NSA Documents from before 1930

Here is a listing of all the documents that the NSA has in its archives that are dated earlier than 1930.

Posted on March 21, 2017 at 1:17 PM • 9 Comments

Comments

keinerMarch 21, 2017 1:41 PM

Interesting read:

Personal
War
Diary
of
the
Military
Attache,

American
Embassy,
London,
with
British
Army
in
France

2-Jan-1915
_____________________

German
Plans
to Initiate
Unrestricted
Submarine
Warfure
in
1917

24-Feb-1917

TatütataMarch 21, 2017 5:49 PM

Wow! Five and a half years for a frigging FOIA request that only involved typing a couple of queries in a database, and from which practically nothing was redacted, except the identity of the bloke who classified the stuff in 2007 and marked for declassification in 2040. (BTW, how could a computer printout be classified before it is produced? Or was it the entire database that was classified?)

Is there a link somewhere to the case on the site showing the exchanges with the FOIA officer, or is it all there is?

Some of the documents in that collection are mysterious. For instance, how is US patent 1166241 "support for containers of milk and cream" critical to the defense of the country?

If anything, this charade shows how overly secretive governments are.

AnuraMarch 21, 2017 7:30 PM

@Tatütata

It's typical at places like the NSA to deliberately drag their feet on FOIA. One thing that used to be common, not sure if it still is, is that they would require you send in your request via fax, and then have one fax machine that would "break down" on a regular basis.

Just last month, I believe the FBI announced they were doing away with FOIA via email and are going back to using fax exclusively.

GregWMarch 22, 2017 9:13 AM

Is the patent related to the use of milk as a secret ink? Seems a stretch but thought I'd mention it.

Also interesting, a document titled "2000 25 watt lamps ordered"... Perhaps there is a code buried in the banal cover text?

Are the documents listed in that particular NSA database necessarily classified, or could they be a mix of classified and non classified? I saw a Washington Post editorial/article in the listing which would seem to have been rather public.

Slime Mold with MustardMarch 22, 2017 12:36 PM

Random Observations:
Although there are many documents relating to Japanese codes, there are none specifically related to the Washington Naval Conference from November 1921 to February 1922, which was the "Black Chamber's" (see Bruce's post of March 20 ) single greatest accomplishment (although it also infuriated the entire Japanese people when revealed in 1931).

There are repeated references to one Agnes May Meyer (later Driscoll). Turns out she joined the Naval Reserves in 1918, wound up in code and signal, testing codes under consideration for US use. She later joined MI-8 (Black Chamber) and then the Navy as a civilian when Stimson closed that.

The NSA wrote a four page bio, and in 2014, a 69 page embarrassing hagiography.

The Japan Cotton Trading Company has a hundred or more references. Their first project outside Osaka were mills in Manchuria. By the First World War, they were also in India, Burma, and East Africa. I suppose the Americans may have viewed them either as extensions of Japanese influence, or a cover for the Kempeitai or Black Dragon Society operatives.

Pages 48 through 50 mostly refer to bootleggers. Seems that Elizabeth Friedman (William's wife) was decrypting their traffic for Treasury.

I tried to make some sense of the document ID numbers, without much luck. My best guess is that the documents were acquired in batches from different agencies, they were either winnowed before or when submitted to archives, and that the current reference system was not adopted until perhaps as late as the 1960's.

TJMarch 23, 2017 3:06 PM

Additionally

I'm not great at math(textbook algebra and DE skillzzz) or crypto but would very much like to read the crypto stuff in there to see super power capability during the depression era(one of the most interesting eras since the Greek Empire IMO)

angApril 8, 2017 4:18 PM

I think it's interesting to note that only 2 and a half pages of the 55-page list are from before 1900 (130 years). The bulk of the list are from just the 30 years, 1900-1929.

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 IBM Resilient.