Press Release on VENONA Documents
In a ceremony at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia, on 11 July, Director of Central Intelligence John M. Deutch announced the release of important historical documents, translations of encrypted Soviet diplomatic communications from the 1940s. The VENONA documents consist of thousands of messages exchanged by the KGB and GRU with their agents in the Western hemisphere.
The 49 messages being released today reveal extensive Soviet espionage activities directed at the US atomic bomb program. The counterintelligence payoff from these documents was tremendous. They were instrumental in providing the FBI with investigative leads that contributed to the identification of the Rosenberg atomic espionage ring and a number of other agents spying on the atomic bomb program.
"The presence at today's ceremony of Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Chairman of the Secrecy Commission, is testimony to the Intelligence Community's commitment to making as much information as possible available to the public," said Deutch. FBI Director Louis J. Freeh's participation highlights the close cooperation between intelligence and law enforcement which characterized VENONA.
The VENONA project was initiated in 1943 by the Army Signal Intelligence Service, a forerunner of the National Security Agency (NSA). Painstaking analysis by US crypto-logists led to the breaking and reading of documents that shed light on wide-spread Soviet espionage against the United States.
Many of those who worked on the project and were instrumental in its success, the unsung "heroes" of VENONA, were honored at the ceremony. Vice Admiral John Michael McConnell, Director of NSA, and his deputy, William P. Crowell, who was personally involved in VENONA, described their contribution and the background of the project. Dr. David Kahn, noted historian and author of The Codebreakers, discussed the historic significance of the VENONA release.
Senator Moynihan turned the newly declassified documents over to NSA Historian David Hatch. Copies will be available for review at NSA's National Cryptologic Museum at Fort Meade. This is the first of several releases of over 2200 translations from the VENONA project. The next release is scheduled for September 1995.