NSA Historical Documents

Just declassified: "A Reference Guide to Selected Historical Documents Relating to the National Security Agency/Central Security Service, 1931–1985." Formerly "Top Secret UMBRA." From my quick scan, there are minimal redactions.

Posted on February 24, 2010 at 6:07 AM • 19 Comments

Comments

BF SkinnerFebruary 24, 2010 6:28 AM

Hey I can see my house from here!

Now if only we could get the Reagan papers declassified.

jgrecoFebruary 24, 2010 7:12 AM

I like that some of the "Terms and Acronyms" are redacted. Seems funny for some reason, though I can certainly imagine cases in which they might see that to be needed.

KingsnakeFebruary 24, 2010 7:40 AM

Not related, but perhaps worth comment in light of the recent logo contest ...

http://consumerist.com/2010/02/...

"My adventures in the Pittsburgh International Airport during the worst snow storm of the century. After arriving late for a flight at 7:40 PM to LGA I decided to stick around my gate until my flight at 5:40 and had a BLAST!"

... Apparently the TSA was too busy eating donuts or harassing kids in leg braces.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 24, 2010 8:11 AM

Sadly my little phone is having some problems with rendering the document 8(

However it looks like it might be a "suck em in" document (ie like the "If you knew what we know" bait used to get politicos on the hook).

It looks at first sight to be "over clasified" for it's direct content, but has the advantage of giving those to whom it is released a sense of "belonging to the club" when they are in reality not sufficiently trusted.

However without knowing a lot about the other documents it is difficult to tell if it is a "suck em in" doc or if there is a "meta content" issue.

That is, it's TS-word rating is due to the documents it mentions, in that it provides sufficient insight to make a loss of infered information probable.

Hopefully I'll get out of this hospital 2day and thus get a decent look at it later on.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 24, 2010 8:44 AM

@ BF Skinner,

"Now if only we could get the Reagan papers declassified."

It's not going to happen...

The problem is they are so "incomprehensable" that all the NSA's software says there has to be a hidden code in there.

The only trouble is the same software cannot find the required level of intelegence to decode it ;)

jgrecoFebruary 24, 2010 9:16 AM

@Clive Robinson

From what I've managed to skim from it, it basically lists and paraphrases numerous papers. The general gist of some of those papers was probably worth classifying though I think for the most part it's pretty benign. The "suck em in" document idea seems likely. Of course this would not be the first example of the government classify something that seems harmless in hindsight to me.

BF SkinnerFebruary 24, 2010 9:35 AM

@jgreco "Seems funny for some reason,"

What's worse that they do it or that you can see cases where 'you' would want to.

I've seen cases where even the classification is classified.

@Clive
But they've got all those ET's on ice at Wright Patterson AFB. (they're in the cooler next to Walt Disney). Should be simple enough to ask them shouldn't it?

Trichinosis USAFebruary 24, 2010 9:42 AM

Some interesting stuff in there about the slow erosion of electronic privacy, starting with the deliberate "mushroom treatment" of a Roosevelt-era cabinet appointee by the military - apparently with Roosevelt's full cooperation. Impacts (and/or lack thereof) of the FISA laws are also listed.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 24, 2010 9:46 AM

@ BF Skinner,

"they're in the cooler next to Walt Disney"

Now there was one thoroughly unplesant man.

Have you ever played a game of "fantasy world leader"? (It's like fantasy football but much more fun ;)

Here's what you do, imagine if you will replacing good old "Joe Stalin" with lovable old "Walt"...

Who would be the better dictator etc come up with 10+ and 10- minus points for each man ;)

Peter PearsonFebruary 24, 2010 9:49 AM

23 August 1978:

"This memorandum outlined Admiral Bobby Inman's decision that NSA would seek new legislation for control and [sic] dissemination of non-governmental cryptologic information. Inman approved the continuation of talks with private industry and the National Science Foundation in support of non-governmental Comsec efforts."

This would presumably be the response to the early papers of Diffie, Hellman, Rivest, Shamir, and Adleman.

jgrecoFebruary 24, 2010 10:42 AM

@BF Skinner

Well, it got me thinking what sort of acronyms the NSA would want classified. Maybe something like: "USQCNKWH - Uber Secret Quantum Computer Nobody Knows We Have" :)

J.D.February 24, 2010 11:44 AM

The doc makes reference to Executive Order 11905 (on page 93). EO11905 does nice things like ban surveillance of US citizens*, prohibit communications interception sent by or received by US citizens*, restrict indiscriminate data-collection and data-mining activities, and proscribe all political assassination.

Ah the good old days!


*With limited exceptions....

BF SkinnerFebruary 24, 2010 11:54 AM

@Clive " ever played a game of "fantasy world leader"? "

Are you kidding? That's all we do in the states. Last years losers are dreaming about 2012.

RHFebruary 24, 2010 1:20 PM

Declasifying is hard... since one's butt is on the line. The security manual probably was grey on some acronyms so blank it goes!

I'm much happier to be on the receiving end of declassified documents than that poor sap must be on the giving end.

Nick PFebruary 24, 2010 11:04 PM

I prefer WikiLeaks over declassification. Except for maybe MKULTRA and Iraq, I haven't seen much use of declassified doc's. However, leaked but classified documents are very interesting. My favorite recent example was the British MOD Security Manual. It had some interesting stuff in it, esp. regarding Russian and Chinese espionage. My favorite part was the irony: the leaked document had a section on preventing document leaks. Hehe. Too bad WikiLeaks can't go on.

New news: cryptome.org is down as well. It's an awesome site for getting declassified or leaked info. I just became aware of the takedown. Wikileaks says Cryptome.org was shut down for publishing Microsoft's Global Criminal Compliance Handbook, a 22-page document telling what data Microsoft collects on people from its services. They issued a DMCA take-down notice to Network Solutions, which took the site down and locked the domain to prevent it from popping back up. Check wikileaks.org and cryptome.org. "We the people" really need to have DMCA repealed.

M.V.February 26, 2010 3:12 AM

"Memorandum of Understanding between the United States Airforce Security Service and the National Security Agency concerning the operation of a [redacted] at RAF Chicksands, United Kingdom" intrigues me. Echelon? Or am I reading too much into some noise? I always wonder if I sound crazy thinking that kind of thing.

Clive RobinsonFebruary 26, 2010 6:20 AM

@ M.V.

"at RAF Chicksands, United Kingdom" intrigues me. Echelon? Or am I reading too much into some noise?"

Google for chicksands and the "elephant cage".

There where atleast two USAF SigInt groups at RAF Chicksands. Most of the HF and low VHF antennas are now gone but you can still see the "crop circle" effect on google earth etc.

If you want to know why google BRUSA and other names such as Hanslop Park.

There is a website called "secret bases" that tells you some of the history of UK Int sites.

There are also a couple of books but they tend to deal with "holes in the ground" such as the Box Tunnel Gov Nuke Bunker etc.

BRUSA is probably the original "outsourcing" deal and has in it what is in effect a "dirty back door" to get around "we do not spy on our citizens". Basicaly the US agreed to spy on UK citizens and the UK agreed to spy on US citizens and then swap the Intel.

In most cases the equipment was supplied by the US and operated by UK Forces personnel all the data was on encrypted tapes that got sent of to the NSA who processed it and as some have pointed out "swept the crumbs off the banquet high table for the pet dog to lick up".

However the segrgation of duties was as far as it went. For instance in Cyprus there is an RAF base and also a small US radio monitoring base.

At one point a boat used to leave the RAF base very very early in the morning and head over the horizon it then went a little bit further and changed course to come back to a point very very close to the US base. A little later it did the same in reverse. As an equipment operator you had to have both a strong stomach (for the trip and the distilary fumes) and a high boredom threashold as invariably you where not alowed to go down town because as Maggie Thatcher advertised (via a failed OSA court case) the local Aeroflop ;) office was KGB Central.

Speaking of the court case it had it's funny moments.

The Crown where trying to make out that some squadies wife was a "spread her legs for secrets" operator. The squadie had had some serious cross questioning from various people. Finaly the defence barrister asked him,

DB: When you married X was she a virgin?

S (pauses and looks sad) : No she was not.

PB (looks happy) :
DB (looks crestfallen) :

S (Brightens up and says proudly) : But she was when I met her.

(Smiles on faces of several jury members)

PB (gives look of thunder as a whole morrnings cross examination goe down the pan).

Leave a comment

Allowed HTML: <a href="URL"> • <em> <cite> <i> • <strong> <b> • <sub> <sup> • <ul> <ol> <li> • <blockquote> <pre>

Photo of Bruce Schneier by Per Ervland.

Schneier on Security is a personal website. Opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Co3 Systems, Inc..