Thursday, November 13, 2008

In a New History of NSA, Its Spies' Successes Are [Redacted]

Siobhan Gorman writes in The Wall Street Journal:

For much of its history, the government's most-secretive intelligence agency sought to conceal its very existence.

So it was a surprise last year when university researchers persuaded the National Security Agency to hand over a top-secret, 1,000-page account of its Cold War spying.

George Washington University plans to release the report today, giving historians a rare look inside the agency that gathers intelligence through eavesdropping. But one thing appears to be missing: Many of its biggest successes.

Not wanting to reveal too much, NSA blanked out sensitive chunks of the account that, according to intelligence experts, appear to chronicle espionage breakthroughs. What remains makes it appear that the world's largest ear has been a bit deaf.

According to the declassified report, government eavesdroppers generated half of their intelligence reports just after World War II from listening in on the French. Code breakers missed a key tip-off in the Cuban Missile Crisis. The report also suggests that, for the most part, the government couldn't crack high-grade Soviet communications codes between World War II and the 1970s.

More here.


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