Monday, June 1, 2020

End of the road

I’ve been posting here since 2011 and during that time I have covered a variety of subjects on military and intelligence history.

From the economics of war, to strength and loss statistics for the opposing sides of WWII, the performance of weapon systems and of course the use of codes and ciphers by the participants.

Especially in the field of cryptology I have presented new information using files that have been recently released to the archives of the US, UK, Germany and other countries. 

I’m happy to see that some of this information has found it’s way into new books and academic articles.

After covering all the cases that interested me I feel it’s time to stop updating this site. I am content with the essays I’ve written and I don’t think I have much to add to them.

Finally, I’d like to thank all the people who’ve helped me by giving me information and/or files. You know how much I appreciate it and how I’ve tried to repay you all by sharing my own material.

You can read my top essays here.

You can download files that I have copied from archives or received via the freedom of information program here.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

My experience with the US FOIA program

Since I no longer have any active cases I think it’s time to write a summary of my experience with the US freedom of information act program.

The good:

1). Everyone can request files using the FOIA program. This is really useful for those of us that are non-US citizens.

2). The agencies involved respond in a professional manner, assign case numbers, send letters detailing the progress of the case etc.

3). The FOIA departments that I had contact with responded quickly to emails.

Overall, from 2012 till 2018 I received 1 file from the CIA FOIA department, 1 file from the US national archives FOIA department and 20 files from the NSA FOIA department.

Total page count for this material was about ~1.300. So, I’m satisfied with the material I received.

The bad

1). The main problem was that my cases took too long to be processed. Files that had been previously declassified were sent to me quickly, however new cases that required review of the documents took years to complete.

Most of the files that I received from the NSA were requested in early 2012 and released in the second half of 2017.

2). For several of my cases the NSA FOIA department’s response was that the relevant files had been sent to the US national archives (NARA) and that I should request them from them instead. However, the document transfer numbers they gave me were in all cases incorrect.

In fact, it was the opinion of the NARA FOIA staff that the NSA was purposefully misleading me. I do not believe that to be true, instead I believe that they simply do not always know what kind of material they are sending to NARA.

The ugly

For whatever reason some of the people at the US national archives FOIA department were rude and/or passive aggressive. I did not let that interfere with my research till 2018 when I finally had enough and I cancelled my remaining two cases.


In conclusion I’d like to say that I am grateful for the existence of the FOIA program since I received many interesting files that contained valuable information.

Ideally, I would have liked to receive this material years in advance but c'est la vie…

Having said that, if I had to use the FOIA program again today I wouldn’t do it due to the great delay in the processing of the cases and the NSA FOIA department’s strategy of ‘reviewing’ a case for years and then informing me that the file has been sent to NARA and giving me incorrect transfer numbers.

If you are a US citizen it’s best to use the mandatory declassification review program. If you (like me) are not a US citizen, then there are simply no good choices…

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Cancellation of my FOIA cases

My two remaining FOIA cases were filed in 2015 and 2018. I decided to cancel both of them because so much time has passed that this material is no longer of use to me.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Histocrypt 2020 proceedings

The proceedings of the International Conference on Historical Cryptology 2020 are available here.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Interesting Enigma article

Cryptologia: Enigma: the spoils of Gustave Bertrand, or “par où tout a commencé” by Jean-François Bouchaudy


As early as 1931, Gustave Bertrand of the French intelligence services received from the traitor Hans Thilo Schmidt documents concerning the Enigma cipher machine. This machine was intended to equip all the German military forces. This is the beginning of an epic that has probably changed the History. The main documents collected by Bertrand have not been destroyed and are available in the archives of the French Army (SHD). This article describes and analyzes each of these documents, including the evolution of the Enigma and its procedures related in these documents. In conclusion, the article lists the findings that come from reading these originals and first and foremost the impact of having a cipher message with its plaintext on the British attempt to recover Enigma rotors wiring. Oddly enough, it seems that this message was not used by the Poles to break the Enigma.