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Military and intelligence history mostly dealing with World War II.

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  • 02/07/16--07:25: Well that was fast…
  • One of the most interesting aspects of Cold War intelligence history is whether the spies recruited by the Western intelligence agencies (mainly CIA and MI6) were supplying real information or whether they were double agents. In his recent article ‘Doubles Troubles: The CIA and Double Agents during the Cold War’, Benjamin B. Fischer (former Chief Historian of the Central Intelligence Agency) makes the case that in Cuba, East Germany and the USSR practically all the CIA agents were in reality under the control of the enemy security services.

    The author says:


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


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


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


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

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


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    Here is a recent presentation on new methods of solution of historical cipher systems by mr George Lasry.





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    After going through my files I’ve discovered more documents that have information on the compromise of OSS communications in WWII. Thus the following paragraphs are added in Allen Dulles and the compromise of OSS codes in WWII:

    Report of Sturmbannführer Huegel


    SS-Sturmbannführer Dr. Klaus Huegel was an important SD official with knowledge of German intelligence operations in Switzerland and Italy. In CSDIC/CMF/SD 20, he says that when he was working at the SD HQ he saw US intelligence reports from Bern:



    A daily bulletin from the German High Command Cryptographic Service, OKW CHI, was sent to SS Brigadefuehrer SCHELLENBERG, the Head of Amt VI of the RSHA. It was signed by Generalmajor THIELE. From Apr 43 till Mar 44, source was in Amt VI, and often saw the bulletins. He remembers that the following links were intercepted and their traffic read, translations of matters of interest to Amt VI appearing in the bulletins:

    USA Minister HARRISON in BERNE - WASHINGTON: Three or four signals daily, on the average, were intercepted. All traffic was read. This enabled Amt VI to judge the Swiss attitude to GERMANY as seen through American eyes, and also gave a good picture of conditions in GERMANY. Source says that Mr. HARRISON seemed to be particularly well-informed on the situation in MUNICH, for instance on the morale of the people and on rifts between various High Party officials, between GOERING and HIMMLER, RIBBENTROP and HIMMLER, etc. A conclusion drawn on several occasions in the messages was that though the population was restive, no organised underground resistance on a large scale was possible because of the power of the SS and Gestapo and other security bodies. Source says that Amt VI found these messages of great interest, and if any points raised required investigation, it was often found that the information had been correct.’



    Under The Finnish connection:


    David Kahn interviewed some of the Finnish codebreakers in the 1990’s (Aalto, Loimaranta, Pale) and they clearly remembered US telegrams containing intelligence reports and information on the German Resistance:


    Q:  Why did you think the Americans used such weak codes?



    A: They had no idea about that, the question was why the ambassador's telegram, everything in ….. cipher or ambassador send a list, a long, long telegram about conspiracy against Hitler with all the names. It was a very, very terrible business,



    Another voice:  gave them away.



    Q: Is that how they caught the conspirators.





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    My friend Frode Weierud has started adding material in his site CryptoCellar Tales. Frode is an expert on WWII crypto history and few people know more on the subject. Let’s hope that he continues to write about these cases.

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  • 02/22/16--00:28: Update
  • I added the following information in The Irish Government Telegraph Code:

    Translated Pers Z reports from 1941 and 1942 confirm these statements (3). The 1941 report says that ‘all the Irish telegrams can be read completely’ and 223 decoded telegrams were published. In 1942 126 decoded telegrams were published.





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    In the late 1930’s the Japanese Foreign Ministry distributed the Purple cipher machine to its most important embassies and it was used to encipher high level messages to and from Tokyo. Unfortunately for the Japanese the introduction of this new cipher machine wasn’t able to secure their diplomatic communications.

    The codebreakers of the US Signal Intelligence Service were able to solve this device in 1940 and according to Russian historians the codebreakers of the Soviet Union, led by Sergei Tolstoy, also solved it.


    The British codebreakers were not able to solve this system on their own but they received information and a copy of the device from their American allies in 1941.


    Speculation on the German effort versus the Purple cipher machine


    US reports based on the interrogation of German cryptanalysts claim that the Germans made an effort to solve the Purple cipher machine but were not succesful. However the German historian Jürgen Rohwermentioned in his book ‘Stalin's ocean-going fleet’ that in 1996 he received a letter from a mr Cort Rave, who claimed that the Germans were in fact able to solve the Purple machine and decode the Japanese messages.


    According to US reports Kurt Rave was an OKW/Chi employee detached to the Foreign Office Cryptanalytic Section (Pers Z S), so his testimony has to be taken seriously.




    I have looked into this case and presented all the available information in German success with Purple?.


    Unfortunately I haven’t been able to get a copy of the letter written by Rave. When I emailed mr Rohwer in 2011 he said he would look into it but he never got back to me.


    Another person who made similar statements regarding the German solution of the Purple machine was Otto Leiberich, chief cryptologist of the German cipher department in the period 1972-1990.



    Zwei Erfolge verdienen eine besondere Würdigung: die Entzifferung des Purple-Verfahrens der Japaner und die Entzifferung der amerikanischen Chiffriermaschine M 209.

    Während des Krieges hatten die Japaner eine Chiffriermaschine entwickelt und zum Einsatz gebracht, die der amerikanischen Aufklärung größte Probleme bereitete. Da gelang es einer amerikanischen Gruppe um den Kryptologen William Friedman, diese Maschine, die als purple machine bezeichnet wurde, zu rekonstruieren und zu entziffern.

    Dies gilt seither in Amerika als der größte Erfolg in der Kryptologie-Geschichte. Angeregt durch eine kürzlich ausgestrahlte Fernsehsendung fragte ich bei einem ehemaligen Kollegen nach, der während des Krieges auf diesem Gebiet tätig gewesen war, und erhielt bestätigt, woran ich bis dahin nur eine ungefähre Erinnerung hatte: Auch die Deutschen hatten die Sendungen der verbündeten Japaner bearbeitet, insbesondere die Meldungen, die der japanische Botschafter Oshima aus Berlin nach Tokio sandte. Einer Gruppe von Kryptologen und Technikern der Chiffrierabteilung des Oberkommandos der Wehrmacht (OKW) unter der Leitung des Mathematikers Erich Hüttenhain war die Entzifferung ebenso gelungen wie den Amerikanern. Hin und wieder war ein Bericht schon entziffert und weitergeleitet, wenn Tokio wegen Übermittlungsfehlern um nochmalige Übersendung bitten mußte. Wenn also die Entzifferung der purple machine der größte Entzifferungserfolg während des Zweiten Weltkrieges gewesen wäre (er war es nicht!), so hätten ihn Hüttenhain und sein Team ebenfalls errungen. Leider existieren in Deutschland hierzu keine Unterlagen mehr
    .’


    Since I was interested in this case I managed to contact mr Leiberich in 2013 and we had a short telephone conversation. Since his article was written a long time ago he didn’t remember all the details but he was able to give me the following information:


    1). He did not have any documentary evidence and his statements were based on discussions with his colleagues.


    2). Rave said it was a cipher machine and he remembered specific messages.


    3). Regarding the years of solution he said probably 1943-44.


    4). He had asked Rave why he hadn’t mentioned this success to the American interrogators and he responded that he feared it would be dangerous for him to say too much.


    The last statement can be confirmed, in part, by the ‘Final report of TICOM team 3’, p12 which shows that some of the captured Pers Z higher-ups wanted to give away as little as possible and tried to influence their coworkers to do the same.



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    When researching WWII signals intelligence and codebreaking operations it is important to track down all the available sources of information, from POW interrogations and captured documents to detailed reports summarizing Allied cipher policy, decisions and compromises.

    It is reasonable to assume that in the postwar era all the Allied countries tried to assess the extent of the compromise of their communications during WWII. Thus I’ve tried to track down these reports. In the following space i’m going to list the reports I know of and give a short summary of each one. I’ve used most of them in my essays but there are some that I haven’t been able to locate (yet).


    USA


    Military cryptosystems


    1). The ‘European Axis Signal Intelligence in World War II’ volumes are available from the NSA’s website. They are dated May 1946 and have a lot of information on German cipher machines, the German codebreaking agencies and their major achievements. Unfortunately I don’t think that the EASI volumes are entirely accurate.


    2). The report Special conference on M-209 security is dated 1950 and looks into the German exploitation of the US M-209 cipher machine. It is difficult to explain why the people involved looked only at the available TICOM reports and not the actual files of the German Army’s codebreaking agency Inspectorate 7/VI. These had been retrieved in 1947 from a camp in Austria.


    Overall it seems to me that US reports are not as thoroughas they should be.


    State Department


    I am not aware of any State Department communications security report written after the end of WWII. The ones available were produced during the war and submitted to the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.


    1). The reports of June 1941 and November/December 1943 are available online via the NSA’s Friedman collection.


    2). The report of June 1944 can be found in the US National Archives and Records Administration - collection RG 457- Entry 9032- box 1384 - 'JCS Ad hoc committee report on cryptographic security of government communications'.


    The problem is that these reports only have theoretical evaluations of the State Department cryptosystems, not information on their compromise by the Axis powers.


    OSS


    The Office of Strategic Services was the predecessor of the CIA and during WWII its overseas stations gathered military and political intelligence on the Axis powers. For example in Bern, Switzerland the local OSS station (headed by Allen Dulles) kept in contact with members of the German Resistance.


    According to an OSS veteran a report on WWII crypto security was prepared but I don’t have any details.


    Soviet Union


    Both in the Soviet era and today in modern Russia the files and archives of the signal intelligence organizations remain closed to researchers. This makes it very difficult to find information on Soviet cryptosystems and on whether the Soviet authorities evaluated their communications security during WWII.


    According to Anatoly Klepov's “The historical truth” of Beria and Suvorov about cryptography and radio intelligence, there were evaluations of Soviet cryptosecurity in 1941, in 1943 and at the end of WWII. These investigations came to the conclusion that Soviet ciphers had not been compromised by the Germans but that they were theoretically solvable. This led to the introduction of new, more secure systems.


    UK


    Army


    There are files dealing with British Army communications at the National Archives, collections WO 219 and WO 193. However these deal with cipher policy, not cipher compromises.


    Navy


    The report ADM 1/27186 ‘Review of security of naval codes and cyphers 1939-1945’ is available from my Google docs and Scribd folders. It is dated November 1945 and it was written after examining the files of the German Navy’s codebreaking agency B-Dienst. Thus it has an excellent analysis both of Royal Navy cipher policy and the compromise of RN codes and ciphers.


    RAF


    The report AIR 20/1531 ’R.A.F. signal communications: security’ can be found in the National Archives but the information on the compromise of RAF systems is only based on decrypted German messages, not other sources.


    SOE


    The Special Operations Executive was an intelligence organization created during WWII. I don’t know if a report on the compromise of SOE codes was ever prepared. The British authorities certainly had the available information, since they captured the War Diary of Inspectorate 7/VI in 1947 and this included the summary reports of Referat 12 which dealt with Allied agents’ codes.


    The report HS 7/41 ‘Section II: field cyphers; appendices L, M, N and O’ has a file titled S.O.E. FIELD CIPHERSwhich is available from the Arcre website. This file points out theoretical and practical problems with SOE cipher security but does not have information on the compromise of said systems by enemy codebreakers. 


    France


    French military high level codes were solved by the Germans in the 1930’s and up to the Battle of France. Unfortunately I am not aware of any French report summarizing their cryptosystems and their compromise during the war.


    Czech Republic


    During WWII the communications of the Czech resistance movement were solved by the Germans. It seems that at the end of the war the Czechoslovak government found out about this case and personnel of the Defense Ministry prepared the report ‘Dopady lúštenia šifrovacieho systému čs. londýnskeho MNO z rokov 1940-1945 na domáci odboj’.


    I requested this report from the Czech Defense Ministry’s history department but they were not able to locate it. Let’s hope that some Czech researcher will be able to find it.


    Poland


    Polish military, diplomatic, resistance movement and intelligence service codes were read by the Germans during WWII. I don’t know if there are detailed reports in the Polish government archives but the following sources have valuable information.


    1). The Cryptologia article ‘From the Archives: Polish Interwar MFA's Cipher Compromised?’ by Jan Bury presents two reports written in 1940 and 1947 by the intelligence officer Major Tadeusz Szumowski, concerning the security of the Polish diplomatic Code 45.  According to Szumowski this codebook had been compromised and the Germans could read the Polish diplomatic traffic since the leadership of the Polish Foreign Ministry chose to keep using it despite his warnings. Szumowski was correct about this case.


    2). Recently the book KODY WOJNY. Niemiecki wywiad elektroniczny w latach 1907–1945 a losy polskich, sowieckich, alianckich kodów i szyfrówhas been publishedby Marian Zacharski. I don’t know if the author has information on the Polish ciphers from Polish sources but he has uncovered material from the recently released TICOM files on the extensive compromise of Polish cryptosystems during the war.


    Conclusion


    Compromises of communications security are usually difficult to acknowledge by the countries that suffer them. For example since the 1970’s countless books have been written about the successes of Bletchley Park, yet detailed information on the Axis solution of Allied codes only started to become available in the 2000’s when TICOM reports and other relevant documents were released to the public archives by the US and UK authorities.


    I’ve listed some reports that deal with the compromise of Allied codes but I hope that researchers will be able to locate more. Specifically:


    1). State Department postwar reports on WWII compromises (especially the M-138-A strip cipher case)


    2). The OSS report on WWII cryptosecurity.


    3). The Soviet reports of 1941, 1943 and postwar period.


    4). Reports similar to ADM 1/27186 for the British Army, RAF and SOE.


    5). French reports on their WWII cryptosystems.


    6). The Czech report ‘Dopady lúštenia šifrovacieho systému čs. londýnskeho MNO z rokov 1940-1945 na domáci odboj’.

    7). Polish government-in-exilereports on their codes and ciphers. 


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  • 03/29/16--04:48: Update
  • I’ve added links to Crypto World and janeckovokrypto.

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  • 04/01/16--23:30: The value of teamwork
  • Recently I mentioned that I’ve been trying to locate the report ‘Dopady lúštenia šifrovacieho systému čs. londýnskeho MNO z rokov 1940-1945 na domáci odboj’.

    After contacting the Czech Defense Ministry’s history department I was told that they could not find it. I thought this was the end of that story but it seems I was wrong!


    Thanks to two friends from abroad I’ve not only managed to learn where the report is kept but I’ve also found details about the ciphers used by the Czechoslovak Government in Exile.


    If all goes well this information will be presented during the month. 

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    Information on Czechoslovak ciphers of WWII is available from a series of articles written for crypto world. Jozef Krajcovic has added links to these articles at katkryptolog.

    These were hand systems using mostly letter to figure substitution and transposition. 

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    At the end of the First World War the multiethnic Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed and out of its ruins emerged several new countries. One of these was Czechoslovakia, containing the Czech areas of Bohemia and Moravia together with Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia in the east.

    In the interwar period Czechoslovakia followed a foreign policy supportive of France and was part of the Little Entente. The country had a stable democracy and its industrial resources were large (based on the Skoda works) for such a small country. However there were two important problems affecting Czech national security. On the one hand the rise of Nazi Germany and its rearmament was a clear security threat. At the same time there were serious problems with the German and Slovak minorities that resented Czech rule. 

    Czechoslovakia contained a large number of minorities that were dissatisfied with the ruling Czech establishment. Especially the German minority made up roughly 23% of the population (according to the 1921 census) and a large part of it was concentrated in the border with Germany called Sudetenland. Many of the Sudeten Germans wanted for their areas to be unified with Germany and in the 1930’s Hitler’s Germany supported the demands of the Sudeten German Party. These claims were rejected by the Czech government of Edvard Beneš and as the Czech crisis threatened Europe with a new war a conference took place in Munich between the governments of Germany, Italy, Britain and France.  


    Without support from Britain and France the Czech government was forced to cede the Sudeten territories to Germany and also lost other disputed areas to Hungary and Poland. Even though Germany had succeeded in absorbing the Sudeten areas and in weakening Czechoslovakia that did not stop Hitler’s offensive plans and in March 1939 German troops invaded and occupied the rest of the country. From then on the country was ruled by Germany and special attention was given to its heavy industry which produced weapons for the German armed forces.


    During the war the Czechoslovak Government in Exile, headed by Beneš, was based in London and had regular communications with the Czech resistance and with its diplomatic missions and intelligence service stations abroad. In order to protect these communications several cryptosystems were used by the Czech crypto department.


    Information on these systems is available from books and articles written recently:


    1). The books Odhalena tajemstvi šifrovacich kličů minulosti, Gentlemani (ne)čtou cizi dopisy and Válka šifer. Výhry a prohry československé vojenské rozvědky (1939-1945) by Jiri Janecek have descriptions of the ciphers and the author’s conclusion was that the security afforded by these systems was limited.


    2). A series of articles written for ‘Crypto World’ by Jozef Kollár describe each cipher system, explain how to encipher and decipher and also evaluate their security. The articles are:


    Cipher ‘TTS’(double transposition of the text followed by letter to figure substitution)


    Cipher ’Rimska dva’(letter to figure substitution followed by double transposition of the digits)


    Cipher ‘Rimska osem’(homophonic letter to figure substitution followed by encipherment with repeating 10-figure additive sequence)


    Cipher ‘Rimska devat’(letter to figure substitution followed by additive encipherment, repeating additive created from a passphrase)


    Cipher ‘Rimska desat’(letter to figure substitution followed by transposition then additive encipherment, repeating additive created from a passphrase, passphrase is also used to limit the cells of the transposition table)


    Cipher ‘Rimska trinast’(transposition of the text followed by polyalphabetic substitution)


    Cipher ‘Eva’(transposition of the text using a pyramid shaped transposition table)


    Cipher ‘Marta’(letter to figure substitution followed by additive encipherment, additive created via passphrase autoclaveprocedure)


    Cipher ‘Ruzena’(letter to figure substitution followed by additive encipherment, additive created via passphrase procedure)


    Cipher ‘Utility’(letter to figure substitution followed by transposition)


    Cipher ‘Palacky’(letter to figure substitution followed by additive encipherment, additive created via passphrase procedure, cipher digits multiplied by a constant)


    Compromise of Czech ciphers


    The Czech resistance movement and the Czech intelligence service caused serious problems for the German authorities with their most audacious operation being the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, protector of Bohemia and Moravia and former head of the Reich Main Security Office. However after this episode the Germans took many security measures and were generally able to keep the resistance activities under control. Keeping the Czech areas pacified was particularly important since Czechoslovakia had a developed heavy industry sector which produced weapons for the German armed forces.


    In their counterintelligence operations the Germans benefitted from having the ability to read a substantial amount of the traffic exchanged between the Czech IS in Britain and the Czech resistance in the occupied territories. This case has been covered in detail in Svetova Revoluce and the codes of the Czech resistance.


    Report on the compromise of the communications of the government in exile


    After the end of WWII it seems that the Czechoslovak authorities learned from POW interrogations about the compromise of their ciphers. Karol Cigáň, who worked in the Defense Ministry’s cipher department, summarized some of this information in a report written in 1989.


    The report ‘Dopady lúštenia šifrovacieho systému čs. londýnskeho MNO z rokov 1940-1945 na domáci odboj’, can be found in the archive of the Museum of the Slovak National Uprising in Banská Bystrica.


    Acknowledgments: I have to thank Jozef Krajcovic for his help in locating the report ‘Dopady lúštenia šifrovacieho systému čs. londýnskeho MNO z rokov 1940-1945 na domáci odboj’ and Štefan Porubský for informing me of the articles from Crypto World. 


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    Frode Weierud has created a webpage with links to original German documents on the Lorenz SZ42 cipher teleprinter, used by the German military in WWII.

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  • 05/03/16--04:53: Update on Case Wicher

  • The war diary of Inspectorate 7/VI, in the report of February 1942, says that an investigation of captured Polish files revealed deciphered German radio messages and this material was forwarded to Inspectorate 7/VI to clarify if the compromise was a result of treason or deciphering and if it was the latter to identify the compromised cipher system.




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    During WWII the US State Department used several cryptosystems in order to protect its radio communications from the Axis powers. The main systems used were the unenciphered Gray and Brown codebooks along with the enciphered codes A1, B1, C1, D1 and the new M-138 strip cipher. 

    In the period 1940-1944 German, Japanese and Finnish codebreakers could solve State Department messages (both low and high level) from embassies around the world. The M-138-A strip cipher was the State Department’s high level system and it was used extensively during that period. Although we still don’t know the full story the information available points to a serious compromise both of the circular traffic (Washington to all embassies) and special traffic (Washington to specific embassy). In this area there was cooperation between Germany, Japan and Finland. The German success was made possible thanks to alphabet strips and key lists they received from the Japanese in 1941 and these were passed on by the Germans to their Finnish allies in 1942. The Finnish codebreakers solved several diplomatic links in that year and in 1943 started sharing their findings with the Japanese. German and Finnish codebreakers cooperated in the solution of the strips during the war, with visits of personnel to each country. The Axis codebreakers took advantage of mistakes in the use of the strip cipher by the State Department’s cipher unit.


    After further (costly) research new information has come to light. Originally I thought that each US embassy had two sets of strips, the ‘specials’ for direct communications with Washington and the ‘circulars’ for messages sent to several embassies and for intercommunication between embassies.



    However there’s more to this story:


    1). The circular strips were the 0 dash series. 0-1 was used from 1940 till August 1942. 0-2 from August 1942 till March 1943. From March 1943 a new set was used for each month, 0-3 for March 1943, 0-5 for May, 0-9 for September etc. The circular strips used in 1944 were numbered 0-13 to 0-24 for January-December 1944.


    However there were two problems with this system.


    One was that the embassy in Bern, Switzerland did not have access to the new strips so it seems that they continued to use the 0-2 strips for some time.


    Another problem was that distributing the new circular strips to embassies around the world was not always possible, so some posts were told to continued using the old strips till the new ones arrived. This was clearly a security problem and Erich Huettenhain, chief cryptanalyst of OKW/Chi, said in his manuscriptEinzeldarstellungen aus dem Gebiet der Kryptologie’ that they relied on reencodements in their efforts to solve the strip system


    Ein zweiter für die Entzifferung günstiger Umstand war, daß es wegen der U-Boot-Blockade nicht immer gelang, den auszuwechselnden Stabsatz rechtzeitig an alle Außenstellen zu bringen.  In solchen Fällen wurde z.B. ein cq-Spruch an die Stelle, bei der der neue cq-Stabsatz noch nicht eingetroffen war, mit dem bei der Stelle vorhandenen und seit längerer Zeit in Benutzung befindlichen Spezial-Stabsatz verschlüsselt. Wenn nun dieses Spezial-Verfahren gelöst war, - und das war in der Regel der Fall — so war der Klartext des cq-Spruches bekannt, und es lag ein Klar-Geheim-Kompromiß im neuen cq-Verfahren vor, aus dem die Stäbe des neuen cq-Verfahrens rekonstruiert wurden.


    2). A set of strips titled 00-1 (and key table C) were introduced in late 1943 for enciphering the confidential traffic of other US government agencies. In January 1944 the set 00-2 and 00-3 were sent to the embassies in Algiers (Free French), Turkey, Egypt, UK, Calcutta, Portugal, Spain, India, Sweden, Iran, Iraq, Beirut.


    3). In April 1944 the strip system FRIBP was sent to Lisbon, Madrid, Tangier, Algiers, London, Dakar for Cross messages (US-British supply program).


    4). In June 1944 Sweden, Spain, Portugal, Egypt, Turkey, Algiers (Free French) received strips to be used for the communications of the WRB - War Refugee Board.


    5). In 1943 a set of strips (60-1 and 60-3) were used for intercommunication between the embassies in Bern, London, Lisbon, Algiers and Washington. From January 1st the strips 60-5 were used for this purpose.

    Overall this is very interesting information and sheds some light into the use of the M-138-A strip cipher by the State Department. 


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    During WWII the US State Department used several cryptosystems in order to protect its radio communications from the Axis powers. The main systems used were the unenciphered Gray and Brown codebooks along with the enciphered codes A1, B1, C1, D1 and the new M-138 strip cipher. 

    In the period 1940-1944 German, Japanese and Finnish codebreakers could solve State Department messages (both low and high level) from embassies around the world. The M-138-A strip cipher was the State Department’s high level system and it was used extensively during that period. Although we still don’t know the full story the information available points to a serious compromise both of the circular traffic (Washington to all embassies) and special traffic (Washington to specific embassy). In this area there was cooperation between Germany, Japan and Finland. The German success was made possible thanks to alphabet strips and key lists they received from the Japanese in 1941 and these were passed on by the Germans to their Finnish allies in 1942. The Finnish codebreakers solved several diplomatic links in that year and in 1943 started sharing their findings with the Japanese. German and Finnish codebreakers cooperated in the solution of the strips during the war, with visits of personnel to each country. The Axis codebreakers took advantage of mistakes in the use of the strip cipher by the State Department’s cipher unit.


    Erich Hüttenhain, who was the chief cryptanalyst of OKW/Chi (Signal Intelligence Agency of the Supreme Command, Armed Forces), said in his unpublished manuscript ‘Einzeldarstellungen aus dem Gebiet der Kryptologie’, p20-21 about the strip system:


    IV. Das amerikanische streifenverfahren


    Im  2. Weltkrieg benutzten die USA bis September 1944 in Diplomatie, Heer, Luftwaffe und Marine neben anderen Verfahren ein unter dem Namen “Streifenverfahren" bekanntes Chiffrierverfahren.


    Des Diplomaten—Streifenverfahren war das aufwendigste und mit den meisten Variations möglichkeiten versehen. Deshalb soll hier nur auf dieses Verfahren eingegangen werden.

    Des Streifenverfahren in der Diplomatie war ein Chiffrierverfahren für den Linienverkehr; es bestand aber die Möglichkeit, von der Zentrale aus cq-Sprüche abzusetzen.


    Fast jede US-Vertretung im Ausland hat zum chiffrierten Verkehr mit Washington einen Satz von 50 Stäben, auf denen je ein anderes verwürfeltes Alphabet zweimal hintereinander aufgezeichnet war. Täglich wurden 25 dieser Stäbe ausgewählt und in vorgeschriebener Reihenfolge zum Schlüsseln benutzt: Tagesschlüssel.

    Nach einigen Monaten wurde der ganze Satz von 50 Stäben gegen einen anderen  satz von 50 Stäben ausgetauscht. Außerdem hatte jede Vertretung des US-Außenministeriums noch einen Stabsatz zur Entschlüsselung von cq-meldungen aus Washington. Auch dieser cq-Satz wurde von Zeit zu Zeit ausgewechselt.


    Vom Standpunkt der Kryptologie war dieses Streifenverfahren ein mehrfach belegter Spaltencäsar.


    Bald nach dem Beginn der Untersuchungen dieses Chiffrierverfahrens gelang es, die Periode von 25 zu erkennen. Es gelang auch, einige besonders lange Geheimtexte wenigstens teilweise zu entziffern. Es wäre eine harte und langwierige Arbeit geworden, wenn nicht besondere Umstände hinzugekommen wären. Einer dieser umstände war die Tatsache, daß die USA den bei einer Stelle abgelösten Stabsatz an anderer Stelle wieder einsetzten, anstatt ihn außer Kraft zu setzen.


    Ein zweiter für die Entzifferung günstiger Umstand war, daß es wegen der U-Boot-Blockade nicht immer gelang, den auszuwechselnden Stabsatz rechtzeitig an alle Außenstellen zu bringen.  In solchen Fällen wurde z.B. ein cq-Spruch an die Stelle, bei der der neue cq-Stabsatz noch nicht eingetroffen war, mit dem bei der Stelle vorhandenen und seit längerer Zeit in Benutzung befindlichen Spezial-Stabsatz verschlüsselt.


    Wenn nun dieses Spezial-Verfahren gelöst war, - und das war in der Regel der Fall — so war der Klartext des cq-Spruches bekannt, und es lag ein Klar-Geheim-Kompromiß im neuen cq-Verfahren vor, aus dem die Stäbe des neuen cq-Verfahrens rekonstruiert wurden.

    Auf diese Weise wurden von 1942 bis September 1944 insgesamt 22 verschiedene Linien und alle cq-Sprüche mitgelesen.


    Aus dieser erfolgreichen EntzifferungsArbeit muß gefolgert werden:


    1. Es ist unzulässig, bereits einmal verwendete Schlüssel an anderen Stellen wieder zu verwenden.


    2. Es ist nicht zulässig, Chiffrierverfahren einzusetzen‚ die gegen Klar-Geheim-Kompromisse anfällig sind.



    Google translation with corrections by Frode Weierud:


    IV. The American strip cipher system


    During the Second World War and until September 1944, the United States used, together other cipher procedures, an encryption system in its Diplomatic Service, Army, Air Force and Navy that was known as the "Strip procedure."


    The diplomatic strip system was the most elaborate and equipped with the most variation possibilities. That is why we will concentrate only on this procedure.


    The strip procedure in the diplomatic service was an encryption system for regular, scheduled services; but it also allowed for sending broadcast messages from headquarters.

    Almost every U.S. mission abroad had a set of 50 strips for encrypted traffic with Washington, on each of which a different scrambled alphabet was recorded twice in succession. Daily 25 of these rods were selected and used in a prescribed order for ciphering: the daily key.


    After a few months the whole set of 50 strips was replaced by another set of 50 strips. In addition, every mission of the US State Department had yet another set of strips for decrypting broadcast messages from Washington. Also this broadcast set was changed from time to time.


    From a cryptologic point of view the strip system was a periodic substitution cipher.


    Soon after starting the investigations of this encryption procedure we succeeded in identifying the period of 25. We also succeeded to partially decipher some extra long cipher texts. It would have been a hard and tedious work, if not some special circumstances would have occurred. One of these circumstances was the fact that when the United States changed a set of strips at one site it would reuse the same set at another site, instead of cancelling it.


    A second fact that was favorable for deciphering was that, because of the U-boat blockade, it was not always possible to replace the strip sets in timely manner at all the field offices. In such cases, e.g. a broadcast message, for a site where the new broadcast strip set had still not arrived, was encrypted with the existing special strip set at that office and which had been in use for a long time.


    If now this special procedure was solved - and this was usually the case - the plain text of the broadcast message was known, and there was a clear-cipher text compromise in the new broadcast, from which the strips of the new broadcast procedure were reconstructed.

    In this way, a total of 22 different lines and all broadcast messages were read from 1942 to September 1944.


    From this successful decipherment must be concluded:


    1. It is prohibited to use a key already used in other places.


    2. It is not permitted to employ encryption procedures that are vulnerable to clear text-cipher text compromises.


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  • 05/21/16--03:29: Update
  • I added information and pics in New developments in the strip cipher case.

    I also made a correction. I had written that the strips 60-1 were used for intercommunication between Bern, London, Lisbon, Algiers and Washington in 1943 but this is not clearly stated in the list. 

    Only strips 60-3 and 60-5 were definitely used for intercommunication between the aforementioned embassies. 


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    According to an NSA press release:

    More than 29,000 pages of declassified material related to the World War II-era Target Intelligence Committee (TICOM) are now publicly available following a recent transfer from the National Security Agency to the National Archives and Records Administration.

    It was NSA’s final transfer of its material related to TICOM, a joint project that began in 1944 between the United States and the United Kingdom. The now-famous “Monuments Men” searched for precious works of art that had been looted by the Nazis with the goal of returning items to their rightful owners. In contrast, TICOM teams followed Allied armies into occupied areas of Western Europe to seize material and equipment Axis powers used for code-breaking and code-making, including the German Enigma cipher. The teams also tried to determine how successful the Germans had been in breaking Allied codes. Through these efforts, the United States and the United Kingdom aimed to read more of the encrypted communications of retreating Nazi armies and better protect their own information from German eavesdropping.


    The declassified material is housed at the Archives II facility in College Park, Md. More information about how to locate records held by the National Archives is available at https://catalog.archives.gov/id/5957379.


    Information about the National Security Agency is available at www.nsa.gov.


    A list of all the files is available from NARA’s website. There are a lot of interesting files, for example:

    7131N, Interrogation of Kapitan von Baumbach, Head of OKM/III from 1942-1944 [(U) INTERROGATION OF CAPTAIN VON BAUMBACH]


    7252 PAJ Interrogation Report - Comdr. Hashimoto and Lt. Fuji (No TICOM REF #)


    7254 PAJ Interrogation Report - Rear Admiral Nomura; Capt. Morikawa; Comdr. Ozawa (No TICOM #)


    10663N PAJ Interrogation Report on MAX (Parts 1 - 7) TICOM IF 118a-g


    2778 Misc., Data on the Soviet Union (C-1190) [TICOM DF-242 DATA ON THE SOVIET UNION (TRANSLATION OF GERMANY DOCUMENT) ]


    2781 Soviet Subversive Activities Against Germany [TICOM DF-288 SOVIET SUBVERSEIVE ACTIVITIES AGAINST GERMANY (TRANSLATION OF GREMAN DOCUMENT) ]


    2841 Report on Cipher Device #40 (S-4219 to 4133) [TICOM DF-200A-D REPORTS ON CIPHER DIVICE 40 (TRANSLATION OF GERMAN DOCUMENT) ]


    2847 The Russian Cipher Device - K37 (5-4146) [TICOM DF-217 RUSSIAN CIPHER DEVICE K-37 (TRANSLATION OF GERMAN DOCUMENT) ]


    2855 The French Cipher Machine, C-36 (Hagelin) (5-4190) [TICOM DF-247B ON FRENCH CIPHER MACHINE C-36 (HAGELIN) (TRANSLATION OF GREMAN DOCUMENT) ]


    2986 Regulations for Staff Cryptologic Service in the Red Army (5-3740) [TICOM DF-96 REGULATIONS FOR STAFF CRYPTOLOGIC SERVICE IN THE RED ARMY (TRANSLATION OF GERMAN DOCUMENT) ]


    2988 Encipherment of OKK6 (Russian) (5-3742) [TICOM DF-97 ENCIPHERMENT OF OKK6 (TRANSLATION OF GREMAN DOCUMENT WITH PHOTOGRAPHIC PRINTS AND NEGATIVES) ]


    3005 Russian Map Keys - 1944 to March 1945 (5-3821) [TICOM DF-131 RUSSIAN MAP KEYS USED 1944 [MARCH 1945] (TRANSLATION OF GERMAN DOCUMENT) ]


    3343 Japanese Special Intelligence (SIGINT) Organization [TICOM REPORT ON JAPENESE SPECIAL INTELLEGENCE (SIGINT) ORGANIZATION ]


    3419 Report on Japanese Cryptologic and cryptanalytic Operations [TICOM REPORTS ON JAPENESE CRYPTOLOGIC AND CRYPTANALYTIC OPERATIONS ]


    5098 Finnish Monthly Reports on Russian Naval Message to 1944 [CIPHERT SURVEY # 17M (NAVAL MESSAGES) COPY OF TICOM DOCUMENT 542 AND TRANSLATIONS ]


    5573 Allied Keys to 1938 [FILES DEALING WITH BRITISH, FRENCH AND DANNISH CODES AND CIPHERS ON ALLIEED KEYS TO 1938]


    5608 Mathematical Notes on Polish equipment Encipherment [TRANSLATION OF ARTICLE ENTITLED "MATHEMATICAL NOTES ON THE POLISH ENCIPHERMENT" ]


    5654 Observation on French Diplomatic Style [TRANSLATION OF OBSERVATION ON FRENCH DIPLOMATIC STYLE]


    5781 Dettman: Conclusion [TICOM DF-181 TRANSLATION OF DETTERMAN CONCLUSION ]


    6604 TICOM Team Activity in Far East - 1945 (Folder 1 of 5) [JAPANESE TICOM #1-4 REPORTS OF 7 SEPTEMBER 1945, UNITED STATES TICOM TEAMS ACTIVITY REPORTS]


    7007 Analysis & Evaluation of the Japanese Intelligence service and It’s Affect on United States Signal security [TICOM S-2 ANALYSIS AND EVALUATION OF JAPANESE INTELLIGENCE SERVICE AND EFFECT ON U.S. SIGNAL SECURITY]


    7212 The Development of Russian Cryptographic Systems [TICOM DF-94 TRANSLATION OF TICOM DOCUMENT 2765, DEVELOPMENT OF RUSSIAN CRYPTOGRAPHIC SYSTEMS]


    7723 Survey of Czech Systems - 1945-1949 [TICOM DF-189, TRANSLATION OF SURVEY OF CZECH SYSTEMS 1945-1949]


    7762 Correspondence Re: Allied Keys May 1941 - July 1942 [TICOM 515 COPY OF CORRESPONDENCE RELATED TO ALLIED KEYS, MAY 1941 TO JULY 1942]


    7765 German Studies Allied Ciphers June 1941 - June 1942 (Folder 1 of 2) [TICOM 517 COPY OF GERMAN STUDIES OF U.S. AND BRITISH CIPHERS, JUNE 1941 - APRIL 1943]


    7773 Procedure Used in Breaking Turkish Diplomatic Traffic [TICOM 2258 DF-12 REVISED, COPY OF PERCEDURE USED IN BREAKING TURKISH DIPLOMATIC TRAFFIC]


    8125 Czech Diplomatic Messages and Decrypts [COPY OF CZECH LANGUAGE DIPLOMATIC MESSAGE AND DECRYPTS 1920 - 1921]


    8143 Reports on Interrogations of Japanese Former Cryptanalysts [INTERROGTAION REPORTS OF EIGHT FORMER JAPANESE CRYPTANALYSIS]

    8532 German Deciphering 5-LTR TRF between Tokyo and European Capitals [TICOM 2533 COPY OF GERMAN DECIPHERING ATTEMPTS OF FIVE-LETTER TRAFFIC BETWEEN TOKYO AND EUROPEAN CAPITALS]

    8747 German - Vierling (Feuerstein) Library/Laboratory 1946-1952 [TICOM M-1 REPORT ON DR. VIERLING'S LABORATORY AT EBERMANNSTADT AND LIBRARY PAPERS, 1946-1952 ]

    8774 Jap Cryptographic Worksheets MA Systems 1934-1939 [TICOM 18, COPIES OF GERMAN WORKSHEETS ON JAPANESE MACHINE SYSTEM 48, 1934 - 1939]

    8775 Chinese Diplomatic Code and Translations [TICOM 4 COPY OF CHINESE DIPLOMATIC DECODES AND TRANSLATIONS, 1944 - 1945]

    8919 Solution of the M-209 Hagelin Machine [TICOM 1-35A COPY OF SOLUTION IF THE M-209 HAGELIN MACHINE]

    10168 Reports on the Solution of the Russian Cipher Procedure "Misteriya" [REPORT ON THE SOLUTION OF THE RUSSIAN CIPHER PROCEDURE "MISTERIYA" ]

    10349 German Cryptanalysis on American Cryptographic Systems [TICOM NOTE 23: COPY OF BRIEF SURVEY OF THE CRYPTANALYSIS OF AMERICAN CRYPTOGRAPHIC SYSTEMS BY THE GERMAN CRYPTANALYTIC SERVICE DURING WORLD WAR II]

    10955 Scientific Writings from Pers Z Archives [TICOM DOCUMENTS #376, COPY OF SCIENTIFIC WRITINGS FROM PERS Z ARCHIVES, DECEMBER 7, 1942]

    11099 Finnish Working on Various Russian Codes (S-8778) [COPY OF FINNISH WORKINGS ON VARIOUS RUSSIAN CODES]

    12551 German Intelligence and Insight from Working on Radio Traffic of the Soviet Air Force [TICOM DOCUMENT OKL 483 COPY OF GERMAN INTELLIGENCE AND INSIGHT FROM WORKING ON RADIO TRAFFIC OF THE SOVIET AIR FORCE ]

    18732 Fills in the History of Russian Diplomatic Systems [TICOM DOCUMENT 1035 COPY OF FILLS IN THE HISTORY OF RUSSIAN DIPLOMATIC AND COMMERCIAL SYSTEMS, 1929 - 1935]

    24474 TICOM - "Feuerstein" Technical Project Reports - 1945 (Folder 1 of 4) [DETAILED FEUERSTEIN TECHNICAL PROJECT REPORT]

    32957 French/Polish Radio Traffic Regulations in Event of War [TICOM NO.T 3624 FRENCH/POLISH RADIO TRAFFIC REGULATIONS IN EVENT OF WAR ]

    44405 Red Army Field Post Listing - Captured German Document 1944 [FIELD POST NUMBERS OF THE RED ARMY]

    46891 Pythagoras - Italian Diplomatic Code (Folder 1 of 2) [TICOM DOCUMENT NO. 250, COPY OF PYTHAGORAS, JULY 1936-1939]

    46893 TCIOM No. 3293 Berichte Der Grouppe F (Folder 1 of 3) [TICOM DOCUMENT NO. 
    3293 COPY OF BERICHTE DER GRUPPE F]

    47114 Berichte Uber Den Stand Der Entzifferungsarbeiten April 1916 - October 1918 [BERICHTE UBER DEN STAND DER ENTZIFFERUNGSARBEITEN APRIL 1916 - OCTOBER 1918]

    6964 Glossary of German Cryptanalytic Terms [TICOM REPORT I-117: GLOSSARY OF GERMAN CRYPTANALYTIC TERMS ]

    10160 State Department Reports on German Foreign Office [TICOM REPORT IF-266: DEPARTMENT OF STATE REPORTS ON THE GERMAN FOREIGN OFFICE (COPY OF STATE DEPARTMENT REPORTS) ]

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    The KG-13 was a cipher device used by the United States during the Cold War period. The Crypto museumpage says:

    KG-13 was a universal digital fully-transistorised full-duplex key generator, developed in the USA around 1963. It was intended for the encryption and decryption of external generated data, such as digitised voice and facsimile data.’


    In the same page there is information pointing to its possible exploitation by the Soviet Union:


    Between October 1982 and January 1983, whilst working at the US Air Force, electronics engineer James Atkinson discovered a series of serious flaws in the KOKEN stages of the KG-13's internal pseudo random stream generator [4]. Atkinson had been memorizing all current and historical circuit diagrams of the KG-13, the KY-3 and all of their FLYBALL modules, as a mental exercise. When going over the circuit diagram in his mind, he began to doubt its mathematical strength.

    More than 20 years after the introduction of the KG-13, he was able to prove that most of the KOKEN stages were mathematically flawed, rendering the system compromised, and possibly leaking highly classified information to the Russians.



    KG-13 Encryption Sabotage Detection


    October 1982 – January 1983


    Complete memorization of all current and historical schematics and timing and logic charts of KG-13 and KY-3 encryption system.


    Examining the schematics of the ciphers, key cards, as a mental memorization exercise, and then identified suspected flaws with the mathematic engines inside the equipment actually deployed.

    Actually determined that most of the modules or "Koken stages" in the KG-13 were mathematically "flawed", and rendered compromised.

    The cryptographic flaw enabled an eavesdropper to exploit all Top Secret data flowing thorough the "crown jewel systems" of U.S. Encryption called the KG-13.

    An immediately and emergency modification to the circuits of the Koken stages resolved this matter, but not after it have been in place for over 20 years, and we had been leaking classified intelligence to the Russians.

    The NSA was highly embarrassed at somebody finding this screw up merely by studying the schematics and logic tables, and finding what the NSA did not see for decades.

    The end result was tens of million of dollars being spend to seal the breach.

    I ended up being a rock-star of sorts within the technical counterintelligence circles.


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    On June 6 1944 the Western Allies invaded occupied France, in the area of Normandy, established a beachhead and eventually defeated the German forces opposing them.
    Operation Overlord  started with a huge airborne assault as over a thousand transport planes carried the US 82nd and 101st Airborne Divisions and the British 6th Airborne Division to Normandy. The main force was transported by ship and this was the largest seaborne invasion in history.


    After all these years it is interesting to look at some aspects of this battle that have been overlooked by historians. Specifically:







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