Unformatted text preview: ACCLAIM FOR JAMES BAMFORD'S BODY OF SECRETS
"James Bamford, who wrote one of the really good books about
American intelligence twenty years ago, has now done it again. . . .
Body of Secrets has something interesting and important to add to
many episodes of cold war history . . . [and] has much to say about
—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."
"An engaging and informed history. . . . Bamford weaves a narrative
about the NSA that includes . . . many heretofore undisclosed tidbits of
"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
—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."
JAMES BAMFORD BODY OF SECRETS
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 stories for The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post
Magazine, and the Los Angeles Times Magazine. He lives in
Washington, D.C. 1 Also by James Bamford
The Puzzle Palace
FIRST ANCHOR BOOKS EDITION, APRIL 2002
Copyright © 2001, 2002 by James Bamford
All rights reserved under International and Pan-American Copyright Conventions.
Published in the United States by Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc.,
New York, and simultaneously in Canada by Random House of Canada Limited, Toronto.
Originally published in hardcover in slightly different form in the United States by
Doubleday, a division of Random House, Inc., New York, in 2001.
Anchor Rooks and colophon are registered trademarks of Random House, Inc.
The Library of Congress has cataloged the Doubleday edition as follows:
Body of secrets: anatomy of the ultra-secret National Security Agency: from the Cold War
through the dawn of a new century / James Bamford.—1st ed.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
1. United States. National Security Agency—History. 2. Electronic intelligence—United
States—History. 3. Cryptography—United States—History. I. Title.
UB256.U6 B36 2001
Anchor ISBN: 0-385-49908-6
Book design by Maria Carella
Printed in the United States of America
10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 To Mary Ann
And to my father, Vincent
And in memory of my mother, Katherine
My most sincere thanks to the many people who helped bring Body of
Secrets to life. Lieutenant General Michael V. Hayden, NSA's 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
2 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. CONTENTS
Acknowledgments ix 1
746 "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."
3 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 CHAPTER ONE MEMORY
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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 4 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 oneman 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, ;
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
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 roundfaced, 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
brown-stone in New York City. How it skillfully decoded more than
5 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 harddrinking, 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 code-breaking 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 1930, America's entire cryptologic body of secrets—
personnel, equipment and records—fit comfortably in a vault twentyfive 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.
6 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 Grafters 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 7 rushed 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
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. 8 CHAPTER TWO SWEAT
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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
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 men...
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