Thursday, September 1, 2016

What happened to my FOIA requests? Progress report

When I started researching WWII cryptologic history I not only copied stuff from the archives but I also requested a lot of material from the NSA’s FOIA office.

Although I have received some interesting reports from them (I-172, I-89, DF-111, DF-105, DF-176, DF-169) they are still reviewing a lot of the TICOM files that I’ve requested. Why do they need to ‘review’ material from the 1940’s? I don’t know.,,

So what’s the progress of these cases?

Let’s see, so far in 2016 i have received information on the following cases:

State Department M-138-A instructions

The M-138-A strip cipher system was used by the State Department during WWII for enciphering messages classified SECRET. The 1944 instructions can be found at NARA but the previous editions from 1939 and 1942 are not there (or at least I haven’t been able to find them).

The NSA FOIA office stated that ‘a thorough search of our archival files was conducted but no records responsive to your requests were located’.

However the 1939 instructions can be found in TICOM report DF-15 so that’s not a complete loss.

Note that the 1939 instructions describe the straight board system (30 letters taken from one cipher column) while the 1944 instructions state that channel elimination is to be used for each message.

Dr Wilhelm Vauck, head of Referat 12 (Agents section)

In 1942 the German Army’s codebreaking agency OKH/Inspectorate 7/VI created a new department tasked with the solution of enemy agents codes. This was Referat 12 (Department 12), headed by the mathematician dr Wilhelm Vauck. According to the short bio of dr Vauck found at the website of Dresden University he survived the war and was a POW for the years 1945-48.

I thought that in that period he would have been interrogated by the Allies about his wartime activities so I requested information from the NSA. The recent response was ‘a thorough search of our historical files was conducted but no records responsive to your request were located’.

Still it is possible that other agencies might have some information on Vauck. We’ll see…

Dr Herbert Lotze, head of Wa Pruef 7/IV/E

Dr Lotze was head of research on speech privacy systems at the German Army’s Ordnance, Development and Testing Group, Signal Branch Group IVe. His team solved the US Bell Labs A-3 speech scrambler and similar Soviet devices.

The response of the NSA to my request for any postwar interrogations of dr Lotze was ‘a thorough search of our historical files was conducted but no records responsive to your request were located’.

However there seems to be material on Lotze at NARA so this isn’t the end of this case.

Other cases

During the year I was able to copy from NARA some of the reports that I had requested from the FOIA office years ago. This is material that was given to NARA in 2015.

Apart from these cases there are about a dozen TICOM reports that are being reviewed by the FOIA office. Let’s hope that they are released soon.

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