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The roof of the embassy was a horror. The scream of helicopter blades
drowned out voices, the gale-force prop blast scattered straw hats and
precious satchels into the dark night, and flashing red under-lights and
blinding spot beams disoriented the few lucky enough to have made it
that far.
In Washington it was 11:28 A.M., half a day earlier. Senior officials,
including Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, were becoming impatient. A
news conference had been scheduled to advise the press on the smooth
and skillful evacuation.


NSA: 2:07 AM, APRIL 30
A PRESIDENTIAL MSG IS BEING PASSED AT THIS TIME.


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THE GIST OF THE MESSAGE . . . WAS THAT THE
AMBASSADOR WAS TO EVACUATE NO MORE REFUGEES
AND WAS TO GET ON THE LAST CHOPPER HIMSELF.


Given an absolute deadline of 3:45 A.M., Martin pleaded for six more
choppers as embassy communications personnel smashed the crypto
gear with sledgehammers. Three miles away, fighting had broken out at
Tan Son Nhut Air Base. The muffled sounds of cannon fire and the flash
of rockets seemed a distant fireworks display.


NSA: 3:43 AM
LADY ACE 09 [the helicopter for the ambassador] IS NOT
TO PICK UP ANY PAX [passengers] UNTIL HE HAS AGAIN
RELAYED THE PRESIDENTIAL ORDER TO THE
AMBASSADOR. THE ORDER IS THAT THERE ARE ONLY 20
ACFT [aircraft] REMAINING AND ONLY AMERICANS ARE TO
BE EVACUATED.


Martin missed the deadline and was pressing for still more choppers
for both Vietnamese and Americans. But now Washington and Pacific
Command in Hawaii were ordering that no more Vietnamese be allowed
on the aircraft. At the same time the Communists were almost on the
embassy's doorstep.


NSA: 3:51 AM
LADY ACE 09 IS ON THE ROOF WITH INSTRUCTIONS
ONLY TO PICK UP AMERICANS.


NSA: 3:52 AM
THERE HAS BEEN AN SA-7 [surface-to-air missile]
LAUNCH 1 MILE EAST OF TAN SON NHUT.


As hundreds of Vietnamese still covered the embassy grounds,
recalled Frank Snepp, a CIA official who remained to the end, a Marine
major marched into Martin's office and made an announcement at the
top of his voice. "President Ford has directed that the ambassador leave
by the next chopper from the roof!" the Marine said. Martin, his face
pasty white and his eyes swollen from exhaustion, lifted his suitcase.
"Looks like this is it," he said to several others in the room, the finality of


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the situation at last washing over him. On the roof, Kenneth Moorefield,
the ambassador's aide, escorted Martin through the muggy darkness to
the door of Lady Ace. "As I lifted him through the door of the helicopter,"
Moorefield recalled, "he seemed . . . frail, so terribly frail."


NSA: 3:58 AM
LADY ACE 09 IS TIGER TIGER TIGER. THAT IS TO SAY
HE HAS THE AMBASSADOR OUT.


The assurances given Martin that six more choppers would be sent for
the remaining Vietnamese were a lie. The White House ordered that only
the remaining Americans would be evacuated.


NSA: 4:09 AM
THERE ARE 200 AMERICANS LEFT TO EVAC. . . . BRING
UR [your] PERSONNEL UP THROUGH TH [the] BUILDING.
DO NOT LET THEM (THE SOUTH VIETS) FOLLOW TOO
CLOSELY. USE MACE IF NECESSARY BUT DO NOT FIRE
ON THEM.


As choppers swooped in and picked up the final Americans, the
gunfire began getting closer.


NSA: 4:42 AM
NUMEROUS FIRE FIGHTS ALL AROUND THE BUILDING.


NSA: 5:03 AM
AAA [anti-aircraft artillery] EMPLACEMENT ABOUT SIX
BLOCKS WEST OF EMBASSY HAS BEEN CONFIRMED.


NSA: 5:25 AM
ALL OF THE REMAINING AMERICAN PERSONNEL ARE
ON THE ROOF AT THIS TIME AND VIETNAMESE ARE IN
THE BUILDING.


NSA: 5:48 AM



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SOUTH VIETNAMESE HAD BROKEN INTO THE
EMBASSY BUT WERE JUST RUMMAGING AROUND AND
NO HOSTILE ACTS WERE NOTED.


NSA: 6:18 AM
LADY ACE IS ON THE ROOF. HE STATES THAT HE WILL
LOAD 25 PAX AND THAT THIS WILL LEAVE 45 REMAINING
HENCE THEY NEED MORE CHOPPERS.


NSA: 6:51 AM
SWIFT 22 IS OUTBOUND WITH 11 PAX ON BOARD
INCLUDING THE LZ [landing zone] COMMANDER. ALL THE
AMERICANS ARE OUT REPEAT OUT.


Within a few hours, Saigon had been taken over and renamed Ho Chi
Minh City. But while the departing embassy employees left only ashes
and smashed crypto equipment for the incoming Communists, NSA had
left the NVA a prize beyond their wildest dreams. According to NSA
documents obtained for Body of Secrets, among the booty discovered by
the North Vietnamese was an entire warehouse overflowing with NSA's
most important cryptographic machines and other supersensitive code
and cipher materials, all in pristine condition”and all no doubt shared
with the Russians and possibly also the Chinese. Still not admitted by
NSA, this was the largest compromise of highly secret coding equipment
and materials in U.S. history.
In early 1975, as it began looking more and more as if South Vietnam
would fall, NSA became very worried about the sensitive crypto machines
it had supplied to the South Vietnamese government.
In 1970, the NSA had decided to provide the South Vietnamese
military with hundreds of the agency's most important crypto devices,
the KY-8 and the NESTOR voice encryption machines. NSA officials
provided strict warnings not to examine the equipment's workings.
Nevertheless, officials later believed that the South Vietnamese did open
and examine some of the machines. By late 1974 and early 1975, with
the military situation not looking good, the agency decided to try to get
the machines back from the South Vietnamese government to prevent
them from falling into the hands of the enemy. "Delicate political moves
were made to keep from offending the RVN [Republic of Vietnam] general
staff," said one official involved.
By January and February 1975, according to the official, "it was
determined that the situation was becoming critical." Stepped-up efforts


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were made to remove the machines to the South Vietnamese National
Cryptographic Depot (known as Don Vi™ 600) at Tan Son Nhut Air Base.
The depot was located next to the U.S. Armed Forces Courier Service
station, which was to transport the crypto machines back to NSA.
But things went terribly wrong. "In the last three weeks of the
existence of the Republic of Vietnam," wrote the official, "some 700 pieces
of ADONIS and NESTOR [encryption] equipment had been gathered and
prepared for shipment to CONUS [Continental U.S.]. Unfortunately, none
of this equipment was shipped or destroyed. None of the facility or its
contents were destroyed. It was estimated that enough keying material
and codes were abandoned for 12 months full operation of the on-line,
off-line, and low-level codes in country."
It was a compromise of enormous magnitude. Officials may have felt
that although the Russians no doubt obtained the crypto machines from
the Vietnamese, they still needed the keylists and key cards. What the
United States would not know for another decade was that John Walker
was secretly selling current keying materials to the USSR. Even if NSA
decided to make some changes to the machine, Walker would get a copy
and simply hand it over to the Russians. NSA has kept the embarrassing
loss of the crypto materials secret for decades.




CHAPTER TEN FAT


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The atmosphere was electric with excitement in Room A141, on the
first floor of NSA's Operations Building. On scuffed linoleum floors
staffers crowded around a metal speaker, listening in almost disbelief to
the deep voice, the crystal-clear words. It was 1979 and the Cold War
still covered the world in a thick frost, but the Russian codebreakers in A
Group were at last tasting victory, many for the first time. Attached to
their chains, above their green metal security badges, was a black tab
with the word "Rainfall."
In charge of A Group, the elite mathematicians, linguists, and
computer specialists who worked "the Soviet problem," was Ann


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Caracristi, a serious, gray-haired woman near sixty with a habit of
tossing a yellow pencil in the air. Inconspicuous and quiet, America's top
Russian codebreaker nevertheless lived in a fire-engine-red house in
Washington's stylish Georgetown section. By 1979 she had been
matching her wits against foreign code machines of one sort or another
for nearly four decades. "I have been around long enough to remember
when the cutting edge in cryptology was cross-section paper, the Frieden
calculator, and the IBM punch card," she recalled with a laugh. "I
remember when 'NSA' stood for 'No Such Agency' or 'Never Say
Anything.'"
Within days of her June 1942 graduation from Russell Sage College in
Troy, New York, Caracristi joined the Army's Signal Intelligence Service,
then largely run by William F. Friedman. Assigned to a team studying
enciphered Japanese army messages, she started out sorting raw traffic.
By the end of the war, her talents having become obvious, she was
promoted to research cryptanalyst and section chief. After leaving the
Army and a brief fling in the advertising department of the New York
Daily News, she returned to the cenobite life of codebreaking, switching
from Japanese to Soviet military codes and ciphers. In a largely male
profession, her analytical skills and innovative ideas nevertheless
propelled her to the top. By 1959 she had become the first woman
"supergrade," the civilian equivalent of an Army general. Sixteen years
later, in 1975, she took over NSA's largest and most important unit, A
Group, responsible for the Soviet Union and its satellite countries.
The NSA had been spoiled by the incredible successes of World War II,
when American and British codebreakers managed to break the high-
level German and Japanese ciphers; the Cold War had been thin on
victories for them.- Although there had been a few sizable peaks, the
valleys were far deeper and more numerous. Venona was a major
breakthrough, but it was limited to helping the FBI track down World
War II atomic spies. The solving of the Russian Fish machine was also a
major breakthrough. But by the late 1940s, as a result of what NSA has
long believed was a traitor in its ranks, the Soviets switched to more
secure encryption. By the 1950s most of the key Soviet government and
military communications were transmitted over hard-to-tap landlines,
buried cables, and scrambled voice circuits. In the middle of the Cold
War, NSA had suddenly become hard of hearing.
"NSA opened its doors in 1952 under siege conditions," said Tom
Johnson, the agency's former historian. "Its main non”Department of
Defense customers, CIA and the State Department, were skeptical of
NSA's prospects, and CIA hedged its own bets by creating a Sigint system
of its own. It lured Frank Rowlett, one of NSA's top people, to its own fold
with the unwritten purpose of doing for itself what NSA was chartered to
do. It was a 'produce or else' atmosphere for NSA. If its stature were not


298
restored, there was considerable prospect that the Agency would go out
of business, and the cryptologic business would again be fragmented and
inefficient."
The magic had vanished like disappearing ink. For a decade NSA had
been unable to break a single high-level Russian cipher system. Even
unencrypted voice communications had slowed to a trickle. One CIA
official called the 1950s the Dark Ages of signals intelligence. "The
cryptologic organizations that had emerged triumphant from World War
II were viewed by 'insiders' as shattered hulks of their former selves,"
said NSA's Johnson. "The Army and Navy cryptologists, who had read
virtually every high-level code system of their World War II adversaries,
could do this no more."
By the mid-1950s a number of key people around Eisenhower began
realizing NSA's potential. At the same time they were also dismayed at
how far its capabilities had fallen. A White House commission set up to

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