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Jul 21, 2016 Who First Cracked the ENIGMA Cipher?

During World War II, the Germans used ENIGMA, a cipher machine, to develop nearly unbreakable codes for sending messages. ENIGMA’s settings offered 150,000,000,000,000,000,000 possible solutions, yet the Allies were eventually able to crack its code.

The machine was developed by the Dutch to communicate banking secrets. The Germans bought the patent in 1923 for intelligence purposes. Polish intelligence was able to purchase an ENIGMA at a trade fair and procure a codebook from a French agent.

In the 1930s, the French had recruited a source who had provided numerous classified documents about the machine; they then approached the British, the Czechs, and the Poles, who took the fullest advantage of the information.

Poland was the first to realize that the solution to breaking ENIGMA would most likely be discovered by a mathematician. Polish cryptanalysts as early as 1932 could decode German ciphers and, by 1939, they were able to successfully decipher messages written with an earlier version of ENIGMA using a replica machine that could emulate the way ENIGMA worked.

By 1933, Poland had demonstrated the ability to break those early ciphers and, by the following year, were producing their own ENIGMA machines.

On July 24, 1939, Poland hosted a secret tripartite meeting with the United Kingdom and France to discuss the decryption of messages from the German ENIGMA machine. They explained how they had broken ENIGMA, produced two copies of the machine they had built, and shared technical drawings of their version of “the Bombe,” a device that could find ENIGMA keys by testing tens of thousands of possible combinations.

When Poland was overrun by Germany in September 1939, the Polish as well as French cryptanalysts shared everything they knew about ENIGMA with the UK, which allowed the cryptanalysts at Bletchley Park, including the famous Alan Turing, to finally crack the ENIGMA ciphers.

Jun 07, 2016 CIA Memorial Garden and Koi Pond

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CIA Memorial Garden
Through the quiet beauty of living nature, the CIA Memorial Garden is a tribute to all deceased intelligence officers and contractors who served their country.

Dedicated on June 7, 1996, the garden is located on a hillside between the Original Headquarters Building and the Auditorium at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia. It is one of several memorials on the CIA compound (including the Office of Strategic Services Memorial and the CIA Memorial Wall).

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Memorial Garden at CIA HQ
The garden is a blend of natural and landscaped plantings amid stone outcroppings from which a cascade of water continuously falls into a large fishpond, providing a tranquil and reflective place for Agency employees. Koi fish in shades of gold, pearl, and coral swim peacefully beneath the waters. The words, "In remembrance of those whose unheralded efforts served a grateful nation," are cast in a brass plaque set in fieldstone to ensure the living will not forget the fallen.
Apr 28, 2016 Secret Writing: CIA’s Oldest Classified Documents

Do you want to read the oldest classified documents in our collection? Learn how to make invisible ink? See the only classified documents still in existence from the first World War? Then you’re in luck.

Five years ago, the CIA declassified the US Government’s six oldest classified documents, dating from 1917 and 1918. These documents, which describe secret writing techniques and are housed at the National Archives, are believed to be the only remaining classified documents from the World War I era. Documents describing secret writing fall under the CIA’s purview to declassify.

“These documents remained classified for nearly a century until recent advancements in technology made it possible to release them,” former CIA Director Leon Panetta said during the document’s release 2011. “When historical information is no longer sensitive, we take seriously our responsibility to share it with the American people.”

One document outlines the chemicals and techniques necessary for developing certain types of secret writing ink and a method for opening sealed letters without detection. Another memorandum dated June 14, 1918 – written in French – reveals the formula the German’s used to produce invisible ink.

The documents are available on the CIA.gov eFOIA section and in the CIA Records Search Tool (CREST) at the National Archives in College Park, Maryland. CREST currently houses nearly 13 million pages of declassified Agency documents. Since 1995, the Agency has released over 36 million pages as a result of Executive Orders, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), the Privacy Act, and mandatory declassification reviews.


See the Secret Writing documents for yourself by clicking on the links below:

Secret writing document one (PDF 447 KB)
Secret writing document two (PDF 1.06 MB)
Secret writing document three (PDF 427 KB)
Secret writing document four (PDF 2.70 MB)
Secret writing document five (PDF 438 KB)
Secret writing document six (PDF 1.45 MB)

Jan 21, 2016 Take a Peek Into Our “X-Files”

The CIA declassified hundreds of documents in 1978 detailing the Agency’s investigations into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). The documents date primarily from the late 1940s and 1950s.

To help navigate the vast amount of data contained in our FOIA UFO collection, we’ve decided to highlight a few documents both skeptics and believers will find interesting. Below you will find five documents we think X-Files character Agent Fox Mulder would love to use to try and persuade others of the existence of extraterrestrial activity. We also pulled five documents we think his skeptical partner, Agent Dana Scully, could use to prove there is a scientific explanation for UFO sightings.

The truth is out there; click on the links to find it.


Top 5 CIA Documents Mulder Would Love To Get His Hands On:

  1. Flying Saucers Reported Over East Germany, 1952 (PDF 325 KB)
  2. Minutes of Branch Chief’s Meeting on UFOs, 11 August 1952 (PDF 162 KB)
  3. Flying Saucers Reported Over Spain and North Africa, 1952 (PDF 266 KB)
  4. Survey of Flying Saucer Reports, 1 August 1952 (PDF 175 KB)
  5. Flying Saucers Reported Over Belgian Congo Uranium Mines, 1952 (PDF 262 KB)

Top 5 CIA Documents Scully Would Love To Get Her Hands On:

  1. Scientific Advisory Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects, 14-17 January 1953 (PDF 907 KB)
  2. Office Memorandum on Flying Saucers, 15 March 1949 (PDF 110 KB)
  3. Memorandum to the CIA Director on Flying Saucers, 2 October 1952 (PDF 443 KB)
  4. Meeting of the OSI Advisory Group on UFOs, 21 January 1953 (PDF 194 KB)
  5. Memorandum for the Record on Flying Saucers, 3 December 1952 (PDF 179 KB)


Do you want to believe? Then find out how to investigate a flying saucer.

Dec 31, 2015 CIA's Top 15 Stories of 2015

Think you know the CIA? Some of these stories might just surprise you...

This year we dove deep into our archives to uncover some of the most unexpected and fascinating aspects of our history. From behind the walls of one of America’s most mysterious sites to a rumored recipe Julia Child cooked up to keep the sharks at bay, this year’s most popular stories on cia.gov covered a lot of unusual ground. Unsung heroes who lost their lives in service to their country, the true story behind a famous photograph during the Fall of Saigon, dog training tips from one of the best scent-detection programs in the world...we covered it all. So sit back and enjoy the CIA’s 15 most popular stories of 2015. (We can’t wait to show you what we have planned for 2016!)

#15: Top 10 Research Tips for a Great School Year from CIA Librarians

#14: Remembering CIA's Heroes: William F. Buckley

#13: The Enigma of Alan Turing

#12: Cloak and Dagger: The Unexpected Beginnings of CIA

#11: Studies in Intelligence Celebrates 60th Birthday

#10: Julia Child and the OSS Recipe for Shark Repellent

#9: What do James Bond, Downton Abbey, and the CIA have in Common?

#8: Post Office Dedicated To Fallen CIA Operations Officer

#7: Surprise, Kill, Vanish: The Legend of the Jedburghs

#6: Remembering CIA’s Heroes: Jacqueline K. Van Landingham

#5: Area 51, U-2 and the Accidental Test Flight

#4: CIA's Top 10 Dog Training Tips

#3: May Day Over Moscow: The Francis Gary Powers Story

#2: The Last Days in Saigon

#1: OXCART vs Blackbird: Do You Know the Difference?


Dec 22, 2015 If You Want a Friend in Washington...

If you worked at CIA Headquarters during Leon Panetta’s tenure as Director, you almost certainly saw or heard stories about Bravo, Panetta’s loyal Golden Retriever. Bravo came to work with the Director every day and could often be spotted during his walks around the compound. Bravo was such an integral part of Panetta’s life that he was immortalized, along with his owner, in Panetta’s official portrait in the Directors’ Gallery (as well his Secretary of Defense portrait in the Pentagon). Bravo died earlier this month.

As the CIA Director’s dog, Bravo was privy to many secret conversations, including the planning of the 2011 raid on Usama bin Ladin’s compound in Pakistan. 

Staffers described him as a level-headed fixture in the meetings. Bravo was a confidant and loyal companion to the Director, a source of calm amidst the struggles of leadership and a nation at war.

On Panetta’s last day as CIA Director, Bravo reportedly refused to get in the car and had to be cajoled into leaving. His memory will live on in the portrait in CIA Headquarters, and in the officers who had the pleasure of meeting him.

Sep 29, 2015 The OSS Architect Who Designed the UN Logo

Oliver Lincoln Lundquist, a talented architect and industrial designer, worked for the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), CIA’s predecessor, during World War II and led the team that designed the official United Nations emblem.

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UN prototype emblem
In 1945, the US State Department asked the OSS to help create graphics for the UN Conference on International Organization in San Francisco, where the UN Charter was drafted. Lundquist’s team set out to create a lapel pin for the delegates that could serve as their official form of identification. It was initially designed by another OSS officer, Donal McLaughlin, who worked for Lundquist as the director of graphics for the conference. This became the prototype for the UN logo you see today.

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Current UN emblem
The design consisted of a top-down view of the globe, centered on North America and showing all of the continents except Antarctica, with two olive branches on either side to symbolize peace. The design was in shades of blue, a purposeful choice to contrast with red, a color traditionally associated with war.

The final emblem chosen by the UN was a slightly modified version of this design.

After his OSS service, Lundquist joined a private practice as an architect, working on hospitals, schools, private residences, and even the former Kodak Building in Manhattan. In 2008, Lundquist passed away at the age of 92.

The UN logo isn’t the only design of Lundquist’s around today. He also created one of the most recognizable product packages still found on store shelves: the blue-and-white Q-Tip box.


Want to learn more?

A fascinating history of the UN logo was written by former OSS officer Donal McLaughlin, called: "Origin of the Emblem and other Recollections of the 1945 UN Conference." [PDF 5.19 MB].

This file was provided courtesy of the UN Archives and Records Management Section.

Sep 16, 2015 Director Brennan Delivers Keynote at President's Daily Brief Public Release Event

John O. Brennan speaks at the President’s Daily Brief Public Release at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas on September 16, 2015 at 2:00pm EST.


Live streaming video by Ustream

Jul 06, 2015 Director Brennan Participates in Mount Vernon 4th of July Naturalization Ceremony

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DCIA Brennan delivering keynote at Mount Vernon naturalization ceremony

CIA Director John Brennan was the keynote speaker at Mount Vernon’s special 4th of July Naturalization Ceremony, where 101 new Americans from 45 different countries took the Oath of Allegiance to become American citizens on our country’s 239th Independence Day.

In his speech, Brennan commented on the diverse backgrounds and cultures from which our newest citizens came from. Several even served as members of our armed forces, putting their lives on the line to protect the rights of all Americans before fully enjoying those rights themselves.

“Today,” said Brennan, “in swearing you in as brand-new Americans, we affirm a central tenet of our democracy: that what matters is not where you come from, or

what you look like, or who your parents are. What matters is your commitment to the principles that define us as Americans—the principles of freedom and equality that have guided this Nation since our founding more than two centuries ago. You all entered these beautiful grounds this morning as foreign nationals. You will leave as Americans.”

Here are several photos and a video from the ceremony and the Independence Day festivities, which included daytime fireworks, military reenactments, and a visit from “General George Washington” himself:


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DCIA Brennan shaking hands with new citizens at Mount Vernon 4th of July naturalization ceremony

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DCIA Brennan delivering keynote at Mount Vernon naturalization ceremony

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Reenactors at Mount Vernon during July 4th celebration and naturalization ceremony

See the full video of Director Brennan's speech below:

Jul 02, 2015 Nathan Hale, American Spy... What His Sacrifice Means on Our Independence Day

CIA Director John O. Brennan remembers Nathan Hale and the sacrifices he made in service to freedom and Independence. His statue stands vigilant guard over the Agency and is a continuing reminder to our employees of the duties and sacrifices of an intelligence officer. See the full video and transcript below.

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Full Transcript:

"I only regret that I have but one life to lose for my country." These are said to be the last words of American hero and patriot Nathan Hale, the first American executed for spying for his country.

DCIA on Camera

I’m John Brennan, Director of CIA and statues of Nathan Hale, like this one here at the headquarters of CIA, stand in Connecticut at Yale University . . .

DCIA off Camera

. . . in Washington DC outside the Justice Department, and at Fort Hale. After graduating from Yale in 1773 and teaching school, Hale was commissioned as a captain in the Continental Army. In 1776, during the Battle of Long Island, Hale bravely volunteered to go behind enemy lines and report on British troop movements, and he would be engaging in an act of spying that was immediately punishable by death. It was a risky mission—he had been given virtually no training. Indeed, Nathan Hale was apprehended by the British on the 21st of September and hanged without trial at 11 a.m. the next morning. These images of Nathan Hale capture his spirit the moment before execution– a 21-year-old man prepared to meet his death for honor and country, hands and feet bound, face resolute and his eyes on the horizon. Following Hale’s gallant attempt, our Nation’s fledgling intelligence effort, overseen by George Washington, would grow in sophistication and contribute to America’s victory. Today, Nathan Hale’s statue stands here at CIA as an enduring reminder of the duties and sacrifices inherent to intelligence work.

DCIA on Camera

Hale's bravery has made him an icon of liberty and patriotism. On this 239th anniversary of American independence, we at CIA pay tribute to him and to all the brave Americans who have served our country, defended our freedoms, and protected our way of life.