<<

. 7
( 118 .)



>>

Above and below, Austin could see the tracer bullets, and he yelled at
his copilot to return fire. Air Force captain Carl Holt had swiveled his
narrow seat 180 degrees to the rear and was pressing hard on the fire
control button for his twin cannons. In the cloudless sky he stopped
counting at about ten MiGs. "The guns won't work," he shouted above
the roar of the six powerful turbojets. "Well, you'd better kick something
back there and get the damn things to work a little bit anyway, or we
may be a dead duck here!" Austin roared in a deep Texas drawl. Austin
quickly banked toward Finland. But a fighter from above put a shell
through the top of his port wing, destroying the intercom and knocking a
hole in the fuel tank. By the time they crossed into friendly territory,
their plane was dangerously low on fuel, but a lucky rendezvous with a
tanker saved Austin, his crew, and the mission tapes.
Largely secret until now, the bomber overflights and ferret missions
were the dark underside of the Cold War, an invisible hot war in which
the lives of more than two hundred silent warriors were lost and more
than forty American aircraft were shot down.


As American spy planes were drawing protests from Russia, a major
crisis was developing in Europe and the Middle East. During the
president's morning briefings, aides with maps were beginning to run out
of pins to mark the hot spots. On July 26, 1956, following a fiery speech,
Egyptian president Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalized the Suez Canal. The
action would lead to a mini-war with England, France, and Israel and a
cooling of relations with the European allies of the United States. It
would also, according to a highly secret NSA report, become "the first
major test of the National Security Agency during a short-term, 'brush-
fire' crisis."
Sitting in the director's office was Lieutenant General Ralph Julian
Canine, of the Army, the agency's first director, whom many considered


35
the father of NSA. Portly and white-haired, the fifty-five-year-old general
had spent most of his career as an infantry soldier, with little experience
in intelligence. He often reminded those around him that what most
qualified him to be the director of NSA was his long experience with pack
mules.
"People were scared of him," said Air Force colonel Frank L. Herrelko,
a burly one-time coal miner who worked for Canine as his director of
communications security, the codemaking side of the business. "But
deep down he had a heart of gold." Once onboard, Herrelko made the
serious mistake of pronouncing Canine like the dog, "Kay-Nine." "I paid
for that for the next eight months," said Herrelko. "After that he called
me boy. He would only call me Colonel in front of somebody else. He
called me boy."
The seizure of the Suez Canal came as the last move in a bitter game
of Cold War poker. For months, the United States and Russia had been
subtly bidding against each other for the costly right to help Egypt pay
for an important dam across the Nile. Nasser was a key leader of the
Arab world and he controlled a strategic piece of real estate; his
friendship was an alluring prize. The price was the Aswan High Dam.
Knowing his value and hoping to up the bids, Nasser awkwardly
attempted to play one side off the other. Instead, the United States folded
its cards and Russia, now without competition, began hedging its bet.
Frustrated, Nasser declared martial law along the canal and ordered
shipping companies to pay Egypt rather than the Canal Company.
Although Nasser never indicated any desire to close the canal or
restrict shipping, the British and French governments, part owners of the
Canal Company, nevertheless feared their passage might be blocked.
Like a plasma tube, the canal allowed vital oil shipments to pass from
refineries in Saudi Arabia and elsewhere to storage tanks in England and
France.
Soon after Nasser nationalized the canal, Britain joined France in an
ambitious plot to take back the canal by force. Rather than appear as an
aggressor, however, France secretly enlisted the help of Israel. The
intrigue involved Israel launching a war against Egypt. Then, once Egypt
began defending itself, England and France would go in as
"peacekeepers." As part of the "peace," the canal would be taken from
Egypt and kept by Britain and France. Israel would capture the Sinai
from Egypt. It was a deceitful plan, which smacked of a return to the
worst days of colonialism. Nevertheless, it was fully agreed to by Israeli
prime minister David Ben-Gurion, defense minister Shimon Peres, and
armed forces chief Moshe Dayan. Britain's prime minister, Anthony
Eden, informed of Israel's planned key role, likewise gave his country's
approval. For all involved in the cabal, it was essential to keep the
precise details of the elaborate conspiracy hidden from Washington. At


36
the same time, however, it was also essential to win Washington's
support once the hostilities began.
As the crisis quietly grew, the American intelligence community began
turning its eyes and ears on the Middle East. On Monday, August 6,
Secretary of State John Foster Dulles sat alongside the president's desk
and brought to Eisenhower's attention NSA's latest intercepts from Spain
and Syria, revealing their attitudes and intentions following the seizure.
From Israel, however, there was nothing.
NSA's expensive machine was not working. It had only two settings:
Communist Europe and Communist Asia. Under the postwar United
Kingdom”USA (UKUSA) Communications Intelligence Agreement, the
world had been divided into spheres of interest. Through its listening
posts in England and on Cyprus, GCHQ, NSA's longtime British partner,
was to monitor much of Western Europe and the Middle East. But now,
to hide from Washington its invasion plans, GCHQ was passing on only
selected intercepts.
Deceived by its partner, NSA could do little by itself. The agency had
few Arabic or Hebrew linguists and it was not equipped to eavesdrop on
British, French, or Israeli military communications. All NSA knew was
that traffic analysis indicated that "communications between Paris and
Tel Aviv were extremely heavy," as were those between Britain and
France.
To make matters worse, the agency was in the middle of moving from
Washington to a new headquarters twenty-five miles north, at Fort
Meade in Maryland. Files, people, and equipment were scattered among
Arlington Hall in Virginia, where the main codebreaking and analysis
were done; the Naval Security Station in Washington, which served as
headquarters and was responsible for codemaking; and the new building
at Fort Meade where operations were to be consolidated.
Communications among the various areas were jury-rigged and couriers
were required to move intercepted traffic between locations four times a
day. Adding to the confusion, General Canine was clearing his desk and
getting ready to retire. As one NSA analysis later acknowledged, "1956
was a bad time for NSA to get involved in a crisis."
As the full extent of the elaborate French-Israeli-British plot became
clear, Eisenhower grew outraged. He told Britain and France that they
should expect no American assistance with their adventure. Over the
phone, Dulles told Eisenhower the action was "about as crude and brutal
as anything [I] have ever seen" and called the Anglo-French ultimatum
"unacceptable." "Expect the Russians to be in on this," Eisenhower said.
Allen Dulles, at the CIA, called his brother. "It was the gravest situation
between our countries in years," Allen said.
The issue of what action to take against Israel was hotly debated. "It


37
would be a complete mistake for this country to continue with any kind
of aid to Israel," Eisenhower argued, "which was an aggressor." Harold
Stassen objected but John Foster Dulles answered, "One thing at least
was clear: We do not approve of murder. We have simply got to refrain
from resorting to force in settling international disputes. ... If we stand by
in this crisis, the whole United Nations will go down the drain."
Eisenhower agreed.
In London, the heavy pressures exerted by the United States, Russia,
and the international community had become too great. A cease-fire was
agreed to, thus ending one of the most serious confrontations America
had faced since the end of World War II.
The Suez crisis had a profound effect on NSA. It marked a dismal
entry into the world of crisis intelligence. An internal analysis of the
agency's performance was harshly critical: "As for crisis response, all was
chaos. The cryptologic community proved incapable of marshalling its
forces in a flexible fashion to deal with developing trouble spots. The
events of the year did not demonstrate success”they simply provided a
case study to learn from."
In a highly unusual move, Canine enlisted the help of an outside
management firm to examine the agency's problems. Suddenly
consultants from McKinsey and Company began crisscrossing NSA's
hallways, going over NSA's highly secret organizational charts, and
studying the flow of intercepts from NSA's worldwide network of listening
posts. Canine's key concern was whether the agency would function
more effectively if its organization was based primarily on function”
traffic analysis, cryptanalysis, and so on”or on geography. And how
centralized should NSA become?
The consultants recommended a complete change. The repercussions,
according to a later NSA report, lasted more than thirty years. Soon after
he arrived, Canine had reorganized the new agency along functional
lines. Now McKinsey proposed a "modified geographical concept." Signals
intelligence would be organized according to target”the Soviet Union
and its satellite countries; China and Communist Asia; and so on. Each
of those sections would include specific disciplines, such as
cryptanalysis and traffic analysis.
Thus NSA-70, which was responsible for all high-level cryptanalysis,
was replaced by ADVA ("Advanced Soviet"), which focused exclusively on
new ways to attack high-level Soviet cipher problems. GENS ("General
Soviet") concentrated mainly on mid- and lower-level Russian crypto
systems, as well as on analysis of content. ACOM (Asian Communist)
attempted to exploit the systems of China, North Korea, and the rest of
Communist Asia. Finally, ALLO ("All Others") analyzed the systems
belonging to the nations making up the rest of the world, including



38
America's allies. ALLO-34, for example, was responsible for Middle East
traffic analysis. Three other divisions were primarily for support: MPRO
("Machine Processing") was responsible for computer number crunching;
TCOM ("Telecommunications") controlled the worldwide flow of signals;
and Collection managed the NSA's far-flung network of listening posts.
On November 23, 1956, Ralph Canine walked out of NSA for the last
time as director. "Canine . . . stands out as the guy who everybody
respected in the agency," recalled Howard Campaigne. "I was surprised
to learn later that the people above him didn't think nearly as much [of
him] as we did. He made a tremendous impression."


In a restricted corner of a remote air base in Peshawar, Pakistan,
Francis Gary Powers sat shoehorned into the narrow cockpit of U-2
Number 360. At twenty minutes past six on the morning of May 1, 1960,
the scorching sun had already pushed above the tallest peaks of the
western Himalayas. In the low, fertile plain known as the Vale of
Peshawar, rippling heat waves created the impression of an endless lake.
Powers was locked in a white space helmet and a tightly tailored
pressure suit. Beads of sweat flowed down from his short brown hair and
passed across his broad forehead and cheekbones in thin streams. His
long underwear was soaked with perspiration.
The first U-2 had been launched from West Germany four years
earlier, on Independence Day of 1956. Shortly before, NSA had detected a
possible mobilization by Moscow in response to a series of riots in East
Germany, thus making the mission more urgent. But hope that the U-2
would be able to slip across the Soviet Union undetected was dashed by
the eavesdroppers at Fort Meade. "NSA picked up the [Soviet]
transmission of their [the U-2's] track so we knew that they had been
tracked a good deal of the time," said Richard M. Bissell, Jr., the CIA
official who ran the program. Nevertheless, seeing where the Russians
were able to pick up the plane and where they weren't gave NSA an
indication of just where the holes were in Soviet radar coverage.
As he did with the bomber overflights, Eisenhower played a major role
in the planning for each mission. "He would sometimes cut out particular
legs or say, 'Well, don't go from A to B to C, go from A to C,' " according
to Bissell.
In Peshawar, Powers looked at his watch. The mission was now
almost a half-hour behind schedule. He had never before had to wait so
long for final clearance from the White House. In fact, Eisenhower had
already given the mission a thumbs-up, but because of radio problems
the message had not gotten through to the operations officer in
Peshawar.
Although much attention would later be focused on the U-2s' photo


39
role, the planes' eavesdropping missions, codenamed Green Hornet, were
equally important. A U-2's intercept equipment, known as System-V, was
installed in the bay that normally housed the main camera. It consisted
of sophisticated electronic receivers and large-capacity recorders that
used Mylar tape. Scores of antennas, like small blades, were attached to
the fuselage, each dedicated to particular frequency bands. Powers's first
eavesdropping mission took the plane along the Soviet border from the
Black Sea to the Caspian Sea and on to Afghanistan. According to a CIA
report, "the System-V unit worked well."
Soon after his assignment to Adana, Turkey, Powers began flying
Green Hornet missions. "We usually flew from Turkey eastward along the
southern border of the Soviet Union," he recalled, "over Iran and
Afghanistan as far as Pakistan, and back. We also flew along the Black
Sea, and, on occasion, as far west as Albania, but never penetrating,
staying off the coast, over international waters. . . . Since these
'eavesdropping' missions were eventually to become fairly frequent, there
was a tendency to minimize their importance, but in many ways they
were as valuable as the overflights, the data obtained enabling the United
States to pinpoint such things as Russian antiaircraft defenses and
gauge their effectiveness."
On the top of the priority list, according to Powers, were Soviet space
and missile launches which normally took place at night and, from the
altitude of the U-2, "were often spectacular," he said. "The equipment we
carried on such occasions was highly sophisticated. One unit came on
automatically the moment the launch frequency was used and collected
all the data sent out to control the rocket. The value of such information
to our own scientists was obvious." Indeed it was. The U-2's ability to
soar thirteen miles high along the Soviet border gave it a unique ability to
eavesdrop on telemetry data during the earliest phases of the flight. The
U-2, said one CIA report at the time, "possesses altitude capabilities
which make it a unique platform for the reliable acquisition of high
quality telemetry data prior to first stage burnout on Tyuratam [missile
center] launchings. Such data is of extreme importance in determining
ICBM characteristics."
Finally, the link from Washington to Peshawar was made. Colonel
William Shelton, the detachment chief, leaped from the radio van and
ran across the field to give Powers the hand signal for takeoff. It would be
the twenty-fourth U-2 overflight of the Soviet Union, and the last.
Powers locked his canopy from the inside, turned on the
pressurization system, and pulled back hard on the throttle, sending the
plane into a steep climb, a roller-coaster ride up to the blue-black curve
of space. Below passed the barren dusty-brown landscape of Afghanistan
and the peaks of the Hindu Kush, spiking through the thin cloud cover
like daggers. An hour later, reaching penetration altitude of 66,000 feet,


40
he passed over the Soviet border, high above the village of Kirovabad in
the remote Tadjik Republic. Oddly, Powers felt the Russians knew he was

<<

. 7
( 118 .)



>>