Tuesday, September 06, 2011

Tutte Institute revealed

CSE has established a "classified research institute", the Tutte Institute for Mathematics and Computing, to assist it in its cryptologic and data mining efforts (Colin Freeze, "Top secret institute comes out of the shadows to recruit top talent," Globe and Mail, 5 September 2011):
The federal government has actually employed a small stable of arms-length academic cryptographers for several years now, but this summer it opted to redouble and rebrand the effort. In doing so, Ottawa has stepped up its quiet drive to lure some of the smartest PhD-calibre mathematicians away from ivory towers and into applied government work. ...

Previously known to select few mathematicians as the Cryptologic Research Institute, the think tank is the creation of an ultra-secretive federal agency, the Communications Security Establishment Canada. The CSEC has two main jobs: first, to spy on foreign communications for information about threats, and second, to shield government data from prying eyes.

While this “signals-intelligence” agency has its own stable of hundreds of code makers and code crackers, it often finds itself needing periodic infusions of cutting-edge academic work to stay current. So, two years ago, the CSEC hired Hugh Williams, who some describe as a “rock star” mathematician at the University of Calgary, to lead the effort to put together the Tutte Institute. Last year, the spy agency built a home for the institute on its sprawling Ottawa campus.

Now comes a public profile – something it never had before – as the Tutte Institute seeks to bolsters its ranks beyond its roughly 20 top-calibre researchers and 15 full-time staff. It wants to lure “the best minds in mathematical and computational research,” according to an announcement posted on the CSEC website.
Here is a presentation on the institute by Williams.

The Globe and Mail article and CSE's website are both coy about the exact location of the institute on the agency's "sprawling" campus. However, my awesome investigative powers (AKA Google) tell me it is in the Insurance Building. Presumably it will be housed in the MTAP once that building opens.

William Tutte (1917-2002), after whom the institute is named, was a British mathematician who worked at Bletchley Park during the war and later emigrated to Canada, where he had a distinguished academic career. A short biography of Tutte is on the CSE website.

As the bio puts it, while working at Bletchley, Tutte "uncovered the structure of the encryption machines which generated a code known as 'Fish', solely by observing the machine generated obscuring string and encrypted messages that were intercepted. His work enabled Britain to break these codes regularly throughout the remainder of the War."

Tutte's own account, FISH and I, is considerably more enlightening.


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