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Africa to islands of East Asia and the shores of Australia, presented a
particularly formidable problem. The solution involved the dislocation of
an entire native population, the taking over of a British colony, and the
creation of one of the most forbidding territories on earth.
In the early 1960s, the British government began taking an unusual
interest in a sparse, remote group of islands located nearly in the center
of the Indian Ocean. Known as the Chagos Archipelago, it was an almost
forgotten dependency of Mauritius, one of Britain's larger island colonies,
which lay 1,200 miles to the south. As the Mauritius islanders began to
agitate for independence, Britain inexplicably offered them freedom, plus
£3 million, if they would give up their claim to the scruffy, distant
sandbars and atolls of the Chagos. The Mauritius government accepted.
Later, away from the glare of publicity, London made a brief, quiet
announcement. At a time when it was freeing its distant lands from the
bonds of colonialism, Britain was suddenly creating a new colony. The
tiny Chagos Archipelago, a collection of dots lost in millions of square
miles of ocean, would become the British Indian Ocean Territory, or
BIOT.


138
With the ink barely dry on the paperwork, Britain turned around and
just as quietly handed the colony over to the United States, gratis, for
fifty years. The purpose was the building of an unidentified "defence
installation." There was no debate in Parliament and virtually no
publicity.
Because of the U.S. government's need for secrecy, between 1965 and
1973 the entire native population of some 2,000 had to be evicted from
the islands, where they and their relatives had lived quietly for hundreds
of years. A visitor in the late 1950s, before the islands became an
"American colony," reported, "There was a chateau . . . whitewashed
stores, factories and workshops, shingled and thatched cottages
clustered around the green . . . and parked motor launches." According
to one of the islanders, "We were assembled in front of the island
because the Americans were coming for good. We didn't want to go. We
were born there. So were our fathers and forefathers who were buried in
that land."
Although the islanders were all British subjects, they were removed
bodily and dispersed once NSA prepared to move in. "They were to be
given no protection, and no assistance, by the Earl, the Crown, or
anybody else," wrote one outraged British writer, Simon Winchester:


Instead the British Government, obeying with craven servility
the wishes of the Pentagon”by now the formal lessees of the
island group”physically removed every man, woman and child
from the islands, and placed them, bewildered and frightened, on
the islands of Mauritius and the Seychelles. British officials did not
consult the islanders. They did not tell them what was happening
to them. They did not tell anyone else what they planned to do.
They just went right ahead and uprooted an entire community,
ordered people from their jobs and their homes, crammed them on
to ships, and sailed them away to a new life in a new and foreign
country. They trampled on two centuries of community and two
centuries of history, and dumped the detritus into prison cells and
on to quaysides in Victoria [Seychelles] and Port Louis [Mauritius],
and proceeded, with all the arrogant attitudes that seemed peculiar
to this Imperial rump, promptly to forget all about them.


In the spring of 1973, a group of NSA officials and fourteen intercept
operators and analysts from the three military cryptologic organizations
arrived on the largest island of the group, Diego Garcia, to begin
hearability tests. Named after the Portuguese sailor who discovered it
four hundred years earlier, the island is a thin, horseshoe-shaped atoll,
thirty-seven miles from tip to tip, that barely rises above the rolling


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waves. The NSA team, codenamed Jibstay, set up a series of intercept
antennas, including a small elephant cage known as a "pusher." Also,
NSA shipped a portable eavesdropping van to the island. It was not long
before the Soviets began snooping around to see what NSA was up to. "A
Soviet trawler maintained station just off the receiver site," said Monty
Rich, a member of the Jibstay team. "The trawler was relieved for a short
time by a Soviet Navy Sverdlov-class cruiser."
Gregor McAdam was one of the first Navy Seabees on Diego Garcia
and helped construct some of the early buildings. "All we had was
seahuts to live in," he said. "And lots of donkeys, chickens, flies up the
ass, and Double Diamond beer. Once every couple of weeks a shipment
of beer would come in, but if you didn't get right over to the club (a
Quonset hut) and snap up some cases, you're S.O.L. and stuck with the
Double Diamond or Pabst Blue Ribbon." Even in those early days, he
said, the Russians took a great interest in the construction. "We had a
radio station that used to play 'Back in the USSR' for the Russian trawler
that was always offshore."
On Diego Garcia, cryptologic technicians nicknamed "wizards" worked
in the windowless Ocean Surveillance Building located at "C Site." There,
as part of a worldwide Advanced Tactical Ocean Surveillance System,
codenamed Classic Wizard, they served as the Indian Ocean downlink for
the highly secret White Cloud satellite program. This consists of
constellations of signals intelligence satellites that are able to pinpoint
and eavesdrop on ships and submarines across the vast oceans. Others,
in the High Frequency Direction Finding Division, monitored the
airwaves for thousands of miles in all directions for any indications of
Soviet sea activity.
One wizard, who spent two tours on Diego Garcia, was Steven J.
Forsberg, a Navy cryptologic technician. Despite the isolation and
remoteness of the base, he said, the ocean surveillance compound was
also closely guarded by a detachment of U.S. Marines. "On those few
occasions when they could stay awake at night guarding our site," he
said, "which had never been, and never would be, attacked, they often
played 'quick draw' with their loaded .45s. Well, one night some guy
accidentally squeezed the trigger while doing so." To cover himself the
Marine reported that the shot came from a sniper. As a result the
Marines went to full alert. "Security was driving around in a truck with a
loudhorn telling people to go inside," he said. Other Marines "lined up on
the roof in full gear and with loaded weapons. If you came near the
barracks, a guy would scream, 'Lock and load!' and you'd hear all those
M-16 bolts slamming. Then they'd yell, 'Turn around and walk away!
Deadly force authorized!' "
So highly protected is Diego Garcia that even when a small private
sailboat, crossing the Indian Ocean, pulled close to shore asking to re-


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supply water and do some emergency repairs, it was ordered to keep
away from the island. Eventually the boat was allowed to remain offshore
until daybreak, but a spotlight was constantly trained on it. Then as
soon as the morning came, patrol boats forced the sailboat back out onto
the deep ocean. Under the terms of the 1966 agreement between Britain
and the United States, no one without formal orders to the area was
permitted entry to any of the islands.
By 1989 the Naval Security Group had personnel serving at forty-
eight listening posts around the world, with 15 percent conducting
operations at sea aboard ninety ships.
To avoid the problem of overdependence on British intercepts, which
partly led to the surprise at Suez, NSA began expanding its presence on
Cyprus, ideally positioned in the eastern Mediterranean. At the same
time, it began training its antennas on the Middle East rather than
exclusively on the Soviet Bloc. To the north, east, and west of Nicosia,
Cyprus's capital, listening posts were set up. At Karavas, about fifty
Soviet and Slavic linguists eavesdropped on the Soviet Union and
Eastern Europe. Other monitoring stations were set up in Mia Milea, in
Yerolakkos, and near Troodos Mountain. On the south coast, at Akrotiri,
intercept operators listened for indications of war in the Middle East,
while also eavesdropping on peace negotiations. In Nicosia, signals
intelligence personnel were based in the embassy to relay back to NSA
intercepted diplomatic cables. During the 1990 Gulf War, the listening
posts played a key role and also spearheaded the hunt for the hostages
in Lebanon.
By far the most difficult”and at the same time most important”
body of water in which to spy was the Barents Sea. Like an ice pack on
Russia's forehead, the half-million square miles of dark, unforgiving,
polar-cold water held some of Russia's deepest secrets. It was a frozen
world of white, gray, and black where the blunt hulls of onyx-colored
submarines began and ended their long patrols in search of American
subs under the Atlantic Ocean. It was also where new missiles were
tested and glacier-shaking nuclear weapons were detonated. The thin
winter ice allowed the Russian Northern Fleet to conduct exercises year-
round, and the sky above was like a mechanical aviary for the Soviet Air
Force. The air was electric with signals. The problem for NSA was how to
get an antenna and tape recorder into one of the most secret and heavily
protected areas on earth.
Black and moonless, the late night was an odd time to start painting.
In the dim reddish glow from a low-observation flashlight, George A.
Cassidy began applying thick coats of steel-gray paint to the submarine's
tall sail. It was mid-September 1965 and the frigid spray from the North
Sea deposited a dewlike film on the sailor's dark pea coat. In an hour the
giant "SS-352," identifying the sub as American, had been painted over


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on both sides of the tower. The USS Halfbeak's covert mission had
begun.
A month before, late at night on August 17, Cassidy had reported to a
basement office in NSA's Operations Building for a Top Secret codeword
briefing on his new assignment. "One of our missions," recalled the
former Elint intercept operator, "was to bring back any rocket telemetry
that we could get." At the time, the White House was very concerned
about advances in Soviet ballistic missile capabilities. An over-the-pole
attack launched from one of the ICBM bases close to the Barents Sea
was the most likely scenario for World War III. U.S. Sigint aircraft would
occasionally fly into the area in an attempt to collect signals, but their
presence was immediately obvious and sensitive activities would be
halted until it departed. The only way to capture the telemetry”key
signals revealing the operational performance of the missile that were
transmitted back to its control center”was by stealth. A submarine
would have to penetrate deep into Soviet territorial waters in perhaps the
most dangerous sea on the planet.
To hide the true nature of their mission, even from the crew, Cassidy
and the three other intercept operators were given "radiomen" patches for
their uniforms. Their orders never even mentioned the name of the ship
they were being assigned to. It simply used the words "U.S.S. Classified."
The U.S.S. Classified turned out to be a twenty-year-old diesel
submarine named the USS Halfbeak, which was berthed at the naval
base in New London, Connecticut. Although outwardly like any other
sub, eavesdropping antennas had been attached to the Halfbeak's
electronic countermeasures (ECM) mast, and a special receiver had been
installed in the periscope well beneath the conning tower.
The intercept operators, not being part of the regular crew, were
squeezed in wherever there was space. "I lived in the forward torpedo
room, among eighteen torpedoes and six torpedo tubes," said Cassidy.
His bed was a piece of plywood sandwiched between Mark 24 wire-guided
torpedoes”each with 500 pounds of explosives packed into its warhead.
Nearby were two Mark 45 nuclear-tipped torpedoes with tags labeled
"War Shot."
It was late September when the Halfbeak finally reached its
operational area off Russia's Kola Peninsula. Inside the crowded metal
tube, life was cold, dirty, and quiet. To ensure radio silence, tubes had
been removed from the communications equipment and locked in a safe.
Adding to the discomfort, one of two stills that converted salt water into
freshwater had broken down. Thus, each man was given a large tomato
soup can to fill with water once a day for washing. Then about half the
heaters quit. "I remember lying in my bunk scraping the frost off the
torpedo above me," recalled Cassidy.



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Despite the problems, the mission went on. Beneath the black,
crawling waves the Halfbeak slowly maneuvered toward its target, a
heavily protected island off the Russian coast where much of the Soviet
missile testing was taking place. During the day, the sub operated on
battery power, cruising quietly at periscope depth sixty-two feet below
the surface. Once the passive sonar indicated that no surface contacts
were above, the mast with the Sigint equipment would be raised about
six feet above the waves.
"If it was daylight, we would be running fairly slow so it wouldn't
make a wake," said Cassidy, "because if you went over four knots
underwater, this would start throwing up a plume." At night the diesel
engine would be fired up and the snorkel mast would be raised to provide
fresh air to the crew and to charge the batteries. Ever closer the sub
approached”well past the twelve-mile territorial limit and just a few
miles off the beach. Through the periscope, the men could see beefy
Russian women hanging out laundry.
Down in the makeshift Sigint spaces, behind a closed door in the
control room, the intercept operators listened like electronic bird-
watchers for telltale sounds. They attempted to separate the important
signals”the wobbling, squeaking, chirping sounds that reveal key radar
and telemetry systems”from a cacophony of static. "We used to practice
all the time listening to tapes of different Soviet radar," said Cassidy. "So
if we heard it, we could tell what it was. Before we would go on a mission,
we would train ourselves by sitting in front of these tapes that operators
had made while out on patrol." At the same time, they measured and
photographed the squiggly electronic waves that rippled across the
orange screens of the Elint receivers.
"We had special equipment that was made up of eight to twelve little
receivers that would each receive a frequency that the Soviets
transmitted telemetry on," recalled Cassidy. "On this run the main
interest was the telemetry. But any Russian signal you were able to tape
was good because all this went into a database. . . . And this would all be
piped into a recorder, so whenever we heard telemetry coming from the
island, we would start to record it. The rockets could be anything from
satellite launches to missiles. We heard a lot of fire control radar along
with it. We had capabilities of intercepting twelve to fourteen channels."
To capture Soviet voice communications, one of the intercept operators
was a Russian linguist.
The greatest worry was discovery. Thus, great care was taken to
watch and listen for any approaching Soviet aircraft, ship, or submarine.
For weeks all went well despite the Halfbeak's risky location. But early
on a dark morning in late October, Cassidy heard the distinctive whistle
of a "mushroom" radar, indicating that somewhere overhead was an



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approaching Soviet TU-95 Bear”a large and deadly strategic bomber
with swept wings and four huge turboprop engines. At almost the same
moment, he also picked up the signal of a Russian destroyer bearing
down on the Halfbeak's location. "I have contact!" Cassidy yelled to the
captain. "Very weak TU-95 aircraft mushroom radar and a Soviet surface
ship."
The troubles only got worse. "And then I heard this whish," Cassidy
recalled, "and I knew it was a flat-spin radar from a Soviet "Foxtrot"- or
"Whiskey"-class submarine. After I told the captain, we pulled all the
antennas and masts down. This was at night”early in the morning. We
were snorkeling, which means we had the diesel engines running. We
went to Battery Operation and then to Battle Stations Torpedo. We pulled
the plug”it went down. We knew we had in the air at least one Soviet

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