I had the most awesome opportunity recently to visit a lesser-known, but great tourist attraction. I got to visit the National Cryptologic Museum, which is practically a stone’s throw from where I live in Columbia, MD.
I joined a group that I found through an online meetup that had arranged for a guided tour.
Here are some of the highlights of our visit, in the following photos.
This was in the lobby. By the time I figured out how it worked, the tour had started! 🙂
George Washington was, apparently, a true cipher and code enthusiast. The colonies’ win at Saratoga convinced the French to back us during the American Revolution.
Here’s a description of how the US of A got involved in World War I. It got cut off at the bottom. Sorry about that.
But the Zimmerman telegram essentially was a deal Germany tried to strike with Mexico. Except that the British decoded the message and revealed its secrets to the US. So … our former “owners” (so to speak) became our allies. And we entered World War I, because Imperial Germany was trying to help Mexico steal back the land we’d stolen! 🙂
This guy was a cryptographer, who founded and led a cryptographic organization called the Black Chamber. Yardley was concerned about weaknesses in our country’s coding practices. He ended up writing a memoir of his experiences that revealed a lot about his work. The American Black Chamber became hugely popular. This caused our government no small amount of concern, although Yardley claimed to have written the book for benign reasons.
I thought of asking the guide when they planned to put up the Snowden exhibit, but thought better of it.
The Enigma Cipher wasn’t entirely broken by Alan Turing. Apparently, Turing’s work was based on earlier work done by three Polish men. Even so, the man was a genius (Turing, that is). Next time I go to London, I’ll have to see Bletchley Park and Churchill’s underground WC.
I never knew that the WAVES (Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service) built this great big deciphering machine. They worked at NCR (National Cash Register) on the machine, then labored 24/7 at some place on Nebraska Ave. doing the deciphering. Their jobs were top secret and, if they told anyone else, they would be shot as traitors. Wow!
And here’s another Enigma machine.
So … after World War II and before the Cold War Age, a group of Soviet children gave the US ambassador to the USSR a replica of the Great Seal of the US, because we’d been such great pals during WWII.
But, oddly enough, the diplomat’s people noticed that some strange guy was hanging out in a car outside the ambassador’s office building, where the gift was hung. He’d follow the ambassador when he left the office, too.
Well, it turned out that this awesome gift contained a bug. The office had been swept for bugs, but this was a bug like no other. It only activated when radio waves were focused on it. In that way, it eluded discovery.
Upon its discovery, they not only had to go through every bit of conversation the ambassador had for the previous seven years (since he’d received the gift), but Kruschev was trying to persuade the third world to turn against the US, because we were spying on them (this was after a famous incident in which a pilot in a U2 plane flew too close to the ground over the Soviet Union and got shot down).
Kruschev planned to blindside us with a call to arms against the US at the United Nations, but our ambassador brought the Great Seal to the UN and showed the bug to Kruschev — that took the wind out of his sails.
Finally, here’s an awesome T-shirt from the gift shop.
And here’s a really cool video I took! 🙂