DCI John M. Deutch at VENONA Press Conference
July 11, 1995
Well, it's a pleasure to be here this morning to welcome you all to the unveiling of another piece of intelligence history. A few weeks ago the Intelligence Community released satellite photographs from the CORONA program that revealed how much we knew about Soviet missiles and conventional capabilities in the early sixties. Today, we will release information that reveals another tremendous intelligence success of the United States. We are releasing information that shows how the US discovered intense Soviet efforts to uncover the secrets of the United States atomic bomb project and other defense projects in the early 1940s.
VENONA is the codename for a cryptographic program that resulted in the decryption of 2200 messages, almost all during the period 1942 to 1945, about the Soviet espionage offensive against the United States. The VENONA Project collected, analyzed, and eventually broke into a family of codes that allowed us to read Soviet diplomatic messages -- high-grade diplomatic cipher. These messages included traffic from the KGB and GRU revealing details of extensive espionage activities targeted at the US atom bomb program. This information helped US law enforcement officials identify Soviet operatives and their agents in the United States and elsewhere.
This is the stuff of spy novels. The work was tedious and required exacting skills. The individuals -- some of whom are here today -- dedicated countless hours to this effort and had no reason to expect that their work would ever receive public recognition. Today, we can salute their efforts.
Some of the results are quite stunning. For example, to my astonishment one finds evidence of KGB humor. Washington is referred to as CARTHAGE, San Francisco is referred to by the code name BABYLON, and for New York is referred to as TYRE -- all ancient cities that came to ruin.
But there are several important points that we should not miss. One is the intelligence success, the second is an extraordinary example of interagency cooperation at that time between the National Security Agency and itÍs predecessor agencies; between the CIA and its predecessor agencies; arching above all with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. An example which we should note of tremendous cooperation between law enforcement and foreign intelligence.
Finally, I want to make a note about openness. Today we are releasing a small part of these 2,200 decrypts. We are releasing today 49 of them. The rest will become available over the coming year.
Next year we will sponsor a conference on Soviet Intelligence attempts to penetrate the United States government during the 1940s and 1950s and our efforts to counter those efforts. We hope that all scholars will attend, including Russian scholars.
The Intelligence Community does not own national security secrets. They are a trust that we hold for the American people. We must guard these secrets as long as the information is relevant to the protection of our freedom and then it is our obligation to make them available to the public. The information that we are now declassifying helps the American people understand the contribution that intelligence and law enforcement make to protecting this nation. Accordingly, releasing such information when it does not compromise security will be our continuing policy. I am proud that the VENONA program can now claim its place in history. Thank you very much.