn. The smoldering embers of Nazism were at long last dying, only to be replaced by the budding flames of Soviet Communism.

Just five days after Hitler's postnuptial suicide, General William O. Donovan, chief of the Office of Strategic Services, delivered a secret report to President Harry Truman outlining the dangers of this new conflict. Upon the successful conclusion of World War II, Donovan warned, "the United States will be confronted with a situation potentially more dangerous than any preceding one." Russia, he cautioned, "would become a menace more formidable to the United States than any yet known."

For nearly a year both Washington and London had been secretly planning the first battle of the new Cold War. This war, unlike the last, would have to be fought in the shadows. The goal would be the capture of signals rather than cities; complex mathematical algorithms and whirring computers, rather than brawn and bullets, would determine the winner.
The work would be known as signals intelligence -- "Sigint," to the initiated -- a polite term for "reading someone else's mail." Sigint would include both communications intelligence (Comint), eavesdropping on understandable language, and electronic intelligence (Elint), snatching signals from such things as radar.

More than a month before Hitler's death, the battle began: a small team of American and British codebreakers boarded airplanes and headed across the English Channel. The team was part of a unique, highly secret organization with the cover name TICOM, short for Target Intelligence Committee. Its mission, in the penultimate days of the war, was to capture as many German codebreakers and cipher machines as possible. With such information, Allied cryptologists could discover which of their cipher systems might have been broken, and thus were vulnerable to attack. At the same time, because the Germans had developed advanced systems to attack Soviet codes and ciphers, the West would gain an invaluable shortcut in finding ways to break Russian cipher systems. The key, however, was finding the men and machines before the Russians, who could then use the German successes to break American and British ciphers.

Colonel George A. Bicher, the director of the U.S. Signal Intelligence Division in Europe, conceived of TICOM in the summer of 1944. The organization was so secret that even today, more than half a century later, all details concerning its operations and activities remain classified higher than Top Secret by both the American and British governments. In 1992, the director of the National Security Agency extended the secrecy order until the year 2012, making TICOM probably the last great secret of the Second World War.

The National Security Agency Releases Over 50,000 Pages of Declassified Documents

Highlights of this release include:

Documents from World War II, including previously unreleased German documents from the Target Intelligence Committee (TICOM).

For more information about the National Security Agency, please visit

Senior commanders on both sides of the Atlantic quickly saw the potential in such an organization. In August 1944, General George C. Marshall, the U.S. Army Chief of Staff, sent a codeword radio message to General Dwight D. Eisenhower at his headquarters in London instructing him to give TICOM the highest priority. Later that day, he followed up with a laundry list to Eisenhower detailing the items he wanted TICOM to capture, including all the codemaking and codebreaking documents and equipment they could get their hands on.

TICOM's members were among the few who knew the Ultra secret, that the United States and Britain had broken Germany's highest level codes. And they knew that whoever won the race to Hitler's cache of cryptologic secrets held the advantage in the next war, whether cold or hot. Because many of the members of TICOM would go on to run both NSA and the British postwar codebreaking center, it was a war they themselves would eventually have to fight.

For more than four years, the best German cryptanalysts had been attacking American, British, and Russian code and cipher systems, with deadly success. With luck, somewhere in the ruins the Allies would find a key that could unlock a number of complex Soviet codes, saving years of frustrating work. And some locked vault might also contain reams of intercepted and decoded Russian messages, which would offer enormous insight into Soviet military and political intentions after the war. At the same time, the interrogation transcripts and other documents could shed light on unknown weaknesses in American and British cryptography, weaknesses that might prove fatal in any future conflict.

Because all of the key cryptologic targets were located in Berlin, there was added urgency: Russian forces would shortly occupy that area. Thus, "the plan contemplated a simultaneous seizure and exploitation of the chief Sigint centers through an air-borne action," said the TICOM report. These centers had been pinpointed by means of Ultra decrypts: messages that had been encrypted by Germany's high-level cipher machine, the Enigma, and decoded by British and American codebreakers.

As outlined in the TICOM reports, there were four principal objectives:

a. To learn the extent of the German cryptanalytic effort against England and America;

b. To prevent the results of such German cryptanalysis against England and America from falling into unauthorized hands as the German Armies retreated;

c. To exploit German cryptologic techniques and inventions before they could be destroyed by the Germans; and

d. To uncover items of signal intelligence value in prosecuting the war against Japan.

"The TICOM mission was of highest importance," the document concluded. "American cryptographers did not then know with certainty the extent to which United States communications were secure or insecure, nor did they know the extent of the enemy's cryptanalytic abilities, strength, and material."

TICOM's plan to quickly snatch up the people, papers, and equipment as the Nazi war machine began to collapse was nearly completed by Christmas, 1944. But within months, Germany was in chaos; Hitler's codebreaking agencies began to scatter. The original plan, said the report, "was no longer feasible." The chances that Anglo-American parachute teams might seize worthwhile personnel and material, and then hold them through the final battles, became remote.

Instead, TICOM decided to alert six teams in England and send them into enemy territory as United States and British troops were overrunning it. The teams were to "take over and exploit known or newly discovered targets of signal intelligence interest and to search for other signal intelligence targets and personnel."

It was in drafty brick buildings on a drab Gothic-Victorian estate called Bletchley Park that the future TICOM team members had labored during much of the war. Hidden away in the foggy English county of Buckinghamshire, Bletchley was formally known as the Government Code and Cypher School. After the war it changed its name to the less descriptive Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ). The suburban location was chosen because it was halfway between the universities of Oxford and Cambridge, key locations for finding new recruits, and only forty-seven miles from London.

In their Spartan offices the eclectic band of mathematicians, linguists, and English professors molded their intellects into what was possibly the deadliest weapon of the war against Germany. As the final TICOM report makes clear, the German high-level cryptography "was brilliantly conceived," but the cryptanalytic breakthroughs of the British and American codebreakers were "more brilliantly conceived."

So good was the Allied ability to eavesdrop on a wide range of German communications that it has recently led to troubling questions about how early in the war the Allies discovered evidence of the Holocaust. "Allied Comint agencies had been exploiting a number of French codes and ciphers from the beginning of the war," NSA historian Robert J. Hanyok recently told a gathering in the agency's Friedman Auditorium. "They soon found reflections of the anti-Jewish laws in their intercept of both Vichy diplomatic and colonial radio and cable traffic." Pressured by the German occupation authorities, France in 1942 began rounding up Jews for shipment to "resettlement sites," a euphemism for concentration camps.

According to a comprehensive NSA study undertaken by Hanyok, Allied communications intelligence would have picked up indications of this roundup from the cable lines and airwaves linking Vichy France with foreign capitals. The communications lines would have been buzzing with pleas by worried relatives for information on loved ones interned in various French camps. But in the end, Hanyok noted, only a fraction of the intercepts were ever distributed and the principal focus was always on strategic military traffic, not routine diplomatic communications. "Intelligence on the Holocaust was NOT critical to Allied strategy," said Hanyok [emphasis in original]. "Did Comint reveal the Holocaust, and, especially, its final aim?" he asked. "The real problem," he concluded, "was not interpreting the intelligence, but the attitude by the Allies, and the rest of the world, that the unthinkable was actually happening."

In March 1945, as the damp chill of a long English winter began to fade, TICOM teams began to fan out across Germany in search of codebreakers and their books and equipment. "One day we got this frantic call," said Paul E. Neff, a U.S. Army major assigned to Bletchley Park. "They had run across these people, Germans, in this castle . . . [who] had been in the cryptographic business, signals intelligence, all of them. Bongo. Quickly Bletchley sent me." Within a few days, Neff was at the castle, in the German state of Saxony.

"The war was still going on and we were pretty far forward," Neff said. "We sorted the people out, interrogated, tried to find out what they were working on, where they had stood with it, tried to get our hands on all the papers that were left.... But my problem became, What are we going to do with them? Because they apparently had a lot of good information. . . . These Germans, as you might know, had been working on the Russia problem too." Neff had stumbled into a gold mine, because not only had the codebreakers worked on Russian codes and ciphers, but the castle contained a German Foreign Office signals intelligence archive. Neff's dilemma was the location of the castle, which was located in territory assigned to the Soviets -- and Russian troops were quickly moving into the area. Neff needed to get the people and codebreaking materials out fast.

Neff contacted Calonel George Bicher, in charge of the American TICOM unit in London, and suggested shipping the documents -- and the German codebreakers -- to England. But the issue of transporting the prisoners across the English Channel became very sensitive. "Apparently they had a hard time when this thing hit London because they couldn't decide what to do. They had to clear it [up to] the attorney general or whatever he's called over there. Is it legal to do?" Eventually the British agreed to have the Germans secretly transferred to England. "We got a plane one day," said Neff, "escorted this crowd down to the airfield, put them on the plane, and flew them over to London. The British picked them up over there and gave them a place to stay, fed them, and interrogated the hell out of them. Now, what happened to those TICOM records I don't know." Two days later, Russian troops overtook that same area.


The May morning was as dark as black velvet when Paul K. Whitaker opened his eyes at 4:45. Short and stout, with a thick crop of light brown hair, the American Army first lieutenant slowly began to wake himself up. For two years he had been assigned to Hut 3, the section of Bletchley Park that specialized in translating and analyzing the decrypted Enigma Army and Air Force messages.

At thirty-eight, Whitaker was considerably older than his fellow junior officers. For more than a decade before joining the Army in 1942 he had studied and taught German in the United States as well as in Germany and Austria, receiving his doctorate from Ohio State. While doing graduate work at the University of Munich in 1930 he often dined at a popular nearby tavern, the Osteria Bavaria. There, at the stark wooden tables, he would frequently see another regular customer enjoying the Koniginpastete and the russische Eier. Seated nearby, always at the same round table and surrounded by friends and associates, was a quiet but ambitious local politician by the name of Adolf Hitler.

The first dim rays of light illuminated a fresh spring snow, surprising Whitaker as he stepped out of his quarters. Like dusting powder, the snow lent a certain beauty to the tired estate, gently filling in the cracks on the red brick walls and softening the dark blemishes caused by years of chimney soot.

Rather than head for Hut 3, Whitaker went straight to the bus stop at Bletchley Park. Also waiting there was First Lieutenant Selmer S. Norland, who had traveled to England with Whitaker several years earlier. Raised in northern Iowa, Norland had the solid, muscular features of a farmer and a serious face with deep-set eyes. Before entering the Army in 1942 he taught history and German in a local high school for three years, and now worked as a translator in Hut 3 with Whitaker.

At precisely 6:00 A.M. the special bus arrived, coughing thick diesel fumes and cutting neat brown lines in the virgin snow. About a dozen officers and enlisted men, both British and American, climbed aboard. Seated near Whitaker was another American Army officer shipped over several years earlier, Arthur Levenson, a tall, lean mathematician from New York who worked in Hut 6 as a cryptanalyst. Like Whitaker and Norland, Levenson, who also doubled as the secretary of the Bletchley Park Chess Club, had spent time working on code problems before his transfer to England. In July 1943 Whitaker, Norland, Levenson, and seven other cryptologic officers boarded the huge British liner Aquitania as it set sail for Scotland. A few weeks later they became the first U.S. Army codebreakers to be assigned to Bletchley.

A soldier in the sentry box snapped a salute as the heavy bus pulled out through-the park's intricate iron gate. Like cenobite monks leaving their monastery for the first time, the newest TICOM team had little idea what to expect. Since the Enigma project's beginning, British policy had forbidden sending anyone who worked on it into combat areas. For years the Bletchley staff had been closeted voyeurs, reading about the war through newspapers and purloined messages.

The snow-covered fields began merging into an endless white comforter as the bus hurried through the Midlands toward London. Sitting near the window, Howard Campaigne certainly felt the excitement. As a young instructor at the University of Minnesota with a Ph.D. in mathematics, he sent the Navy a homemade design for an encryption device. Although Navy officials turned down the invention, they did offer him a correspondence course in cryptanalysis, which he passed. "I eventually got my commission and it was dated 5 December 1941," Campaigne recalled. "So two days later the balloon went up and we were in the war."

Now as the bus pulled up to Croydon Air Field for the flight to Paris on the first leg of their mission, Campaigne was about to lead the hunt for a mysterious German cipher machine nicknamed the Fish.

Although Bletchley Park had conquered the Enigma machine, the Germans had managed to go one better. They developed a new and even more secret cipher machine, the Geheimschreiber, or secret writer, which was reserved for the very-highest-level messages, including those to and from Hitler himself. German cryptographers called an early model Swordfish. The Americans and British simply called them the Fish. Unlike Enigma, the Fish were capable of automatically encrypting at one end and decrypting at the other. Also, rather than the standard 26-letter alphabet, the Fish used the 32-character Baudot code, which turned the machine into a high-speed teleprinter.

TICOM's goal was to capture a working model intact and thus learn exactly how the Germans built such a complex, sophisticated encryption device. Especially, they needed to discover faster and better ways to defeat such machines in the future should they be copied and used by the Russians.

The Royal Air Force flight to Paris was mostly smooth, reminding Paul Whitaker of sailing in a boat through gentle swells. Along with a number of the other men on the flight, he was on a plane for the first time. "The impressions were amazingly lacking in strangeness," he jotted in his small black notebook, "probably because one sees so many films taken from aircraft. It seemed completely normal to be looking down on tiny houses and fields a mile below."

Within a few days the team, packed into an olive-green, 2-1/2-ton U.S. Army truck and an open jeep, pushed into Germany. Their target was a suspected major Air Force signals intelligence center in the southern Bavarian city of Kaufbeuren, a market center of medieval towers and crumbling fortifications on the Wertach River. Fresh from their secret monastery in the English countryside, many on the TICOM team were unprepared for the devastation they witnessed. "The roads were lined with burned-out and shot up tanks and vehicles of all sorts," Whitaker jotted in his journal as he bounced along the road from Heidelberg, "and many villages, even small ones, were badly smashed up and burned."

Around midnight, they arrived at Augsburg, a city that would soon become one of NSA's most secret and important listening posts in Europe. The next morning, having spent the night in a former German Air Force headquarters, the team discovered a communications center in the basement. In some of these buildings the Allies had moved in so fast that the ghosts of the former occupants still seemed to be present. The Germans had departed with such haste from one facility that when the Americans arrived the teleprinters were still disgorging long thin message tapes.

Other teleprinters provided insight into the private horror of defeat. "How are things down there?" read one tape still dangling from the machine. Whitaker saw it was from a soldier in the cathedral town of Ulm to a colleague in Augsburg. "Reports here say that the Americans are in Augsburg already." "No," the soldier replied, "everything here is O.K." But suddenly he added, "My God, here they are, auf Wiedersehen."

Within a few days the team struck gold. They came upon an entire convoy of four German signal trucks, complete with four Fish machines, a signals technician, German drivers, and a lieutenant in charge. Arthur Levenson and Major Ralph Tester, a British expert on the Fish, escorted the whole lot, including the Germans, back to England. Once at Bletchley Park the machines were reverse-engineered to determine exactly how they were built and how they operated. (Levenson would later return to Washington and go on to become chief of the Russian codebreaking section at NSA.)

With enough Fish and other equipment to keep the engineers busy for a long time at Bletchley, the team began a manhunt for key German codebreakers. On May 21, 1945, Lieutenant Commander Howard Campaigne and several other TICOM officers interviewed a small group of Sigint personnel being held in Rosenheim. They had all worked for a unit of the Signals Intelligence Agency of the German Abwehr High Command, a major target of TICOM. What the prisoners told Campaigne would lead to one of the most important, and most secret, discoveries in the history of Cold War codebreaking. Their command, they said, had built a machine that broke the highest-level Russian cipher system. The machine, now buried beneath the cobblestones in front of a building nearby, had been designed to attack the advanced Russian teleprinter cipher -- the Soviet equivalent of the Fish.

If this was true, it was breathtaking. For over six years US. and British codebreakers had placed Japan and Germany under a microscope, to the near exclusion of Russia and almost all other areas. Now with the war over and with Communist Russia as their new major adversary, the codebreakers would have to start all over from scratch. But if a working machine capable of breaking high-level Russian ciphers was indeed buried nearby, years of mind-numbing effort would be saved.

The Germans, eager to be released from prison, quickly agreed to lead TICOM to the machine. Campaigne wasted no time and the next day the twenty-eight prisoners, dressed in their German Army uniforms, began pulling up the cobblestones and opening the ground with picks and shovels. Slowly the heavy wooden boxes began to appear. One after another they were pulled from the earth, until the crates nearly filled the grounds. In all there were a dozen huge chests weighing more than 600 pounds each; 53 chests weighing nearly 100 pounds each; and about 53 more weighing 50 pounds each. It was a massive haul of some 7-1/2 tons.

Over the next several days the dark gray equipment was carefully lifted from its crates and set up in the basement of the building. Then, like magic, high-level encrypted Russian communications, pulled from the ether, began spewing forth in readable plaintext.
Whitaker, who pulled into the camp a short time later, was amazed. "They were working like beavers before we ever arrived," he scribbled in his notebook. "They had one of the machines all set up and receiving traffic when we got there."

The Russian system involved dividing the transmissions into nine separate parts and then transmitting them on nine different channels. The German machines were able to take the intercepted signals and stitch them back together again in the proper order. For Campaigne and the rest of the TICOM team, it was a once-in-a-lifetime discovery. Back in Washington, Campaigne would eventually go on to become chief of research at NSA.

Once the demonstration was over, Campaigne had the German soldiers repack the equipment and the next day it was loaded on a convoy, completely filling four heavy trucks. Two TICOM members, including First Lieutenant Sehner Norland, who would also go on to a long career at NSA, accompanied the equipment and soldiers back to England. There it was set up near Bletchley Park and quickly put into operation. It, or a working model, was later shipped back to Washington. The discovery of the Russian codebreaking machine was a principal reason why both the US. and British governments still have an absolute ban on all details surrounding the TICOM operations.


All told, the TICOM teams salvaged approximately five tons of German Sigint documents. In addition, many cryptologic devices and machines were found and returned to Bletchley.

Equally important were the interrogations of the nearly 200 key German codebreakers, some of which were conducted at a secret location codenamed Dustbin. In addition to the discovery of the Russian Fish, another reason for the enormous secrecy surrounding TICOM may be the question of what happened to the hundreds of former Nazi code-breakers secretly brought to England. Were any of the war criminals given new identities and employed by the British or American government to work on Russian codebreaking problems? Among those clandestinely brought into the United States was the top codebreaker Dr. Erich Huettenhain. "It is almost certain that no major cryptanalytic successes were achieved without his knowledge," said one TICOM document.

Among the surprises to come out of the interrogations was the fact that the Germans knew all along that Enigma was not totally secure. "We found that the Germans were well aware of the way the Enigma could be broken," recalled Howard Campaigne. "But they had concluded that it would take a whole building full of equipment to do it. And that's what we had. A building full of equipment. Which they hadn't pictured as really feasible."

In Washington, the TICOM materials were of enormous help in determining just how secure, or insecure, America's own cryptographic systems were. The picture painted by the documents and interrogations showed that while a number of lower-level systems had been read by German codebreakers, the most important ciphers remained impenetrable. "European cryptanalysts were unable to read any US. Army or Navy high-level cryptographic systems," the highly secret report said.

The Germans were never able to touch America's "Fish," a machine known as the SIGABA. Like the Fish, SIGABA was used for the Army and Navy's most sensitive communications. In fact, because TICOM showed that the SIGABA survived the war untouched by enemy codebreakers, it remained in service for some time afterward.
It was finally taken out of service only because it did not meet the speed requirements of modern communications.

The TICOM report also indicated that other systems were not secure. One Army system and one Navy system were read for a short time. Both of the unenciphered War Department telegraph codes were read by the Germans, and Hungary received photostats of War Department Confidential Code Number 2, probably from the Bulgarians. Also, thanks to a spy, Military Intelligence Code Number 11, which was used by the military attache in Cairo, was read throughout the summer of 1942.

The most serious break was the solving of the Combined Naval Cypher Number 3, used by U.S. and Royal Navy convoy operations in the Atlantic; this Axis success led to many deaths. Other systems were also broken, but they were of less importance than the Allied breaks of Enigma and Fish.

By far the greatest value of TICOM, however, was not in looking back but in looking forward. With the end of the war, targets began shifting, the signals intelligence agencies dramatically downsized, and money became short. But at the start of the Cold War, as a result of TICOM, America had a significant lead. Not only did the U.S. codebreakers now have a secret skeleton key to Russia's Fish machine, it had a trapdoor into scores of code and cipher systems in dozens of countries. As a result of the German material and help from the British, for example, diplomatic communications to and from Afghanistan became "practically 100% readable." Thus, when Soviet officials discussed Asian diplomatic issues with the Afghan prime minister, the U.S. could listen in.

It was a remarkable accomplishment. At the outbreak of the war in Europe in 1939, the United States was attacking the systems of only Japan, Germany, Italy, and Mexico. But by the day the war ended, according to the TICOM report, "cryptanalytic attack had been directed against the cryptographic systems of every government that uses them except only our two allies, the British and the Soviet Union." Now readable, either fully or partially, were the encryption systems of Argentina, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, China, Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Egypt, Ecuador, Ethiopia, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Portugal, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Switzerland, Syria, Thailand, Transjordan, Turkey, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Yugoslavia.

Between the attack on Pearl Harbor and August 1945, the Army's Signal Security Agency's Language Branch scanned more than 1 million decrypted messages and, of those, forwarded approximately 415,000 translations. But then it was over. Brigadier General W. Preston Corderman, chief of the Army codebreakers, was sure there would no longer be a need for much of a cryptanalytic effort. He therefore assembled the staff beneath the tall maple trees that gave his headquarters shade in the summer. The war was over, he told them, and so was their country's need for their services.

"Overnight, the targets that occupied most of the wartime cryptologic resources -- Germany and Japan -- had become cryptologic nonentities," said one NSA report. "One by one the radio receivers that had been faithfully tuned to enemy signals were switched off. Antenna fields were dismantled, equipment mothballed as station after station around the world ceased monitoring the airwaves, turned off the lights and padlocked the doors. Gone were the Army intercept stations at Miami, Florida; at New Delhi, India; at OSS Operations in Bellmore, New York; at Tarzana, California; and at Accra on the African Gold Coast. Silent were the Radio Intelligence Companies supporting General MacArthur in the Southwest Pacific and the Signal Service Companies in Europe."

The relative handful of American codebreakers who stayed on quickly shifted gears. The Soviet Union instantly became their number one target.

One key listening post not shut down was Vint Hill Farms Station. Known as Monitoring Station Number 1, it was located in the rural Virginia town of Warrenton. During the war, Vint Hill played a pivotal role in eavesdropping on enemy communications for thousands of miles in all directions. At war's end, 2,600 people stayed on, many of them intercept operators, to handle the transition from hot war to cold war. They were able to eavesdrop on key Russian diplomatic and military communications sent over the Fish machine. "They intercepted printers at Vint Hill, Russian printers," said Colonel Russell H. Horton, who commanded the station shortly after the end of the war. "They had these ... circuits that had nine channels if I'm not mistaken. They had machines ... all hooked up so that they separated the channels and did all of the interception in Cyrillic characters." Horton added, "As far as I know, there was no effort against the Russians until after the war."

Although the fact was known to only a few, a small group of codebreakers had in fact been working on Russian code problems during the war. In 1943, American intelligence began to worry about a possible alliance between Nazi Germany and Russia as part of a comprehensive peace deal. Such a merger would have been a nightmare for the Allies. As a result, a few Army cryptanalysts were pulled away from work on German systems and assigned to a highly secret new unit with the goal of attempting to solve the enormously complex Soviet codes and ciphers.

Since 1939, thousands of encrypted Soviet messages, sent between Moscow and Washington, had been acquired from Western Union and other commercial telegraph companies. A major break occurred when it was discovered that identical code groups turned up in seven pairs of messages. To find even a single pair was a billion-to-one shot. Army codebreakers had discovered a "bust," an error or anomaly that opens a crack into the cipher system. Such a bust might be caused, for example, by a malfunction in a random-number generator. This bust, however, was caused by the Soviets reusing pages from one-time pads -- the violation of a cardinal cryptographic rule.
One-time pads had become two-time pads. Cecil Phillips, a former senior NSA official, played a key role in the early Soviet-watching program. "For a few months in early 1942," he said, "a time of great strain on the Soviet regime, the KGB's cryptographic center in the Soviet Union for some unknown reason printed duplicate copies of the 'key' on more than 35,000 pages and then assembled and bound these one-time pads.... Thus, two sets of the ostensibly unique one-time pad page sets were manufactured."

The decision by the Soviet codemakers to duplicate the pages was likely the result of a sudden shortage of one-time pads, a result of Hitler's invasion of Russia in June 1941. To quickly fill the enormous demand for the pads, Russian cryptographers likely chose the easiest course: carbon paper. Suddenly production was doubled while, it was reasoned, security was diminished only slightly.

Phillips estimated that between 1942 and 1948, when the last onetime pad was used, more than 1.5 million messages were transmitted to Soviet trade and diplomatic posts around the world. Of those, American codebreakers obtained about a million, 30,000 of which had been enciphered with the duplicate pages. But despite the bust, days and weeks of frustrating work were required to squeeze out a clear-text message from a cipher text. Even then, usually the most they would have was a long, out-of-date message concerning such things as shipping schedules of the Soviet Purchasing Commission.

For more than thirty years the codebreakers worked on those messages. By the time the file drawer was closed for the last time, in 1980, they had managed to read portions of more than 2,900 Soviet diplomatic telegrams sent between 1940 and 1948. Codenamed Venona, the program was one of the most successful in NSA's history. It played a major role in breaking up key Soviet espionage networks in the United States during the postwar period, including networks aimed at the secrets of the atomic bomb.


On April 25, 1945, as TICOM officers began sloshing through the cold mud of Europe, attempting to reconstruct the past, another group of codebreakers was focused on a glittering party half the earth away, attempting to alter the future.

Long black limousines, like packs of panthers, raced up and down the steep San Francisco hills from one event to another. Flower trucks unloaded roses by the bushel. Flashbulbs exploded and champagne flowed like water under the Golden Gate. The event had all the sparkle and excitement of a Broadway show, as well it should have. The man producing it was the noted New York designer Jo Mielziner, responsible for some of the grandest theatrical musicals on the Great White Way. "Welcome United Nations," proclaimed the bright neon marquee of a downtown cinema. The scene was more suited to a Hollywood movie premiere than a solemn diplomatic event. Crowds of sightseers pushed against police lines, hoping for a brief glimpse of someone famous, as delegates from more than fifty countries crowded into the San Francisco Opera House to negotiate a framework for a new world order.

But the American delegates had a secret weapon. Like cheats at a poker game, they were peeking at their opponents' hands. Roosevelt fought hard for the United States to host the opening session; it seemed a magnanimous gesture to most of the delegates. But the real reason was to better enable the United States to eavesdrop on its guests.

Coded messages between the foreign delegations and their distant capitals passed through U.S. telegraph lines in San Francisco. With wartime censorship laws still in effect, Western Union and the other commercial telegraph companies were required to pass on both coded and uncoded telegrams to US. Army codebreakers.

Once the signals were captured, a specially designed time-delay device activated to allow recorders to be switched on. Devices were also developed to divert a single signal to several receivers. The intercepts were then forwarded to Arlington Hall, headquarters of the Army codebreakers, over forty-six special secure teletype lines. By the summer of 1945 the average number of daily messages had grown to 289,802, from only 46,865 in February 1943. The same soldiers who only a few weeks earlier had been deciphering German battle plans were now unraveling the codes and ciphers wound tightly around Argentine negotiating points.

During the San Francisco Conference, for example, American codebreakers were reading messages sent to and from the French delegation, which was using the Hagelin M-209, a complex six-wheel cipher machine broken by the Army Security Agency during the war. The decrypts revealed how desperate France had become to maintain its image as a major world power after the war.
On April 29, for example, Fouques Duparc, the secretary general of the French delegation, complained in an encrypted note to General Charles de Gaulle in Paris that France was not chosen to be one of the "inviting powers" to the conference. "Our inclusion among the sponsoring powers," he wrote, "would have signified, in the eyes of all, our return to our traditional place in the world."

In charge of the San Francisco eavesdropping and codebreaking operation was Lieutenant Colonel Frank B. Rowlett, the protege of William F. Friedman. Rowlett was relieved when the conference finally ended, and he considered it a great success. "Pressure of work due to the San Francisco Conference has at last abated," he wrote, "and the 24-hour day has been shortened. The feeling in the Branch is that the success of the Conference may owe a great deal to its contribution."

The San Francisco Conference served as an important demonstration of the usefulness of peacetime signals intelligence. Impressive was not just the volume of messages intercepted but also the wide range of countries whose secrets could be read. Messages from Colombia provided details on quiet disagreements between Russia and its satellite nations as well as on "Russia's prejudice toward the Latin American countries." Spanish decrypts indicated that their diplomats in San Francisco were warned to oppose a number of Russian moves: "Red maneuver ... must be stopped at once," said one. A Czechoslovakian message indicated that nation's opposition to the admission of Argentina to the UN.

From the very moment of its birth, the United Nations was a microcosm of East-West spying. Just as with the founding conference, the United States pushed hard to locate the organization on American soil, largely to accommodate the eavesdroppers and codebreakers of NSA and its predecessors. The Russians, on the other hand, were also happy to have the UN on American soil -- it gave them a reason to ship dozens of additional spies across U.S. borders.


Since the discovery of the Russian Fish machine by TICOM at the end of the war, and the ability to read a variety of diplomatic, KGB, and trade messages as a result of the Venona breakthrough on Soviet onetime pads, American codebreakers had been astonishingly lucky. Virtually overnight they were placed in what NSA has called "a situation that compared favorably to the successes of World War II." For several years, American codebreakers were able to read encrypted Soviet armed forces, police, and industry communications and the agency could put together "a remarkably complete picture of the Soviet national security posture." But then, almost overnight in 1948, everything went silent. "In rapid succession, every one of these cipher systems went dark," said a recent NSA report, which called it "perhaps the most significant intelligence loss in U.S. history." It forever became known at NSA as Black Friday.

Just as the United States had successfully penetrated secret Soviet communications networks, so the Russians had secretly penetrated the Army Security Agency and later the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), into which ASA had been folded. Although he was never charged with espionage, a gregarious Russian linguist by the name of William Weisband became the chief suspect.
Born to Russian parents in Egypt in 1908, Weisband emigrated to the United States in the 1920s and became a U.S. citizen in 1938. Four years later he joined the Signal Security Agency and was assigned to Sigint activities in North Africa and Italy, before returning to Arlington Hall and joining its Russian Section. Although Weisband was not a cryptanalyst, his fluency in Russian gave him unique access to much of what the Russian codebreakers were doing. In 1950, after being suspended from work on suspicion of disloyalty, he skipped a federal grand jury hearing on Communist Party activity and, as a result, was convicted of contempt and sentenced to a year in prison. He died suddenly of natural causes in 1967, always having denied any involvement in espionage.

For American codebreakers, the lights could not have gone out at a worse time. In late June 1950, North Korean forces poured across the 38th Parallel into the south, launching the Korean War. Once again, as with Pearl Harbor, America was caught by surprise.

A year before the attack, the Army, Navy, and Air Force codebreaking organizations had been combined into a single unit, AFSA. But instead of establishing a strong, centralized organization to manage the growing worldwide signals intelligence operations, each service was allowed to retain control of both intercept and codebreaking activities. That left little for the director of AFSA to direct. Nor could he even issue assignments to field units. They would first have to pass through each of the services, which could then accept them, change them, or simply ignore them. Herbert L. Conley, who was in charge of Russian traffic analysis at AFSA in the late forties, and later headed up Russian codebreaking at NSA, likened the organization to a "three-headed monster." "He couldn't control anything outside of the buildings that were occupied," he said of the director.

In the weeks leading up to the attack, Korea barely registered as a Sigint target for AFSA. Out of two priority lists, North Korea was number fifteen on the secondary list. From listening posts at Kamiseya, Japan, and several other locations, most of the intercept activity was directed at Russia. Communist China was also a high priority, with eighty-seven intercept operators and analysts focused on it. But because AFSA had not broken any important Chinese cipher systems, most personnel concentrated on traffic analysis, the examination of the message's "external indicators," such as its date and "to" and "from" lines. North Korea, on the other hand, was targeted by just two intercept operators at the time the war broke out. In all, they had collected a paltry two hundred messages, and none of those had been processed. "AFSA had no Korean linguists, no Korean dictionaries, no traffic analytic aids, and no Korean typewriters," said a later NSA analysis.

Despite the limited resources, clues were there. Buried in stacks of intercepted Soviet traffic as far back as February were messages pointing to large shipments of medical supplies going from Russia to Korea. Other messages, about the same time, revealed a sudden and dramatic switch toward targets in South Korea by Soviet radio direction-finding units.

Suddenly, at 3:30 on the morning of June 25, 1950, Joseph Darrigo, a U.S. Army captain and the only American on the 38th Parallel, was jarred awake by the teeth-rattling roar of artillery fire. At that moment North Korean ground forces, led by 150 Soviet T-34 tanks, began their massive push into South Korea. Darrigo managed to escape just ahead of the advancing troops and spread the alarm. "AFSA (along with everyone else) was looking the other way when the war started," said a recent, highly secret NSA review. The first word to reach Washington carne from a news account by a reporter in Seoul.

Within days, the North Korean Army had captured Seoul and continued to steamroll south, seeking to unify the peninsula under the flag of communism. In response, American troops were quickly dispatched to provide assistance to South Korea as part of a United Nations force. By the end of the first week, 40,000 South Korean soldiers had been killed, captured, or declared missing in action.

Following the attack, AFSA began a quick push to beef up its ranks. The number of intercept positions targeting North Korean traffic jumped from two to twelve. Any signals even remotely North Korean were transmitted back to AFSA headquarters in Washington, arriving ten to twelve hours after intercept. Soon, new messages were arriving hourly and lights were burning around the clock.

Nevertheless, cryptanalysis was virtually nonexistent. In fact, the first few decrypts of enciphered North Korean air traffic were produced not by professional codebreakers but by an uncleared U.S. Army chaplain using captured codebooks.
Seconded into Sigint duty, Father Harold Henry had spent a number of years in Korea, where he learned the language. Most analysts instead concentrated on traffic analysis and plaintext intercepts -- highly useful because of poor communications security by the North Koreans during the early part of the war. Among the messages sent in the clear were secret battle plans.

Adding to the problems, it was three months before a small advanced Sigint unit actually arrived on the Korean peninsula. Radio direction finding was greatly hampered by the mountainous terrain. Then there were the supply shortages, outmoded gear, difficulties in determining good intercept sites, equipment ill-suited to frequent movement over rough terrain, and a significant lack of translators.

From the beginning, the ground war went badly. By the end of July, the Eighth Army, led by General Walton H. Walker, had been forced into a boxlike area known as the Pusan Perimeter, so named because it surrounded the southeastern port of Pusan. "When we got into the Perimeter, you never saw a more beat-up bunch of soldiers," recalled former PFC Leonard Korgie. "The North Koreans had hellish numbers and equipment. We were very, very thin in both."

Walker's one advantage was a constant supply of Sigint, which provided him with such vital information as the exact locations of North Korean positions. Armed with this intelligence, he was able to maximize his limited men and resources by constantly moving them to where new attacks were planned. Finally, following MacArthur's daring amphibious landing at Inchon, a port located behind enemy lines, Walker's men broke out of their box and joined in the attack, putting North Korea on the defensive.

In one sense, Sigint in Korea was like a scene from Back to the Future. After planting a number of sound-detecting devices forward of their bunkers to give warning of approaching troops, ASA soldiers discovered that the devices also picked up telephone calls. So they began using them for intercept -- a practice common during World War I but long forgotten. This "ground-return intercept," using the principle of induction, enabled the ASA to collect some Chinese and Korean telephone traffic. The downside, however, was that in order to pick up the signals the intercept operator had to get much closer to enemy lines than normal, sometimes as close as thirty-five yards.

"One of our problems in Korea was linguists, there were so few," said Paul Odonovich, an NSA official who served in Korea with the Army Security Agency. Odonovich commanded a company of intercept operators on the front lines. Sitting in antenna-bedecked vans, they, would mostly eavesdrop on North Korean "voice Morse," an unusual procedure whereby the North Korean military would read the Morse code over the communications channels rather than tap it out with a key. "They used the singsong 'dit-dot-dit-dit' business," said Odonovich.

Other units conducting low-level voice intercept (LLVI), as it was known, operated out of jeeps and bunkers close to the front lines. The intelligence was then disseminated directly to combat units. By the end of the war, twenty-two LLVI teams were in operation. Air Force intercept operators also had some successes. Operating from small islands off North Korea, Sigint units were able to intercept North Korean, Chinese, and Soviet instructions to their pilots. The intercept operators would then disguise the intelligence as "radar plots" and pass them on in near-real time to U.S. pilots operating over North Korean territory. Once they received the information, their "kill ratio" increased significantly.

After the battle began, the most important question was whether China would intervene. Since the end of World War II, Army Sigint specialists had engaged in a haphazard attack on Chinese communications. In 1945, General George Marshall attempted to bring Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek and Communist boss Mao Tse-tung to the negotiating table. At Marshall's request, a small group of intercept operators eavesdropped on both sides during the talks.

But the operation was less than a success. A team set up in Nanjing to intercept Nationalist communications was hampered by unreliable electrical power. Another, which targeted Communist links from a listening post in Seoul, was plagued with "poor hearability." Ironically, as the United States struggled, the British had been secretly listening to Chinese Communist communications for years. From 1943 until 1947, the Government Code and Cypher School successfully monitored a link between Moscow and Mao's headquarters in Yan'an, China. But because the link was part of a clandestine Soviet network, the decision was made to keep the Americans in the dark until March 1946.

Nevertheless, from the messages that the United States was able to intercept, it was clear that the two groups preferred to settle their differences on the battlefield rather than at the conference table. As a result, the Marshall mission was withdrawn in 1946. Thereafter, ASA dropped its study of Chinese Communist military ciphers and communications and turned its attention almost exclusively toward Russia. It would prove a serious mistake. Three years later, in 1949, Mao triumphed and Chiang fled to the island of Formosa.

About the same time, a small team of Chinese linguists led by Milton Zaslow began eavesdropping on and analyzing Chinese civilian communications -- private telephone calls and telegrams. Unencrypted government messages would also travel over these lines. Beginning in early summer 1950, AFSA began developing "clear and convincing evidence" that Chinese troops were massing north of the Yalu River.

In May and June, Sigint reports noted that some 70,000 Chinese troops were moving down the Yangtze River in ships toward the city of Wuhan. The next month a message intercepted from Shanghai indicated that General Lin Piao, the commander of Chinese army forces, would intervene in Korea. Later reports noted that rail hubs in central China were jammed with soldiers on their way to Manchuria. By September, AFSA had identified six field armies in Manchuria, near the Korean border, and ferries on the Yalu River were being reserved for military use.

All of these reports were fully available to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the White House, and to General Douglas MacArthur, the commander of the UN forces. Nevertheless, when asked by President Truman on October 15 about the chances of Chinese intervention, MacArthur replied, "Very little."

The indications continued. On October 21, AFSA issued a Sigint report stating that twenty troop trains were heading toward Manchuria from Shanghai. Then, on November 7, AFSA intercepted a radio-telephone call made by an East European in Beijing. He reported that orders had been issued allowing every Chinese soldier to volunteer to fight in Korea, saying, "We are already at war here." That same month, intercept operators picked up an unencrypted order for 30,000 maps of Korea to be sent from Shanghai to the forces in Manchuria.

Finally, intercepts during the first three weeks of November revealed that Beijing was in a state of emergency, with authorities sponsoring mass demonstrations demanding intervention, imposing more stringent censorship, improving air defense, and commanding that any soldier or officer could volunteer to serve in Korea. A medical headquarters urgently ordered troops in Manchuria to receive immunizations for diseases that were prevalent in North Korea -- smallpox, cholera, and typhoid fever. AFSA reports demonstrated clearly that the Chinese were making extensive preparations for war.

But despite the many Sigint clues, U.S. and South Korean forces were once again caught by surprise.
Early on the bitter- cold morning of November 26, with trumpets braying, thirty Chinese divisions surged across the North Korean border and forced U.S. and South Korean armies to make a precipitous retreat southward, costing the lives of many American soldiers.

"No one who received Comint product, including MacArthur's own G-2 [intelligence chief] in Tokyo, should have been surprised by the PRC intervention in the Korean War," said a recent, highly classified NSA review. The review then pointed a finger of blame for the disaster directly at MacArthur. "During the Second World War, MacArthur had disregarded Comint that contradicted his plans," it said. "MacArthur's zeal [to press ahead] to the Yalu probably caused him to minimize the Comint indicators of massive PRC intervention just as he had earlier minimized 'inconvenient' Comint reports about the Japanese. He thus drove his command to great defeat in Korea."

By mid-1951, with the 38th Parallel roughly dividing the two sides, ASA headquarters was established in the western suburbs of Seoul, on the campus of Ewha College, the largest women's school in Asia. There, traffic analysts put together a nearly complete Chinese army order of battle. Also, when truce negotiations began in July 1951, ASA units eavesdropped on meetings among the North Korean negotiating team. But that same month, the earphones of most of the intercept operators went silent as the North Koreans switched much of their radio communications to the security of landlines. NSA later attributed this caution to secrets allegedly passed to the Russians by former AFSA employee William Weisband.

Toward the end of the war, there were some tactical successes. By 1952, AFSA had broken a number of Chinese cipher systems. "The ... last three major pushes that the Chinese had against us, we got those lock, stock, and barrel, cold," recalled Odonovich. "So that when the Chinese made their advances on our positions they were dead ducks ... we had the code broken and everything."

But critical high-level communication between and among the Chinese and North Koreans was beyond the AFSA codebreakers' reach. Gone was the well-oiled machine that had helped win World War II. In its place was a confusing assortment of special-interest groups, each looking upon the other as the enemy; no one had the power to bring them together. "It has become apparent," complained General James Van Fleet, commander of the U.S. Eighth Army in June 1952, "that during the between-wars interim we have lost, through neglect, disinterest and possibly jealousy, much of the effectiveness in intelligence work that we acquired so painfully in World War II. Today, our intelligence operations in Korea have not yet approached the standards that we reached in the final year of the last war," A year later NSA director Ralph Canine, an Army lieutenant general, concurred with Van Fleet's observation.

So bad was the situation that in December 1951 the director of the CIA, Walter Bedell Smith, brought the problem to the attention of the National Security Council. In his memorandum, Smith warned that he was "gravely concerned as to the security and effectiveness with which the Communications Intelligence activities of the Government are being conducted." He complained that American Sigint had become "ineffective," as a result of the "system of divided authorities and multiple responsibilities."

Smith then discreetly referred to the mammoth security breach, blamed on Weisband, that had led the Soviets to change their systems. "In recent years," he said, "a number of losses have occurred which it is difficult to attribute to coincidence." To preserve what he called "this invaluable intelligence source" -- Sigint -- Smith called on Truman to ask Secretary of Defense Robert A. Lovett and Secretary of State Dean G. Acheson to conduct a "thorough investigation" of the agency. Three days later, on December 13, 1951, Truman ordered the investigation.

Appointed to head the probe was George Abbott Brownell, a fifty-three-year-old New York attorney and former special assistant to the secretary of the Air Force. Over six months, Brownell and his committee of distinguished citizens took AFSA apart and put it together again. In the end, they viewed AFSA as a "step backward." By June 13, 1952, when he turned his report over to Lovett and Acheson, Brownell had a blueprint for a strong, centralized new agency with a director more akin to a czar than to the wrestling referee the post resembled. Both secretaries approved and welcomed the independent review and set about carrying out its recommendations.

Four months later on October 24, Lovett, David K. Bruce from the State Department, and Everett Gleason of the NSC entered the Oval Office for a 3:30 off-the-record meeting with the president. There, Truman issued a highly secret order scrapping AFSA and creating in its place a new agency to be largely hidden from Congress, the public, and the world. Early on the morning of November 4, as Truman was leaving a voting booth in Independence, Missouri, the National Security Agency came to life.
But few gave the new agency much hope. "The 'smart money' was betting that the new organization would not last much longer than AFSA," scoffed one official.

That night, Dwight David Eisenhower was elected the thirty-fourth president of the United States.


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:56 pm
by admin
Part 1 of 2



Alongside Greenland's North Star Bay, thick with pack ice, the RB-47 taxied up to a 10,000-foot runway. Strapped into the left-hand seat, the command pilot looked over and saw his detachment commander flash the green light for three seconds: he could start his engines.

Nicknamed the Strata-Spy, the RB-47 was the Ferrari of electronic spy planes during the 1950s and early 1960s, with a speed of over 500 miles per hour and a ceiling of about 41,000 feet. Using the basic frame of a B-47 bomber, it was designed from the ground up strictly for eavesdropping. Its sleek silver wings, swept back at a 35-degree angle, were so long and heavy the tips drooped close to the ground. Weighing them down were six powerful turbojets capable of producing 6,000 pounds of thrust each. Like giant training wheels, landing gear extended from the two engines closest to the bullet-shaped fuselage. And to get off a short runway in a hurry, its fuselage was designed to accommodate thirty-three powerful rockets that could produce an instantaneous 1,000 pounds of thrust each.

For listening, the plane's shiny aluminum belly was covered with an acnelike assortment of discolored patches, bumps, pods, and appendages, each hiding a unique specialized antenna -- about 400 in all. A twelve-foot-long pod containing even more antennas and receivers was occasionally suspended from the right side of the aircraft.

The airborne electronic espionage operations, known as ferret missions, were so secret that the crews were forbidden from mentioning their aircraft, unit, or home base, or saying anything about their operations. "We usually snuck into our deployment base under the cover of darkness," said one RB-47 veteran, "and were hidden away on the far side of the field or in an isolated hangar well away from all other activities." Some detachment commanders forbade the crews even to be seen together in public. And, to avoid tipping off any spy that they were about to activate, crews would occasionally wear civilian work clothes over their flight suits when going to the flight line for a mission.

Ten minutes before takeoff at North Star Bay, the command pilot saw the green light flash twice for three seconds, clearing him to taxi out to the active runway. His engines gave an ear-piercing whine as he slowly turned into takeoff position. Once aboard the aircraft, the crew would maintain absolute radio silence in order to frustrate any Soviet electronic monitoring equipment. Even communication with ground control before takeoff was restricted to these brief light signals.

In the center of the plane, separated from the cockpit by a narrow crawlspace, were the three "Ravens" -- Air Force officers who were specialists in electronic intelligence. Packed in the tight space of what would normally have been the bomb bay, and surrounded by bulky electronic equipment, a Raven could be "excruciatingly uncomfortable," said former Raven Bruce Bailey, a veteran of hundreds of missions against the Soviet Union. On a typical flight, he said, the idea was to "stuff" the Ravens "into unbelievably cramped, noisy, dangerous hellholes and assure that they have a pressurization/air-conditioning system that doesn't work, ample fuel leaks, no acceptable method of escape, and cannot move around in flight."

The Ravens were confined for up to a dozen hours in a compartment only four feet high. "Not only was it impossible to stand," said Bailey, "there wasn't even enough room for a good crouch. Most movement was made on your knees or in a crawl." Noise was also a major problem. "The compartment had no insulation and its thin aluminum walls were nestled right between and slightly behind the six engines. In addition ... antennas and pods attached to the fuselage caused the skin to buffet and vibrate badly, adding to the noise."

Finally, as the aircraft leveled off, fuel would occasionally puddle in the compartment, filling the space with fumes. "With all the electrical gear and heat in the cabin, raw fuel made it a potential bomb," the former Raven pointed out. "When fuel was discovered, you immediately turned off all electrical power and depressurized the cabin. Then you hoped to get [the plane] on the ground before it blew up." Bailey, a retired Air Force lieutenant colonel, called the RB-47 Strata-Spy "an ugly, overweight, underpowered, unforgiving, uncomfortable, dangerous, and noisy airplane." Nevertheless, he added, "all of us who flew in it eventually grew to love it."

The entrance to the Raven compartment was a two-foot-square hatch on the bottom side of the fuselage. Once the three Ravens were aboard, the hatch would be sealed from the outside with forty-eight large screws. Squeezed together in the small space, all facing aft, the electronic spies were surrounded by scopes, receivers, analyzers, recorders, and controls.

Raven One, the commander of the group, sat in the right forward corner of the cabin. In addition to banks of equipment in front and to his left, he had a wide array of analog, video, and digital recorders stacked tight along the wall to his right and behind him. During the flight, he would keep his ears finely tuned for airborne-intercept radar signals from hostile Soviet fighters. From the sound and the wavy lines on his scopes, he could tell just how threatening those fighters might be. Raven Two, who listened for Soviet ground control and intercept radar systems, would be the first to know when the Strato-Spy was being tracked. Raven Three was responsible for analyzing the Soviet early warning and missile guidance signals, one of the principal objectives of the mission.

With two minutes to go, his preflight checks completed, the navigator began the countdown to takeoff. He was seated facing forward in the black nose of the plane, just below and in front of the pilot. His cabin was darkened so he could better see his radarscopes; his only natural light came from two small windows above his seat.

At one minute to takeoff, a steady green light signaled to the command pilot that he was cleared to fly the mission. With a deafening roar, he eased forward on the throttles, bringing his engines up to 100 percent power. By then the brakes were bucking and straining as they fought to hold back 36,000 pounds of forward thrust. The pilot carefully stabilized the engines.

Ten seconds before the zero mark the pilot flipped the water-alcohol injection switches, giving the plane a powerful boost so that it suddenly jumped forward briefly, like a lion about to pounce. From the half-dozen turbojets, thick clouds of heavy black smoke filled the sky.

At exactly ten o'clock the spy plane shuddered and let out a loud scream as the pilot released the brakes. Lumbering at first, the quarter-million pounds of steel and flesh were soon racing down the long frozen runway at nearly 200 miles per hour, leaving behind a gray trail of smoke and mist. A "ground lover," the heavy bird required well over two miles of surface for liftoff. As the concrete began to run out, the pilot pulled firmly back on his yoke and the aircraft knifed gracefully skyward.

In the spring of 1956 perhaps the most serious and risky espionage operation ever undertaken by the United States was launched. President Eisenhower authorized an invasion of Russian airspace by armed American bombers carrying eavesdropping gear and cameras instead of nuclear weapons. Details of the operation are still wrapped in great secrecy.

Nicknamed Project Homerun, the operation was staged from an air base near the frozen Eskimo village of Thule, Greenland,
a desert of ice and snow 690 miles north of the Arctic Circle. In the purple-black of the polar winter, aircraft mechanics labored in -35º temperatures to prepare the nearly fifty bombers and tankers that would play a role in the massive incursion, one of the most secret missions of the Cold War. Housing for the flight and maintenance crews consisted of temporary buildings that looked like railroad refrigerator cars.

The mission was to penetrate virtually the entire northern landmass of Russia, a bleak, white 3,500-mile-long crescent of snow-covered permafrost stretching from the Bering Strait near Alaska to Murmansk and the Kola Peninsula in European Russia. At the time, little was known about the vast Soviet Arctic region. Yet, because a flight over the North Pole was the shortest way for Russian bombers and missiles to reach the U.S. mainland, it was the most likely battleground for the next war. At the same time, it was also the most likely route for an American invasion of Russia. Thus any Soviet radar operator seeing the bombers would have no way of knowing that the mission was espionage and not war. Despite the enormous risks of igniting World War III, President Eisenhower approved the operation.

On March 21, 1956, a group of RB-47 reconnaissance bombers took off for target locations within Russia. Almost daily over the next seven weeks, between eight and ten bombers launched, refueled over the North Pole, and continued south across the Russian border to their assigned locations.

They flew in teams of two. One RB-47H ferret would pinpoint and eavesdrop on radar, air bases, and missile installations. Nearby, an RB-47E photoreconnaissance plane would gather imagery. Their assignments included overflying such sensitive locations as Novaya Zemlya, the banana-shaped island where Russia carried out its most secret atomic tests. From moment of takeoff to moment of landing, absolute radio silence was required, even during the occasional chase by a MiG. "One word on the radio, and all missions for the day had to abort," said Brigadier General William Meng, one of the officers who ran the penetration operation. "But that never happened; not one mission was ever recalled."

As in a Fourth of July fireworks display, the most spectacular mission was saved for the end. On May 6, they began the single most daring air operation of the Cold War, a "massed overflight" of Soviet territory. The point was to cover a great deal of territory, quickly. Six armed RB47E aircraft, flying abreast, crossed the North Pole and penetrated Russian airspace in broad daylight, as if on a nuclear bombing run. They entered above Ambarchik in western Siberia, then turned eastward, collecting valuable intelligence as they passed over key Russian air bases and launch sites on their way toward Anadyr on the Bering Strait. Nearly a dozen hours after it began, the massed overflight ended when the spy planes touched down at Eielson Air Force Base in Alaska.

Within minutes of the landing, the recording tapes were sent by a special courier flight to NSA for analysis. They revealed no Soviet radar signals -- proof that, at least for the time being, Russia was blind to an over-the-pole attack by American nuclear bombers. The vast sweep of frozen tundra making up Russia's northern frontier was virtually radar-free. Nevertheless, no one dared speculate on how the mission might have ended if hidden Soviet radar installations had picked up the incoming bombers and believed that they were sent on an American surprise attack. With only seconds to spare, the Russians might well have launched a counterattack, with devastating results.

In all, 156 eavesdropping and photo missions were flown over Russian airspace during the almost two months of Project Homerun without the loss of a single aircraft -- and without a nuclear war. Nevertheless, Moscow was well aware of the air invasion. Eight days after the massed overflight, a protest note was delivered to the American ambassador in Moscow. Publicly, however, the Kremlin said nothing; the humiliation would have been too great.

Throughout the 1950s the ferrets, like mosquitoes hunting for an exposed patch of skin, buzzed the long Soviet border.
They were searching for holes in Russia's vast fence of air-defense radar sites. At the time, the Soviet military had not yet completed work on a nationwide network. Nor was much of the interior protected.

As a CIA report points out, human spies had effectively been put out of action. "The stringent security measures imposed by the Communist Bloc nations," said the study, "effectively blunted traditional methods for gathering intelligence: secret agents using covert means to communicate intelligence, travelers to and from target areas who could be asked to keep their eyes open and report their observations later, wiretaps and other eavesdropping methods, and postal interceptions. Indeed, the entire panoply of intelligence tradecraft seemed ineffective against the Soviet Bloc, and no other methods were available."

But while the Communist governments of Eastern Europe and Asia could draw impenetrable iron curtains around their countries, hiding such things as the development of nuclear weapons and missile technology, they could not build roofs over them. Nor could their armed guards halt the continuous streams of invisible signals escaping across their borders.

While the eavesdropping bombers occasionally flew deep into Soviet airspace, other ferret missions engaged in the dangerous game of fox and hounds. Probing and teasing the hostile air defense networks, they would dart back and forth across sensitive borders, daring the Soviets to react. There was no other way to force the missile batteries and border defense installations to turn on their secret tracking equipment and thus enable the American signal snatchers to capture the precious electrons.
Once analyzed, the information enabled war planners to determine where the holes were and how best to build equipment to counteract the radar and fire control systems.

It was a time and a place where spy wars were fought with armor-piercing bullets and heat-seeking missiles rather than with whispered words over cocktails or bulky envelopes deposited under dead tree trunks. Unlike the U-2 spy planes, the converted bombers flew low -- well within the range of Russian missiles and warplanes.

In 1954, two years before Project Homerun, three RBA7 reconnaissance planes took off from England and headed toward Russia's northern Kola Peninsula, which borders the Barents Sea. It was an area of extreme secrecy, and considered the most likely spot from which the Soviets would launch a nuclear attack. At the time, the United States was desperate to obtain intelligence on the number and location of the new Soviet jet-turbine-powered long-range bombers, codenamed Bison.

At about one hundred miles from the heavily defended port city of Murmansk, two of the aircraft turned back as planned. The third, however, continued straight for the coastline. With no wingman to supply cover, the air crystal-clear, and the sun directly overhead, Captain Harold Austin, a tall, thin Texan, aimed the black nose of his converted bomber directly for Murmansk and pushed hard on the throttles. "The weather was gorgeous," he recalled. "We could see forever." He sped high over the Russian coastline at just over 500 miles an hour. But within minutes of turning on the cameras and eavesdropping equipment, MiGs were scrambling skyward.

Above and below, Austin could see the tracer bullets, and he yelled at his copilot to return fire. Air Force captain Carl Holt had swiveled his narrow seat 180 degrees to the rear and was pressing hard on the fire control button for his twin cannons. In the cloudless sky he stopped counting at about ten MiGs. "The guns won't work," he shouted above the roar of the six powerful turbojets. "Well, you'd better kick something back there and get the damn things to work a little bit anyway, or we may be a dead duck here!" Austin roared in a deep Texas drawl. Austin quickly banked toward Finland. But a fighter from above put a shell through the top of his port wing, destroying the intercom and knocking a hole in the fuel tank. By the time they crossed into friendly territory, their plane was dangerously low on fuel, but a lucky rendezvous with a tanker saved Austin, his crew, and the mission tapes.

Largely secret until now, the bomber overflights and ferret missions were the dark underside of the Cold War, an invisible hot war in which the lives of more than two hundred silent warriors were lost and more than forty American aircraft were shot down.


As American spy planes were drawing protests from Russia, a major crisis was developing in Europe and the Middle East. During the president's morning briefings, aides with maps were beginning to run out of pins to mark the hot spots. On July 26, 1956, following a fiery speech, Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. The action would lead to a mini-war with England, France, and Israel and a cooling of relations with the European allies of the United States. It would also, according to a highly secret NSA report, become "the first major test of the National Security Agency during a short-term, 'brushfire' crisis."

Sitting in the director's office was Lieutenant General Ralph Julian Canine, of the Army, the agency's first director, whom many considered the father of NSA. Portly and white-haired, the fifty-five-year-old general had spent most of his career as an infantry soldier, with little experience in intelligence. He often reminded those around him that what most qualified him to be the director of NSA was his long experience with pack mules.

"People were scared of him," said Air Force colonel Frank L. Herrelko, a burly one-time coal miner who worked for Canine as his director of communications security, the codemaking side of the business. "But deep down he had a heart of gold." Once onboard, Herrelko made the serious mistake of pronouncing Canine like the dog, "Kay-Nine." "I paid for that for the next eight months," said Herrelko. "After that he called me boy. He would only call me Colonel in front of somebody else. He called me boy."

The seizure of the Suez Canal came as the last move in a bitter game of Cold War poker. For months, the United States and Russia had been subtly bidding against each other for the costly right to help Egypt pay for an important dam across the Nile. Nasser was a key leader of the Arab world and he controlled a strategic piece of real estate; his friendship was an alluring prize. The price was the Aswan High Dam. Knowing his value and hoping to up the bids, Nasser awkwardly attempted to play one side off the other. Instead, the United States folded its cards and Russia, now without competition, began hedging its bet. Frustrated, Nasser declared martial law along the canal and ordered shipping companies to pay Egypt rather than the Canal Company.

Although Nasser never indicated any desire to close the canal or restrict shipping, the British and French governments, part owners of the Canal Company, nevertheless feared their passage might be blocked.
Like a plasma tube, the canal allowed vital oil shipments to pass from refineries in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere, to storage tanks in England and France.

Soon after Nasser nationalized the canal, Britain joined France in an ambitious plot to take back the canal by force. Rather than appear as an aggressor, however, France secretly enlisted the help of Israel. The intrigue involved Israel launching a war against Egypt. Then, once Egypt began defending itself, England and France would go in as "peacekeepers." As part of the "peace," the canal would be taken from Egypt and kept by Britain and France. Israel would capture the Sinai from Egypt. It was a deceitful plan, which smacked of a return to the worst days of colonialism. Nevertheless, it was fully agreed to by Israeli prime minister David Ben-Gurion, defense minister Shimon Peres, and armed forces chief Moshe Dayan. Britain's prime minister, Anthony Eden, informed of Israel's planned key role, likewise gave his country's approval. For all involved in the cabal, it was essential to keep the precise details of the elaborate conspiracy hidden from Washington: At the same time, however, it was also essential to win Washington's support once the hostilities began.

As the crisis quietly grew, the American intelligence community began turning its eyes and ears on the Middle East. On Monday, August 6, Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sat alongside the president's desk and brought to Eisenhower's attention NSA's latest intercepts from Spain and Syria, revealing their attitudes and intentions following the seizure. From Israel, however, there was nothing.

NSA's expensive machine was not working. It had only two settings: Communist Europe and Communist Asia. Under the postwar United Kingdom-USA (UKUSA) Communications Intelligence Agreement, the world had been divided into spheres of interest. Through its listening posts in England and on Cyprus, GCHQ, NSA's longtime British partner, was to monitor much of Western Europe and the Middle East. But now, to hide from Washington its invasion plans, GCHQ was passing on only selected intercepts.

Deceived by its partner, NSA could do little by itself. The agency had few Arabic or Hebrew linguists and it was not equipped to eavesdrop on British, French, or Israeli military communications. All NSA knew was that traffic analysis indicated that "communications between Paris and Tel Aviv were extremely heavy," as were those between Britain and France.

To make matters worse, the agency was in the middle of moving from Washington to a new headquarters twenty-five miles north, at Fort Meade in Maryland. Files, people, and equipment were scattered among Arlington Hall in Virginia, where the main codebreaking and analysis were done; the Naval Security Station in Washington, which served as headquarters and was responsible for codemaking; and the new building at Fort Meade where operations were to be consolidated. Communications among the various areas were jury-rigged and couriers were required to move intercepted traffic between locations four times a day. Adding to the confusion, General Canine was clearing his desk and getting ready to retire. As one NSA analysis later acknowledged, "1956 was a bad time for NSA to get involved in a crisis."

As the full extent of the elaborate French-Israeli-British plot became clear, Eisenhower grew outraged. He told Britain and France that they should expect no American assistance with their adventure. Over the phone, Dulles told Eisenhower the action was "about as crude and brutal as anything [I] have ever seen" and called the Anglo-French ultimatum "unacceptable." "Expect the Russians to be in on this," Eisenhower said. Allen Dulles, at the CIA, called his brother. "It was the gravest situation between our countries in years," Allen said.

The issue of what action to take against Israel was hotly debated. "It would be a complete mistake for this country to continue with any kind of aid to Israel," Eisenhower argued, "which was an aggressor." Harold Stassen objected but John Foster Dulles answered, "One thing at least was clear: We do not approve of murder. We have simply got to refrain from resorting to force in settling international disputes.... If we stand by in this crisis, the whole United Nations will go down the drain." Eisenhower agreed.

In London, the heavy pressures exerted by the United States, Russia, and the international community had become too great. A cease-fire was agreed to, thus ending one of the most serious confrontations America had faced since the end of World War II.

The Suez crisis had a profound effect on NSA. It marked a dismal entry into the world of crisis intelligence. An internal analysis of the agency's performance was harshly critical: "As for crisis response, all was chaos. The cryptologic community proved incapable of marshalling its forces in a flexible fashion to deal with developing trouble spots. The events of the year did not demonstrate success -- they simply provided a case study to learn from."

In a highly unusual move, Canine enlisted the help of an outside management firm to examine the agency's problems. Suddenly consultants from McKinsey and Company began crisscrossing NSA's hallways, going over NSA's highly secret organizational charts, and studying the flow of intercepts from NSA's worldwide network of listening posts. Canine's key concern was whether the agency would function more effectively if its organization was based primarily on function-traffic analysis, cryptanalysis, and so on -- or on geography. And how centralized should NSA become?

The consultants recommended a complete change.
The repercussions, according to a later NSA report, lasted more than thirty years. Soon after he arrived, Canine had reorganized the new agency along functional lines. Now McKinsey proposed a "modified geographical concept." Signals intelligence would be organized according to target -- the Soviet Union and its satellite countries; China and Communist Asia; and so on. Each of those sections would include specific disciplines, such as cryptanalysis and traffic analysis.

Thus NSA-70, which was responsible for all high-level cryptanalysis, was replaced by ADVA ("Advanced Soviet"), which focused exclusively on new ways to attack high-level Soviet cipher problems. GENS ("General Soviet") concentrated mainly on mid- and lower-level Russian crypto systems, as well as on analysis of content. ACOM (Asian Communist) attempted to exploit the systems of China, North Korea, and the rest of Communist Asia. Finally, ALLO ("All Others") analyzed the systems belonging to the nations making up the rest of the world, including America's allies. ALLO-34, for example, was responsible for Middle East traffic analysis. Three other divisions were primarily for support: MPRO ("Machine Processing") was responsible for computer number crunching; TCOM ("Telecommunications") controlled the worldwide flow of signals; and Collection managed the NSA's far-flung network of listening posts.

On November 23, 1956, Ralph Canine walked out of NSA for the last time as director. "Canine ... stands out as the guy who everybody respected in the agency," recalled Howard Campaigne. "I was surprised to learn later that the people above him didn't think nearly as much [of him] as we did. He made a tremendous impression."


In a restricted corner of a remote air base in Peshawar, Pakistan, Francis Gary Powers sat shoehorned into the narrow cockpit of U-2 Number 360. At twenty minutes past six on the morning of May 1, 1960, the scorching sun had already pushed above the tallest peaks of the western Himalayas. In the low, fertile plain known as the Vale of Peshawar, rippling heat waves created the impression of an endless lake. Powers was locked in a white space helmet and a tightly tailored pressure suit. Beads of sweat flowed down from his short brown hair and passed across his broad forehead and cheekbones in thin streams. His long underwear was soaked with perspiration.

The first U-2 had been launched from West Germany four years earlier, on Independence Day of 1956. Shortly before, NSA had detected a possible mobilization by Moscow in response to a series of riots in East Germany, thus making the mission more urgent. But hope that the U-2 would be able to slip across the Soviet Union undetected was dashed by the eavesdroppers at Fort Meade. "NSA picked up the [Soviet] transmission of their [the U-2's] track so we knew that they had been tracked a good deal of the time," said Richard M. Bissell, Jr., the CIA official who ran the program. Nevertheless, seeing where the Russians were able to pick up the plane and where they weren't gave NSA an indication of just where the holes were in Soviet radar coverage.

As he did with the bomber overflights, Eisenhower played a major role in the planning for each mission. "He would sometimes cut out particular legs or say, 'Well, don't go from A to B to C, go from A to C,'" according to Bissell.

In Peshawar, Powers looked at his watch. The mission was now almost a half-hour behind schedule. He had never before had to wait so long for final clearance from the White House. In fact, Eisenhower had already given the mission a thumbs-up, but because of radio problems the message had not gotten through to the operations officer in Peshawar.

Although much attention would later be focused on the U-2s' photo role, the planes' eavesdropping missions, codenamed Green Hornet, were equally important. A U-2's intercept equipment, known as System-V, was installed in the bay that normally housed the main camera. It consisted of sophisticated' electronic receivers and large-capacity recorders that used Mylar tape. Scores of antennas, like small blades, were attached to the fuselage, each dedicated to particular frequency bands. Powers's first eavesdropping mission took the plane along the Soviet border from the Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and on to Afghanistan. According to a CIA report, "the System-V unit worked well."

Soon after his assignment to Adana, Turkey, Powers began flying Green Hornet missions. "We usually flew from Turkey eastward along the southern border of the Soviet Union," he recalled, "over Iran and Afghanistan as far as Pakistan, and back. We also flew along the Black Sea, and, on occasion, as far west as Albania, but never penetrating, staying off the coast, over international waters.... Since these 'eavesdropping' missions were eventually to become fairly frequent, there was a tendency to minimize their importance, but in many ways they were as valuable as the overflights, the data obtained enabling the United States to pinpoint such things as Russian antiaircraft defenses and gauge their effectiveness."

On the top of the priority list, according to Powers, were Soviet space and missile launches which normally took place at night and, from the altitude of the U-2, "were often spectacular," he said. "The equipment we carried on such occasions was highly sophisticated. One unit came on automatically the moment the launch frequency was used and collected all the data sent out to control the rocket. The value of such information to our own scientists was obvious." Indeed it was. The U-2's ability to soar thirteen miles high along the Soviet border gave it a unique ability to eavesdrop on telemetry data during the earliest phases of the flight. The U-2, said one CIA report at the time, "possesses altitude capabilities which make it a unique platform for the reliable acquisition of high quality telemetry data prior to first stage burnout on Tyuratam [missile center] launchings. Such data is of extreme importance in determining ICBM characteristics."

Finally, the link from Washington to Peshawar was made. Colonel William Shelton, the detachment chief, leaped from the radio van and ran across the field to give Powers the hand signal for takeoff. It would be the twenty-fourth U-2 overflight of the Soviet Union, and the last.

Powers locked his canopy from the inside, turned on the pressurization system, and pulled back hard on the throttle, sending the plane into a steep climb, a roller-coaster ride up to the blue-black curve of space. Below passed the barren dusty-brown landscape of Afghanistan and the peaks of the Hindu Kush, spiking through the thin cloud cover like daggers. An hour later, reaching penetration altitude of 66,000 feet, he passed over the Soviet border, high above the village of Kirovabad in the remote Tadjik Republic. Oddly, Powers felt the Russians knew he was coming.

In this, he was perceptive. Soviet radar had begun tracking the plane before it ever reached the border. Immediately, an alert was telephoned to command headquarters and air defense staff officers were summoned to their posts.

In still-darkened Moscow, gaily decorated for the grand May Day celebration, a telephone rang next to Party Chairman Khrushchev's bed. "Minister of Defense Marshal Malinovsky reporting," said the voice on the other end. Malinovsky told his boss that a U-2 had crossed the border from Afghanistan and was flying in the direction of Sverdlovsk, in central Russia. "Shoot down the plane by whatever means," barked the Soviet leader. "If our antiaircraft units can just keep their eyes open and stop yawning long enough," he added, "I'm sure we'll knock the plane down." The days of protest were over. "We were sick and tired of these unpleasant surprises -- sick and tired of being subjected to these indignities," Khrushchev later wrote. "They were making these flights to show up our impotence. Well, we weren't impotent any longer."

But Powers was in luck. A missile battalion more than a dozen miles below was not on alert duty that day. A missile launch was considered but then rejected as unfeasible. Instead, fighter aircraft were scrambled in an attempt to shoot down the plane. "An uncomfortable situation was shaping up," recalled former Soviet Air Force colonel Alexander Orlov, who was involved in air defense at the time. "The May Day parade was scheduled to get underway at mid-morning, and leaders of the party, the government, and the Armed Forces were to be present as usual. In other words, at a time when a major parade aimed at demonstrating Soviet military prowess was about to begin, a not-yet-identified foreign aircraft was flying over the heart of the country and Soviet air defenses appeared unable to shoot it down."

"Shamel" Khrushchev screamed at Marshal S. S. Biryuzov, the chief of the Air Defense Forces. "The country was giving air defense everything it needs, and still you cannot shoot down a subsonic aircraft!" Biryuzov had no excuses. "If I could become a missile," he fumed, "I myself would fly and down this damned intruder." The tension was palpable. "Nerves of military people at airfields," said Orlov, "missile positions, command-and-control facilities, the Air Force, and the Air Defense Forces were badly frayed.... Khrushchev demanded that the intruding aircraft be shot down at all costs. The Soviet leader and his lieutenants clearly viewed the violation of their nation's skies by a foreign reconnaissance aircraft on the day of a Soviet national holiday, and just two weeks before a summit conference in Paris, as a political provocation."

Russian radar continued to follow the U-2 across the Central Asian republics. By the time Powers reached the Tashkent area, as many as thirteen MiGs had been scrambled in an unsuccessful attempt to shoot him down. Far below, Powers could see the condensation trail of a single-engine jet moving fast in the opposite direction. Five to ten minutes later he saw another contrail, this time moving in the same direction, paralleling his course. "I was sure now they were tracking me on radar," he later recalled, "vectoring in and relaying my heading to the aircraft."

But Powers knew that at his altitude there was no way for the pilots even to see him, let alone attack him. "If this was the best they could do," he thought, "I had nothing to worry about." He then wondered how the Russians felt, knowing he was up there but unable to do anything about it. Had he known of a top secret CIA study the previous summer he might not have been so cocky, but the pilots were never informed of its findings. The study gave the U-2 a very limited life because of improvements in Soviet ground-to-air missiles. It recommended that the overflights be terminated and replaced by border surveillance flights: "In view of the improving Soviet air defense effort, we believe that the utilization of the aircraft may soon be limited to peripheral operations."


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:57 pm
by admin
Part 2 of 2

By now, 4-1/2 hours into the mission, Powers was approaching his first important target, the Tyuratam Missile Test Range. This was the Soviet Union's most important space launch site. Three days earlier, CIA Director Dulles reported to the president and the National Security Council that Russia had recently attempted to launch two space vehicles, probably lunar probes. "Evidence indicates that both attempts failed," he said. "The vehicle launched on April 15 did not attain a velocity sufficient to send it to the moon.... The second Soviet space vehicle lifted from the launching pad but failed immediately." The short interval between the two attempts, he concluded, "probably indicates that the USSR has a second launching pad at Tyuratam." Up to then, the United States had known of only one.

This information, produced by NSA listening posts and ferret missions, was considered so secret that Dulles took the unusual precaution of reminding the council and even the president of how closely it was held. "Intelligence concerning Soviet failures in the launching of missiles or space vehicles," he warned, "was very sensitive information."

In addition to photographing the missile site, Powers had a second key mission -- this one for NSA: to eavesdrop on the radar systems surrounding the base. On board were special recorders that could capture the signals. After landing, the tapes would be flown back to Fort Meade for analysis.

Large thunderclouds obscured Powers's view of the test site, but he nevertheless switched on the cameras, which might capture proof of the second launch pad. At the same moment, he entered the engagement zone of a surface-to-air-missile battalion. "Destroy target," the officer in charge of the unit shouted. Immediately an SA-2 missile was fired. This time the missilemen's eyes were wide open -- and the Soviets were lucky. A fireball exploded behind Powers, damaging the U-2's tail and wings but leaving the cockpit unharmed. At the air defense facility below, the small dot on the radar began to blink. The plane was breaking up.

"My God, I've had it now!" Powers gasped. He felt a dull thump and a tremendous orange flash filled the cockpit. As his plane began to dip toward the ground from 70,500 feet, on the very edge of space, Powers fought for control. The orange glow, he thought, seemed to last for minutes. "Instinctively I grasped the throttle with my left hand," he recalled, "and keeping my right hand on the wheel, checked instruments."

All of a sudden a violent force sent him bouncing within the cockpit and he knew both wings had come off. He was now in a tailless, wingless missile heading rapidly toward earth. "What was left of the plane began spinning.... All I could see was blue sky, spinning, spinning."

With pressurization lost, Powers's space suit had inflated and was squeezing him tighter and tighter. At the same time, the g-forces were pushing him toward the nose of the plane. "I reached for the destruct switches [to blow up the plane]," he said, "opening the safety covers, had my hand over them, then changed my mind, deciding I had better see if I could get into position to use the ejection seat first." Forced forward in his seat, he was afraid that when he ejected his legs would be sliced off. "I didn't want to cut them off, but if it was the only way to get out ..."

Instead of ejecting, Powers began to climb out of the cockpit. He unlocked the canopy and it jetted into space. "The plane was still spinning," said Powers. "I glanced at the altimeter. It had passed thirty-four thousand feet and was unwinding very fast." The centrifugal force threw him halfway out of the aircraft, smashing his head against the rearview mirror and snapping the mirror off. "I saw it fly away," Powers recalled. "That was the last thing I saw, because almost immediately my face plate frosted over."

Half in and half out of the disintegrating spy plane, Powers was still trapped. He suddenly realized that he had forgotten to unfasten his oxygen hoses and now they were turning into a noose. After minutes that seemed like hours of struggle, the hoses broke and suddenly, unbelievably, he was free. "It was a pleasant, exhilarating feeling," he thought. "Even better than floating in a swimming pool." Later he said, "I must have been in shock."

At an NSA listening post in Turkey, intercept operators began picking up some worrisome signals. For more than four hours they had been eavesdropping on Soviet radar installations as the Russians tracked Powers's U-2 flight.

It had long been one of NSA's neatest tricks. Because radar signals travel in a straight line and the earth is curved, it was impossible for American radar stations outside Russia to detect air activity deep within the country. However, Soviet radar installations throughout the country communicated with each other over high-frequency circuits. Because high-frequency signals bounce between the earth and the ionosphere, the right equipment can pick them up thousands of miles away. Thus, by eavesdropping on Soviet radar networks as they transmitted signals between their bases over these channels, NSA could, in effect, watch Russian radar screens far inside the country.

For years American intercept operators in Turkey had eavesdropped on Soviet radar installations as they tracked the occasional U-2 overflight. But because the spy planes flew far too high for either Russian MiGs or their SA-2 surface-to-air missiles, they were out of harm's way. It was like throwing a rock at a passing jetliner. This time, however, something was different; something was very wrong. "He's turning left!" the Americans heard a Soviet pilot shout. A few moments later the intercept operators watched the U-2 suddenly disappear from Russian radar screens near Sverdlovsk.

A CRITIC message was sent to NSA, the White House, and other locations in Washington. The information reached the CIA's Operations Center at 3:30 A.M.


They flew in low and swift, arriving with the dawn. The rhythmic thwap, thwap, thwap of the long blades competed briefly with the sounds of electric shavers and percolating coffee in town houses in northwest Washington and in split-levels in the nearby Maryland and Virginia suburbs. Almost simultaneously, they began landing on dirt fields, creating miniature dust storms, and in vacant lots, where commuters were briefly startled to see large, dark helicopters in their favorite parking spaces.

At the White House the sun was just starting to peek from behind the Washington Monument, casting an early-morning shadow across the neatly landscaped Ellipse and illuminating the few remaining cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin. President Eisenhower had been awakened by the phone call only minutes earlier and now he was being rushed out through the curved diplomatic entrance to his waiting chopper, ducking his head to avoid the slice of the still-spinning blades.

A few miles to the east, the wife of Secretary of Defense Thomas Gates, still in her nightgown, negotiated through traffic as her husband read out lefts and rights to a secret landing spot within NSA's heavily protected naval headquarters on Nebraska Avenue. The secretary was in for trouble, however: his pass was still sitting back home on his dresser.

When the White House switchboard reached the president's science adviser he was standing under the hot spray of his shower. There was no time to dry off, he was told as he quickly jotted down instructions. In Georgetown, CIA Director Allen Dulles managed to get a ride from another senior official when his car picked this of all mornings to stall.

It was Thursday, the fifth of May. Within half an hour of the emergency calls, part of this long-planned "Doomsday" practice exercise, helicopters carrying the nearly two dozen senior national security officials were flying south over the thick green canopy that covers the Virginia countryside. Their destination was a secret command center dug deep into Mount Weather in the Blue Ridge Mountains and built on a series of giant nuclear-shock-absorbing steel springs. Its code name was High Point, but members of the president's inner circle also called it simply "the hideout."

In Moscow at that very moment, a bald, rotund ex-miner in a tent-like business suit stood before the Supreme Soviet and punched the air with his fist like a bare-knuckles boxer. "Shame to the aggressor!" he bellowed, "Shame to the aggressor!" Standing on the stage of the white-chambered Great Kremlin Palace, Chairman Nikita S. Khrushchev had just brought some news to the thirteen hundred members of the Soviet parliament. "I must report to you on aggressive actions against the Soviet Union in the past few weeks by the United States of America," he said, his voice rising to a shout. "The United States has been sending aircraft that have been crossing our state frontiers and intruding upon the airspace of the Soviet Union. We protested to the United States against several previous aggressive acts of this kind and brought them to the attention of the United Nations Security Council. But as a rule, the United States offered formalistic excuses and tried in every way to deny the facts of aggression -- even when the proof was irrefutable."

Then the surprise. Five days before, on May Day, "early in the morning, at 5:36 Moscow time, an American plane crossed our frontier and continued its flight deep into Soviet territory.... The plane was shot down." The packed auditorium broke into pandemonium, shaking with applause and wild cheers, stamping their feet. "Just imagine what would have happened had a Soviet aircraft appeared over New York, Chicago or Detroit," he added. "How would the United States have reacted? ... That would mean the outbreak of war!" Pointing to the west and stabbing the air once again, Khrushchev yelled, "The question then arises: who sent this aircraft across the Soviet frontier? Was it the American Commander-in-Chief who, as everyone knows, is the president? Or was this aggressive act performed by Pentagon militarists without the president's knowledge? If American military men can take such action on their own," he concluded, "the world should be greatly concerned." More earsplitting applause.

The timing of the long-planned Doomsday rehearsal seemed almost uncanny to the casually dressed officials in the cement bunker beneath Mount Weather. Five days earlier the U-2 spy plane carrying Francis Gary Powers had gone down over Central Russia -- and then, not a peep. All concluded that the aircraft had crashed, killing the pilot. A standard cover story had been issued the next day. Approved by Eisenhower in 1956, at the beginning of the overflight program, this cover story had it that the missing plane belonged to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and had been on a routine air sampling mission in Turkey. "Following cover plan to be implemented immediately," said the CIA's top secret message to its field stations. "U-2 aircraft was on weather mission originating Adana, Turkey. Purpose was study of clear air turbulence. During flight in Southeast Turkey, pilot reported he had oxygen difficulties...."

Deep in the hideout, Eisenhower's astonishment grew as each new page of Khrushchev's speech was handed to him. It had flashed across the wires shortly after the U.S. officials were airborne. The Soviets were not only taking credit for blasting the spy plane out of the sky with a missile, they were pointing the finger of responsibility directly at the president. The American press was also beginning to raise similar questions. Eisenhower could see the darkening clouds of an enormous election-year scandal forming.

At 10:32 A.M. Russia's imaginary nuclear strike ended. But Eisenhower was now left to respond to Khrushchev's verbal bombshell, and against that the High Point bunker could offer no protection. As the rest of the senior national security team headed back to Washington, the president huddled with his closest advisers. Gathered on sofas and overstuffed chairs in the bunker's small informal lounge, most agreed with Douglas Dillon that a new statement should be issued, replacing the NASA cover story, to counter Khrushchev's explosive charges. A former Wall Street banker and owner of a French winery, Dillon was filling in for Secretary of State Christian Herter, who was out of the country.

But Eisenhower would have none of it. All Khrushchev had was a dead pilot and a stack of scrap metal. As weak and as full of holes as the NASA cover story was, they would stick with it. Allen Dulles agreed. He had given birth to the U-2, nurtured it, and pressed the reluctant president to let it fly deep and often. Now was no time for weakness. Besides, he had long ago given the White House "absolutely categorical" assurances that a U-2 pilot would never survive a crash.

This certainty was curious, for a number of safety devices were built into the aircraft, including a specially designed ejection seat. Dulles's "absolutely categorical" guarantee lends weight to the suspicion that the U-2 was rigged to prevent any possibility of a pilot surviving. Adding weight to this theory was a later comment by top Eisenhower aide Andrew Goodpaster that "we had an understanding that the plane would be destroyed and that it was impossible for the pilot to survive."

Once set in motion, however, the lie would soon gain a life of its own and no one would be able to control it. At NASA, long respected around the world for the open and honest way it managed America's space program, spokesman Walter Bonney was forced to stand before television cameras and tell lie after lie for the better part of an hour. Two days later, on Saturday, May 7, Khrushchev let his other boot drop. "Comrades," he said with a smile, looking down on the delegates attending the meeting of the Supreme Soviet. "I must let you in on a secret. When I made my report two days ago, I deliberately refrained from mentioning that we have the remains of the plane -- and we also have the pilot, who is quite alive and kicking.''' The gathering howled with laughter and shook the walls with applause. Then, in an action that certainly sent shivers down the spines of senior officials at NSA, he told the crowd that the USSR had also recovered "a tape recording of the signals of a number of our ground radar stations -- incontestable evidence of spying."


Notified of the news while at Gettysburg, Eisenhower replied with one word: "Unbelievable." In Washington, it was chaos. Senior aides, like masons, began to quickly build a wall of lies around the president, and the cover story seemed to change by the hour. Like a character from Alice in Wonderland, State Department spokesman Lincoln White was left to scurry down the rabbit hole again and again. Everything said previously was untrue, he told a dumbfounded press. One reporter later wrote, "Almost instantly you could feel the anger harden. Newsmen discovered, to their horror, that they had participated in a lie."

At one point Secretary of Defense Gates called Secretary of State Herter and demanded that someone give a straight story. "Somebody has to take responsibility for the policy," Gates insisted. "While the President can say he didn't know about this one flight, he did approve the policy." Herter gripped the black receiver tight and shot back, "The president didn't argue with this but for the moment [he] doesn't want to say anything and we have been trying to keep the president clear on this."

When the president walked into the Oval Office on the morning of May 9, his normal good humor had given way to depression. "I would like to resign," he said to his secretary, Ann Whitman. Talk was beginning to spread that Congress might call for a vigorous probe into the U-2 affair, something Eisenhower wanted to avoid at all costs. Later in the day Herter and Dulles were scheduled to go behind closed doors and brief a handful of senior senators and congressmen on the scandal. Dulles, Eisenhower said, should tell the delegation from the Hill only that the project had operated for four years under a general, blank presidential authorization. No more. Then, to discourage any thoughts of an investigation, the spy chief should "point out that any informal investigation would be very bad."

For Eisenhower, the whole process was quickly turning into Chinese water torture. Every day he was being forced to dribble out more and more of the story. But he had decided that one secret must never be revealed, even if members of his Cabinet had to lie to Congress to keep it: his own personal involvement in the U-2 and bomber overflights. Before the congressional meeting, Goodpaster called Herter to emphasize the point. The "president wants no specific tie to him of this particular event," he warned.

As Dulles and Herter were on Capitol Hill, Eisenhower was meeting with members of his National Security Council, warning them to avoid the press. "Our reconnaissance was discovered," he said ruefully, "and we would just have to endure the storm and say as little as possible." A short time later, in what had become by now an almost laughable daily routine, Lincoln White read still another statement, which contradicted the three previous announcements. Now the administration was admitting to "extensive aerial surveillance by unarmed civilian aircraft, normally of a peripheral character but on occasion by penetration. Specific missions have not been subject to presidential authorization." With that, Eisenhower had drawn a line in the sand. No matter what the cost, a blanket of lies must forever hide his personal involvement in the ill-fated project.

From the very beginning, he had had a sense that the overflight programs would end in disaster. But his advisers, especially Allen Dulles and General Nathan Twining, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, had pushed and pushed and pushed. No more. "Call off any provocative actions," the president ordered Gates following a June 1960 Cabinet meeting, barely able to hide his anger. NSA's peripheral ferret flights, however, could continue -- as long as they remained in international airspace. Then Eisenhower motioned for Herter and Goodpaster to follow him into his office and told them in no uncertain terms that all further U-2 overflights of the USSR would cease. "Inform Allen Dulles," he said abruptly. The next day Eisenhower was to depart for Paris and a long-awaited summit conference with Khrushchev. He wanted no more surprises.


Aboard his four-engine Il-18, as it passed over the dark forests of Byelorussia on its way to Paris, Khrushchev once again began smoldering over the timing of the U-2 mission. "It was as though the Americans had deliberately tried to place a time bomb under the meeting," he thought, "set to go off just as we were about to sit down with them at the negotiating table." He was particularly concerned over his nation's loss of prestige within the Soviet bloc. "How could they count on us to give them a helping hand if we allowed ourselves to be spat upon without so much as a murmur of protest?" The only solution was to demand a formal public apology from Eisenhower and a guarantee that no more overflights would take place. One more surprise for the American president.

But the apology Khrushchev was looking for would not come. Despite having trespassed on the Soviet Union for the past four years with scores of flights by both U-2s and heavy bombers, the old general still could not say the words; it was just not in him. He did, however, declare an end to overflights through the end of his term. But it was not enough. A time bomb had exploded, prematurely ending the summit conference. Both heads of state returned to Orly Airport for their flights home. Also canceled was Khrushchev's invitation to Eisenhower for a Moscow visit before leaving office. "We couldn't possibly offer our hospitality," Khrushchev later said, "to someone who had already, so to speak, made a mess at his host's table."

Back in Washington, the mood was glum. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee was leaning toward holding a closed-door investigation into the U-2 incident and the debacle in Paris. In public, Eisenhower maintained a brave face. He "heartily approved" of the congressional probe and would "of course, fully cooperate," he quickly told anyone who asked. But in private he was very troubled. For weeks he had tried to head off the investigation. His major concern was that his own personal involvement in the overflights would surface, especially the May Day disaster. Equally, he was very worried that details of the dangerous bomber overflights would leak out. The massed overflight may, in fact, have been one of the most dangerous actions ever approved by a president.


At 8:40 A.M. on May 24, shortly before a National Security Council meeting, Gordon Gray pulled open the curved, five-inch-thick wooden door of the Oval Office and walked briskly across the pale green carpet bearing the presidential seal. The president's national security adviser knew Eisenhower did not like visitors to wait to be told to come in. Gary had bad news. "It appeared," he told his boss, "that there was no longer any hope that congressional committees could be restrained from conducting investigations of the U-2-Summit matter." With the start of the hearings only three days away, Gray suggested that during the NSC meeting, Eisenhower "would wish to indicate to the Council how far he wished his principal advisers to go in their testimony."

A short while later, two dozen officials crowded into the Cabinet Room, just off the Oval Office. Eisenhower's National Security Council meetings had the timing .and grace of Kabuki theater. At about thirty seconds before 10:00, Gray made his announcement in the Cabinet Room. "The President," he said in a deep voice, as if issuing a command, which in a sense he was.

As Eisenhower entered, the Council participants awkwardly rose to their feet and mumbled a good morning. Eisenhower then took his position at the center of the table. Sitting on a leather-bound ink blotter was a large three-ring binder, his "Black Book," opened to the first item on the agenda. Nearby was a matching holder containing White House notepaper. A black dial phone with seven buttons was to his left. Directly across from him sat Vice President Richard M. Nixon, and behind the vice president was a bookcase containing a gold-colored Republican elephant, a colonial soldier standing at attention, and a shiny set of engraved leather volumes, which appeared never to have been opened.

"Mr. President," Gray began. "The first item is a briefing by Mr. Allen Dulles." The CIA director was in his usual seat, at the head of the table and to Eisenhower's right, framed by a large white fireplace. Pipe in hand, the professor began. Moscow's decision "to play up the U-2 incident and to call off the visit of the President to the USSR," he told the somber officials, was made well before the summit took place. But the decision "to wreck the Summit meeting," Dulles said, was made only after the U.S. admitted presidential approval of the overflight program.

This was not what Eisenhower wanted to hear. The blame for the disaster now reached right to the Oval Office door. He could not allow the Senate Committee to get any closer. He could not let them discover that, contrary to what he had told the American public and the senior congressional leadership, he had personally approved and overseen the bungled May Day flight and every other mission. And he certainly could not let them discover the risky bomber overflights which, thankfully, had not yet come to light.

Sitting with his back to the blue drapes and the broad windows looking out onto the North Lawn, Eisenhower bemoaned the committee's investigation. "It was clear," he later wrote irritatedly, "that Congress would insist on some kind of investigation of the U-2 incident and the break-up of the Summit Conference." "Administration officials should be calm and clear, but should not be expansive and should not permit the investigators to delve into our intelligence system. ," he warned. "Some investigators were masters at beguiling witnesses and trying to find out all about our intelligence systems." "No information," he said sternly, "should be divulged" concerning those operations.

Privately, Eisenhower had no use for congressional investigations. Over a Scotch in the family quarters of the White House, Defense Secretary Tom Gates once brought up his apprehension concerning his scheduled testimony before Lyndon Johnson's Preparedness Committee. The questioning was going to focus on accusations that the administration was deliberately underestimating Soviet missiles in order to reduce Pentagon spending and balance the budget. "What's more," Gates said, "that's under oath. That's an investigation." But Eisenhower quickly brushed aside the defense secretary's concern. "Just stand up there and tell 'em you won't take their oath."

Another official fearful of the probe and seeking to scuttle it was General Nathan Twining. It was he who had been most responsible for the bomber overflights, and now, at the May 24 meeting, he was concerned that the investigators might soon turn away from the CIA and toward his own organization. "The investigation, once started, would seek to explore our whole intelligence operation," he protested. "If the investigators probed CIA, they would then want to investigate JCS operations." He then questioned "whether there was anything we could do to stop the investigation."

After a few moments, Eisenhower brought up the concept of executive privilege but quickly rejected it as unworkable. The investigators could be stopped from probing into advice given him by his personal Staff, he said, but not into the activities of other administration officials. "Accordingly," he complained, "the investigation could not be stopped." But to limit the possibility of a leak, he said, "administration officials should testify themselves and not allow their subordinates to speak."

One other possibility brought up by Eisenhower was to have Allen Dulles simply stonewall an questions. "Mr. Dulles," he said, "might have to say that CIA [is] a secret organization of the U.S. Government."

Still another possibility was to try to turn the public against the Committee. Secretary of the Treasury Robert Anderson suggested to Eisenhower that he go on television and appeal to the American public to reject the investigation. "The speech," he said, "should express the hope that no one in this country will engage in activities which will imperil the capability of the country to protect itself in the future. The speech should contain the implication that there is a limit beyond which investigation cannot go without imperiling our security." To further make the point about the dangers to security such an investigation might cause, Anderson told Eisenhower he should evoke the terrible image of Pearl Harbor.

But Eisenhower was resigned to the inevitability of the investigation. He turned to the most difficult topic: covering up his own involvement in the scandal, "Congress could be told that overflights have been going on with the approval of the secretary of State," he said, "and our scientific advisers, who have indicated that this method of gathering intelligence is necessary. It should be made clear that basic decisions respecting reconnaissance overflights of denied territory have been made by the president."

That, Eisenhower decided, was all the investigators would get. Full stop. The fact that he had actually micromanaged the program from the Oval Office would have to be denied. According to formerly top secret documents obtained for Body of Secrets, Eisenhower was so fearful of the probe that he went so far as to order his Cabinet officers to hide his involvement in the scandal even while under oath. At least one Cabinet member directly lied to the committee, a fact known to Eisenhower. Subornation of perjury is a serious crime, one that had it been discovered might have led to calls for his impeachment and to the prosecution of senior Cabinet members.

"The impression," Eisenhower ordered his senior Cabinet members and National Security Council team, "should not be given that the president has approved specific flights, precise missions, or the timing of specific flights." Yet that was precisely what the president had approved: the specific flights, the precise missions, and the timing of the specific flights.

The issue was never the protection of "our intelligence systems," as Eisenhower told the NSC officials. It was covering up his role in the botched project. After all, the U-2 program had virtually no secrets left. For four years the Russians had been tracking each flight over and along their country. They now had a pilot, who had given them a signed confession and was talking. And sitting on display in Moscow's Gorki Park were major parts of the plane, largely intact. Included were the damaged camera and NSA eavesdropping gear, as well as pictures made from the exposed film showing the quality of photography. Visitors to the exhibit could even listen to the spy plane's intercept tapes giving off the beeping signals of Soviet radar installations. Tapes once destined for NSA.

Nor was the public release of sensitive information an issue. The testimony was to be taken entirely in secret by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which as a matter of course heard highly classified testimony concerning such topics as intelligence operations and nuclear weapons. Furthermore, to ensure security, the CIA itself was to be in charge of censoring any information that was eventually to be made public, and the stenographer's tapes were to be put through a shredder.

Rather, what Eisenhower feared most was the leak of politically damaging information to the American public during a key election year. Powers's capture was the most serious national security blunder in more than a decade, one that caused the collapse of an important summit and plunged the country into an enormous crisis with Russia. Eisenhower was at the epicenter of the debacle, the man pulling the strings from the beginning. On top of that, at a time when his vice president was in a heated neck-and-neck race for the "White House, his administration had been lying to the public and to senior members of Congress for weeks about his lack of personal involvement.

The U-2 affair was now part of the political landscape. Even before Eisenhower had returned from Europe, two-time Democratic rival Adlai E. Stevenson began throwing brickbats. "We handed Khrushchev the crowbar and sledgehammer to wreck the meeting," he huffed. "Without our series of blunders, Mr. Khrushchev would not have had the pretext for making his impossible demand and his wild charges." Mike Mansfield, the Senate Democratic Whip, said the committee should "trace the chain of command, or lack of it" that controlled the May Day flight and get to the bottom of the "confusing zigzags of official pronouncements." But Republican Senator Barry Goldwater thought the Senate should stay out of the matter: "What the CIA has done was something that had to be done," he argued. Goldwater, however, was in the minority.

On May 26, the morning before the start of the probe, Eisenhower made a quiet last-minute plea to senior leaders in Congress to stay away from sensitive areas in their investigation. Over eggs and toast with the leaders of both parties in the State Dining Room, Eisenhower almost laughably said how he "heartily approved of the inquiry." Then he said how he "was worried that members of Congress in conducting the inquiry would try to dig into the interior of the CIA and its covert operation." He added that he was sure the leaders of Congress realized that "such attempts would be harmful to the United States." A little more than a dozen years later, Richard Nixon would also attempt to use the rubric of "national security" and "CIA intelligence operations" to hide his personal involvement in a politically damaging scandal.

The members asked a few polite questions but never quizzed Eisenhower about his own role. Senator Mike Mansfield asked, "What M would the President think if there were to be established in the Congress a joint congressional committee which would oversee the activities of the CIA?" The thought no doubt horrified Eisenhower. "The operation of the CIA was so delicate and so secret in many cases," he said, "that it must be kept under cover."

The next morning the doors to the Foreign Relations Committee Room were shut and guarded. Chairman J. William Fulbright gaveled the Senate hearings to order. Seated along the broad witness table, each administration official followed Eisenhower's instructions and dodged, ducked, or lied outright about the president's involvement in the U-2 program. Allen Dulles chose to stonewall. "I don't discuss what the president says to me or I say to the president." Years later, Under Secretary of State C. Douglas Dillon referred to the testimony given the committee as "just gobbledy-gook" and admitted, "Our testimony was not to tally frank because we were defending -- we were trying to hide the White House responsibility for this."

But Dillon's boss went much further than gobbledy-gook. When asked point-blank by Fulbright if there was "ever a time" that the president approved each U-2 flight, Secretary of State Christian Herter simply swallowed hard and then told a bold-faced lie. "It has never come up to the president."

In the hearing room, overseeing the testimony for the CIA and making .sure no secrets were released to the public, was Richard Helms, who would later go on to become the agency's director. Years later, he would look back on the testimony and say: "They were all sworn. Knowing what they knew and what actually went on, if it isn't perjury I don't understand the meaning of the word."

Richard Helms had reason to be interested in the perjury over the U-2. In 1977 he was convicted in federal court and sentenced to two years in prison for a similar offense. Questioned by the chairman of the same Senate committee about the CIA's involvement in a coup in Chile, he lied to Fulbright and claimed there was none. Although Helms would later assert that his oath of secrecy to the CIA permitted him to lie to Congress, federal judge Barrington D. Parker strongly disagreed. Telling Helms, "You now stand before this court in disgrace and shame," the judge went on to ridicule his claim that lying to Congress to protect secrets was acceptable.

If public officials embark deliberately on a course to disobey and ignore the laws of our land because of some misguided and ill-conceived notion and belief that there are earlier commitments and considerations which they must observe, the future of our country is in jeopardy.

There are those employed in the intelligence security community of this country ... who feel that they have a license to operate freely outside the dictates of the law and otherwise to orchestrate as they see fit. Public officials at every level, whatever their position, like any other person, must respect and honor the Constitution and the laws of the United States.

Despite his stern lecture, Parker suspended Helms's sentence and added a $2,000 fine.

Although Fulbright treated the president's men with kid gloves and Eisenhower's role never emerged, there was great bitterness within the administration over the hearings. Dulles told Herter that he was "very disturbed" by the action, then added, like a gangster in a Mafia movie: "We should have kept our mouths shut."*


At NSA, the implications of the latest intercepts were clear. Cuban bomber pilots were now being trained within the Soviet bloc.

On January 19, 1961, Washington was caught in the icy grip of the coldest weather in memory. Carpenters, bundled like Inuits, hammered away on the grandstand for the next day's inauguration. An artist carefully dabbed white paint on the last few stars surrounding the great seal emblazoned on the presidential reviewing box. Opposite, in the White House, two men took their places at the highly polished table in the Cabinet Room. Dwight David Eisenhower, looking tired, sat for the last time in the tall leather chair from which he had led so many momentous discussions over the past eight years. With the Cold War still as frozen as the rows of stiff rosebushes outside his tall windows, Eisenhower's early dream of amity with Russia was dashed.

Seated beside the president was John Fitzgerald Kennedy, tan and youthful. Like a storeowner whose family business has been seized by the bank, Eisenhower briefed his successor on a wide assortment of pending business. Oddly, although sitting on his desk were the plans for a massive, highly secret U.S.-sponsored invasion of Cuba, primed and ready to go within weeks, Eisenhower barely mentioned the island during the lengthy foreign policy briefing. The subject came up, in a sort of by-the-way manner, only during a discussion concerning Laos: "At the present time," Eisenhower said, "we are helping train anti-Castro forces in Guatemala." He added, "It was the policy of this government to help such forces to the utmost."

In his last hours as president, Eisenhower issued what sounded to his successor like an order. "In the long run," he insisted, "the United States cannot allow the Castro Government to continue to exist in Cuba." At almost that same moment, across the river in the Pentagon's Gold Room, the Joint Chiefs had come to a decision of their own. The only answer, Joint Chiefs chairman Lyman L. Lemnitzer concluded, was for an all-out U.S. military invasion. War.



* As for Powers, a Soviet court found him guilty of espionage and sentenced him to ten years in prison. But in 1962 he was set free as part of an exchange with the United States for the Russian master spy Colonel Rudolf Abel.


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:58 pm
by admin
Part 1 of 2



Early on the morning of January 20, 1961, Washington lay buried beneath half a foot of freshly fallen snow, as if sleeping under a down comforter. The nation's capital had been pounded by a juggernaut of Arctic cold and freezing precipitation that had rolled over the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states. Throughout the region, schools, business, and factories were shut down, and airports diverted inbound flights. It was the coldest winter in a quarter-century.

By daybreak, the military began their takeover. From Fort Belvoir, a heavy armored division of more than a hundred snowplows, front-loaders, dump trucks, and road graders crossed into the city to attack the ice and heavy drifts. A cordon of one hundred troops, wearing red brassards, began taking positions around the Capitol Building. A thousand more troops stretched out along Pennsylvania Avenue, and sixteen ambulances were positioned at key locations to care for anyone injured.

In a temporary military command post set up on the corner of East Executive and Pennsylvania Avenues, Northwest, Army Major General C. K. Gailey directed the invasion. Through the lazy, swirling snow, heavy transport vehicles rumbled across bridges over the Potomac and headed toward Capitol Hill. On the backs of the long trucks were Pershing missiles with warheads as pointed as well-sharpened pencils. Convoys of tanks, howitzers, and armored personnel carriers followed. Thousands of soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines checked their weapons and assembled at designated locations near the White House. Codewords were assigned: Red Carpet for the radio network, Blueberry for the closed-circuit television network, Battery for the assembly areas, and Greenland for the dispersal areas.

From the broad front windows of Quarters 1, the official residence of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lyman L. Lemnitzer watched as his military quietly took over the nation's capital. Lemnitzer had perhaps the best view in all of greater Washington. The house was perched atop a steep hill on Fort Myer in Arlington, Virginia. As he stood in his living room, on. the highly polished parquet floor, a taupe overcoat covered his formal blue uniform and a white scarf hid his four-in-hand tie. Nearby, framed by an American flag and the official flag of the Chairman, hung an oversize oil painting of the 'general, appearing serious and in command. Below him, the city looked like a child's snow globe, shaken to produce, a cascade of gentle snowflakes over the great monuments, all within view. In the foreground the Potomac River, gray and frozen, wrapped the city like a silver ribbon on a belated Christmas present. Beyond, he could clearly see the massive white dome of the Capitol, where his' official limousine was waiting to take him.

In just a few hours, John Fitzgerald Kennedy would be inaugurated as the thirty-fifth president of the United States. Unbeknownst to the public, the ceremony would largely be a military operation. In addition to his Secret Service. contingent, the new president would be guarded by a cordon of two dozen military men surrounding the Presidential Box, and as he traveled to the White House, an escort of military vehicles would lead the way.


To some who watched the tanks and missiles roll through the city in preparation for the inaugural parade, the idea of an actual military takeover was appealing. Just below the surface, it was a dangerous time in America. For many in the military, the distrust of civilian leadership ran deep, to the point where a number of senior officers believed that their civilian leaders had been subverted by international communism. It was a belief exacerbated by the election of Kennedy, a socially liberal Democrat. "The presence of a benign and popular General of the Army in the White House had a calming influence on people and kept the Rightists' audiences small," said one account at the time. "John F. Kennedy's election buttressed their worse fears."

On U.S. military bases around the world, senior officers were spreading fear that card-carrying Communists were in place in high offices throughout the federal government. Among these officers' key targets was Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. During a televised meeting of Project Alert, a right-wing anti-Communist group, Colonel Mitchell Paige, a retired Marine Corps Medal of Honor winner, told the TV audience that Chief Justice Warren should be hanged.

Even before the election, some senior officers attempted to indoctrinate their troops into the "correct" way to vote. One of those. was Major General Edwin A. Walker, who was stationed at the U.S. Army base in Augsburg, West Germany, home to a key NSA listening post. In October 1960, as his soldiers were preparing to send home their absentee ballots, Walker counseled them to first consult the voting guide of the archconservative Americans for Constitutional Action. Walker, who considered himself a "superpatriot," even set up a special hot line for troops to call to get" guidance" in voting. In addition, Walker would frequently address his soldiers and their dependents on the perils of Communist subversion and pass out John Birch Society propaganda. A newspaper circulated to the troops in Germany, The Overseas Weekly, charged that Walker had called Eleanor Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman "definitely pink" and journalists Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, and Eric Sevareid pro-Communists.

At Fort Smith, in Fayetteville, Arkansas, a series of "strategy-for-survival" conferences took place. Those attending were told that "your Representative in this area has voted 89 per cent of the time to aid and abet the Communist Party." Major General William C. Bullock, the area commander, persuaded the Little Rock Chamber of Commerce to sponsor a similar meeting in the state capital. At the Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, Project Alert showed the film Operation Abolition, which depicted student protests against the rabid anticommunist House Un-American Activities Committee as entirely Communist-inspired and Communist-led.

Within weeks of the inauguration, retired vice admiral Ralph Wilson, chairman of the U.S. Maritime Board, would find himself in trouble for a proposed speech to the American Legion advocating an American invasion of Cuba. "It seems in this Administration," he complained, "that you can't talk about limited war or Cold War or the realities of the Russian menace."

The atmosphere led some to thoughts of a possible military coup. Inspired by the tension between the far-right generals and the new administration, writers Fletcher Knebel and Charles Waldo Bailey II began drafting an outline for a novel. Eventually entitled Seven Days in May, it would focus on a military takeover led by a right-wing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (played in the filmed version by Burt Lancaster) who was convinced that a liberal president (Fredric March) was turning soft on America's enemies.


At 10:25 Lemnitzer entered his official limousine, a black elongated Cadillac with fins the shape of sabers, for the brief ride to the Capitol Building. Often described as bearlike-more for his powerful shoulders and booming voice than for his five-foot-eleven-inch frame-the four-star general had a solid, scholarly look about him. "Studious, handsome, thoughtful- looking," said one newspaper. Nevertheless, he had completed only two years of college at West Point, because of the need for officers during World War 1. But by the time he was rushed out of the military academy, the war had ended. Over the' years Lemnitzer gained a reputation as a planner; during World War II he served as an aide to General Eisenhower in London and later joined General George Patton during the Sicilian campaign. Eisenhower looked on Lemnitzer as his protege, appointing him first Vice Chief of Staff and later, in 1957, Chief of Staff, the top job in the Army.

Finally, with only a few months to go in office, Eisenhower named Lemnitzer to the highest-ranking position in the Armed Forces. "The most important military job in the world was taken over last week by Gen. Lyman L. Lemnitzer, the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," said an editorial in the Los Angeles Times. Two days before the inauguration, the chairman held a luncheon for Eisenhower in Quarters 1. "He thoroughly enjoyed himself," Lemnitzer wrote to his daughter. By then, according to one observer, Lemnitzer's regard for Eisenhower "bordered on reverence." In Lemnitzer, Eisenhower would have a window into the next administration.

Following a meeting with Robert S. McNamara, newly named by Kennedy to be the next secretary of defense, Lemnitzer passed on to Eisenhower a hot piece of inside information. Kennedy, he said, might have decided to name retired general James M. Gavin secretary of the Army. The idea outraged Eisenhower. Gavin had retired in a huff, upset over Eisenhower's space policies, and had then written a book critical of the administration. Three other generals also left and then wrote about various policy disagreements. Eisenhower was so furious at the criticism that he ordered his Joint Chiefs Chairman to look into whether he could recall the four men to active duty and court-martial them. Such an action would have been unheard of, if not illegal.

Now a man he considered disloyal was to be named to the top post of the Army, Eisenhower's Army. He asked Lemnitzer to find a way to secretly torpedo Gavin's appointment. It was a bizarre and outrageous request: an outgoing president was directing his top military official to sabotage a civilian appointment by a newly elected president. Before Lemnitzer could take any action, however, Kennedy changed his mind, appointing Gavin ambassador to France and naming Elvis J. Stahr, Jr., to the Army post. Nevertheless, Lemnitzer would become a landmine in the Kennedy administration.

Twenty-five minutes after leaving Quarters 1, Lemnitzer's chauffeur deposited the general at the E Door of the Senate Wing. It was a journey the general had made many times in order to testify before various Senate and House committees on military policy. The chairman never quite trusted Congress and as a result the truth became somewhat malleable. He once wrote to his brother, "I have been involved in some very rugged hearings before seven congressional committees.... We have to walk a very narrow path in telling the truth to the various committees and at the same time keep out of trouble with the administration."

Lemnitzer walked through the arc under the Senate stairway and took an elevator up one floor to the Senate Reception Room. There he joined the other service chiefs, as well as diplomats and foreign ambassadors, as they awaited escort to their assigned seats on the President's Platform. In charge of the Navy was Admiral Arleigh A. Burke, a salt-and-pepper- haired veteran of World War II. He had served as Eisenhower's Chief of Naval Operations for the past five years. Upon Lemnitzer's elevation to Army Chief of Staff, Burke presented him with a four-foot-long ceremonial bugle. Attached near the flowing gold tassels was a sign that read, "The Certain Trumpet." It was an inside joke. Lemnitzer's predecessor, General Maxwell Taylor, was one of those who had quit and written a book harshly critical of Eisenhower's military policies. Taylor's title was The Uncertain Trumpet.

Lemnitzer was escorted to Section 2, Row G, Seat 1 on the President's Platform, a pillared structure erected on the steps of the east front of the Capitol Building. His hands were covered in regulation black gloves and his heavy jowls turned pink from the bitter cold. Below, thousands of onlookers filled the snow-mantled plaza.

As he rose to watch Chief Justice Earl Warren administer the oath of office to John F. Kennedy, dressed in formal black coat and striped trousers, the Chairman's frame of reference likely began shifting. He was like a sailor whose compass no longer pointed north. For eight years the country had been run by a five-star general, a West Point ring-knocker like himself who knew discipline, order, tradition. Flags were saluted, shoes spit-shined, and dissent punished. Now the man who had been Lemnitzer's mentor and boss for much of his long career was quietly retiring to a farm in Gettysburg. Taking Eisenhower's place was a man from a different time and a different culture, someone Lemnitzer knew little and understood less. "Here was a president with no military experience at all," he would later say, derisively, of a man who nearly died saving his men while fighting on the front line of battle. "Sort of a patrol boat skipper in World War II."

Lemnitzer was not isolated in his point of view. Standing nearby was the man Lemnitzer had picked to take his place as Chief of Staff of the Army, General George H. Decker. "I think the senior military leaders probably were more comfortable with President Eisenhower," he later recalled, "since he had been a military man himself." Chief of Naval Operations Burke also distrusted the new "White House. "Nearly all of these people were ardent, enthusiastic people without any experience whatever in administering anything, including the president. He'd always been in Congress. He'd never had any sort of job that required any administration.... They didn't understand ordinary administrative procedures, the necessity for having lines of communication and channels of command."

About 2:15, following the swearing-in and a luncheon in the Capitol, Lemnitzer climbed into a 1961 Oldsmobile convertible for the chilly ride in the inaugural parade to the presidential reviewing stand opposite the White House. Kennedy. had personally invited him to stand in the Presidential Box and review the smiling high school bands and the endless military troops as they marched at precisely 120 steps per minute, each step thirty inches long.

Soon, Lemnitzer hoped, some of those troops would be marching down the palm-shaded streets of Havana with Castro either dead or in custody. Like many in the right-wing military movement, he saw communism as subverting the very fabric of American society, an insatiable evil force that was eating away at America's core values and had to be stopped. "I would offer the suggestion that you read carefully the recently issued Draft Program of the Communist Party," he warned in a letter to a high school teacher who had written to him about Cuba. "If you study this document I think you cannot escape agreeing with its authors that the Communist world is pledged to the destruction of our civilization and everything we value. Our heritage of freedom and the deep aspirations and values which humanity has evolved over thousands of years are thus squarely put in peril. An adequate response to such a deadly threat must be found, not by governments alone, but in the hearts and actions of everyone of our citizens."

Lemnitzer believed that nothing less than a massive military force could defeat communism in Cuba. He therefore had little confidence in a covert plan developed by the CIA that called for infiltrating fewer than a thousand anti-Castro rebels onto the island. Developed during the last year of the Eisenhower administration, the operation involved the rebels sparking an internal revolution that would supposedly bring down Castro's regime.

Only two days before the inauguration, Brigadier General David W. Gray, Lemnitzer's representative on the Cuba Task Force, argued the point forcefully to the CIA: "200,000 [Cuban] militia," he said, "each with a sub-machine gun, is in itself a pretty strong force if they do nothing more than stand and pull the triggers." Instead, Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs were pressing for all-out war-a Pentagon-led overt military invasion of Cuba from the air, sea, and ground.

But Lemnitzer and the Chiefs knew that armed invasion of a neighboring country would be condemned both domestically and internationally as the American equivalent of the Soviet invasion of Hungary. Thus the Joint Chiefs developed an enormously secret plan to trick the American public-and the rest of the world-into believing that Cuba had instead launched an attack against the U.S. It would be the ultimate Wag the Dog war.

According to documents obtained for Body of Secrets, Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs proposed secretly to stage an attack on the American naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba -- and then blame the violent action on Castro. Convinced that Cuba had launched an unprovoked attack on the United States, the unwitting American public would then support the Joint Chiefs' bloody Caribbean war. After all, who would believe Castro's denials over the word of the Pentagon's top military commanders? The nation's most senior military leadership was proposing to launch a war, which would no doubt kill many American servicemen, based solely on a fabric of lies. On January 19, just hours before Eisenhower left office, Lemnitzer gave his approval to the proposal. As events progressed, the plan would become only the tip of a very large and secret iceberg.


Lemnitzer smiled broadly and saluted when the Hegerman String Band and the Mounted State Police from his native Pennsylvania passed by the Presidential Box in the reviewing stand.

At 5:43, ex-President Eisenhower and his wife, seated in the back of a five-year-old Chrysler limousine, passed the Secret Service booth at the entrance to the private road leading to their farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. For the first time in eight years, the booth was dark and empty.

Forty-five minutes later, Private First Class Bomer escorted Lemnitzer to his limousine and drove him through the darkness back to Quarters 1; meanwhile, the general's invading army retreated back across the Potomac.


On January 25, President Kennedy had his first meeting with Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs. Kennedy said he was extremely anxious to keep in close contact with the chiefs and that he would be seeing Lemnitzer frequently during National Security Council meetings. Then the president asked what should be done with regard to Cuba.

Lemnitzer quickly dismissed the proposed CIA operation as too weak to combat Castro's forces. He then told Kennedy about recent and troubling NSA reports. Eight days earlier, in a windowless blockhouse in West Germany, an NSA intercept operator assigned to monitor Czechoslovakian military air communications turned his large black frequency dial to 114.25 megahertz and heard an unusual sound. Instead of picking up the normal pilot chatter in Czech or Slovak at Trencin airfield, he listened as a pilot undergoing flight training suddenly began to speak Spanish. "This is the first known VHF activity at Trencin by a Spanish-speaking pilot," he wrote in his intercept report, which was quickly transmitted to NSA headquarters. He added, "This pilot was possibly in a bomber or bomber trainer." Other reports indicated that Cuba had recently received at least 30,000 tons of new military equipment from Czechoslovakia.

Lemnitzer then pushed on the new president his own agenda: "What is required is a basic expansion of plans," he said. "The hope is to get a government in exile, then put some troops ashore, and have guerrilla group start their activities. At that point we would come in and support them. Plans are ready for such action." "Time is working against us," Lemnitzer urged Kennedy.

Three days later, in the Cabinet Room of the White House, Kennedy brought together his key national security officials, including Lemnitzer and Allen Dulles. During the meeting, the Pentagon representatives stated that none of the courses of action then on the table would remove the Castro regime. Kennedy then called on the Pentagon and CIA to review the various proposals for sending the anti-Castro forces into Cuba. He also demanded that the entire operation be carried out with white gloves -- there could be no U.S. fingerprints anywhere. "I'm not going to risk an American Hungary," Kennedy warned.

Eisenhower had spent eight years working closely with the CIA. He knew the strengths and weaknesses of Allen Dulles, the CIA, and the Cuban operation, which he had helped plan for nearly a year. Now Kennedy, in office barely a week and attempting to put his administration together, was being pressured to quickly okay a dangerous plan produced by a man he didn't know and an agency that was a cipher to him. Dulles told him that once the landing took place, it would trigger a great uprising and Castro would quickly tumble.

But Dulles certainly knew that to be a lie. Castro was a hero to much of the Cuban population for having rid them of the bloody excesses of Batista only two years before. As a long-hidden CIA report notes, "We can confidently assert that the Agency had no intelligence evidence that the Cubans in significant numbers could or would join the invaders or that there was any kind of an effective and cohesive resistance movement under anybody's control, let alone the Agency's, that could have furnished internal leadership for an uprising in support of the invasion." The same report concluded that at the time of that White House meeting "the Agency was driving forward without knowing precisely where it was going."

Lemnitzer was a man of details. After becoming Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff he sent out elaborate instructions outlining exactly how his fellow Chiefs were to autograph group pictures -- they were to sign their names directly under his, and they must follow his slant. Neither his limousine nor his plane was ever to be moved without his being consulted. Lemnitzer also enjoyed his reputation as a consummate planner. In an eight-page biography he submitted to Congress prior to his testimony, he made frequent reference to himself as an "imaginative planner" and to his "skill as a planner." On his Pentagon desk was a crystal ball and in a drawer was a favorite verse:

Planners are a funny lot
They carry neither sword nor pistol
They walk stooped over quite a lot
Because their balls are crystal

Lemnitzer, the planner, certainly saw the pitfalls of the CIA's amateur and ill-conceived plan, as did his fellow Chiefs. Years later Lemnitzer hand-wrote a detailed fifty-two-page summary of the JCS involvement in the Bay of Pigs operation. He called it "The Cuban Debacle" and locked it away in his house; he died without ever publicly revealing its existence. Obtained for Body if Secrets, the account clearly shows that Lemnitzer's Joint Staff viewed the CIA plan as a disaster waiting to happen. He quotes from a secret internal JCS analysis of the operation: "In view of the rapid buildup of the Castro Government's military and militia capability, and the lack of predictable future mass discontent, the possible success of the Para-Military Plan appears very doubtful" [emphasis in original].

Yet inexplicably, only days later, Lemnitzer submitted a positive recommendation to Secretary of Defense McNamara. "Evaluation of the current plan results in a favorable assessment of the likelihood of achieving initial military success," he wrote. "The JCS considers that timely execution of the plan has a fair chance of ultimate success and, even if it does not achieve immediately the full results desired, [it] could contribute to the eventual overthrow of the Castro regime." Later that day, McNamara verbally endorsed those conclusions.

It may well have been that the Joint Chiefs, angry with the arrogant CIA brass for moving into their territory, were hoping that the spooks would fail. Once the CIA was out of the way, the uniformed professionals in the Pentagon would be called on to save the day-to take over, conduct the real invasion, and oust Castro. From then on, military invasions would again be the monopoly of the generals. But soon it became clear that Kennedy had meant what he said about keeping the operation covert.

As originally planned, the exile force was to land at the coastal town of Trinidad. But the White House objected. According to Lemnitzer's private summary, Kennedy wanted a quiet night landing, which the world would believe was planned by Cubans. Above all, Lemnitzer noted, there was to be no intervention by US. forces.

Following Kennedy's order, CIA planners presented the Joint Chiefs of Staff Working Group with a list of five alternative landing sites. Later the list was reduced to three. The group picked Alternative III, a spot in the swampy Zapata Peninsula called the Bay of Pigs. After a brief twenty-minute discussion, barely enough time for a coffee break, Lemnitzer and his Chiefs agreed with their Working Group's choice. "Of the alternative concepts," said the JCS recommendation, "Alternative III is considered the most feasible and the most likely to accomplish the objective. None of the alternative concepts are considered as feasible and as likely to accomplish the objective as the original [Trinidad] plan." Lemnitzer had grave doubts about the whole CIA operation from the beginning but remained largely silent and quickly approved the plan. The Bay of Pigs was considerably closer to Havana than Trinidad was; this meant a quicker response from Cuban troops, and with only one road in and out of the landing zone, it was a perfect place for a slaughter. Cuban troops could easily isolate the invaders, who would be forced to die on the beaches or drown in the sea.

Lemnitzer had one last chance to reach up and pull the emergency brake before the train plunged off the embankment. On April 4, 1961, Kennedy held a conference at the State Department with his key advisers to get their final thoughts on the invasion. Lemnitzer, seeing certain disaster ahead, buttonholed Assistant Secretary of State Thomas C. Mann before the meeting started and insisted that the choice of Zapata for a landing site was a bad decision, that the Joint Chiefs did not want the invasion to take place closer to Havana. Mann, taken aback by Lemnitzer's sudden change of position, dismissed his protest and insisted that Kennedy had already made his decision.

As Kennedy convened the meeting, Lemnitzer sat mute. The man in charge of the most powerful military force on earth, with enough nuclear weapons to destroy civilization, was afraid to speak up to his boss. It was his moment of truth. Instead he chose to close his eyes, cover his mouth, and wait for the sound of grinding metal. He knew, as he had known from the beginning, that the operation would turn out to be a disaster, that many men would die painfully and needlessly, but still he preferred silence. He must also have finally realized that the Pentagon would never receive presidential authorization to charge in and save the day. At the end of the meeting, Kennedy asked who was still in favor of going ahead with the invasion. Lemnitzer's hand slowly reached toward the ceiling. Much later, in his summary, he confessed his failure to speak up but offered no apology.



PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 9:59 pm
by admin
Part 2 of 2

At the time of Kennedy's inauguration, NSA's role in supplying intelligence on what was going on inside Cuba grew substantially. Until then, the CIA's Havana Station and its Santiago Base had been a beehive of espionage. But just before he left office, in preparation for the invasion, Eisenhower cut diplomatic relations with Cuba. With the closure of the embassy in Havana and the consulate in Santiago, the CIA was home less and had to return to the United States. Anticipating this contingency, CIA case officers in Cuba had developed a number of "stay-behinds," agents who would remain under deep cover. This net consisted of some twenty-seven persons, fifteen of whom were reporting agents and the rest radio operators and couriers. But the principal agents and one of the radio operators were U.S. citizens and thus had limited access to key information-especially military intelligence, which was most needed. Without a CIA station in Cuba producing intelligence, the CIA, the White House, and others in the intelligence community became more dependent on NSA's intercepts.

Miami Base received copies of NSA's signals intelligence reports on Cuba but there was no NSA liaison official there to help interpret the messages. This was a serious mistake. Without NSA's cold, independent analysis of the intelligence, the gung-ho CIA officers were forced to rely upon their own judgment-which was often colored by their desire for the operation to go ahead. This was one of the key reasons for their overestimate of Cuban internal opposition to Castro. As a CIA postmortem said, "This conclusion, in turn, became an essential element in the decision to proceed with the operation."

Another problem was that without an NSA presence, Miami Base could neither receive nor send superfast emergency CRITIC messages should the invasion run into serious problems. "The [NSA] effort was very small," said one NSA official assigned to the Cuban desk at Fort Meade at the time. A key source of NSA's signals intelligence on Cuba was a Navy ship that had secretly been converted into a seagoing espionage platform. Since :February, the USS Perry (DD- 44) a destroyer rigged with special antennas and receivers, had patrolled off the Cuban coast eavesdropping on whatever it could pick up. The Perry occasionally pulled into the Key West Naval Base, where Navy Sigint specialists would work on the equipment.

As the preparation for the invasion proceeded at full steam, NSA continued to focus much of its attention on Soviet shipping. In March, an intercept operator at the NSA listening post in Karamtirsel, Turkey, discovered that the Nikolaj Burdenko was back in the port of Nikolayev loading a new shipment of "Yastrebov's cargo"-the Soviet euphemism for weapons. The 5,840-ton cargo ship, a hulking gray workhorse, departed Nikolayev on March 21. Intercept operators kept track of the ship's progress by monitoring its daily transmissions, noting its position and triangulating it with "elephant cages," giant circular antennas.

"On 7 April limited D/F [direction finding] placed the BURDENKO near the "Windward Passage," said. one intercept report. Another revealed that the ship "possibly arrived at a Cuban port late evening 7 April or early morning 8 April with an unspecified amount of YASTRE BOV's cargo ... This is the fourth noted instance of a Soviet ship loading cargo specifically described as 'YASTREBOV's' for Cuba," Within the White House, pressure was building to take action.

As the Burdenko, heavy in the water, pulled into Havana harbor, U-2s were crisscrossing the island fourteen miles above. Beginning on April 6, U-2s flying out of Texas conducted fifteen missions over the island in final preparation for the CIA's invasion.

The operation began at dawn on Monday, April 17, 1961, and quickly turned into a debacle. As Cuban air force and other military units converged on the area, NSA voice-intercept operators eavesdropped on the desperate pleas of the exiles. "Must have air support in next few hours or will be wiped out," Brigade Commander Pepe San Roman implored. "Under heavy attacks by MiG jets and heavy tanks." The Navy offered to evacuate the brigade commander and his troops, but was refused. They would fight to the end.

Because no provision had been made to provide NSA's Sigint to the brigade, the agency's intercepts were largely useless. All analysts could do was sit and listen to the hopeless messages from the rebel soldiers fighting on the beach and their supporters throughout Cuba. "Arms urgent," said one. "We made a commitment. We have complied. You have not. If you have decided to abandon us, answer." Another radioed, "We are risking hundreds of peasant families. If you cannot supply us we will have to .. demobilize. Your responsibility. We thought you were sincere." Still another pleaded, "All groups demoralized. " They consider themselves deceived because of failure of shipment of arms and money according to promise." Finally, there was one last message. "Impossible to fight. " Either the drops increase or we die. " Men without arms or equipment. God help us."

"It wasn't much that was done here, as I understand," said one NSA official, "except they were copying the communications ... and their calls for help and assistance and what-have-you were all monitored."

"I will not be evacuated," said San Roman, defiantly. "Will fight to the end if we have to." On the beach, nearly out of bullets and mortars, the brigade launched a futile counterattack against Cuban army soldiers pushing relentlessly in from the west. "We are out of ammo and fighting on the beach," the brigade commander radioed to the task force command ship. "Please send help, we cannot hold."

"In water. Out of ammo. Enemy closing in. Help must arrive In next hour." San Roman's voice was now terse and desperate. There was no place to go. Between them and the approaching helmets were scores of their comrades, their blood joining the seawater with each crashing wave. "When your help will be here and with what?" The commander's voice was weaker now, unbelieving but still wanting to believe. "Why your help has not come?"

There were faces under the green helmets now, and arms with rifles, and legs running. They were coming from all sides, bullets hitting the water, the sand, and the men. NSA intercept operators eavesdropped on the final messages. "Am destroying all equipment and communications. Tanks are in sight. I have nothing to fight with. Am taking to woods. I cannot, repeat, cannot wait for you."

At 3:20 P.M., out at sea beyond the horizon, the evacuation convoy heading for the beach received a final message. " [Ships] ordered withdrawn [at] full speed."


The pall cast over the CIA as a result of the botched invasion did nothing to dampen the Kennedy administration's obsession with Castro. On a gray autumn Saturday in early November 1961, just after two o'clock, Attorney General Robert .F. Kennedy called a meeting to order in the Cabinet Room of the White House. The day before; the president had given the group their marching orders. He wanted a solution to the Cuba problem and his brother was going to see that it was done. Robert Kennedy turned to the group and introduced Edward G. Lansdale, an Air Force one-star general and a specialist in counterinsurgency who sat stiffly in a padded black leather chair.

Tall, with Errol Flynn good looks, Lansdale was the deputy director of the Pentagon's Office of Special Operations. Hidden away behind the door to Room 3E114 in the Pentagon, the OSO was the unit responsible for NSA. Responsibility for dealing with Cuba, Kennedy said, was to shift from the CIA to the Pentagon, where the project would be known as Operation Mongoose. Kennedy asked the group if they had any problems with the change. Richard Bissell, who had just seen the CIA's crown jewel pass from his hands, could not resist at least one jab. No, he said, as long as "those employees on it were competent in clandestine operations."

Both Lansdale and Lemnitzer viewed Operation Mongoose as a golden opportunity, a chance for the military to flex its muscles at last and show off its ability to succeed where the CIA had so miserably failed. As prospects of an internal revolt in Cuba dimmed, Lansdale and Lemnitzer began to quietly explore the possibility of doing what they had wanted to do all along: conduct a full-scale invasion.

Since the Kennedy administration had come into office the extreme, distrustful right wing within the military had grown significantly, not only in numbers but also in decibels. In April 1961 Defense Secretary Robert McNamara finally lowered the boom on Major General Edwin A. Walker. Walker was charged with indoctrinating his troops with John Birch Society propaganda, officially admonished, and relieved of his command. As a result many conservatives accused the Kennedy administration of trying to muzzle anti-Communists.

Walker resigned from the Army in protest, but even as a civilian he continued to warn of the dangers of Communist infiltration. Among the themes he constantly pounded home was a distrust of civilian control of the military. "The traditional civilian control of the military has been perverted and extended into a commissar-like system of control at all major echelons of command," he said. In September 1961 he traveled to Oxford, Mississippi, to protest the enrollment of James Meredith, a black student, at the state university there. Robert Kennedy later issued an arrest warrant for Walker, charging him with seditious conspiracy, insurrection, and rebellion. He was jailed for five days, during which time he claimed he was a political prisoner.

Even at the stately National War College in Washington, seminars would occasionally be reduced to "extreme right-wing, witch-hunting, mudslinging revivals" and "bigoted, one-sided presentations advocating that the danger to our security is internal only," according to a report prepared by a member of Secretary of Defense McNamara's staff.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in a report on the problem of right-wing extremism in the military, warned that there was "considerable danger" in the "education and propaganda activities of military personnel" that had been uncovered. "Running through all of them is a central theme that the primary, if not exclusive, danger to this country is internal Communist infiltration," said the report.

Among the key targets of the extremists, the committee said, was the Kennedy administration's domestic social program, which many ultraconservatives accused of being communistic. The "thesis of the nature of the Communist threat," the report warned, "often is developed by equating social legislation with socialism, and the latter with Communism ... Much of the administration's domestic legislative program, including continuation of the graduated income tax, expansion of social security (particularly medical care under social security), Federal aid to education, etc. under this philosophy would be characterized as steps toward Communism." Thus, "This view of the Communist menace renders foreign aid, cultural exchanges, disarmament negotiations and other international programs as extremely wasteful if not actually subversive."

The chilling Senate study concluded by warning of a revolt by senior military officers such as the one portrayed in Seven Days in May. To show the idea was not farfetched, the report cited "as an example of the ultimate danger" the recent revolt by army generals in France, largely over policies in Algeria. "Military officers, French or American, have some common characteristics arising from their profession," said the report, "and there are numerous military 'fingers on the trigger' throughout the world."

Finally, the committee specifically pointed to General Lemnitzer and called for an examination of the relationship between him, his Chiefs, and the extreme right-wing groups. Among the members of the committee most outspoken in calling for an investigation of Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs was Senator Albert Gore, Sr., of Tennessee (the father of former vice president Al Gore).

It was not an idle worry. In their 1963 book, The Far Right, Donald Janson of the New York Times and CBS reporter Bernard Eismann wrote, "Concern had grown that a belligerent and free-wheeling military could conceivably become as dangerous to the stability of the United States as the mixture of rebelliousness and politics had in nations forced to succumb to juntas or' fascism. The agony that gripped France as a result of military defectors' efforts to reverse government policy on Algeria was another forceful reminder of the inherent dangers in allowing political power to build up in the military establishment."

Outwardly, Lemnitzer remained stiff and correct. But deep inside he was raging at the new and youthful Kennedy White House. He felt out of place and out of time in a culture that seemed suddenly to have turned its back on military tradition. Almost immediately he became, in the clinical sense, paranoid; he began secretly expressing his worries to other senior officers. A little more than a month after Kennedy took office, he sent a letter to General Lauris Norstad, the commander-in-chief of the U.S. European Command, and several other top generals. Fearful that the administration would learn of his comments, he noted, "I had considered sending this information to you by electrical means but in view of its nature, I am sending it by letter for your, Jim Moore's and [Deputy Commander-in-Chief] Charlie Palmer's EYES ONLY." It was then delivered "in a sealed envelope for delivery to Gen. Norstad ONLY."

"You and Charlie are probably wondering what, if anything, the JCS are [d]oing about some of the disturbing things that have been happening recently with respect to your area," Lemnitzer wrote. But what so upset the JCS Chairman was not a major change in nuclear policy in Europe or a shift in Cold War strategy, but the fact that White House officials had canceled money earmarked for the remodeling of an officers' club. "I am sure that this seems as incredible to you as it does to us," he wrote, "but this is how things are happening here now." Finally, Lemnitzer complained about what he felt were deliberate leaks intended to embarrass senior military officials. "Here again I believe that the fundamental cause is the 'eager beaver' attitude by many of the new and very young people who have been brought into government to publicize promptly any item they believe will give the new administration good press. I don't know how long this situation is going to continue but we seem to have a new incident every day."

Lemnitzer had no respect for the civilians he reported to. He believed they interfered with the proper role of the military. The "civilian hierarchy was crippled not only by inexperience," he would later say, "but also by arrogance arising from failure to recognize its own limitations.... The problem was simply that the civilians would not accept military judgments." In Lemnitzer's view, the country would be far better off if the generals could take over.

For those military officers who were sitting on the fence, the Kennedy administration's botched Bay of Pigs invasion was the last straw. "The Bay of Pigs fiasco broke the dike," said one report at the time. "President Kennedy was pilloried by the superpatriots as a 'no-win' chief.... The Far Right became a fount of proposals born of frustration and put forward in the name of anti-Communism.. Active- duty commanders played host to anti-Communist seminars on their bases and attended or addressed Right-wing meetings elsewhere."

Although no one in Congress could have known it at the time, Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs had quietly slipped over the edge.

According to secret and long-hidden documents obtained for Body of Secrets, the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up and approved plans for what may be the most corrupt plan ever created by the U.S. government. In the name of anticommunism, they proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war they intended to launch against Cuba.

Codenamed Operation Northwoods, the plan, which had the written approval of the Chairman and every member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, called for innocent people to be shot on American streets; for boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba to be sunk on the high seas; for a wave of violent terrorism to be launched in Washington, D.C., Miami, and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war.

The idea may actually have originated with President Eisenhower in the last days of his administration. With the Cold War hotter than ever and the recent U-2 scandal fresh in the public's memory, the old general wanted to go out with a win. He wanted desperately to invade Cuba in the weeks leading up to Kennedy's inauguration; indeed, on January 3 he told Lemnitzer and other aides in his Cabinet Room that he would move against Castro before the inauguration if only the Cubans gave him a really good excuse. Then, with time growing short, Eisenhower floated an idea. If Castro failed to provide that excuse, perhaps, he said, the United States "could think of manufacturing something that would be generally acceptable." What he was suggesting was a pretext -- a bombing, an attack, an act of sabotage -- carried out secretly against the United States by the United States. Its purpose would be to justify the launching of a war. It was a dangerous suggestion by a desperate president.

Although no such war took place, the idea was not lost on General Lemnitzer. But he and his colleagues were frustrated by Kennedy's failure to authorize their plan, and angry that Castro had not provided an excuse to invade.

The final straw may have come during a White House meeting on February 26, 1962. Concerned that General Lansdale's various covert action plan under Operation Mongoose were simply becoming more outrageous and going nowhere, Robert Kennedy told him to drop all anti-Castro efforts. Instead, Lansdale was ordered to concentrate for the next three months strictly on gathering intelligence about Cuba. It was a humiliating defeat for Lansdale, a man more accustomed to praise than to scorn.

As the Kennedy brothers appeared to suddenly "go soft" on Castro, Lemnitzer could see his opportunity to invade Cuba quickly slipping away. The attempts to provoke the Cuban public to revolt seemed dead and Castro, unfortunately, appeared to have no inclination to launch any attacks against Americans or their property. Lemnitzer and the other Chiefs knew there was only one option left that would ensure their war. They would have to trick the American public and world opinion into hating Cuba so much that they would not only go along, but would insist that he and his generals launch their war against Castro. "World opinion, and the United Nations forum," said a secret JCS document, "should be favorably affected by developing the international image of the Cuban government as rash and irresponsible, and as an alarming and unpredictable threat to the peace of the Western Hemisphere."

Operation Northwoods called for a war in which many patriotic Americans and innocent Cubans would die senseless deaths -- all to satisfy the egos of twisted generals back in Washington, safe in their taxpayer-financed homes and limousines.

One idea seriously considered involved the launch of John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth. On February 20, 1962, Glenn was to lift off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on his historic journey. The flight was to carry the banner of America's virtues of truth, freedom, and democracy into orbit high over the planet. But Lemnitzer and his Chiefs had a different idea. They proposed to Lansdale that, should the rocket explode and kill Glenn, "the objective is to provide irrevocable proof that. the fault lies with the Communists et al Cuba [sic]." This would be accomplished, Lemnitzer continued, "by manufacturing various pieces of evidence which would prove electronic interference on the part of the Cubans." Thus, as NASA prepared to send the first American into space, the Joint Chiefs of Staff were preparing to use John Glenn's possible death as a pretext to launch a war.

Glenn lifted into history without mishap, leaving Lemnitzer and the Chiefs to begin devising new plots which they suggested be carried out "within the time frame of the next few months."

Among the actions recommended was" a series of well coordinated incidents to take place in and around" the U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. This included dressing "friendly" Cubans in Cuban military uniforms and then have hem "start riots near the main gate of the base. Others would pretend to be saboteurs inside the base. Ammunition would be blown up, fires started, aircraft sabotaged, mortars fired at the base with damage to installations."

The suggested operations grew progressively more outrageous. Another called for an action similar to the infamous incident in February 1898 when an explosion aboard the battleship Maine in Havana harbor killed 266 U.S. sailors. Although the exact cause of the explosion remained undetermined, it sparked the Spanish-American War with Cuba. Incited by the deadly blast, more than one million men volunteered for duty. Lemnitzer and his generals came up with a similar plan. "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba," they proposed; "casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of national indignation."

There seemed no limit to their fanaticism; "We could develop a Communist Cuban terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington," they wrote. "The terror campaign could be pointed at Cuban refugees seeking haven in the United States. We could sink a boatload of Cubans en route to Florida (real or simulated).... We could foster attempts on lives of Cuban refugees in the United States even to the extent of wounding in instances to be widely publicized."

Bombings were proposed, false arrests, hijackings:

• "Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government."
• "Advantage can be taken of the sensitivity of the Dominican [Republic] Air Force to intrusions within their national air space. 'Cuban' B-26 or C-46 type aircraft could make cane-burning raids at night. Soviet Bloc incendiaries could be found. This could be coupled with 'Cuban' messages to the Communist underground in the Dominican Republic and 'Cuban' shipments of arms which would be found, or intercepted, on the beach. Use of MiG type aircraft by U.S. pilots could provide additional provocation."
• "Hijacking attempts against civil air and surface craft could appear to continue as harassing measures condoned by the Government of Cuba."

Among the most elaborate schemes was to "create an incident which will demonstrate convincingly that a Cuban aircraft has attacked and shot down a chartered civil airliner en route from the United States to Jamaica, Guatemala, Panama or Venezuela. The destination would be chosen only to cause the flight plan route to cross Cuba. The passengers could be a group of college students off on a holiday or any grouping of persons with a common interest to support chartering a non- scheduled flight."

Lemnitzer and the Joint Chiefs worked out a complex deception:

An aircraft at Elgin AFB would be painted and numbered as an exact duplicate for a civil registered aircraft belonging to a CIA proprietary organization. in the Miami area. At a designated time the duplicate would be substituted for the actual civil aircraft and would be loaded with the selected passengers, all boarded under carefully prepared aliases. The actual registered aircraft would be converted to a drone [a remotely controlled unmanned aircraft]. Take off times of the drone aircraft and the actual aircraft will be scheduled to allow a rendezvous south of Florida.

From the rendezvous point the passenger-carrying aircraft will descend to minimum altitude and go directly into an auxiliary field at Elgin AFB where arrangements will have been made to evacuate the passengers and return the aircraft to its original status. The drone aircraft meanwhile will continue to fly the filed flight plan. When over Cuba the drone will be transmitting on the international distress frequency a "May Day" message stating he is under attack by Cuban MiG aircraft. The transmission will be interrupted by destruction of the aircraft, which will be triggered by radio signal. This will allow ICAO [International Civil Aviation Organization] radio stations in the Western Hemisphere to tell the U.S. what has happened to the aircraft instead of the U.S. trying to "sell" the incident.

Finally, there was a plan to "make it appear that Communist Cuban MiGs have destroyed a USAF aircraft over international waters in an unprovoked attack." It was a particularly believable operation given the decade of shootdowns that had just taken place.

In the final sentence of his letter to Secretary McNamara recommending the operations, Lemnitzer made a grab for even more power, asking that the Joint Chiefs be placed in charge of carrying out Operation Northwoods and the invasion. "It is recommended," he wrote, "that this responsibility for both overt and covert military operations be as signed to the Joint Chiefs of Staff."

At 2:30 on the afternoon of Tuesday, March 13, 1962, Lemnitzer went over last-minute details of Operation Northwoods with his covert action chief, Brigadier General William H. Craig, and signed the document. He then went to a "special meeting" in McNamara's office. An hour later he met with Kennedy's military representative, General Maxwell Taylor. What happened during those meetings is unknown. But three days later, President Kennedy told Lemnitzer that there was virtually no possibility that the U.S. would ever use overt military force in Cuba.

Undeterred, Lemnitzer and the Chiefs persisted, virtually to the point of demanding that they be given authority to invade and take over Cuba. About a month after submitting Operation Northwoods, they met in the "tank," as the JCS conference room was called, and agreed on the wording of a tough memorandum to McNamara. "The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the Cuban problem must be solved in the near future," they wrote. "Further, they see no prospect of early success in overthrowing the present communist regime either as a result of internal uprising or external political, economic or psychological pressures. Accordingly they believe that military intervention by the United States will be required to overthrow the present communist regime."

Lemnitzer was virtually rabid in his hatred of communism in general and Castro in particular. "The Joint Chiefs of Staff believe that the United States can undertake military intervention in Cuba without risk of general war," he continued. "They also believe that the intervention can be accomplished rapidly enough to minimize communist opportunities for solicitation of UN action." However, what Lemnitzer was suggesting was not freeing-the Cuban people, who were largely in support of Castro, but imprisoning them in a U.S. military-controlled police state. "Forces would assure rapid essential military control of Cuba," he wrote. "Continued police action would be required."

Concluding, Lemnitzer did not mince words: "[T]he Joint Chiefs of Staff recommend that a national policy of early military intervention in Cuba be adopted by the United States. They also recommend that such intervention be undertaken as soon as possible and preferably before the release of National Guard and Reserve forces presently on active duty."

By then McNamara had virtually no confidence in his military chief and was rejecting nearly every proposal the general sent to him. The rejections became so routine, said one of Lemnitzer's former staff officers, that the staffer told the general that the situation was putting the military in an "embarrassing rut." But Lemnitzer replied, "I am the senior military officer -- it's my job to state what I believe and it's his [McNamara's] job to approve or disapprove." "McNamara's arrogance was astonishing," said Lemnitzer's aide, who knew nothing of Operation Northwoods. "He gave General Lemnitzer very short shrift and treated him like a schoolboy. The general almost stood at attention when he came into the room. Everything was 'Yes, sir' and 'No, sir.'"

Within months, Lemnitzer was denied a second term as JCS chairman and transferred to Europe as chief of NATO. Years later President Gerald Ford appointed Lemnitzer, a darling of the Republican right, to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. Lemnitzer's Cuba chief, Brigadier General Craig, was also transferred. Promoted to major general, he spent three years as chief of the Army Security Agency, NSA's military arm.

Because of the secrecy and illegality of Operation Northwoods, all details remained hidden for forty years. Lemnitzer may have thought that all copies of the relevant documents had been destroyed; he was not one to leave compromising material lying around. Following the Bay of Pigs debacle, for example, he ordered Brigadier General David W. Gray, Craig's predecessor as chief of the Cuba project within the JCS, to destroy all his notes concerning Joint Chiefs actions and discussions during that period. Gray's meticulous notes were the only detailed official records of what happened within the JCS during that time. According to Gray, Lemnitzer feared a congressional investigation and therefore wanted any incriminating evidence destroyed.

With the evidence destroyed, Lemnitzer felt free to lie to Congress. When asked, during secret hearings before a Senate committee, if he knew of any Pentagon plans for a direct invasion of Cuba he said he did not. Yet detailed JCS invasion plans had been drawn up even before Kennedy was inaugurated. And additional plans had been developed since. The consummate planner and man of details also became evasive, suddenly encountering great difficulty in recalling key aspects of the operation, as if he had been out of the country during the period. It was a sorry spectacle. Senator Gore called for Lemnitzer to be fired. "We need a shakeup of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," he said. "We direly need a new chairman, as well as new members." No one had any idea of Operation Northwoods.

Because so many documents were destroyed, it is difficult to determine how many senior officials were aware of Operation Northwoods. As has been described, the document was signed and fully approved by Lemnitzer and the rest of the Joint Chiefs and addressed to the Secretary of Defense for his signature. Whether it went beyond McNamara to the president and the attorney general is not known.

Even after Lemnitzer lost his job, the Joint Chiefs kept planning "pretext" operations at least into 1963. Among their proposals was a plan to deliberately create a war between Cuba and any of a number of its Latin American neighbors. This would give the United States military an excuse to come in on the side of Cuba's adversary and get rid of Castro. "A contrived 'Cuban' attack on an OAS [Organization of American States] member could be set up," said one proposal, "and the attacked state could be urged to 'take measures of self-defense and request assistance from the U.S. and OAS; the U.S. could almost certainly obtain the necessary two-thirds support among OAS members for collective action against Cuba."

Among the nations they suggested that the United States secretly attack were Jamaica and Trinidad-Tobago. Both were members of the British Commonwealth; thus, by secretly attacking them and then falsely blaming Cuba, the United States could lure England into the war against Castro. The report noted, "Any of the contrived situations de- scribed above are inherently, extremely risky in our democratic system in which security can be maintained, after the fact, with very great difficulty. If the decision should be made to set up a contrived situation it should be one in which participation by U.S. personnel is limited only to the most highly trusted covert personnel. This suggests the infeasibility of the use of military units for any aspect of the contrived situation."

The report even suggested secretly paying someone in the Castro government to attack the United States: "The only area remaining for consideration then would be to bribe one of Castro's subordinate commanders to initiate an attack on [the U.S. naval base at] Guantanamo." The act suggested -- bribing a foreign nation to launch a violent attack on an American military installation -- was treason.

In May 1963, Assistant Secretary of Defense Paul H. Nitze sent a plan to the White House proposing "a possible scenario whereby an attack on a United States reconnaissance aircraft could be exploited toward the end of effecting the removal of the Castro regime." In the event Cuba attacked a U~2, the plan proposed sending in additional American pilots, this time on dangerous, unnecessary low-level-reconnaissance missions with the expectation that they would also be shot down, thus provoking a war. "[T]he U.S. could undertake various measures designed to stimulate the Cubans to provoke a new incident," said the plan. Nitze, however, did not volunteer to be one of the pilots.

One idea involved sending fighters across the island on "harassing reconnaissance" and "show-off" missions "flaunting our freedom of action, hoping to stir the Cuban military to action." "Thus," said the plan, "depending above all on whether the Cubans were or could be made to be trigger-happy, the development of the initial downing of a reconnaissance plane could lead at best to the elimination of Castro, perhaps to the removal of Soviet troops and the installation of ground inspection in Cuba, or at the least to our demonstration of firmness on reconnaissance." About a month later, a low-level flight was made across Cuba, but unfortunately for the Pentagon, instead of bullets it produced only a protest.

Lemnitzer was a dangerous-perhaps even unbalanced-rightwing extremist in an extraordinarily sensitive position during a critical period. But Operation Northwoods also had the support of every single member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and even senior Pentagon official Paul Nitze argued in favor of provoking a phony war with Cuba. The fact that the most senior members of all the services and the Pentagon could be so out of touch with reality and the meaning of democracy would be hidden for four decades.

In retrospect, the documents offer new insight into the thinking of the military's star-studded leadership. Although they never succeeded in launching America into a phony war with Cuba, they may have done so with Vietnam. More than 50,000 Americans and more than 2 million Vietnamese were eventually killed in that war.

It has long been suspected that the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin incident -- the spark that led to America's long war in Vietnam - was largely staged or provoked by U.S. officials in order to build up congressional and public support for American involvement. Over the years, serious questions have been raised about the alleged attack by North Vietnamese patrol boats on two American destroyers in the Gulf. But defenders of the Pentagon have always denied such charges, arguing that senior officials would never engage in such deceit.

Now, however, in light of the Operation Northwoods documents, it is clear that deceiving the public and trumping up wars for Americans to fight and die in was standard, approved policy at the highest levels of the Pentagon. In fact, the Gulf of Tonkin seems right out of the Operation Northwoods playbook: "We could blow up a U.S. ship in Guantanamo Bay and blame Cuba ... casualty lists in U.S. newspapers would cause a helpful wave of indignation." One need only replace "Guantanamo Bay" with "Tonkin Gulf," and "Cuba" with "North Vietnam." The Gulf of Tonkin incident may or may not have been stage-managed, but the senior Pentagon leadership at the time was clearly capable of such deceit.


PostPosted: Sun Sep 06, 2015 10:01 pm
by admin
Part 1 of 2



Two hundred miles north of Washington, at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, shipfitters riveted steel seams together and welded joints in place. Blue sparks flew about and industrial pounding filled the air. Men in hard hats cut, straightened, and shaped large metal plates, and electricians strung miles of wire like endless strands of black knitting yarn. In a long, boxy dry dock, welder's torches were bringing back to life the rusting skeleton and gray skin of a ship long discarded.

Like an early baby boomer, the SS Samuel R. Aitken was launched in Portland, Maine, on July 31,1945. Named for an Irishman who came to the United States at the turn of the century and later became an executive with Moore-McCormack Lines, the Aitken was one of the mass-produced cargo vessels known as Liberty ships. Because it arrived too late for the war, it instead spent a few years hauling freight from port to port under the colors of Moore-McCormack. But after only three years in service, the Aitken was given early retirement and sent to a nautical boneyard in Wilmington, Delaware.

Now, under a heavy cloak of secrecy, the Samuel R. Aitken was being called back into service, but this time as a spy.


About the same time that John F. Kennedy was elected president, NSA director John Samford's tour ended with considerably more attention than it began. Just before his scheduled retirement in November 1960, the agency suffered the worst scandal in its history when two of its analysts, William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell, defected to Moscow. As a result of the defection, NSA's organizational structure was quickly changed. ADVA and GENS were combined into A Group, the largest organization, focusing on all analysis of the Soviet Union and its satellite countries. ACOM became B Group, responsible for China, Korea, Vietnam, and the rest of Communist Asia, as well as Cuba. And ALLO was transformed into G Group, which tackled the communications of the rest of the world. The remainder of NSA was similarly organized. De spite other spy scandals, this system would remain unchanged until well into the 1990s.

Vice Admiral Laurence Hugh (Jack) Frost, a 1926 Annapolis graduate who once served as chief of staff at NSA, replaced Samford. When he arrived, NSA's headquarters at Fort Meade had grown to 8,000 people and was eating up a larger and larger slice of the intelligence pie. By then the overall U.S. intelligence budget reached $2 billion; the Department of Defense accounted for $1.4 billion, most of which went to NSA. Thin and silver-haired, the admiral, soon after taking office, proclaimed that NSA was a ship and ordered a 75-foot, 3,100-pound flagpole installed with his personal flag so people would know that he was aboard.

It was an appropriate gesture. At the time, NSA was secretly building its own eavesdropping navy to supplement its Sigint air force. As the air battles of the 1950s claimed more and more lives, ferret ships began joining ferret planes. Ships could also cover the southern hemisphere-South America and sub-Saharan Africa-where NSA had almost no listening posts. Both areas were of growing concern as the United States and Russia sought to expand their influence throughout the developing world.

The concept was not new. For years the Soviets had used a fleet of about forty antenna-sprouting trawlers. They would bob just outside the three-mile territorial limit and eavesdrop on defense installations along the east and west coasts of the U.S. "The Soviets had a vast intelligence program which included the use of Soviet trawlers," said former KGB major general Oleg Kalugin, "and specially equipped scientific ships, so called, which operated under the auspices of the Academy of Sciences of the USSR. They would go to various places-the Atlantic, the Pacific and wherever they could. And they would use the intelligence equipment ... to intercept electronic communications and then ... break them."

President Eisenhower authorized NSA's first signals intelligence ship on November 12, 1959. The Samuel R. Aitken would become the USS Oxford. Although previously only cruisers had been named for cities, it was decided to make an exception for eavesdropping vessels. "Oxford" was chosen because it was found to be the commonest city name in the United States. The vessel was also given the euphemistic designation "Auxiliary General Technical Research" (AGTR) ship.

The conversion work began in October 1960, just before the presidential elections. At 441 feet long, with a beam of 57 feet and a displacement of 11,498 tons, the Oxford was large enough to house a sizable listening post. On September 11, 1961, Lieutenant Commander Howard R. Lund reported his ship ready for duty, ostensibly for the Navy's Atlantic Service Force, and proceeded from New York to the vessel's home port of Norfolk, Virginia.

The Oxford would be unlike any other ship ever sent to sea. To quickly get intercepts from the ship to NSA, a unique sixteen-foot dish-shaped antenna was installed on its fantail. On December 15, the Oxford became the first ship at sea ever to receive a message bounced off the moon. "Signaling another first in communications by the Navy," said the message from the Chief of Naval Operations, "this message being sent to you from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Field Station, Stump Neck, Maryland, via the moon."

A few weeks later, the Oxford left Norfolk on its first operational cruise, an eavesdropping sweep off eastern South America. After a brief visit to Colon, Panama, it crossed the equator and sailed to Recife, Brazil; Montevideo, Uruguay; Buenos Aires, Argentina; and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Along the way, the ship successfully used its moon-bounce antenna to send information back to Washington -- another first.

In addition to speed, the moon-bounce antenna also provided the ship with stealth. Unlike the standard high-frequency communications, which were vulnerable to foreign direction-finding antennas, the moon-bounce signal was virtually undetectable because it used hard-to-intercept directional microwave signals. The moon-bounce system was also immune to jamming. Ground stations for the system were located at Cheltenham, Maryland, near NSA; Wahiawa, Hawaii; Sobe, Okinawa; and Oakhanger, in the United Kingdom.

On June 20, 1962, Commander Thomas Avery Cosgrove took over as captain of the Oxford. Cosgrove was a "mustang," an officer who had previously served as an enlisted man; he was "as rough as sandpaper," said Aubrey Brown, one of the intercept operators on the ship. "He had tattoos all the way on his arms down to his wrists. He had a tattoo around his neck. And he had the language of a boatswain's mate."

About a month later, on July 16, the ship set out for another four-month surveillance mission down the South American coast. But three days later it received an emergency message to set sail immediately for Cuba "in response to highest priority intelligence requirements."


By the summer of 1962, the shipping lanes between Russia and Cuba were beginning to resemble a freeway during rush hour. On July 24, NSA reported "at least four, and possibly five ... Soviet passenger ships en route Cuba with a possible 3,335 passengers on board." The passengers may well have been Soviet military personnel brought to operate Soviet radar and weapons systems. Over little more than a month, fifty-seven Soviet merchant ships visited Havana. "In addition to the shipping increase," recalled Admiral Robert Lee Dennison, who was in charge of the Atlantic fleet at the time, "there were large numbers of Soviet-bloc military personnel prior to August and then there was a buildup during August and September when nine passenger ships arrived in Cuba with a total capacity of 20,000 passengers. But at the time we didn't have any way of really confirming how many people were on board these ships because they would disembark at night."

At-the same time, NSA began noticing increased use of deception. Ships leaving ports in Russia listed destinations in the Far East and in Africa. But NSA, with its network of giant elephant cages intercepting the vessels' daily broadcasts and triangulating their positions, was able to track them as they crossed the Atlantic en route to Cuba. NSA was also able to detect ships loading far less cargo than their manifests called for, thus leaving a great deal of room for weapons and military supplies. Thus when the new Soviet cargo ship Beloretsk arrived at Archangel in late May it was supposed to load about 7,800 tons of lumber, but only 5,240 tons were actually put aboard. That cargo filled only a third of the Norwegian-built ship's 14,150-ton capacity. "It is therefore believed," concluded an NSA report, "that the Beloretsk may be carrying a partial load of military cargo."

As the summer wore on, the signals became more ominous. About forty miles off the westernmost tip of Cuba, an antenna-packed ferret plane picked up the first telltale sounds of Soviet airborne intercept radar. This meant that Cuban air defense bases could now accurately target and shoot down US. aircraft flying over or near their territory, thus increasing exponentially the risks of the eavesdropping missions. That same day, intercept operators began hearing Russian voices over Cuban internal communications links. "Comint sources reveal Russian and non-Cuban voice activity on Cuban Revolutionary Air Force tactical frequencies," said one report. Another troubling sign.

In May 1962, as the Soviet buildup in Cuba continued to look more menacing, Vice Admiral Frost began touring listening posts in the Far East, including the large Navy monitoring station at Kamiseya, Japan. The next month he was suddenly booted from the agency and transferred to the Potomac River Naval Command, a halfway house for admirals on the brink of retirement. Director for less than two years, Frost bore the brunt of the various inquests into the double defection of Martin and Mitchell. Because of that, and disputes with the Pentagon, his cryptologic career was terminated prematurely. Many also felt Frost had a problem dealing with NSA personnel. "I thought Frost was one of the least effective [NSA heads]," said former NSA research chief Howard Campaigne. "I think his problems were communication problems." Another former NSA official said Frost had trouble controlling his anger. "I saw him chew out Frank Raven, Bill Ray [senior NSA officials], and some Air Force brigadier general in a briefing," said Robert D. Farley, a former NSA historian. "Just the finger-on-the-chest bit."

Replacing Frost was fifty-one-year-old Gordon Aylesworth Blake, an Air Force lieutenant general. Blake knew what he was getting into; he had earlier run NSA's air arm, the Air Force Security Service. As a sixteen- year-old, he slipped into West Point under the age limit. "I hadn't been north of Minneapolis, east off Chicago, south of Des Moines, or west of Sioux City," he recalled. "I was pretty green."

Eventually awarded his pilot's wings, Blake went on to communications school and was assigned to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in 1939. On the morning of December 7, 1941, he was on duty as the airfield operations officer, waiting to make sure a returning flight of B-17 bombers was properly parked. They were due to arrive at 8:00 A.M. from California, "So all of a sudden we hear this big 'karroppp,'" said Blake. "I raced outside and here was a dive-bomber that had bombed a big depot hangar at the south end of the hangar line. It pulled up and we could see this red circle under the wing. Well, no guessing as to what the hell had happened." Blake ran up to the control tower to warn the B-17s that were due in and he eventually managed to land them safely. For his actions during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor he was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry.

Blake knew Frost was in trouble and was somewhat uneasy at moving in as his predecessor was moving out. "Jack Frost was under some nebulous status because of the Martin-Mitchell case," he said. "I very much felt badly about coming in over his prostrate form, and he understood that."

Blake kept Dr. Louis Tordella as deputy director and largely left to him the agency's most secret operations. "It would be better for NSA and for those activities if I left that to Tordella," Blake said. "And that was our working relationship. So while 1 usually had a general knowledge of this compartment and that compartment, I made no attempt to be really knowledgeable about it and, therefore, just less involved security-wise. Maybe that's an odd view but directors come and go and for them to become a repository of every last little secret never struck me as being really very useful." Tordella was on his way to an extraordinary reign as NSA's chief keeper of the secrets.

Sensing the tremors of approaching war in the summer of 1941, Tordella, then a thirty-year-old assistant professor of mathematics at Loyola University in Chicago, one day walked into the nearby U.S. Fifth Army Headquarters and volunteered his services. But after the professor explained that he held a doctorate in mathematics, practiced cryptanalysis as a hobby, held an amateur radio license, and wanted to serve, the Army major in charge could not be bothered. Possibly thinking that the new recruit would be far more comfortable with a box of chalk instead of bullets, he brushed him off with a sneer: "When we want you, we'll draft you."

Cold-shouldered by the Army, Tordella would soon be embraced by the Navy. Spotting his background on a questionnaire Tordella had filled out for the American Academy of Science, Laurance Safford, a naval officer and father of the Navy's codebreaking effort, rolled out the red carpet. By April 1942, Tordella was a lieutenant (junior grade) assigned to OP-20-G, the Navy's cryptologic organization, in Washington. Working out of a temporary building on Constitution Avenue, the lanky Hoosier stood his first watch-supervising direction-finding operations-after one eight-hour indoctrination.

But before long, Tordella was using mathematics like a burglar using lock picks, looking for the array of numbers that would pry open the hellish German cipher machine known as Enigma. In July 1942, Lieutenant Tordella was transferred to Bainbridge Island in the state of Washington, a key intercept station for eavesdropping on Japanese communications. But after several years at the remote listening post in the Northwest, and with the war beginning to wind down, Tordella ached to test his skills closer to the front. The opportunity came in 1944, when he received orders to China.

During a stopover in Washington, D.C., for meetings, however, he learned that he had been bumped from the assignment. Instead of heading to the war, he boarded a train to New York City and a special twelve-week course at Bell Laboratories on new equipment that was designed to decipher Japanese voice codes. Initially, Tordella was to travel to the South Pacific to test various equipment and techniques. However, before the system could be deployed the military situation in the Pacific changed. Tordella was again reassigned, this time as the officer-in-charge of a newly established Navy experimental intercept site at Skaggs Island, an isolated, mosquito-infested wetland near San Francisco. Here, amid the frogs and snakes and antennas, Tordella sat out the remainder of the war.

Mustered out in October 1946, Tordella had not lost his taste for codebreaking. Rather than return to the classroom in Chicago, he signed on as a civilian mathematician with the Navy's cryptologic organization, then called the Communications Supplementary Activity and later the Naval Security Group. With the formation of NSA in 1952, Tordella transferred over and became chief of NSA-70, which was responsible for high-level cryptanalysis. A rising star, he was named deputy director in August 1958.

Because Tordella had developed a close working relationship with the CIA's chief of operations, Richard Helms, who would later go on to become director, Blake also let the mathematician handle the problems that occasionally developed with that agency. One difficult situation came up when the CIA tried to muscle in on the NSA's territory by putting out its own signals intelligence reports. "I left that one to Lou for some reason or another to sort it out," said Blake. "He and Dick Helms were thick as thieves."


With the enormous focus on Cuba, Blake barely had enough time to find his office before the alarm bells began to sound. On July 19, Robert McNamara pushed NSA into high gear. "NSA has been directed by Sec Def [Secretary of Defense] to establish a Sigint collection capability in the vicinity of Havana, Cuba," Blake immediately notified the Chief of Naval Operations, "as a matter of the highest intelligence priority." He then pulled the ferret ship USS Oxford from its South American patrol and sent it steaming toward Havana.

The Oxford was ideally suited for the mission. Where once cases of lima beans, truck axles, plumbing pipes, and other cargo had been stored, the earphone-clad intercept operators now sat in front of racks of receivers and reel-to-reel tape recorders. Up forward, near the bow, voice and Morse collection specialists twisted dials and searched for signals. Fortunately for NSA, the Cubans never tried to scramble voice communications. In the background was the constant rapping of teleprinters printing out intercepted Soviet and Cuban telexes and other communications. One deck above was a steel forest of antennas. In the stern, below another forest of spindly metal tree trunks and stiff wire branches, the Elint specialists listened for the twitters and warbles of Russian radar on Cuban air bases.

"From the ship we could look up and down the length of the island," said Harold L. Parish, a Soviet analyst. As if it were on a cruise to nowhere, the Oxford would sail in circles and figure eights for weeks at a time six miles off Havana's Morro Castle. The ship's slow and lazy pace was especially good for loitering near key microwave beams, narrow signals that were difficult for airborne ferrets to pick up. "The quality of the intercept was good," Parish said. "Even with the C- 130 you were flying kind of fast and you flew through the [microwave] beams" so that not enough signal was captured to decipher.

As the weeks went by, the intercepts became increasingly ominous. On August 17, an Elint operator on the Oxford heard an unusual sound, like the song of a rare bird out of its normal habitat. It was the electronic call of a Soviet radar codenamed Whiff, a troubling sound that meant Russian anti-aircraft weapons had now been set up.

At NSA, a number of Soviet Sigint experts in A Group were suddenly told to report to the office of Major General John Davis, the operations chief. "We were called down and told there was evidence of offensive missiles," said Hal Parish. They were then sent to help out the Spanish Sigint experts on the Cuba desk in B Group. "We all descended down there and we formed what was the watch for the Cuban missile crisis.... All the people who were previously associated with the Cuban target-the management and so forth-kind of disappeared and went off to the side. We came down and set up the round-the-clock activities and sort of went from there." Parish said some friction developed between NSA's civilian and military staffs. "There was some," he said, "there always is."

In Washington, within hours of receiving the CRITIC message containing the intelligence, senior officials began scurrying to meetings. The CIA director, John McCone, told one high-level group that he believed that the evidence pointed to the construction of offensive ballistic missiles in Cuba-missiles that could hit as far north as the southern part of the United States. What else could the anti-aircraft weapons be protecting? he asked. But both Secretary of State Dean Rusk and McNamara disagreed, maintaining that the buildup was purely defensive.

To try to coordinate much of the data collection, Blake set up NSA's first around-the-clock Sigint Command Center, which later became the present-day National Security Operations Center (NSOC). "It was for most of us our initial contact by telephone with a customer on the other end," said one of those assigned to the command center. "It was the first time I had ever talked to colonels from DIA [the Defense Intelligence Agency]. Same with CIA.... We turned on the heavy reporting, both spot and daily report summaries at that time and twice-daily summaries .... We worked between eight and twenty hours a day."

Blake spent much of his time in meetings with the U.S. Intelligence Board. "We would recess for a few hours so the staff could type something," he said, "and then we would come back again, and the basic question we were addressing [was], If we belly up to the Russians, what. will they do? Well, I am sure you realize how hard that question is because you talk about intent, you see, and you don't read any messages that give you intent. And I recall our final paper on the subject 'to the president, pretty much bottom line was 'We think the Russians will blink.'"

Among the key problems NSA faced was a shortage of Spanish linguists and, at least in the early stages of the crisis, a lack of intercept coverage. "One collection facility ... against x-hundred emitters that were on the air at the time from the Cuban area," said NSA cryptologist Hal Parish, "we were just a little short. So that was a problem." Still another concern was the lack of secure communications between NSA and the listening posts. "Communications were definitely a problem," Parish said. "Secure communications. I'd say we were doing advisory support over the open telephone line." The Oxford's unique moon-bounce dish was critical in relaying both messages and intercepts from Havana's doorstep to the analysts in the command center. But according to Parish, "It was only a twelve-hour-a-day system; unfortunately, because the moon was out of sight at times."

With the Oxford now in place, the amount of Sigint concerning Cuba went from a trickle to a gush. The intercepts clearly showed that the Russians were exercising greater and greater control over Cuban military activities. "Concentrated efforts have been made by Bloc pilots and controllers to converse entirely in Spanish," said one report, "but, on occasion, they have reverted to their native tongue to convey a difficult command or request to other Bloc pilots or controllers." Other intercepts revealed nighttime jet gunnery exercises, bombing practice, and extensive patrols. NSA issued a dramatic report showing just how massive the sudden buildup was. In the last three months of 1961, total gross tonnage of ships heading for Cuba was 183,923. But in just the past two months-July and August of 1962-the gross tonnage had jumped to 518,196.

Worried about leaks, Kennedy had ordered a tight lid clamped on the secret intelligence operations against Cuba. "The President said to put it back in the box and nail it tight," said Lieutenant General Marshall S. (Pat) Carter, deputy director of the CIA at the time. At NSA, Blake ordered a new codeword, further limiting the number of people with access to the information, and extra restrictions on intercepts revealing offensive weapons. "Sigint evidence of Cuban acquisition of potentially offensive weapons systems," said the message, "(e.g., surface-to-surface missiles, bombers, submarines) will ... contain preamble 'This is a FUNNEL message' and be forwarded electronically to DIRNSA [Director, NSA] only at 01 precedence or higher. No, repeat, no further dissemination is authorized without specific instructions."

For the airborne eavesdroppers, the skies around Cuba had suddenly become extremely dangerous. Three times a day an RB-47 Strato-Spy would take off from Macdill Air Force Base, outside Tampa. Loaded with eavesdropping gear, it would fly along the Cuban coast, sucking signals from the air. The tapes would quickly be flown to NSA, where analysts would search for new signals coming from the vicinity of the surface-to-air missile sites under construction. Other C-130 "flying listening posts" also flew along the coast, just outside Cuban territory. All the ferrets were equipped with special automatic scanning devices to instantly pick up SA-2 anti-aircraft-related signals.

At the White House, President Kennedy discussed the possibility of moving the ferrets farther from the Cuban coast, but NSA argued against it, even though one of the missions-the daily routes-was within range of Cuban missiles. The problem was, the farther it moved from the coast, the fewer signals it could pick up. "This [equipment] is now operating at the margin of its capability," said NSA. "If it is moved further out, the mission, an electronic intelligence one, might as well be abandoned." While arguing to keep the planes in harm's way, Blake also made protection of the aircraft the most important responsibility of the listening posts. "I feel that our first priority requirement is reporting reaction in connection with high and low level reconnaissance flights," he notified the commander of NSA's air contingent.

The foresight of developing an NSA navy was paying off. Sitting just half a dozen miles from downtown Havana, the Oxford was able to eavesdrop on a wealth of communications. As a result, Blake requested appropriations for an additional "shipborne collection platform" for use against Cuba, this one a large civilian-manned vessel operated by the Military Sea Transportation Service. "NSA is therefore commencing negotiations," said his message to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "for the procurement of the USNS Muller, a vessel which can approximate the accommodations and facilities aboard the Oxford." But first Blake needed the money.

If Blake trusted Tordella with all of the agency's secrets, he trusted Congress and their oversight and appropriations responsibilities with none of them. Asked how difficult it was to testify fully about NSA's activities before congressional committees, Blake had a simple answer. "It was very difficult and, therefore, we didn't do it." Instead, said Blake, "my technique for that dealt with two gentlemen who were very cooperative" when it came to probing NSA -- that is, there were no questions asked. "Being able to talk more frankly to them," he added, "and let them see to it that the rest of the Committee didn't get too far afield was obviously a tremendous boon to the director and his budget activities." According to Blake, those two were Michigan congressman Gerald Ford, on the House Appropriations Committee, and Senator Richard Russell, who occupied a similar position on the Senate side. "I would have private meetings with those two only," said Blake. "That was my technique, and it worked beautifully. ... My recollection is a pretty successful three years in terms of resources."

To make up for the lack of additional people, Blake began yanking intercept operators from other listening posts around the world and sending them to southern Florida. At Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Army Sigint personnel attached to the 326th ASA Company were told to drop everything and board planes for Homestead Air Base near Miami, a key listening post during the crisis. Eavesdropping aircraft were moved, from their location in Rota, Spain, to air bases in Jacksonville and Pensacola. From there they would fly down to Key West, pick up intercept operators, and conduct eight- to ten-hour missions off the Cuban coast.

In a matter of days the Navy turned Key West from a sleepy supply depot for cryptologic equipment to a buzzing city of eavesdroppers. "What had been sort of a lazy tempo in the Key West theater of operations suddenly heated up to match the summer weather," recalled Owen Englander, who was in charge of the Key West naval security detachment. "Almost overnight the National Command Authority and the Navy and Air Force operational worlds discovered Naval Security Group Detachment Key West. A decision was made to beef us up and people commenced to arrive from every direction."

The intercept operators worked in a World War I bunker buried under fifteen feet of reinforced. concrete and compacted mar -- sand, clay, and crushed coral. It was designed to withstand a direct hit from a 16-inch shell. Sailors immediately began setting up a huge dish antenna as well as an assortment of wires and poles. In addition to the planes, bases, and ships eavesdropping on Cuban and Soviet communications, submarines were sent in. One sub was able to sneak close enough to eavesdrop on a microwave link on the Isle of Pines. For NSA's eavesdroppers, submarines provided a quality no other platform could offer: stealth.

But although it was NSA's most important target in the summer and fall of 1962, Cuba was far from the only one.


At periscope depth, sixty feet under the dark and frigid Barents Sea, the USS Nautilus (SSN 571) was barely moving. The world's first nuclear-powered submarine, it had made headlines four years earlier when it sailed beneath the icepack to the North Pole and broadcast the message "Nautilus 90 north." Now it was on an enormously sensitive espionage mission a short distance off a black and desolate Soviet island above the Arctic Circle. Without doubt, Novaya Zemlya was the most forbidding piece of real estate on the planet. One year earlier, the Russians had exploded the largest bomb in the history of mankind above the island, a 58-megaton thermonuclear monster. Now the crew of the Nautilus was busy making preparations to eavesdrop on and photograph a new round of tests. Thirteen miles from ground zero, Sigint specialist John Arnold was attaching the final piece of critical equipment -- a cardboard toilet paper tube.

Arnold, a Navy chief, was a fast riser in a super-excluslve club: NSA's small band of undersea intercept operators. Sealed for months in closet-sized listening posts aboard specially outfitted submarines, the deep-diving eavesdroppers prowled close to Soviet coasts, recording shore-based transmitters and key signals within the Russian fleet. "Col lection at thirteen miles was pretty good," said Arnold. "Sometimes you could even pick up signals with your antennas underwater. Not much, but some of the radars were strong enough to penetrate the water." Locating radar installations was a key mission of the team. "You could tell from the frequency and the pulse repetition rate and the scan rate what kind of radar it is and take its bearing by direction finding."

Arnold began his career in the old diesel-powered boats, which needed to break the surface about once every twenty-four hours in order to get new air through the snorkel. "If you had any antennas or masts up, the periscope was always up -- even during the daytime -- because a helicopter or aircraft could come cruising by and they would see your mast'" said Arnold. "And if you didn't have your periscope up keeping a lookout, they could end up detecting you."

Once, a conning officer became so mesmerized watching a helicopter he completely forgot to call an alert. "He just kept focused on it and watched it come right over us," said Arnold. "So we became the target of an ASW [antisubmarine warfare] exercise in short order. That kept us down for over two days before we could shake him and get fresh air again. Everyone that was nonessential was to stay in their bunks to minimize the consumption of oxygen."

Arnold had spent much of the summer of 1962 beneath the waves of the Barents Sea. A few months earlier, in anticipation of renewed nuclear tests, he had put together a special piece of equipment and headed for Novaya Zemlya aboard the USS Scorpion. But when the tests were postponed, the crew spent the mission conducting electronic surveillance just off Russia's sensitive Kola Peninsula. "We almost had an underwater collision with a [Soviet] November- lass submarine," said Arnold. "We were trailing, collecting data on its bottom side when it was on the surface. We were smack dab under him.... Between the bottom of his sub and the top of the Scorpion, sometimes the periscope was only six to twelve inches, closely inspecting underwater appendages, protrusions, and so forth, and recording it on television." Suddenly the depth finder aboard the Soviet boat sent out a "ping" to determine the distance to the bottom. "That was standard practice just before they dive," said Arnold. The Scorpion escaped just in time.

Back home for just a few days, Arnold was again quickly dispatched to Novaya Zemlya when word was received that Soviet bomb testing would begin soon. This time he was transferred to the nuclear-powered Nautilus. As other Sigint specialists eavesdropped on Soviet technicians rigging for the test, Arnold was fitting the sub's periscopes with special photographic equipment. The cameras were connected to the lens of the scopes with rolls of cardboard toilet paper tubes double-wrapped with black electric tape. "On one periscope we had an optical detector that measured light intensity versus time," said Arnold. "On the other we had a high-speed color movie camera attached."

Suddenly the dimly lit submarine, deep under the surface of the sea, lit up with a blinding light. "When the detonation went off it was just like someone had set off a flashbulb in your face," said Arnold. The light had blasted through the· heavily wrapped toilet paper tubes as if they were made of see-through plastic. The crew not only saw the flash, they heard and felt the explosion. "It was a really weird sound when you're in a submarine," Arnold recalled. "It sounds like a jet airplane when it breaks the sound barrier. Then you feel it also. It feels as though you're standing on a steel deck and somebody under the deck has a sledgehammer and he hits the steel deck plate right where you're standing -- it's a sharp shock. It broke a few fluorescent light bulbs and caused some insulation to pop off."

Over six weeks, Arnold witnessed twelve or thirteen tests. "They were from twenty kilotons up to fifty megatons," Arnold said. After the initial blast, the explosion could be viewed through the periscope. "They were" spectacularly beautiful to watch," he said. "You could look through the periscope and watch the mushroom cloud build and the colors develop." Following the nuclear tests, Arnold, like many other intercept operators, was assigned to a mission off Cuba, this time aboard a surface ship trying to pick up signals related to the deadly Soviet SA-2 surface-to-air missiles.


About two o'clock in the morning on September 15, 1962, the crisis again ratcheted up several levels. After double- hecking and triple-checking, there was no question: the U.S. listeners had detected a Russian "Spoon Rest" radar, fully active. For the first time, the SA-2 missiles were operational, capable of shooting down any aircraft on a moment's notice, as had the SA-2 in Russia that brought down the U-2 piloted by Francis Gary Powers. Listening posts in Florida, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere helped the Oxford pinpoint the signal as emanating from a location about three miles west of the port of Mariel. From now on, all U.S. pilots, no matter what aircraft they flew, would have a cocked gun pointed at them.

The activation of the SA-2 missiles gave NSA and CIA an opportunity to fake the Russians into revealing key details of the weapons system. Gene Poteat, a young CIA scientist, had come up with a scheme to inject false targets into Soviet radar. Codenamed Palladium, the operation involved sending deceptive signals to give Russian radar operators the false impression that they were tracking an aircraft. "By smoothly varying the length of the delay," Poteat wrote later, "we could simulate the false target's range and speed." As the Russians tracked the ghost aircraft, NSA intercept operators listened in. Later analysis would be able to determine such important details as just how sensitive the radar systems were, and to assess the proficiency of the operators.

The Palladium system was mounted on a destroyer operating out of Key West. As the ship cruised well off the Cuban coast, the Palladium system transmitted false signals indicating that a U.S. fighter plane out of Florida was about to penetrate Cuban airspace. At about the same time, an American submarine that had slipped into Havana Bay released a number of balloons that carried metal spheres of varying size into the sky.

Elsewhere on the destroyer, in an NSA van lashed to the deck, intercept operators closely monitored the Russian radar, hoping to be able to determine just how accurate the system was by studying the way it tracked the ghost aircraft and the metal objects. They quickly struck pay dirt. A Cuban fighter suddenly took off after the ghost aircraft; other MiGs began circling where the submarine had surfaced. In the NSA van, the intercept operators quickly began eavesdropping on both the shore-based radar systems and the pilots pursuing the ghost aircraft. "We had no trouble in manipulating the Palladium system controls," wrote Poteat, "to keep our ghost aircraft always just ahead of the pursuing Cuban planes." Through earphones, one intercept operator heard the Cuban pilot notify his base that he had the intruding plane in sight and was about to shoot it down. A technician moved his finger to a button. "I nodded yes," said Poteat, "and he switched off the Palladium system." The ghost aircraft disappeared.

Palladium proved very successful, revealing that the Soviet radar systems were state-of-the-art and that their operators were equally skilled. "We also knew which of their radars had low power [or] maintenance problems or were otherwise not functioning up to par," noted Poteat, "and where the U.S. Air Force might safely penetrate in wartime."

Five days before the discovery of the operational SA-2 missiles, Secretary of State Rusk had become so worried over the prospects of a shootdown over or near Cuba that he asked for a meeting of the key players in Operation Mongoose. Rusk was particularly unsettled by several recent incidents. On August 30, a U-2 had accidentally overflown Russia's Sakhalin Island, generating a harsh Soviet protest, and a few days later another CIA U-2, based in Taiwan and flown by a Chinese Nationalist, was lost over mainland China.

At the meeting, Rusk mentioned the incidents and then looked across the table at CIA deputy director Pat Carter. "Pat, don't you ever let me up?" he asked jokingly. "How do you expect me to negotiate on Berlin with all these incidents?" But Robert Kennedy saw no humor. "What's the matter, Dean, no guts?" he snapped. Eventually Rusk and Carter compromised on a reduced flight schedule. But Carter expressed his concern. "I want to put you people on notice," he said, "that it remains our intention to fly right up over those SAMs to see what is there." There was no response, positive or negative. As the meeting broke up and the officials began heading for the doors, Carter quietly grumbled, "There they all go again and no decisions."

The next day, October 10, NSA reported that the Cuban air defense system seemed to be complete. The Cubans had just begun passing radar tracking from radar stations to higher headquarters and to defensive fighter bases using Soviet procedures. Their system, with Russians in advisory positions at every point, was now ready for business.


From the very first, NSA had performed superbly in tracking the Cuban arms buildup, shipload by shipload, pallet by pallet. But without the ability to break high-level Soviet or Cuban cipher systems, the code breakers could not answer the most important question: Were all the weapons being delivered defensive, or were any offensive, such as ballistic missiles? Even unencrypted Cuban communications frequently frustrated NSA's abilities. "Communications security has been very well maintained through a system of cover words and/or callsigns," one NSA report noted. Instead, NSA depended mostly on commercial ship transmissions, unencrypted Cuban chatter, and direction finding. Thus it was neither the NSA nor the CIA that would discover the first hard evidence of medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs) in Cuba. Instead it was the high-resolution "eyes" of an Air Force U-2. Nevertheless, Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, who would later become Chief of Naval Operations, told Congress that "electronic intelligence led to the photographic intelligence that gave indisputable evidence of the Soviet missiles in Cuba."

On Thursday, October 18, a V-2's high-altitude reconnaissance photography revealed that the Soviet and Cuban construction teams were making rapid progress. In August, only the initial construction of one missile site was observed. But new photography revealed two confirmed MRBM sites and one probable. Two other sites, possibly for the more powerful intermediate-range missiles, were also confirmed.

On the Oxford, it was nail-biting time. NSA intercepts picked up frequent Cuban references to "the Oxford spy ship." According to Parish, "They would send vessels out and get in their path. Some low flyers would come over -- low-flying aircraft. They would come on, circle them with their guns trained on them."

"We were all listening for Russian communications, Cuban and Russian," said Oxford intercept operator Aubrey Brown. "The Cubans didn't take too kindly to the idea of us sitting out there and doing this. So there was a game of harassment that they played-they would send these gunboats out and you could see the crew going to general quarters, you could see the guns being trained on the ship. They take an attack position and then run a fake attack on the ship. The people on the boats were standing behind the guns."

"Jesus Christ'" yelled one senior intercept operator. "It's war! Havana harbor just went crypto." Until then, the routine broadcasts to ships entering Havana harbor had been in the clear. Suddenly the broadcast became gibberish. After a short while and further analysis, however, it was determined that the nervous intercept operator had put the inter- cept tape in his machine backwards. As tensions increased, McCone brought up with President Kennedy the issue of the Oxford's safety. The CIA director was eventually given permission to move it farther away, to about twenty miles.

Back in the Elint section of the ship, the technicians would hear screeching as the Cuban fire-control radar locked on them; then, MiGs would be launched. At the same time, the U.S. listeners were eavesdropping on what the boats and the MiGs were saying.

The arrival of NSA civilians on the ship was wrapped in mystery. "You kind of know things are getting a little more agitated because over in Key West you would pick up a couple of guys from NSA who will come out and do three weeks of special duty," said Brown. "And they've got some kind of assignment that no one will talk about. They come in with special recorders and they put them in the racks and they do their stuff and they leave."

Because NSA was unable to break the Soviet cipher system, one of the special missions involved sending someone to the Oxford with special equipment to try to capture the radiation emitted from Soviet crypto machines. These signals -- known in NSA as Tempest emissions -- contained deciphered information and ,thus would be extremely valuable. But to collect those signals, the ship had to get very close to the Russian station. "We took the ship in pretty dose. We usually stayed out eight miles, but this time we went in to around four miles," said Brown. "There was a Russian communications station there that was in communication with Moscow, and they were trying to pick up the Tempest radiation from this crypto device. If they could get the Tempest radiation, they [the NSA] had the key to the universe then."

The intercept operators were also looking for sharp "noise spikes," which could offer clues as to rotor settings on older crypto machines. "The codebreakers were having a tough time with this code," said Max Buscher, a Sigint operator on the Oxford during the crisis. "They thought that if we got in close, if the encrypting device was electromechanical, we might pick up some noise spikes; that would be a clue as to how the machine was stepping with its rotors. We monitored that twenty-four hours a day."

At NSA headquarters, the Cuba Watch team was trying to piece together the military order of battle in Cuba. "We had constructed a Cuban air defense system," said Parish. "We really had not identified the SAM communications and so on." Along the rim of the Atlantic Ocean, NSA's listening posts and elephant cages were put on special alert. As Navy ships began leaving port to get into position to enforce a blockade, it was critical to know the location, speed, and cargo of Soviet ships now crossing the Atlantic en route to Cuba.

Even more important was any indication of Soviet submarines. In the blockhouses at the center of the massive antennas, intercept operators scanned the frequency spectrum hoping for a hit. Once a signal was captured, listening posts on both sides ·of the Atlantic would immediately transmit the information to the net control center at Cheltenham, Maryland. There, technicians would triangulate the exact positions of the ships and subs and pass the information on to analysts in NSA. It was feared that once a blockade was announced, the Russians might attempt to smuggle nuclear warheads or other weapons to Cuba under the American ships patrolling the restricted area. On a wall-size plotting board in the Merchant Shipping Section, small magnetic ships would be moved as the positions were reported by Cheltenham. Photographs would then be taken of the board for inclusion in the next morning's intelligence report, which would be sent to the White House.

In late September, four Soviet submarines had slipped into the Atlantic from the Barents Sea. The F-class attack subs were the top of the line, capable of launching nuclear-tipped torpedoes. NSA had been keeping track of the movements of an oil-resupply vessel, the Terek, which was suspected of providing support to the subs; wherever the Terek went, the Soviet submarines were thought to be close by. By October the Terek and the submarines were halfway across the Atlantic, an unusual move by a navy that usually keeps its submarines close to home. American intelligence feared that the four were the vanguard for a Soviet submarine facility in Cuba. Another vessel of great interest to NSA, traveling in the general vicinity of the Terek, was the electronic eavesdropping ship Shkval, which was also suspected of supporting the subs while at the same time collecting intelligence on U.S. ships in the area.

On Sunday, October 21, the Oxford made a grim discovery. "I was at work and all of a sudden there were people running all over the place," said intercept operator Aubrey Brown. "They're distraught, they're preoccupied, and they're trying to send out Flash messages and everything's going crazy." (Seldom used, Flash messages have the highest priority; the designation is reserved for dire war-related messages.) Most of the activity was coming from behind the cipher-locked door to the aft Elint space. Inside the darkened room, crammed with receivers, six-foot-tall 3M tape recorders, and an assortment of eerie green screens, technicians hovered around the flickering scope of the WLR-1 X-band receiver.

They had just picked up the screeching sounds from a troubling new radar system in Cuba, and they wanted to be sure it was what they suspected. Again and again they measured the width of the pulses -- the size of the spikes on the scope. Holding on to stopwatches that dangled from their necks, they clicked them on and off to time the interval between the woop sounds, giving them the radar's scan rate. Once they were sure of the signal's makeup, they checked the NSA's highly classified TEXTA (Technical Extracts of Traffic Analysis) Manual and confirmed its identity.

"One of our T Branchers [Elint operators] intercepted one of the radars going on line for the first time," said Max Buscher. "And they could tell by the parameters that it was a radar associated with an offensive missile system. This was flashed to NSA. Six hours later, a jet helicopter came down and lowered a rope and they wanted the tape -- they didn't just take our word for it, the NSA wanted the tape."

Early the next day, October 22, NSA had more bad news: at least five Soviet missile regiments would soon become operational in Cuba. Each regiment would have eight missile launchers and sixteen missiles. Thus, Cuba would have the potential to launch a first salvo of forty missiles, and a refire capability of another forty.

Later that morning, at a National Security Council meeting, McCone discussed the Terek and other up-to-the-minute intelligence on Soviet shipping. The Pollava, he said, was due to arrive in Cuba in about five days, and its cargo was so arranged as to make it clear that long cylinders were on board.

At 1:00 P.M. the Strategic Air Command began to initiate "quietly and gradually" a partial airborne alert and the dispersal of bombers to air bases around the country. At the same time, the Navy began to quietly evacuate dependents} by ship and air, from the American base at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. Within nine hours, all 2,810 people had been safely removed.

That evening at seven, President Kennedy addressed the nation, announcing that "unmistakable evidence" had established the presence of Soviet MRBM and ICBM sites and nuclear-capable bombers in Cuba. He then said that he was ordering imposed on Cuba a "strict quarantine on all offensive military equipment." Finally, he warned the Soviet government that the United States will "regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the Western Hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response against the Soviet Union."

As the president spoke, U.S. military forces in much of the world were put on alert. Polaris nuclear submarines sailed to preassigned stations at sea. Twenty-two interceptor aircraft went airborne in the event of military action from Cuba. "I had the first watch when Kennedy made his speech," said Hal Parish. "I was briefed to expect the possibility of a very high level of flight activity over Cuba that evening -- to expect almost anything. 1 was briefed on lots of airplanes. Not a thing flew that evening. We didn't launch anything." He added, "It was a very frightening and scary experience. The only time in the thirty years 1 worked for the government when I was scared about the world situation, and I was really scared."