Venona documents Anybody who saw the women together could easily mistake them for a suburban garden club. Gardner decoded messages relayed two years earlier in 1944. When she told her father she hated it, he urged her to find work that made her happy. For example, “Kapitan” was President Roosevelt, “Enormoz” was the Manhattan Project, “The Bank” was the U.S. Department of State and “Arsenal” was the U.S. War Department. “I owe you an apology,” the officer said as they were washing their hands. In Pennsylvania and its environs, Angie Nanni is cherished by 20 doting nieces and nephews, for whom she has always been a surrogate mother, an important influence and inspiration. Liza Mundy is the author of Code Girls and a former Washington Post writer. In this kind of encryption, and unlike monoalphabetical ciphers (which are used in polyalphabetical ciphers though), one letter can be ciphered in different ways depending on its position in the text. He asked her about it. headquarters were communications regarding U.S. weapons development. Clarke ordered his small code-breaking unit to read all Soviet diplomatic messages being sent from the United States to Moscow. discovered that the Soviets had placed several intelligence sources in the Though the project officially Hatch, David A. While the full decoding of these messages remained This insight was the core achievement of Venona: The Soviets had used some of their one-time pads twice. mid-1990s. More important, while the exploits of Gardner and other men have been the focus of entire books, the women themselves did not talk about their work—not to their friends, not to their families, hardly to each other. activities. The team first cracked Rosenberg's codenames, Liberal and Antenna, The story of Venona’s female code breakers has never been publicly told in full. venona The U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service, the precursor to the National Security Agency, began a secret program in February 1943 later codenamed VENONA The mission of this small program was to examine and exploit Soviet diplomatic communications but after the program began, the message traffic included espionage efforts as well. In September 1947, Clarke’s military intelligence unit quietly shared these successes with the FBI; Gardner began a richly productive liaison with FBI agent Robert Lamphere, who used the Venona material for his investigation, then reciprocated by providing information that sent the Venona team back to read old code groups in the light of new findings. In time, the code breakers discerned that the other three were spy systems: GRU, or military intelligence; naval intelligence; and the NKVD, the forerunner of the KGB. The Venona intercept program ceased operations in October 1980 because of the age of the materials being worked on. Marie Meyer, a Russian linguist, was particularly good at divining code-group meanings. In 1953 the team was immensely aided in its task when it managed to get a copy of a half-burned Soviet code book relating to that message traffic. At this early, laborious, “brute-force” stage, they used IBM punch-card machines to compare early code groups in thousands of messages that had been sent over trade channels. During the course of the Venona Project, nearly 2,200 messages were Soviet spymasters tried to mitigate this weakness by dispersing the duplicate pads. The Manhattan Project was ENORMOZ. In 1945 the KGB’s Washington office took a more active role in the dissemination of Venona’s secrets, and Zubilin moved there from New York. school in Arlington, Virginia. But she held fast—usually. He had a tendency to look over his colleagues’ shoulders. Fitin also oversaw the use of Soviet diplomats as intelligence agents, direct relations with KGB (general intelligence) headquarters in Moscow, the joint Soviet military intelligence (GRU) and Red Army general staff intelligence directorate and the GRU-Soviet naval intelligence staff. Soviet diplomatic messages, which used a less KGB messages, furthering decryption efforts begun on the cipher system by Not that he and his siblings hadn’t tried. mathematical encryption system. As a girl of 12 in rural Pennsylvania during the Great Depression, she kept the books in her father’s grocery store. Gene Grabeel retired at 58, in 1978. The first successful uses of intelligence information gathered by the It was, of course, the NSA. One of the top analysts at Arlington Hall in 1946, when a steady stream of Venona files was being translated, was Meredith Gardner, a former language teacher at the University of Akron, Ohio. Philby visited Arlington Hall for briefings while stationed in Washington, tradecraft. Another big advance came when Genevieve Grotjan Feinstein, who had made a major break in a Japanese system in 1940, saw that some opening groups likely revealed which additive page had been used twice. This was called book-breaking, and Gardner was a master. Using these few hints, the former home ec teacher and her colleagues divined that Arlington Hall had messages passing along five different Soviet communications systems. Before long, Zubko was replaced. radical socialist and communist organizations in the United States, and Gouzenko told the startled Canadians that the Soviets had a mole inside their intelligence system. and CIA, while MI-5 and MI-6 processed information from the British team. By the time Venona analysts were able to make considerable headway into Soviet communications, the war had ended. As Cold War and anti-communist The two decades between 1960 and 1980 produced hundreds of translations of messages sent in the early 1940s. decrypted messages was painstakingly slow. Enrolled in beauty school after graduation—cosmetology being one of the few fields open to women in the 1940s—Angie focused on the business side while her sisters, Mimi and Virginia, learned to style hair. “Once I walked out of those gates, I would forget about Arlington Hall,” Nanni says. Their conviction was based in part on the work of Angeline Nanni and a group of other extraordinary American women. It was women who kept Venona going, and women who rolled Venona up. Venona intercepts also yielded information about Breaking the Soviet espionage network in the United States. Below that row of 50 numbers was another row of 50, arranged in similar groups. Her hometown, Rose Hill, had 300 people, a grocery, a church and a service station. At Arlington Hall, most work focused on Japanese Army codes, but Grabeel, four weeks after arriving, was directed to attack the Soviet intercepts, an immensely secret and sensitive task even in that secret and sensitive place. Code-named “Anton” in the Venona files, Kvasnikov worked undercover at the AMTORG Trading Co., but his main job was to handle the information coming out of Los Alamos. Eager to command troops, Zubko later figured he got this desk job because he knew Russian. missions. The U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service formally began the Though the Soviet Union Some of the given secrets to the Soviets during World War II. cryptologists discovered that certain ciphers were used for certain


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