Friday, October 21, 2016

More freedom of information act responses from the NSA and the State Department

Unfortunately their response was ‘a thorough search of our historical files was conducted but no records responsive to your request were located’.

In September and October I received two more letters from the NSA and State Department FOIA offices:

1). Professor Novopaschenny was head of the Russian section of Germany’s OKW/Chi (deciphering department of the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces). Novopaschenny was a former cryptanalyst of the Tsarist Navy and after the rise of the Communists he fled Russia and found work as a codebreaker in Britain (possibly for the Police/Scotland Yard). In the 1920’s he went to Germany where he met Wilhelm Fenner and together they reorganized OKW/Chi along mathematical/analytical lines.

In 2014 I requested any postwar reports/interrogations of dr Novopaschenny but it seems none are to be found as the response from the NSA FOIA office was ‘a thorough search of our files was conducted but no records responsive to your request were located’.

Fortunately there seems to be more information available online!

According to the recent Wikipedia page on Novopaschenny he was arrested by the Soviet authorities at the end of the war and died in 1950 in a camp near the Belorussian city of Orsha.

An unhappy end for a fascinating individual.

2). In 2015 I wrote the essay The compromise of the State Department’s strip cipher – Things that don’t add up… about the US cipher material transmitted from Finland and Germany to Japan during WWII.

These were solved alphabet strips and key lists for the US M-138-A cipher system.

The M-138-A cipher was used by the State Department for messages classified SECRET and (later in the war) CONFIDENTIAL.

These messages revealed that a large number of alphabets had been compromised, specifically the circular strips 0-1, 0-2, 0-3, 0-4, 0-5 and the specials 10-3, 10-1, 18-1, 4-1, 7-1, 33-1, Vichy, 38-1, 22-1, 20-3 (or 20-4) and 25-4.

That’s why I wrote:

These were just the strips mentioned in the Japanese traffic and not necessarily the only strips solved by the Axis (15). Yet the EASI volumes do not mention them. Nor do they mention which systems were solved by the Finnish codebreakers even though they had a detailed report on the subject. 

There is also no mention of specific embassies such as Moscow and Bern, whose messages were known to have been read by the Germans through the material found in the OKW/Chi archives and the OSS reports.

The EASI volumes are dated May 1946, so it is understandable that they only had general information on Axis codebreaking activities. Processing all the captured material would have taken years. Yet most of the information on the strip cipher was available since early 1945 (16). With the cooperation of the State Department it should have been easy to identify which embassies used these strips and for how long.

After I wrote the essay I decided to investigate further so I requested the relevant information on the embassies that used these strips from the State Department’s FOIA office.

The response I received this month says:

Based on the subject matter of your request, we searched the record systems most likely to maintain responsive records: the central Foreign Policy Record Files and the Retired Inventory Management System records. After a thorough search of these systems conducted by professional employees familiar with their contents and organization, no records responsive to your request were located.’

Monday, October 10, 2016

Friday, October 7, 2016

More information on the compromise of Polish codes in WWII

Update: German decodes of the London-Grenoble traffic can be found in pages 793-877 of ‘KODY WOJNY. Niemiecki wywiad elektroniczny w latach 1907–1945’. They date from July 1943 to October 1944 and are signed ‘Szef II Oddzialu Sztabu’, ‘Marian’, ‘Alfred’, ‘Szef Ekspozytury II Oddzialu Sztabu’, ‘Lubicz’, ‘Vox’, ‘Los’, ‘Rawa’, ‘Klemens’, ‘Major Zychon’, ‘Mikolaj’, ‘Bernard’, ‘Biz’, ‘Zenon’.

Update: German decodes of the Bern-London traffic can be found in pages 878-916 of ‘KODY WOJNY. Niemiecki wywiad elektroniczny w latach 1907–1945’. They date from October 1942 to September 1944 and are signed ‘Szef II Oddzialu Sztabu’, ‘Darek’, ‘Gano’, ‘Hugo’, ‘Mak’, ‘Orkan’, ‘Espe’, ‘Jerzy’

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The French War Ministry’s FLD code - More clues…

I’ve written about the compromise of the French War Ministry’s FLD code by the codebreakers of the German High Command's deciphering department – OKW/Chi, however up to this point I hadn’t been able to find the official designation of this cryptosystem.

Recently I’ve discovered some clues that might clear things up.

According to the available sources this cryptosystem was used for ‘the cypher traffic between the French War Ministry and the army groups, armies and home authorities’.

The new finding aid to the TICOM collection of the German Foreign Ministry’s Political Archive has certain entries that read:

NR 3684 – ‘F4ZCUW 110’ German notes on the above French Defense Area cipher

NR 3615 – F4ZCUT’ German notes, 1931, on French code as above, used by the Defense Areas HQ’s from Schliersee.

The finding aid also mentions the French code F-90 which might have been the predecessor to F-110.

The French code F-110 is mentioned in one of Erich Huettenhain’s reports:

What was the French designation for the system that the Germans called F-110?

Possibly Code R.A.

The finding aid says:

NR 1736 – Code RA, French military code sheets and instructions for use. Various dates 1933-39 March and July 1940-42 from Schliersee.

Why do I think that Code RA was used by the French War Ministry and the Army Groups?

In the book ‘KODY WOJNY. Niemiecki wywiad elektroniczny w latach 1907–1945’, p1.046 there is a copy of a French report dated 16 April 1940.

It says:

Un code R.A. avec additif et son procede de surchiffrement (clef ZERO S.2.) pour permettre de correspondre a l'Intérieur de la Métropole avec les Autorités et Etats-Majors dotés de ce document (notamment commandants d' armes).

Google translation:

R.A. a code with additive and process for its super-encryption (key ZERO S.2.) To allow a match the interior of the metropolis with the authorities and with staffs of this document (including commanders of weapons).

I hope my friends in France will look into this case. I can’t solve everything by myself!

Monday, October 3, 2016

Reports on Japanese WWII codes and ciphers found in the Australian National Archives

Two very interesting reports detailing the main Japanese diplomatic and naval cryptosystems of WWII are available online via the Australian National Archives website.
To view the reports go to the National Archives site, click on ‘RecordSearch’, then click Advanced search for items and next to ITEM BARCODE enter 12127133 for the diplomatic report or 859305 for the Naval report.

1). The first report is titled ‘Special Intelligence Section report - Japanese Diplomatic ciphers’ and covers the codes and ciphers used by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, their characteristics and the success that the Anglo-American codebreakers had with each one.

2). The second report covers the codes and ciphers of the Imperial Japanese Navy and it is titled ‘Volume of technical records containing details of codes and cyphers’. The unofficial title is ‘The Jamieson report’.

Note that one of the systems mentioned is the JN-87 strip cipher. The Japanese thought so highly of the US M-138-A strip cipher that they copied it and used it with certain modifications!

Acknowledgements: I have to thank Professor Peter Donovan for informing me of the ‘Jamieson report’.