Saturday, May 18, 2013

American Cryptology During the Cold War, Part IV

The fourth and final part of Thomas Johnson's classified history of American SIGINT during the Cold War is available online (heavily redacted of course) on the website of the National Security Archive: American Cryptology during the Cold War, 1945-1989: Book IV: Cryptologic Rebirth, 1981-1989 was formerly classified TOP SECRET//COMINT-UMBRA/TALENT KEYHOLE.

The earlier volumes of the history are here. You can also find all of the volumes on the National Security Agency's website.

The history documents the dramatic growth that NSA underwent in the 1980s, increasing from roughly 15,000 full-time civilians in 1982 to roughly 22,000 in 1989. The number of military personnel working at NSA also rose during the decade (the combined military and civilian total was nearly 27,000 in 1990, compared to 19,000 in 1983).

The document also features some interesting and not entirely redacted discussion of the Reagan Administration's use of SIGINT for propaganda purposes, sometimes at risk to SIGINT sources and methods, and retells some of the spy episodes of the 1980s, among other topics covered.

The 1980s were also a good period for Canada's SIGINT agency. CSE's staff grew by 50% during the decade, and the agency obtained its first supercomputers, started monitoring satellite communications, began operating intercept sites in Canadian diplomatic establishments in a serious way, and revitalized its cryptanalytic capabilities. But as far as I know, there is no equivalent Canadian history of SIGINT during the last years of the Cold War -- certainly nothing in the public domain.


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