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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 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



6
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 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."



7
Once, when a reporter happened into the station and began taking a few
notes, two police cruisers from the secret city 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 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.




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 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



9
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.
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 code-breaking 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,


10
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



11
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

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