tv Book Discussion on Code Warriors CSPAN September 17, 2016 6:00pm-6:36pm EDT
>> i believe the bar is still open. [laughter] and it's closing. please remember the traditional gift for a first anniversary is paper and a great way to celebrate the first anniversary of freedom to marry would be to take home a signed copy of "love wins", writer for there. thanks. [applause] >> you are watching booktv on c-span2, television for serious readers. here's a look at our primetime lineup for tonight. we will kick off the evening at 6:45 p.m. eastern time with hal scott. his book is called connectedness and contagion and it's on the financial system of the united states. at 8:00 p.m. duly sworn in my brain of congress carla hayden sits down with booktv to discuss her life and career and at 8:45 p.m. supreme court justice ruth bader ginsburg reflects on her time on the high court in their life.
she is interviewed by ted olson, former solicitor general in the george w. bush administration. our "after words" program begins at 10:00 p.m. this evening. ceo and president of "the new york times," mark thompson sits down with arianna huffington to discuss his new book about political language. it's called enough said and we wrap up booktv in prime-time at 11:00 p.m.. pulitzer prize-winning historian allen taylor examines the american revolution. now that all happens tonight on booktv on c-span2. [inaudible conversations]
>> okay let me check the mic first. did you hear in the back row? okay comment rates. i am barbara meade one of the founders of politics and prose and i just wanted very much to come in and introduce stephen budiansky because i enjoyed this book so much. i just thought it was such an impressive accomplishment and to write this book steven had to delve deep into mathematics, linguistics, engineering as well as the technical history of code making and code breaking. from those early electric calculating machines that al turing was instrumental in that were used during the second world war. some of this is local history or at least the second world war
part of it is local history because at that time the nsa was right here on nebraska avenue where nbc is. and it wasn't until 1957 that they moved out to fort meade, so in that long history of tech knowledge he that stephen had to master, he started with those machines that were manufactured by the national cash register company in toledo, ohio. and he moved on to digital computing which is how code raking is done today. i have to add also he had to become knowledgeable enough about organizational behavior to understand the behavior of the people of talented individuals within the organization of the nsa who often very -- behaved in
a very dysfunctional way. so it was a wide specter of knowledge that he had to have and out of that added so much knowledge. publishers we we said about his book budiansky is lucid and describing the science and art of breaking complex ciphering. he leavens the technology and history with colorful profiles of cryptographers and spies. the result is a lively account of an engrossing history, so that is a wonderful complement for a book that is so heavy in the subject matter that you need to wade through but it is truly a lively account. stephen has previously written
17 books ranging from such subject matter as biography. the composer to military history and the history of intelligence, science, natural history and that includes animals including lions, horses, dogs and cats. i told him i just ordered his boat called the character of cats. he is widely versed as you can see. all this started back when stephen received his bachelor of science degree from yale and a master of science from harvard university. he is in the national security correspondence and u.s. and new symbol support as well as editor of world war ii magazine. he is also the washington editor of nature magazine and has
written for the atlantic month they come, the economist, the "washington post" and "the new york times". i told stephen wright before we started that besides enjoying his book very much one reason i wanted to introduce him was that when i was a senior in college and essay was to ring college campuses, recruiting prospective employees and i interviewed with nsa and two weeks or three weeks later i got a formal letter from nsa offering me a job as a beginning cryptographer. i mulled that over for probably about a month, maybe a little bit longer but then i turned them down and accepted a job with "national geographic" instead. so if i had taken that job and i
have been in stephen's book, i might have been, but none of that came true so stephen is going to tell us about the whole history of the nsa over this past, both starting pre-world war ii but it's a fascinating history so here is stephen to tell us about "code warriors." [applause] >> thank you. thank you very much. i will read all of your messages. well thank you. in the branch of showbiz that i'm in which his writing serious history timing is of course everything and in the wake of the revelations of edward snowden which is certainly focused unprecedented attention
on the nsa, this couldn't be a better time to i think spring on the book as a serious account of codebreaking. on the other hand it probably could have been a worse time to research a serious account of codebreaking in the cold war. back in 1999 when i wrote my book battle of wits which was about codebreaking in world war ii and essay was that the time in an unprecedented move towards openness, releasing historical documents and retired codebreakers who had worked on the japanese and german codes in world war ii were thrilled at being given the green light for the first time to speak publicly of their wartime exploits and were even allowed to go into considerable technical detail about the scientific story behind their remarkable achievements. but in the post-note in world as nsa officials always denote our
present moment on earth, i found almost no one willing to say anything about anything they did at nsa or its predecessor agencies even during the first years of the cold war some 70 years ago. to be sure, relying on the recollections and tales of participants is always a risky business when it comes to intelligence history. i recently reviewed for "the wall street journal" that hastings new book about secret operations in world war ii, and at the start of this book he quotes the cautionary words of malcolm muggeridge who worked for the secret secret service during the war before going on to a distinguished career as a man of letters and british television broadcaster. muggeridge said intelligence necessarily involves cheating, lying and betraying that it has a deleterious effect on the character. i never met anyone
professionally engaged in it. my trust in any capacity. and muggeridge went on to say the temptation to exaggerate particularly goes with the territory as the more observer they put its writers of thrillers tend to gravitate to secret service as surely as the mentally unstable become psychiatrist for the impotent pornographer. my apologies to all the spies psychiatrist and pornographer's in the audience. so given allah this, i thought for this book i'm going to try to tell the story of his more recent period of nsa's history, as much as i can just using documentary evidence that had been officially declassified and released. combined only with my general understanding of codes and codebreaking and piecing
together what is admittedly often a very fragmentary public record. there is a lot out there now from the cold war period but as anyone who has worked with classified anti-ossified materials knows, it's a real through the looking group last experience to figure out any rhyme or reason why some think gets unclassified and why the things remain classified. if it still exists as classified or secret or top secret soviet cipher machines that were used in 1946, 70 years ago. these devices have mechanical rotors that turned like the nazis of world war ii machine. if you owned a cell phone you now have in your pocket and encryption device that is a quadrille he and, quadrille yen, quadrille yen, quadrillion times more powerful and more resistant to deciphering than any of these anti-soviet relics from the early cold war. and even more interesting in the
meanwhile some considerably more sophisticated soviet code machines from the 70s and 80s have actually come on to the market and have been purchased by private individuals, have been analyzed and described by academic cryptologist in literature. and essay still treats their very existence as secret information. now again it's worth emphasizing that these cold war era cipher machines are cruel in ancient history and the practice of cryptology. i'm talking the nsa wants nsa wants a nicety relies 70 years, that's the same interval of time that separates the end of the american civil war and the start of world war ii during which time if you innovation such as electricity, the automobile, the airplane and the radio appeared in the last 70 years have if anything brought about an even
more technological revolution in computing and electronics. another example, for the longest time and essay stuck to a hard and fast rule that while it might be okay to talk about how we keep the germans and japanese in world war ii was absolutely forbidden to ever breathe the hand that the u.s. had ever listened in on the communications of the nation that was not actually at war with. this included france during world war ii. we were monitoring their communications and even japan before world war ii. i was very puzzled in the course of my research for this book when i started reading and nsa study on signal intelligence during the vietnam war that was released not too long ago. i saw that they had repeatedly cut out from the classified version of what were apparently references to dates with u.s. intelligence gathering operations in southeast asia. i was wondering what are the
dates and why did they cut this out? a few years later in response to an appeal that was filed by someone at will less extricated version was released and lo and behold it turned out that nsa censors had gone through the first time around and carefully sniffed out anything that might give away the shocking and highly damaging secret that the united states was monitoring north vietnamese communications before the year 1961 which was when the first u.s. soldiers stepped foot there. you have ever seen one of these extricated or so-called adaptive classified documents it's a sight to behold. they used to have some guy in the declassification literally armed with a magic marker would go through and cross out anything that was still classifiable. this of course is all very scary looking and sometimes the whole page would be completely black.
now thanks to the wonders of modern technology they have nice tasteful why did out boxes with soul rolls around them. the result either way is enough to drive a researcher to distraction. you know you keep thinking of co-i have something great in my hands and you find every other word has been chopped out and it's like trying to solve it crossword puzzle created by some demented version of wills shorts or something. for a while i kept a collection of some of the more wondrous worth back to documents i received and there's one i don't have anymore but there was this one sentence that read something like blank was the most blank sources of blank during the period blank to blank and i thought okay someone worked hard at this one. okay, nonetheless i have some small triumphs. sometimes the same document with the reviewed for release by two different agencies or even to people in the same agency at
slightly different times. each move had different ideas about which 65 eutzy good would imperil our nations security. in one report from 1950 the reviewer cut out the locations of the u.s. intercept stations picking up soviet radar signals that left in their radio frequencies they were operating on. in another dig us by version of the exact same document another nsa reviewer this time cut out the frequencies but left in the locations. then there was one historical study for which the d class office had carefully cut out most of the entries from a table showing numbers of u.s. and british cryptanalyst working on russian codes from 1948 to 1949 but they left uncensored and accompanied statement in the text describing the percentage increase of some of the missing figures. this ended up providing two operations and to variables which i was happy to deal with
put my junior high school algebra ii use solving. let me speak about what i was able to find out from the swiss cheese collection of archival materials. following the great triumph of u.s. british codebreaking in world war ii they quickly became apparent that codebreaking and signals intelligence was going to continue to be a crucially important source and emerging cold war struggle like the soviet union. the paranoia, internal security measures, seal borders and extreme secrecy of soviet society made conventional espionage extremely difficult if not impossible. even the most basic facts about the soviet government organizations, the country's economy and the military were considered state secrets under stalin's regime. in the early years of the cold war the cia was optimistically dropping agents behind the iron
curtain would later be learned that her chilly 100% of them were immediately captured, shot or -- against the west. the only thing you are proving by parachuting agents into soviet controlled one army agent told the chief in berlin was the law of gravity. well the soviets development of their atomic 1949 gave signal intelligence a greater urgency as signals were almost the only source that could detect military preparations within the soviet union that might signal an imminent soviet attack. the huge challenge and exploiting the source was that in november of 1948 the soviets abruptly instituted a sweeping chordata changed and all of their military code systems and
it was such an unprecedented development that washington and london if we feared that this itself was an indication that the soviets were about to launch a military attack. the new soviet code system proved far more challenging than anything the u.s. british code breakers had finished before and indeed most of the high-level soviet codes remained unbroken probably until 1979 when supercomputers and it didn't spent what one nsa paper refer to is the height of american cryptologic success of the cold war around the time of the invasion of the afghanistan. throughout the cold war and roughly five year intervals and essay brought in out side panels leading mathematical and scientific experts to review the state of the russian problems and its solutions in these evaluations are almost nothing but a tale of woe and pessimism. 1958 the panel headed by the
vice president last concluded that quote no national strategy should be based on the hope or expectation that we will be able to read, well the rest of the sentence was redacted by classification but it was obvious it was referring to high-level soviet encrypted traffic. at one point in the 1950s and essay had 15 special-purpose computers running nonstop for five years searching through 1 million intercepted soviet messages that had been enciphered and make machine called up out the trust trying to find any flaw that could be exploited and the project ended in failure. incidentally whatever nsa successes or failures and breaking soviet codes one thing being questioned again i'm not saying this facetiously about at all but it provides a huge stimulus of u.s. computer industry. the first magnetic drum memory, the first magnetic core memory
the first high-speed -- the first all transistor computer and the first computer workstation and the first desktop computers first high-speed modems in the first server computers worth built to meet nsa contracts and requirements and only later made their way to the commercial market. one other consequence of this great difficulty in breaking soviet code was the reinforcement of nsa institutional belief that amassing sheer quantities of data could make up for a multitude of families elsewhere and this is the credo we have seen in action in a recent controversies over nsa bull telephone in internet data collection efforts. this belief in trying to get everything goes back even to the pre-nsa days. he was really striking to me to come across memos written in 1943 by the u.s. army and navy officials and charged and essay
predecessor agencies and they were argued that their job literally was to get everyone to come as close as humanly possible as one official put it, to collecting every single transmitted by those associated with us and against us. this frequently led to nsa simply being overwhelmed with more intercepts than it received and even physically stored much less analyze. even as early as 1955 and essay was receiving her to seven tons of paper printouts a month from intercept stations around the world along with 30 million words urgent traffic sent by radio teletype. it was not unusual for nsa's machine section to punch a million ibm postcards a month on just a single problem and nsa resource sending or receiving 70% of all coded message traffic going into or out of washington. yet on occasion quantity could
indeed make up for quality. in the aftermath of the 1948 soviet changes that i mentioned that shut off the u.s. ability to break high-level soviet codes a huge effort was put in by nsa to go through plain language unemployed at cagle -- cables sent on internal radiograph. this was a real needle in the haystack effort to bed early early 50's and essay was processing 1.3 million of these messages a month and of course as you can imagine most of them dealt with incredibly mundane things get by piecing together details about railcar loadings, coal supplies, bank accounts going to various state industries and the fan was working on the plain language cables were able to establish the locations of major arms factories and the soviet union, produce basic statistics on soviet steel, chemical and oil production available nowhere
else at the time and for years the source provided the only reliable information on the soviet atomic weapons program and the only reliable set of warning indicators that could signal soviet mobilizations for a full scale war. and later reading the plain language transmissions and other types of signals did not depend on codebreaking such as direction finding, fixes on radar or even just looking at the patterns of transmissions without knowing what they actually said. these techniques would allow nsa to offer accurate intelligence about china's eminent intervention in the korean war, soviet invasion of hungary in 1956 and the crucial information during the cuban missile crisis that the soviets had received orders from moscow and not challenged president kennedy's able blockade. so even without the long
hoped-for breakthrough against the soviet codes, by the mid-1960s something like 80% of u.s. intelligence about the soviet union was coming from nsa signals. now during the cold war a fundamental change was occurring in the nature of electronics and it was becoming increasingly the case that cryptanalysis, practice and the golden era of codebreaking back in world war ii was being superceded by what old-timey codebreakers used to call second-story cryptanalysis. that is breaking into an embassy and stealing materials are planting bugs. by the 70s and 80s it's quite clear from the documentary evidence that logging was becoming a primary focus of those the u.s. and the soviet signals intelligence effort. that there was such a growing industry that the cia and nsa
both tried to claim it for themselves. there was a monumental turf battle and was resolve and bobby inman became nsa director director in 1980 and negotiated what came to be known as the peace treaty between the two agencies. and that i should mention was one of the few direct -- whom i was able to be any public tomey about this episode and he went on to explain that even after the peace treaty had been negotiated there were still some problems being worked out. but for a brief period during the spring of 1981 in men was serving as nsa director and acting cia director so inman sent memos back and forth to himself proving a solution. never had the two agencies work so well together he told me. well, one of the most important consequences of the late cold war successes, both the soviets and the u.s. had an bugging was
that it produced the kind of ironic transparency. offered both sides, regular reassurance that the other side was not about to launch. one former kgb officer later said that the soviets lugging up official phones in washington in this period actually worked to limit the natural predisposition of the kgb conspiratorial implications of u.s. policy which is an interesting moral to the whole story. back at the very end of world war ii one of the leading british codebreakers rode along an interesting analysis i've found in the british archives setting out what's going to be the future of communications intelligence and the poor -- post-war world. he began by putting forth a counterintuitive proposition. he said an international agreement of all code and cybercom indications would contribute more to permanent peace than any other measure.
this is probably a counsel of perfection he added. yet been fighting the code wars to virtual draw the u.s. and the soviet union found a truth in that idealistic vision. an ironic note, it's a good place to end on and i thank you all so much for coming in at the delighted to tried and to your questions. thank you. [applause] >> we have a camera over here. if you have a question please go to the mic. >> i had a chance to look for you -- through here but before you started he went to detail nothing about pollock. >> my focus is on the soviet union. that is why so it's the u.s.
versus the soviets. >> but they were all three -- okay. >> pollard was my producer. >> please repeat the question. >> okay, sure. [inaudible] >> the question was about what was considered sacred under stalin's regime. i remember my exact words but even the most basic statistics about economic reduction the organization of the government names and locations of ministries, the names of officials, all of this was literally a state secret. ..
as far as signal intelligence as opposed to overhead imagery? >> a couple of points there,. there was a huge effort to collect data about soviet launches. there was a guy at the last nsa conference that research this and said they often try to hide them by putting them close to television channels and it was described in this. it was a very major part of msas effort at the time. there was one reference to the fact that -- i can't remember
the detail offhand, i think it's in the book dash kissinger was able to obtain some important information on the soviets negotiation which was significant in the final negotiations. >> most of your book was about russia. did anyone ever admit to that indian or pakistan bomb? is that all classified. >> i wish i knew something about that but i don't. that was not in the sphere that i was researching. >> i have a question.
my question is how does the nsa feel about the big internet providers? do they use their information as well? >> a man, i stopped stopped around 1989 in my book, almost deliberately so i wouldn't have to engage the current controversy which is extraordinarily complex. i think they raise a lot of legal questions and i will just have to punt on that one. i know there are many people more qualified than i am to discuss the internet traffic and the nsa. >> thank you.
if you could help us hold up the chairs, please and if you could line up to my left we will be up here to sign copies of his book. thank you for coming. >> hello renée. did you get the copy i sent you? >> i did. [inaudible conversation] [inaudible conversation] >> book tv tapes hundreds of author programs around the country all year long. here's a look at some of the events we are covering this week. monday we are at the richard nixon presidential library in california where andrew scott cooper remembers the life of the last of around and the lead up to that 1979 revolution.
then we are in new york city on tuesday and they look at both sides of the war on drugs through the lives of two laredo texas teenagers employed by a mexican drug cartel. we are back on wednesday at the bookstore with a talk by chuck collins and ways in on wealth inequality in the u.s. and his decision to give away much of his inheritance. we are live next saturday the 16th annual book festival in washington d.c. featuring talks from pulitzer prize-winning authors. many of these events are open to the public including the national book festival and you can find a complete schedule on our website. >> i think when