Indexes to NSA Publications Declassified and Online

In May 2003, Michael Ravnitzky submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the National Security Agency for a copy of the index to their historical reports at the Center for Cryptologic History and the index to certain journals: the NSA Technical Journal and the Cryptographic Quarterly. These journals had been mentioned in the literature but are not available to the public. Because he thought NSA might be reluctant to release the bibliographic indexes, he also asked for the table of contents to each issue.

The request took more than three years for them to process and declassify—sadly, not atypical—and during the process they asked if he would accept the indexes in lieu of the tables of contents pages: specifically, the cumulative indices that included all the previous material in the earlier indices. He agreed, and got them last month. The results are here.

This is just a sampling of some of the article titles from the NSA Technical Journal:

“The Arithmetic of a Generation Principle for an Electronic Key Generator” · “CATNIP: Computer Analysis – Target Networks Intercept Probability” · “Chatter Patterns: A Last Resort” · “COMINT Satellites – A Space Problem” · “Computers and Advanced Weapons Systems” · “Coupon Collecting and Cryptology” · “Cranks, Nuts, and Screwballs” · “A Cryptologic Fairy Tale” · “Don’t Be Too Smart” · “Earliest Applications of the Computer at NSA” · “Emergency Destruction of Documents” · “Extraterrestrial Intelligence” · “The Fallacy of the One-Time-Pad Excuse” · “GEE WHIZZER” · “The Gweeks Had a Gwoup for It” · “How to Visualize a Matrix” · “Key to the Extraterrestrial Messages” · “A Mechanical Treatment of Fibonacci Sequences” · “Q.E.D.- 2 Hours, 41 Minutes” · “SlGINT Implications of Military Oceanography” · “Some Problems and Techniques in Bookbreaking” · “Upgrading Selected US Codes and Ciphers with a Cover and Deception Capability” · “Weather: Its Role in Communications Intelligence” · “Worldwide Language Problems at NSA”

In the materials the NSA provided, they also included indices to two other publications: Cryptologic Spectrum and Cryptologic Almanac.

The indices to Cryptologic Quarterly and NSA Technical Journal have indices by title, author and keyword. The index to Cryptologic Spectrum has indices by author, title and issue.

Consider these bibliographic tools as stepping stones. If you want an article, send a FOIA request for it. Send a FOIA request for a dozen. There’s a lot of stuff here that would help elucidate the early history of the agency and some interesting cryptographic topics.

Thanks Mike, for doing this work.

Posted on September 26, 2006 at 12:58 PM35 Comments


Phil September 26, 2006 2:42 PM

Yeah — who knew the NSA was actually publishing stuff about extraterrestrials?

There’s also: “Communications with Extraterrestrial Intelligence” and “Extraterrestrial Intelligence” if the keys to their messages don’t quite do it for you.

Prohias September 26, 2006 2:43 PM

One would think you wouldn’t have encouraged FOIA spam considering the seminal publication “Don’t Be Too Smart” is in the index.

Spook September 26, 2006 3:27 PM

One of my favorite sites for FOIA information (not limited to just the NSA) is Seems they always have one or two nifty little bits of information there.

derf September 26, 2006 3:40 PM

“KAL 007 Shootdown: A View from [redacted]” — Wasn’t [redacted] destroyed by Katrina?

“The BS Attitudes: How Things Work in Bureaucracies” — Bureaucracies are definitely full of BS.

“Why Some Projects Fail” — see the BS attitudes in Bureaucracies.

Firdaus September 26, 2006 9:34 PM

Congratulations NSA, this journal really good to the people who want the information about Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). People can take this journal as a reference of cryptographic topics. Especially for the student who learn about the data security. This journal should be done early, but now still not to late.

Vic Simkus September 26, 2006 11:44 PM


Quick question, and I’ll be honest – I’ve done no research on this my self.

How does one go about submitting a FOIA request to a public/government agency? Is there any sort of “formal” wording required?

kiwano September 27, 2006 12:37 AM

I’m guessing that Extraterrestrial Intelligence is something kinda mundane, like listening to radio communications inadvertantly bounced off the Moon.

Nobody September 27, 2006 12:53 AM

This is the most interesting one to me:

The Fallacy of the One-Time-Pad Excuse

Fallacy? One-Time-Pad Excuse?

another_bruce September 27, 2006 2:01 AM

“don’t be too smart”
don’t worry.
extraterrestrial intelligence? we don’t even have a good handle on terrestrial intelligence yet. first the bars, then the stars, ok?

bluesclues September 27, 2006 8:05 AM

Wonder if there is any info that’d give away what kindof custom encryption cracking hardware they’ve got……..

I mean…. (wildass example) if they can do 2048 bit RSA in hardware…. the obvious choice would be to pick a different method.

If they can crack ANYTHING in hardware…… then lets just all go back to ROT13……….

opscure September 27, 2006 8:40 AM

the one time pad excuse is that using a bitwise exclusive or (xor) for encryption is just as secure as any other means. In that, it only uses a key once to encrypt and decrypt. This is a fallacy since the nsa has most likely found a way to easily decrypt any one time pad encryption. (might even be public… i feel lazy.)

anon September 27, 2006 9:43 AM

Stuff like this is why the guys at work and I are always toying with the idea of filing a FOIA request for “everything” and waiting to see what cool stuff turns up.

student September 27, 2006 3:16 PM

Is there a limit to what would be given out if one asked for all the mentioned articles in all of those published indexes? (Barring the addtional monetary fees). And timewise, how long? How likely is it for me, a student, to obtain copies of all (or just some) of these documents. My university has agreed to be the contact info behind the FIOA request; would that give any additional bearing?

Llywelyn September 27, 2006 4:25 PM


“This is a fallacy since the nsa has most likely found a way to easily decrypt any one time pad encryption.”

Um, no. the OTP is “provably secure” providing you do not ever recycle the keys, because there are an infinite number of possible plaintexts from any given text.

Not to say it cannot be attacked (though this is hard with a few obfuscating practices and/or a checksum), but it cannot be “easily decrypted”.

█. █. ███ September 27, 2006 6:21 PM

@███████: ███ ██████ ████████████████████████████ the ████.

Naz September 27, 2006 9:47 PM

Any chance of collecting and coalating any FOIA requests people make for these articles? Perhaps even re-creating the journals themselves from the results of FOIA requests?

J. September 28, 2006 12:51 AM

I’m not an American yet by this publication on the Internet I can read these documents. Not sure if that was intended. Such is certainly kept in mind when any info is requested by the public. I am however from a EU country where we have similar laws (which excepts ‘ongoing cases’ though). For example, in my country (The Netherlands) these laws are used to get information about voting machines. Although not related to NSA, you can see the website / group where the scanned documents are published at (which means “wedonttrustvotingcomputers”, some info available in English).

Similarly, since by a publication such as this the whole world would be able to read such I didn’t expect much of this. Only old parts and such. However what this is… just a stupid index. Thats not informative! Such does not inform anyone except what the NSA has been busy with. I could have guessed myself that the NSA is interested in Windows running RISC and several cryptographic subjects… so, mostly disappointing.

Many controversial documents at secret service organisations are also destroyed into papershreds. I doubt we’ll ever get to see the documents regarding the CIA’s Project Monarch, to name an example.

amanda September 30, 2006 7:23 AM

In response to student’s comments “Is there a limit to what would be given out if one asked for all the mentioned articles in all of those published indexes? (Barring the addtional monetary fees). And timewise, how long? How likely is it for me, a student, to obtain copies of all (or just some) of these documents. My university has agreed to be the contact info behind the FIOA request; would that give any additional bearing?”

There is no timeline for responding to FOIA and there is no penalty for not responding. Also classified material is exempt according to the Supreme Courts findings in EPA v Mink in 1973 so it’s pretty interesting to me that they took the time to declassify this stuff.

SeniorArbitrary June 5, 2008 3:05 PM

I hate to necropost, but in case anyone is looking for these documents, I thought I’d post here.

The ET documents are available through a Google search of the NSA website, e.g. “ Extraterrestrial Intelligence.” It is my belief that these documents are intentionally public, but I could not find an index page for them on their site.

It is a fictitious message received and you are asked to decipher it. The “Key to… ” paper tries to document its interpretation. It is a very interesting read. I suggest anyone with an interest in Mathematics check it out, and don’t peek at the keys.

The quality of the scan is terrible, so some things are rather difficult to read, but it is worth the headache.

Not happy September 25, 2008 3:19 AM

The government has kept us in the dark for so long its beggining to be a bit more than a joke now.. tower 7, the “supposid” plane hitting the pentagon, and their contact and secret deals and agreements with extraterrestrials with out any reffarendum what so ever from their people. im getting very tired of how my life is being put at risk behind my back

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