Talk:Venona project

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Finnish references[edit]

The article mentions co-operation between Finnish and Japanese cryptanalysts. Could someone please expand this? I've read the article on Finland's WW2 history but find no reference to their relations with Japan, so that graf makes little sense to me. Perhaps also an explanation of Finland's unusual WW2 status would clarify it for others. And finally, there is a mention earlier in that section of Finnish recovery of partially-burned Soviet pads - was this during WW2 or afterwards? I'm not Finnish btw, just this section stuck out as being confusing.

"Cooperation" may be the wrong word. The Finns in the Winter War (the Soviet invasion of Finland started during the Nazi-Soviet non-aggression pact) solved several Soviet code books. These were 2-digit, 3-digit, and even 4-digit code books without superencryption with a one-time pad. The Finns became German allies when Germany invaded Russia. As allies, the Finns communicated their intelligence to Berlin, which in turn shard it with Japan. I have not heard if Japan returned the favor in cryptanalysis.

Upon the Soviet defeat of Finland, Finnish intelligence managed to spirit their work (and themselves) out of Finland to relative safety in Sweden, in an operation called Stella Polaris, q.v..

For more details on the Finnish code breaking see [1]. 14:01, 15 February 2007 (UTC)John K. Taber

A very late answer, but the answer is yes, there were cryptoanalytic exchanges between Japan and Finland during the war, intercepted material was sent to Japan, and vice versa, this was done in order to help gather more material to work on and to see if the Soviets recycled their codes on other fronts (the Soviets were using one-time pad systems which is "unbreakable" when done properly, but the war-time situation forced the Soviets to use old cod pads, thus giving the opponents possibilities to break the codes by applying e.g. statistical decryption methods.) After the Finnish transfer of codes and material to Sweden, Hallamaa et al tried to obtain monetary funds by selling the gathered information to willing buyers (France, USA, Japan). --MoRsE (talk) 11:59, 14 December 2012 (UTC)

A good venona website?[edit]

I remeber reading a fascintating account of venona about 6-7 years ago. I thought I'd seen this on the NSA site, and so I went there just now ... well gollee wilikers ... what's up with the NSA website? That has got to be one of the cheesier page banners I've seen, worthy of some slimy used-car dealership that aint no good at selling cars. And what's with the narrative directed at someone with an IQ of 80? And Joules the cartoon squirrel? Have the Bushites gone stark raving stupid? Why would a branch of government with a bit of a spotlight on it want to look unprofessional and even incompetent? I vaguely remember being impressed by thier web site once upon a time, what happpened? Where's the good venona stuff? —This unsigned comment was added by (talkcontribs) 25 March 2006.

There are two excellent textbooks on VENONA you could find with a Google-search. Then visit your local library. — Charles Edwin Shipp (talk) 12:51, 18 August 2012 (UTC)
Amazon list titles: (1) The Venona Secrets, Exposing Soviet Espionage and America's Traitors by Herbert Romerstein; (2) Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (Yale Nota Bene) by John Earl Haynes; (3) Blacklisted by History: The Untold Story of Senator Joe McCarthy and His Fight Against America's Enemies by M. Stanton Evans. (There are 13 books listed now in our Article.) — Ann Coulter's book has a WP article: Treason:_Liberal_Treachery_from_the_Cold_War_to_the_War_on_TerrorismCharles Edwin Shipp (talk) 21:28, 15 September 2013 (UTC)
Yes check.svg Done — The first online ref. "The official website" answers your question: Edwin Shipp (talk) 21:37, 15 September 2013 (UTC)

Merge Discussion[edit]

  1. oppose Significance of Venona was created to cover the debate. It deserves to remain.--Cberlet 20:52, 4 June 2006 (UTC)
  2. support Breaking out a an article on "the significance of" anything rarely, if ever makes sense. The current Significance of Venona wastes a huge amount of verbiage on material that either is, or should be in the Venona article. Also, having the two articles makes the job of improving either one difficult. Someone editing Venona would (ideally) have to avoid saying anything about "significance," and someone editing "Significance" would (ideally) have to avoid getting into general material. Neither of those ideals are being met, and consequently the two articles are pretty messy. Lastly, neither article is very large, so, especially considering the amount of overlap that could be eliminated, there simply seems to be no reason for having them separate. KarlBunker 20:39, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
I understand, but check the page history and discussion. There have been huge battles over this page, and the page Venona project has escaped them.--Cberlet 21:52, 15 June 2006 (UTC)
But what has been gained by moving those huge battles off to a separate article? The dry historical and technical facts about Venona would generally be left unmolested by those political POV battles anyway, so they're no "safer" here in this everything-but-the-controversy article.
I can see you have a difficult situation here: It's a politically loaded topic that's also rather obscure and esoteric, and its obscure and esoteric nature tends to keep the article from attracting enough interested editors to "smooth out" extremist edits. But by splitting the article into two pieces--neither of which is worth much without the other--you've made it all the more unattractive to editors who might consider becoming involved and helping to protect it from POV-pushing. Who wants to put time and effort into an article that's structurally ugly because it's really only half of an article? KarlBunker 03:38, 16 June 2006 (UTC)
If you think you can do it without stirring up a hornet's nest, give it a try.--Cberlet 12:37, 21 June 2006 (UTC)
Thanks; I appreciate your willingness to reconsider. I'll tackle the job when I can devote a block of time to it. As for stirring up a hornet's nest, well, if they get stirred up, so be it. One can't be a good WP editor by being too fearful of hornets. KarlBunker 14:08, 21 June 2006 (UTC)

Merge is completed.--KarlBunker 21:59, 9 July 2006 (UTC)

Another level of encoding[edit]

Am I missing something, or is there nowhere in this article that we mention that names of at least anyone working for the Soviets (and possibly others) were, themselves, encoded? Thus, for example, it is another level of (controversial) intepretation to say (for example) that "ALES" was Alger Hiss, or that "Liberal" was Julius Rosenberg. -- Jmabel | Talk 21:32, 3 July 2006 (UTC)

The use of code names is discussed in Significance of Venona. Thanks for pointing out another reason why these articles should be merged. Hopefully I'll have time to do that this weekend. --KarlBunker 00:42, 7 July 2006 (UTC)
I gather that the merge is complete. The possibility of some misidentifications is still not mentioned. All we have is a footnote saying "In these coded messages the spies' identities were concealed beneath aliases, but by comparing the known movements of the agents with the corresponding activities described in the intercepts, the FBI and the code-breakers were able to match the aliases with the actual spies." The failure to discuss this beyond a footnote makes a dubious assumption of consistently flawless work by the FBI. - Jmabel | Talk 00:33, 16 July 2006 (UTC)
There's some discussion of the uncertainty caused by code names in the section "Prosecutions" in the paragraph beginning "In addition, according to Boarman, 'the fragmentary nature of the messages and the extensive use of cover names therein make positive identification of the subjects difficult.'"
You're probably right that this deserves further discussion, however. --KarlBunker 00:49, 16 July 2006 (UTC)
There is a tendency in this article to assume that every identification is accurate, when even the Boardman memo questions this. That is one of the main criticisms raised by Navasky, Schrecker, and others.--Cberlet 01:35, 16 July 2006 (UTC)

Merged article[edit]

That was a major task, and it has created a much more coherent article. Many thanks to KarlBunker. I do think there are a few tweaks I would like to make. but I will do them one at a time and wait for comments. The first has to do with the Boardman memo.--Cberlet 15:28, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Thanks for the kudos. I don't doubt that there are a lot of tweaks and not-so-tweak-y improvements to be made. Your recent edit fixed an unclear point that I'd been meaning to look up myself (The text formerly suggested that the named individuals denied accusations that were specifically based on Venona data.) So thanks for that.--KarlBunker 15:58, 10 July 2006 (UTC)

Walter Lippmann[edit]

Some 349 code names are mentioned in the messages,[6] each signifying a person with some type of "covert relationship" with Soviet intelligence.

I'm not sure exactly what this means. Did Walter Lippmann have a covert relationship with Soviet Intelligence? Or is Eric Alterman wrong about him having a code name ("Imperialist") in the documents? ([2]: not sure that link is accessible without a Nation subscription; it's from the September 18, 2006 issue; if it's not accessible, let me know and I'll quote the relevant passage.) Or what? - Jmabel | Talk 04:31, 21 September 2006 (UTC)

Walter Lippman is mentioned several times in Venona decrypts, with more than one cover name: IMPERIALIST, BUMBLEBEE, and KATZ at various times. See my index of covernames to real names at [3]. A second index at this site relates real names and covernames to the messages they occur in.

He is a source of information on Western intentions, but the decrypts do not show any evidence of a covert relationship. Similarly, Thomas Dewey is KULAK (FIST) and a source of information. One must remember that the US and the Soviet Union were allies during the war, and there was considerable sharing of information in the interest of defeating Germany. 14:15, 15 February 2007 (UTC) John K. Taber


I had an extremely long debate with Berlet on this, so I will recap the more relevant points:

Schrecker’s comments in this context are no longer usefull because she has drasitcly altered her views since "Many are the Crimes: McCarthyism in America" Schrecker does not deny that their, Haynes’ and Khler’s, analysis is wrong, and she in the primary conclusion of their, Haynes’ and Khler’s, work

"We now know, based on information obtained from the archives of the former Soviet Union and the VENONA documents, that most of the people Bentley identified, had in fact been giving information to the KGB." - The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents
"As Venona and the Moscow sources reveal, the [US] party recruited dozens, perhaps hundreds, of its members to spy for the Soviet Union."-The Age of McCarthyism: A Brief History with Documents
"it is now abundantly clear that most of those who were identified as Soviet agents in the forties and fifties really were—and that most of them belonged to the Communist Party" and "as Venona and the Moscow sources reveal, the party recruited dozens, perhaps hundreds, of its members to spy for the Soviet Union."- Nation magazine, The Right's Cold War Revision, July 24/31, 2000

Schrecker sees the more damning conclusions of the VENONA material as a way of rehabilitating McCarthyism. I have argued that she is more of an anti-anti-Communist and primarily a critic of McCarthyism, not of VENONA or its conclusions. I also beleive the material from 1998 was made without a serious evaluation, and that based on more current work, she no longer holds those beleifs. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 14:09, 23 September 2006 (UTC)

Good point! --regalseagull 11/02/06

-:Be all that as it may, the Schrecker material in question here is: "Because they offer insights into the world of the secret police on both sides of the Iron Curtain, it is tempting to treat the FBI and Venona materials less critically than documents from more accessible sources. But there are too many gaps in the record to use these materials with complete confidence." Later she argues in general terms about Haynes's and others' "black and white" view of history.

I seriously doubt that Schrecker now disagrees with any of these particular statements. In particular, I cannot imagine that she now believes that Venona material can be "used with complete confidence." Indeed, it's hard to imagine anyone seriously contending such a thing. And in any case, If Schrecker herself were were to point any any or all of these quotes and paraphrases and say "I no longer believe this," I don't see how that would prohibit us from in including it in the article. She wrote it, it's a part of the record of the debate, it's a valid comment from a scholarly source. Lots of scholars change their opinions or the general slant of their views over time. That doesn't mean that all quotes from their older writings can no longer be used as citations. KarlBunker 15:48, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
Karl, my point was that the Schrecker quote reflected a view that does not appear in her later works where she makes use of both raw VENONA material as well as Haynes and Khler's writings on them. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 21:54, 23 September 2006 (UTC)
"Does not appear" is a long way from specifically repudiated, and before I believed that Schrecker has repudiated such innocuous and common-sense opinions as are under question here, I'd want to see a specific quotation and citation. And that still wouldn't have any effect on my second point above. KarlBunker 00:00, 24 September 2006 (UTC)

- Hanes & Klehr: Venoa "expose[d] beyond cavil the American Communist Party as an auxiliary of the intelligence agencies of the Solviet Union....(The Communist Party in America was) "A fifth column working inside and against the U.S." Sounds like someone was convinced of Venona's legitimacy!

--P.S. Bunker says: "it's a valid comment from a scholarly source. Lots of scholars change their opinions or the general slant of their views over time. That doesn't mean that all quotes from their older writings can no longer be used as citations. Yes it does, unless you want to play by your own rules, and put in parenthisis behind every quote: "She later saw the light, and changed her mind about this-- so it's pretty much worthless as a 'scholarly' source."!!! --regalseagull


"Navasky wished to parse the concept of espionage itself." Huh? "Parse the concept"? Sounds like vacuous jargon to me. Can't we just say, "Navasky questioned whether many of these contacts with the Soviets constituted espionage." One normally parses sentences, or even works of art, but what does it mean to parse a concept, other than to say it is incoherent? Clearly, he doesn't reject that espionage exists, only that most of these contacts constituted espionage. - Jmabel | Talk 07:37, 25 September 2006 (UTC)

"Deconstruct" might be a better word than "parse". The point being that Navasky is examining the component parts of things that have been called "espionage" and thereby finding gradations of "wrongness". Whichever word is used, I think the rest of the passage makes the meaning pretty clear. KarlBunker 10:15, 25 September 2006 (UTC)
This is one of the few cases where "deconstruct" just might be the right word. - Jmabel | Talk 07:36, 27 September 2006 (UTC)

Historical disputes[edit]

There are those that believe VENONA cable# 1822 is definitive proof that Hiss was ALES. There are others that do not agree. Is this not therefore disputed? DEddy 22:54, 1 October 2006 (UTC)


I can't follow the many back-and-forth edits over the last month or so, or (to be more precise) I'm not willing to go through them one by one. After the first mention of Alger Hiss, the following citation was removed. ibid pg. 146-47; "Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent and appears to have been regarded by Moscow as its most important." Was the removal deliberate and agreed upon? - Jmabel | Talk 04:43, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

From what I can tell is that generally modern sources agree that Hiss was working for the Soviets based on Venona and non-Venona sources. However, It needs some nice solid citations to be included. There are plenty of historical books with this info... I am sure we can find it as well as a couple cites for disagreement with Hiss being a Soviet spy. --Rtrev 06:21, 20 November 2006 (UTC)
I removed the reference Jmabel mentions. As I noted in my edit summary, the reference was incorrect. The "ibid" is placed so that it refers back to "Report of the Commission on Protecting and Reducing Government Secrecy," but neither the quoted text nor the page number appears in that document, either in the appendix the "ibid" indicates or in the main (non-appendix) document. FWIW, it may have been me that messed up that reference when I merged in a "Significance of Venona" article some months ago. I also shouldn't have used ibids, because if someone edits the article to move a sentence, the reference moves with it, and an ibid will no longer point back to the correct reference. KarlBunker 11:09, 20 November 2006 (UTC)

Cleaning up email, I notice that I received the following from Nobs on 30 November 2006:

[Begin email]

Regarding your question here,

"the following citation was removed. ibid pg. 146-47; "Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent and appears to have been regarded by Moscow as its most important." Was the removal deliberate and agreed upon? "

The correct sourcing is to be found here,

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Secrecy: The American Experience, (New Haven: Yale University Press 1998), pg. 146-47; "Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent and appears to have been regarded by Moscow as its most important."

This may not be the only instance of a mistake or error. There is one particularly glaring error which I would like to carry to WP:ATT Talk page because of the flawed methodology; I have already discussed it with Fred Bauder and my concerns have been forwarded to the Arbcom-l mailing list as the basis of my pending Appeal.


[End email]

E-mail from banned users[edit]

I object to any editor posting material from Nobs anywhere on Wikipedia. Nobs was banned for persistent vicious personal attacks on me. I am horrified at this breach. I expect an apology.--Cberlet 03:54, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

Object all you like, its not against the rules. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 20:56, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

POV revisions[edit]

The systematic removal of NPOV language and the relentless addition of right-wing POV phrasing has taken a relatively decent article and returned it to the status biased drivel. I have added a totally disputed flag.--Cberlet 19:29, 30 December 2006 (UTC)

It would be nice if you had cited some examples. As no examples were cited, I am taking the disputed tag off. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 20:55, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
That is not acceptable, and you know it.--Cberlet 22:20, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
  • "The Venona transcripts identify approximately 349 Americans who had a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence,"
That is the claim, but it is disputed. Almost every snippet of text that offered some nuanced view or ambiguity concerning the identities of persons matched to code names has been removed from this page. This is how the original long dispute began in the first place. What is now on this page is overwhelmingly the claims of a handful of right-wing anti-communist fanatics who make sweping pronouncements that vastly exceed the facts. Rubbish. The flag is appropriate given the relentless rewriting of text to push a narrow POV.--Cberlet 22:29, 30 December 2006 (UTC)
If you know of sources that directly argue against or dispute the H&K figure of "349 Americans with a covert relationship with Soviet intelligence", please add it to the article, or just mention the source and I'll look into it as soon as I can. I personally think this figure is, at the very least, suspect. That's why my recent edits have downplayed the reliability of this figure, in addition to removing such speculative statements as "It is likely that there were more than 349 participants in Soviet espionage, as that number is from a small sample of the total intercepted message traffic." As you'll see if you look at the history, the article has had a much more "right wing" stance for most of the past year. KarlBunker 02:56, 31 December 2006 (UTC)
Yes, and I appreciate the attempts made to make it more NPOV, but now the text is so streamlined that much of the discussion about difficulty in establishing identities has been deleted, and the criticisms and nuance has been relegated to a segregated area of criticism. The page now suffers from this bias.--Cberlet 03:31, 31 December 2006 (UTC)
I can't say that I understand what you're referring to. In my edits since 24 December, the text has been "streamlined" from 37k to 38k, and discussion about difficulty in establishing identities has been specifically added to the "Significance" section. I request that you show some before & after examples, and/or suggest improvements, and/or make improvements yourself. KarlBunker 04:14, 31 December 2006 (UTC)
OK, I accepted your suggestion and made some text changes to illustrate my concerns and make the page more NPOV.--Cberlet 03:11, 1 January 2007 (UTC)

AfD on List_of_Americans_in_the_Venona_papers[edit]

I call attention of those interested in this topic to the ongoing discussion about the deletion of a very closely related page: List of Americans in the Venona papers at Wikipedia:Articles_for_deletion/List_of_Americans_in_the_Venona_papers. DGG 21:14, 28 April 2007 (UTC)

Navasky Quote[edit]

The Full quote: Tales From Decrypts, Navasky, the Nation

It would be a fine thing if the "new openness" were actually to happen (e.g., can we expect the C.I.A. to release the names of the thousand books whose publication it covertly sponsored, according to the Church Committee?), but if so, the Venona Conference constituted at best a token beginning. Instead, one was left with the impression that the neoconservative spinmeisters who dominated the proceedings are trying to exploit the detritus of Venona to confirm the demonizing myths of the cold war. Their project: to enlarge post­cold war intelligence gathering capability at the expense of civil liberty. The Venona Conference tells us that those who care about democratic freedoms should resist and expose this false interpretation of history.
Torturous Devastating Cudgel 13:20, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
Which confirms that the quote was misrepresented in the article. By "Their project:..." Navasky is referring to those who promote Venona as a justification for reevaluating history, not to Venona itself. RedSpruce 14:21, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
Here is a another quote, from Victor Navasky, "Cold War Ghosts", The Nation, issue of July 16, 2001:
"Espionage" is one of those words that is often out of context when applied to what went on in US left circles in the years leading up to and including World War II. There were a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will, many of whom were Marxists, some of whom were Communists, some of whom were critical of US government policy and most of whom were patriots. Most of these exchanges were innocent and were within the law. Some were innocent but nevertheless were in technical violation of the law.
Looks to me like Navasky is re-defining the word espionage when it comes to members of the Communist Party USA and fellow travelers spying for the Soviet Union during World War II, or am I missing something? Turgidson 14:46, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
The purpose of this Talk page is to discuss the Venona project article. RedSpruce 15:25, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
Right—and I'm doing just that. There is quite a bit of weight given in the article by this fellow Navasky, and I've just given some quotes from what Navasky actually says about the Venona project (and the books about it), as well as a rebuttal to those criticisms (see below). How is that not related to the discussion at hand, which occurs under the section heading "Navasky quote"? Turgidson 16:18, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
You know what I love best about that quote? How much information flowed the "other" way between these people of "good will"? Torturous Devastating Cudgel 16:40, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

While at it, here is a quote from Glenn Garvin, Fools for Communism - Still apologists after all these years, Reason Magazine, April 2004 (a review of "In Denial: Historians, Communism and Espionage", by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr), putting in perspective the criticism by Schrecker and Navasky:

A prodigious apologist, Schrecker in one article conceded that Julius and Ethel Rosenberg delivered atomic secrets to the Soviets, then plaintively demanded: "Were these activities so awful?" She also coined the immortal phrase "non-traditional patriots" for the Rosenbergs, a felicitous way of saying that they lived in the United States but were loyal unto death to the Soviet Union.
Her accusation that Haynes and Klehr were a fascist Leviathan with their tentacles writhing in every right-wing plot of the past four decades appeared in The Nation, which, because it has 70 years of Stalinist apologias to justify, unsurprisingly offers some of the most die-hard resistance to the new Cold War scholarship. It also has contributed some hilarity to the debate, including then-editor Victor Navasky's argument that the word espionage was "out of context" when applied to American Communists during the Cold War. It would be more appropriate, he wrote, to say that "there were a lot of exchanges of information among people of good will."
There's no arguing with at least one part of that sentence: "a lot." One of those people of good will, KGB officer Itzhak Akhmerov, reported back to his bosses that CPUSA spies in America had provided him with enough U.S. government documents between 1942 and 1945 to fill 2,766 reels of microfilm. It apparently was a pretty one-sided exchange, since Akhmerov does not list any Soviet documents that he offered in return.

How seriously can one take such criticism? Turgidson 14:13, 7 July 2007 (UTC)

By the way, I see that the article is fast becoming a rant about what this guy Navasky said about the Venona project, and his take on espionage by Soviet agents in the United States during WWII. Isn't there a policy out there about giving undue weight -- WP:UNDUE? I mean, is Navasky an expert on Venona? Why would his opinion carry so much weight, as opposed to that of real scholars, such as John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr, who studied those papers inside out, and wrote several acclaimed books about it? I think it's fine to debate this on the talk page (I've done that myself), and perhaps even expand on it in the article about Navasky, but to put so much weight on his opinion in the Venona article is odd, to say the least. Turgidson 23:00, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
What do you expect, Navasky spent his entire freakin life defending spies and traitors, you dont give up conviction like that too easily. People like Navasky and Schrecker have spent thier entire professional careers maintaining a certian narrative about what happened during the cold war and cant let it go. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 23:07, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
Fine, let them -- it's a free country. But why devote so much space here at WP expounding on their opinions? More specifically, why give so much weight to their criticism in this article? A couple of lines (perhaps a paragraph at most) for each one should do. I say, let's devote more space about the Venona project itself -- historical context, technical stuff on decryption, the people involved (on both sides), its significance, etc -- than elaborating at such length on the point of view of Navasky and Schrecker, which is tangential at best to the whole story. Turgidson 23:39, 7 July 2007 (UTC)
Sounds dandy to me, but the talk archives are full of some rather unreasonable editors who though it prudent to amplify the minority POV. I once argued that Schrecker's comments be removed as it would appear that over the years here opinion has changed, and she largely supports most of the VENONA researchers conclusions, and she eve uses it as a source in one of her more recent books. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 00:04, 8 July 2007 (UTC)
Schrecker, again:
[Maurice Isserman and myself] suggested [in "The Right's Cold War Revision", the Nation, July 2000] that discussions about Soviet espionage in World War II would benefit from some "intellectual fine shading." Rather than view spies as "moral monsters," we might want to pay more attention to historical context in order to understand their motivation. "Context counts," we suggested.'
- Letter to the Editor, the Nation, October 9, 2000 issueBdell555 00:08, 8 July 2007 (UTC)

"Critical views" section and references[edit]

TDC, I don't have a problem with the content you've removed with this edit. I don't care for the reformatting of references, however. The use of the "cite" templates helps to keep the format of references consistent. Furthermore, you're removed the ISBN numbers from book references. Including ISBNs makes it easy to look up books on WP's Book sources page. At some point I may feel motivated to restore the formatting of the references you've de-formatted. Would you have an objection to that? RedSpruce 16:07, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

I really wish that there was some better formatting for citations. I usually do all my editing on MS Word, and review it before ploping it into the article, and the syntax on the old citations dont seem to translate well. I will certainly replace the ISBN #'s if thats the only thing you dont like about the new citation formats. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 16:20, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
The missing ISBNs was the worst problem, but I really prefer the cite templates, as do many other editors. I don't understand what the problem is when you use Word. The template is just text, and it should (and does, when I try it) copy-and-paste fine. What is the problem you're experiencing? RedSpruce 17:09, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
When I cut'n past from Word to Wiki, the formats never come out right. I dont know if its spacing or something with the the way the indents paste over or what. If you prefer cite templates I will re-inser them. Torturous Devastating Cudgel 17:19, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
It seems a shame to put you to the extra work, but I do like the "cite"s. I think your default settings in Word must be doing something screwy. Maybe something in Tools->AutoCorrect Options->AutoFormat As You Type? Best solution is to get a Mac. Then you'll have spell checking with access to dictionary definitions and a thesaurus, all within the browser editing window. RedSpruce 17:34, 11 July 2007 (UTC)
A Mac? Thats hippy talk! No, seriously, most my work aps only run on a PC or UNIX. I think I got it figured out though.Torturous Devastating Cudgel 17:51, 11 July 2007 (UTC)

Navasky has written more recently (probably more recently than this, but at least as recently as this). Difficult to excerpt; regards the Venona transcripts as useful but exceeding prone to misuse (and misused.) Navasky, Victor (July 16, 2001). "Cold War Ghosts". The Nation. New York: The Nation Company. 273 (3): 36–43. ISSN 0027-8378. Retrieved 2007-10-15.  Schissel | Sound the Note! 03:53, 16 October 2007 (UTC)

(edit: the essay is on the site: Schissel | Sound the Note! 03:55, 16 October 2007 (UTC)

(ah, now see that the more recent article is indeed excerpted from above.) Schissel | Sound the Note! 00:05, 18 October 2007 (UTC)

Venona's "left wing" critics[edit]

TMLutas, you would find that you waste less time making useless edits on Wikipedia if you attempted to educate yourself on some of its policies. Of course, I'm assuming here that you want to make meaningful and lasting edits, and given that you make edits like "The ideological distribution of critics is skewed far to the left.", that's a risky assumption. It strikes me as entirely possible that edits such as that are only intended as an annoyance and a joke. But, assuming for the moment that you have good-faith intentions, I will point out to you that this sort of thing is both POV and unreferenced. You are referring to a collection of individuals who are connected by nothing more than the fact that they have had critical things to say about some of the uses to which Venona has been put. To say that they're all "far left" is absurd -- except as an expression of someone's personal opinion (and a silly and uninformed opinion at that). And obviously, other people would have other opinions. In this case the opinion you're expressing is your own, and in that respect I'm sure that it's entirely honest. I have no doubt that everyone to the left of Genghis Kahn is "far left" by your standards.

Wikipedia, as you may be vaguely aware, is not intended to be a forum for you to express your personal opinions. That's what Blogs are for. It is occasionally appropriate to note the opinions of notable reliable sources in Wikipedia, but when this is done one has to either establish that the opinion is a widely-held consensus, or alternatively one needs to represent the range of opinions held by reliable sources on the issue. This, in fact, is what this article does in the "critical views" section: It presents some opinions that have been expressed on both sides of some of the issues involved. It's no doubt the case that some of the parties mentioned are considered "left wing" or "right wing" by some, but that's not germane to the article. RedSpruce 15:57, 19 October 2007 (UTC)

Lots of things strike me as entirely possible about a lot of people, mostly I don't share with others because I'm supposed to assume good faith, be civil, and generally not be disruptive. I recommend the practice. Whenever I violate it (and I freely admit that I have on occasion) I usually regret it sooner rather than later and issue apologies for my lapses.
The ideological distribution of significant critics of Venona is a matter of fact, not point of view. The ideological opinions of Stalin, Hitler, George Bush, or Hillary Clinton are what they are and it's a central part of political science to assess people and put them into ideological camps. You are correct that it's unreferenced as of now, which is why they invented tags to bring attention to that and allow a reasonable time for other editors to bring in a reference. Slash and burn reverts are not recommended practice in this project. Try reading WP:0RR for some guidance. That all the critics mentioned so far are leftists is obvious to anybody paying attention and not wilfully blinding themselves. Are they being honest critics or are they going into the tank (consciously or as an unconscious tribal impulse) to protect their ideological camp? That's a very important question that needs answering.
If there is something objectively wrong with Venona, ideally I would expect that left wingers and right wingers to be equally outraged at a Venona fraud. At the very least a request to find a right winger who was honest enough to buy into the evidence shouldn't be a major task. But it does seem to be a major task else why not slam dunk me with a name or two and some URLs talking about how Venona was a fraud? It's not like the right has a shortage of people willing to entertain the most fringe of analyses. TMLutas 21:44, 19 October 2007 (UTC)
The ideological distribution of significant critics of Venona is a matter of fact, not point of view. If that were the case, it would be easy enough to document it. Do so and I'll remove my objection--as long as all the right-wing authors quoted in the the article are identified as such, of course. RedSpruce 22:33, 20 October 2007 (UTC)
Have you read Ann Coulter's book? Charles Edwin Shipp (talk) 12:54, 18 August 2012 (UTC)

Omission: A spy within Venona, William Weisband[edit]

I don't see William Weisband here, the linguist who worked for the Army Signals Security Agency and tipped off the Soviets to Venona's existence. See the Wiki entry on Wesiband: "The Soviets apparently had monitored Arlington Hall's "Russian Section" since at least 1945, when Weisband joined the unit. Weisband's earliest reports on the work being done by U.S. crypto-analysts on Soviet diplomatic code systems were probably sketchy, but after Weisband began passing information on their work at the Russian section, Soviet authorities changed their code system and the Venona project decryptions dried up. His role as a Soviet agent was not discovered by counterintelligence officers until 1950, by which time the damage had been done. Where Weisband had sketched the outlines of the cryptanalytic success, British liaison officer Kim Philby received actual translations and analyses on a regular basis after he arrived for duty in Washington, D.C. in autumn 1949. Until a thorough review of Soviet KGB archives is made, the full scope of Weisband's role as a Soviet agent will probably not be known."lionhearted 21:32, 9 February 2008 (UTC)


Weisband isn't mentioned by name or covername in any of the VENONA decrypts. Perhaps that is why he isn't discussed.

Jktaber (talk) 21:29, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Internationalizing VENONA[edit]

On the whole, I'm pleased with the improvement in tone of Wikipedia's discussion of VENONA. In my view it is more balanced today than when I first read it.

But the tone is still too much American oriented.

There are a number of Mexico City messages ranging from mention of Dukhobors in the Valle de Guadalupe (outside of Ensenada) to the imprisoned Jaime Ramón Mercader, Trotsky's assassin. I'm puzzled why the Mexico City Rezident, Lev Tarasov (YURIJ) would mention the Dukhobors. Did he think they could be useful to the Soviets? I would appreciate discussion of Communist Party Mexico members such as Adelina Zendejas Gomez whose portfolio in the Mexican government seems to have been women's and children's rights. Apparently she was a personal friend of Frida Kahlo, which ought to elicit some interest. One decrypt identifies covername ADA as Zendejas, while others identify ADA as Kitty Harris.

There are a number of Stockholm messages dealing with Norwegian intelligence agents working for the Soviets due to the German occupation; and Finnish resistance working for the Germans due to Soviet occupation. Stockholm messages should have more attention. Alexandra Kollontai was the Soviet Ambassador to Stockholm, and is mentioned several times in the decrypts (covername MISTRESS). She at least should be of general interest.

There are also a lot of GRU messages from LONDON that ought to have more coverage in this article. At least summarize some of Nigel West's history.

Jktaber (talk) 22:01, 30 March 2008 (UTC)

Exposure of Venona to the Soviet Union[edit]

with this edit, the article gives two stories about how Venona was revealed to the Soviet Union: Bill Weisband in 1945, and Kim Philby in 1949. The article doesn't quite contradict itself, but these two stories aren't integrated either. Some research and a little rewriting is needed to clarify this aspect of the article. RedSpruce (talk) 11:13, 7 July 2008 (UTC)

Moynihan quote[edit]

In the main article, footnote 17 quotes "the complicity of both Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White is settled by Venona." but the referred to document (an appendix from something) offers zero supporting references.

The text next says ""Hiss was indeed a Soviet agent and appears to have been regarded by Moscow as its most important."[19]" quoting from Senator Moynihan's "Secrecy" book. This strikes me as tremendously naive of the relative important of Hiss & White. Hiss was a minor functionary in the State Department. White was ultimately Assistant Secretary of Treasury (promoted to give him negotiating prestige against John Maynard Keynes for the approaching Bretton Woods conference). Important State "desks," having experienced the ugliness of the Red-White conflict in Russia post WWI, wanted a tit-for-tat (e.g. I give you something when you give me something, not before) relationship with the Soviets. Roosevelt wanted to get the Russians all the Lend-Lease support they asked for, essentially no questions asked. Since State objected to such open-ended largess, FDR simply went around State, raising all sorts of fiefdom hackles. There are additional intersections, but my point is WHO is claiming Hiss was the Soviet's "most important" agent? Hiss was hardly in a position to influence or know much of anything.

As a (catty, but telling in the ways of Washington Court) comment... when FDR went to Teheran to meet Stalin in November 1943, Cordell Hull did not go.

I've just re-read Senator Moynihan's "Secrecy" & solidly agree with its premise that the cult of secrecy that permeates Washington is highly dysfunctional. But as a solid reference for things Cold War & VENONA it is weak. DEddy (talk) 15:25, 9 August 2008 (UTC)

I agree that the "appears to have been regarded by Moscow as its most important." line makes little sense, and I'd love to know what gave Moynihan that idea. But what can ya do? Moynihan is a WP:reliable source. RedSpruce (talk) 00:25, 10 August 2008 (UTC)
Here's the quote from that document (which I'd guess is the predecessor to the "Secrecy" book...

"The complicity of Alger Hiss of the State Department seems settled. As does that of Harry Dexter White of the Treasury Department. White, the closest advisor to Secretary Henry J. Morgenthau and later Assistant Secretary, headed the American delegation to the Bretton Woods Conference of 1944, which shaped postwar financial institutions such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund."

Do notice there is ZERO supporting references/footnotes/etc. for the statement. So I conclude that Moynihan did NOT write either this paper or the book. I assume they were both ghost written/written by Congressional staffers. It's very odd to flatly say White was "obviously" a Soviet agent and he was the driving force at Bretton Woods & founding of the IMF/World Bank (IRBD)... two of the principal institutions that helped crush the Soviet Union. Plus the Soviets ultimately did not join the IMF. Whoever wrote that statement clearly didn't know that White did not SHAPE the IMF/World Bank... he CREATED them. DEddy (talk) 01:05, 10 August 2008 (UTC)

Taman Shud case[edit]

What link is there between VENONA and the Taman Shud case? Other than the possibility that espionage was a factor in the latter, there's no connection and no evidence in the article for the latter that VENONA is related to that mystery. (If it espionage at all.) Autarch (talk) 02:29, 24 May 2009 (UTC)


Why is it there's no list of Brits in Venona? TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 21:45, 22 December 2009 (UTC)

Venona@Home ?[edit]

Since such a relatively small number of the intercepted messages were decrypted, either through manual or early computer methods, I think it'd be an excellent use of distributed computing to finish the job. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Bizzybody (talkcontribs) 06:05, 22 January 2010 (UTC)

meaning of "Groups"?[edit]

In the VENONA cables there are numerous references to "xx Groups undecipherable". I understand that in general it means "we couldn't decipher this chunk..." Is there a definition for what a "group" is? A character? A word? A phrase? Could a group be both a word or 100 words? DEddy (talk) 01:19, 24 May 2010 (UTC)

Good catch. The reference is to number groups (technically, code groups) standing for words. TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 02:15, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
So what does groups/number groups MEAN? If memory serves me, the cables as transmitted were in the form of 4 or 5 digit "numbers" representing something (single words? multiple word phrases?). How big is a "group"? DEddy (talk) 13:17, 24 May 2010 (UTC)
Think of it this way: 5555=one (encrypted) word (or term, or phrase; the term of art is "word")=one number group. 5555 4444 =2 groups=2 words. "Number group" describes any number of said groups, so "10 number groups"=10 (encrypted) words. Clearer? TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 04:43 & 04:45, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
So... a group is sort of a word? Not precisely, but close enough for gobmnt work. DEddy (talk) 16:14, 26 May 2010 (UTC)
More or less. (And just to be really clear, "codegroup", "number group", & "word" are pretty interchangeable; the exact distinction is one you'd have to ask a crypto guy, which I most assuredly am not. :D) It can also be common phrases, common instructions, places, or other things, things you'd want to use a single word for; for instance, "move the fleet", "report your arrival", "send help", also addresses ("to [place]" or "to [name]"), signatures, punctuation (yep, you need number groups to indicate full stops; commas are omitted). It'll depend on the actual codebook & what it's being used for. (That is, a navy book for operations rather than one for movement, which would deal more with ship callsigns & locations, or a commercial book for business secrets.) It's more/less any words, phrases, or names you'd want to keep private & shorten (short messages are harder to break). Put another way, it's a bit like texting: TYVM, IDK, LOL...but that's actually closer to encyphering than encoding; if 55=TYVM, you have a codegroup. FYI, the size of the group has something to do with the difficulty of breaking it, but that's above my paygrade. ;p Have a look at David Khan's The Codebreakers. TREKphiler any time you're ready, Uhura 23:01 & 23:05, 26 May 2010 (UTC)

Groups, as used in "missing groups" are five characters in length. This is a little complicated so bear with me.

The digits 0 through 9, resulting from encryption by random digits from a one-time sheet or sheets, were not cabled as digits, but as the latin alphabet letters O I U Z T R E W A P, which corresponding to 0 through 9. My guess is (and it is just a guess) that these particular letters were easier and/or less error prone for transmission. There was a German field cipher in WW I, the ADFGVX, by way of illustration, which letters were chosen for reliability in transmission by Morse Code (see Kahn, The Codebreakers, pg 339 and following.)

To repeat, "groups" are five-letters long, consisting of the above 10 letters.

The letters represented the digits 0-9, which were obtained after super-encryption with random digits supplied by a one-time pad. Now, the first encryption was either 4-digit code book entries, and two-digit single substitutions. One part of the two-digit simple substitution was for the Cyrillic alphabet, and another part was for the latin alphabet. Scattered NSA notes in the decrypts state that some proper names were transmitted in both alphabets just to be clear. But note that Naval GRU messages used monome/dinome simple substitutions. That is, a single character is used for high frequency letters while two digit substitutions are used for the remaining. See Kahn on straddling checkboard, pp 635 and following. Russia had a problem using Western facilities for message transmission, because CCITT does not provide for Cyrillic characters, so Russia devised ways to use numerals instead. One of their cleverest, in my estimation, is monome/dinome substitution from the straddling checkerboard, where the most frequent letters take only one character. In the end, there is little ciphertext expansion with a proper checkerboard. Do see Kahn.

In a VENONA message, simple substitutions are interspersed with code book entries. There is at least one "shift" character in the two-digit substitution cipher to indicate a shift to code book. Similarly there is a shift code book entry that means "begin simple substitution." Nigel West in Venona states that the spelling alphabet uses 99 to mean begin code book, and 7454 to mean begin simple substitution.

A code book entry could encipher

  grammatical affixes
  "control" for example, shifts

Thus, the answer to what a "group" means is not simple beyond saying that it is a five character string limited to the ten digits above. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Jktaber (talkcontribs) 01:34, 27 August 2010 (UTC)

VENONA meaning[edit]

Venona would be the Dakota Indian word "We-no-nah", which translates to "first-born daughter".

Lieutenant Zebulon Pike left Fort Bellefontaine on August 9, 1805 with orders to find the source of the Mississippi. On September 14, 1805, he reached the Mississippi Valley,near "Pike's island" which would one day be Winona, Minnesota, and recorded his impressions in his log. Less than fifty years later, Pike's island was selected by Captain Orrin Smith as a townsite on the west bank of the Mississippi River. For over twenty-five years, Smith had sailed the river between Galena, Illinois and Fort Snelling, Minnesota as owner and pilot of the river packet Nominee. In 1851 Smith learned that the treaties of Traverse des Sioux and Mendota would establish a reservation in the interior of the state, and realized that there would be a rush to develop townsites on the Minnesota side of the river. On October 15, 1851 Orrin Smith became the founder of Winona, by landing his ship's carpenter, Mr. Erwin Johnson, and two other men (Smith and Stevens) with the purpose of claiming title to the riverfront and surrounding prairie land. When the town site was surveyed and plotted by John Ball, United States deputy surveyor, it was given the name of "Montezuma", as requested by Johnson and Smith. Henry D. Huff bought an interest in the town site in 1853. With the consent of Capt. Smith, Huff erased the name of Montezuma and inserted the name of Winona on the plot, a name derived from the Dakota Indian word "We-no-nah", which translates to "first-born daughter".

This name is very important in the american massonic mythology... and sioux very important for cryptology...

This reminds me that the "first born" are the elfs of the world of the middle land of Tolkien... — Preceding 153Ichtus comment added by (talk) 09:10, 10 June 2011 (UTC)

REMINDER: From the opening paragraph, readers see when 'VENONA' came in. It is not identified as an acronym. "There were at least 13 codewords for this project that were used by the US and British intelligence agencies (including the NSA); Venona was the last that was used." — It is just a code word for the secret project; and the meaning is neither revealed nor documented. Charles Edwin Shipp (talk) 13:05, 18 August 2012 (UTC)


Re: "Comment on content, not on contributors. Personal attacks damage the community and deter users. Please stay cool and keep this in mind while editing. Thank you." - T3h 1337 b0y

OK so drop the joke about the wiki author being the cite author as it was only used to pose how absurd the page cited is. Lets just focus on that content then. Can you, aside from that one page, find anything that indicates the decoded names were spies? Serious charges require serious evidence, and one webpage plus one wikipage shouldn't mean guilt. So stop supporting this since reverting without taking a hard look at the article itself means nothing but support in the end. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 07:42, 26 December 2011 (UTC)

White in Malta?[edit]

I have removed: In The Venona Secrets, authors Romerstein and Breindel state the case against White (code name Jurist) was overwhelming, with Jurist being reported to leave the Malta conference to meet with Soviet agents in Moscow, which only matched Harry Dexter White.

Harry Dexter White was never in Malta. And most certainly did not attend the 1945 Yalta POLITICAL conference. One is left confused... was the person for code name "Jurist" in Malta (a way stop for the American delegation heading to Yalta), which therefore proves that White was not Jurist, or what? Was Jurist both White & Hiss at the same time?

The Moynihan book is highly ambiguous. While it STATES that Hiss & White were clearly guilty as proved by VENONA decrypts, the book offers absolutely no evidence to sustain the accusation against White. At least cable 1222 supposedly regarding Hiss & his post Yalta visit to Moscow—but with questions—is printed, but not analyzed in the text. There is no such supporting evidence against White.

Lumping White & Hiss together is very strange. White was a major power in the ascendant US Treasury as Henry Morgenthau's trusted aide. Hiss was a minor functionary in the seriously out-of-favor State Department. DEddy (talk) 22:43, 30 March 2012 (UTC)

Note 10[edit]

This is a bad link. Jokem (talk) 14:05, 6 September 2012 (UTC)

lead paragraph reference needed[edit]

The lead paragraph currently says: "Analysis supported some criminal spy cases, such as that against Julius Rosenberg for some of the charges, but cast doubt on the case against his wife Ethel Rosenberg." The statement that Venona cast doubt on the case against Ethel is unsourced and contradicts most accounts of the Venona messages. Haynes and Klehr's Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America (2000) is representative: On p. 16 they say, "The Venona messages do not throw her guilt into doubt; indeed, they confirm that she was a participant in her husband's espionage and in the recruitment of her brother for atomic espionage. But they suggest that she was essentially an accessory to her husband's activities, having knowledge of it and assisting him but not acting as a principal." In writing about Julius Rosenberg, the lead also introduces the qualification that analysis supported the case against Julius Rosenberg for "some of the charges". There was only one charge against the Rosenbergs and Morton Sobel, conspiracy to commit espionage. The lead paragraph statements need reliable sources to appear in the article. Rgr09 (talk) 07:30, 9 March 2013 (UTC)

VENONA analysis?[edit]

It's pushing 20 years since the curtain on VENONA lifted. Has there been any actual analysis of the cables as released? I've certainly read plenty of "pass through" reporting—e.g. thus & such was said in VENONA which is 100% intuitively obvious by what is says, essentially verbatim rote regurgitation—hardly analysis. Particularly galling is the polemic practice of stating that since Person X—with no explanation how we "know" X is actually Joe Smith's cover name—is mentioned in VENONA they are a Soviet agent. Somehow folks like Roosevelt & Churchill, oft mentioned in VENONA don't make it to the "Soviet agent" list.

I often wonder about those [19 groups unavailable] insertions. How much of the translated cables is actually XXX untranslated groups? I'd love to see an experiment to take a 2 - 3 page summary someone wrote, randomly redact passages & see if those empty holes alter the meaning of the document.

To my knowledge only a single cable on Ales has been released in the Russian. DEddy (talk) 03:21, 15 August 2013 (UTC)

The gaps in the Venona decryptions are never described as “groups unavailable”; the most common description is “unrecovered groups” or “unrecoverable groups”, referring to how much of the double encryption used could be removed. Other phrases used include “garbled groups” and “missing groups” (messages obtained through radio monitoring?), and also a few references to “unidentified groups”, perhaps referring to code groups which the decrypters decided were using some other code book or enciphering method? (just a guess.)
After reading a few hundred pages of the transcripts (there are over five thousand), I think the question about loss of context due to gaps is not that important (for the most part). The danger would be if you have something like "COVERNAME [gap] give information about ENORMOZ." Is the gap "agreed to" or "refused to"? I have found no examples like this. I would be interested if anyone could point one out. Another thing to bear in mind is that many of the identified covernames in the transcriptions appear multiple times, so that even if context is unclear in one case, we have other messages to look at that provide grounds for interpreting the unclear cases.
The accuracy of the translations is another frequent topic of Venona critics, and it is true that Venona 1822 Washington-Moscow (the 'Ales' text) is the only intercept where the complete Russian text has been released. But the transcriptions have a grading system for reliability (%0,B, etc.) where the transcribers are uncertain, and the annotations to the transcripts are filled with transliterations of Russian words and grammatical notes that give a clear picture of the material translators were looking at and how they handled it. The suggestion that the translators were incompetent, or even trying to twist obscure phrases into evidence against innocent victims, simply doesn't stand up after reading these. Rgr09 (talk) 09:17, 18 August 2013 (UTC)

“groups unavailable” “unrecovered groups” or “unrecoverable groups”,

Since I've never had access to any sort of crib sheets, I would file these description as either direct synonyms or very close synonyms. Is there a key or glossary somewhere that explains the nuances between these three look-alike phrases?

How would any of these various phrases be in any way different from the black pen redaction process? To me the reader there's a chunk of unavailable text. While there certainly may be differences to the folks who're doing the decrypt/translate work, for me the reader is there any difference at all?

After reading a few hundred pages of the transcripts (there are over five thousand),

I thought only 1,300 (the numbers move around) or so were actually decrypted & partially translated?

If we're counting pages (I think in terms of a cable being a document regardless of the number of pages), I can claim I've read several hundred pages. But I've only read a few dozen or so actual cables with one to N pages.

But back to the original question... has there been any publicly published analysis of the VENONA take? The only published "analysis" has been of the "See McCarthy was right... there were Reds under every bed!" ilk. Pretty much useless. Smacks of 1950s McCarthyism hysteria.

I've not seen or heard of a single smoking gun VENONA cable that connects to Soviet blocking moves against us. Not interested in bomb issues since that never was our secret. DEddy (talk) 13:59, 18 August 2013 (UTC)

If you are interested in Venona, the basic works are Robert Louis Benson’s three studies of Venona, all available on-line: Venona: Soviet Espionage and the American Response 1939-1957, written with Michael Warner, The Venona Story (a book version of five articles by Benson published in conjunction with the release of the decryptions), and History of Venona, written by Benson with original project member Cecil Phillips, and available only in a partial, heavily redacted form.
The Venona Story (p. 15) gives this explanation for the unrecovered/unrecoverable distinction: “The phrase ‘unrecovered’ meant that the underlying Russian text in theory could be obtained, but the cryptanalysts did not have sufficient text to do so. ‘Unrecoverable,’ on the other hand, indicates passages unaffected by the Soviet misuse of their own system which therefore could never be solved by cryptanalysts.”
For the total number of messages, The Venona Story (p. 5) says “approximately 3000”. The NSA webpages for Venona have links to 3268 pdf files, but about 20 of these are reports, indexes to covernames, and message fragments circulated for general reference. There are also dozens of “corrections” issued for previous “publications.”
When you say “what is the difference for readers” between redaction and indicating unrecovered text, I would have to say that for me they are very different. I am interested in signal intelligence, specifically analysis and policy issues. How was the signal acquired, how much of it was decrypted, what methods were applied, what policies were adopted for handling the material, for using the material, what were its political, military, and economic effects, and so on. The fact that there are gaps of such and such a length in the message that were not decrypted is exactly what I want to know. Redaction, on the other hand, only says that they got something interesting which, based on section xx of statute yy, they won’t tell me. My understanding of the intelligence and its use is reduced. It makes a difference to me, but perhaps not to others.
As for your analysis question, I would like to give you more references, but I don’t really understand what you are looking for. Take nuclear espionage. Here is an intelligence question: Did the Soviet Union produce its first nuclear weapon through an independent scientific effort, or did it acquire information and technology through espionage in the United States, Canada, and Britain? The Venona transcriptions provide important information on this question. However, if you don’t care about the question, then you needn’t bother reading books or going over transcripts.
What do you mean by a “smoking gun VENONA cable that connects to Soviet blocking moves against us”? I’m afraid I don’t understand, so I can’t help find the kind of analysis you are interested in. Rgr09 (talk) 00:00, 19 August 2013 (UTC)
While unquestionably a remarkable feat, the aspect of VENONA that I'm interested in is the old game of telephone. A message is put in one end... how much meaning is lost when it gets to the other end? DEddy (talk) 22:04, 19 August 2013 (UTC)

New lead paragraph[edit]

The new lead attempts to give a better summary of the nature and achievements of Venona, and to provide more adequate references for these. It is especially important to point out at the beginning that Venona was a counter-intelligence program. It did not provide military, political, or economic intelligence on the Soviet Union, but was directed primarily at the espionage activities of Soviet foreign and military intelligence. The remainder of the article still has many flaws and needs careful revision to provide an adequate description of the subject. Better referencing is essential to improve the quality of the article. Rgr09 (talk) 13:22, 23 September 2013 (UTC)

"Cables Coming in from the cold" plagiarized[edit]

The three sections of the article titled "Inherent problems", "The Antenna example", and "Usability in prosecutions" were taken almost verbatim from the article "Cables coming in from the cold" by Walter and Miriam Schneir, published in The Nation on July 5, 1999. This was originally a review of Haynes and Klehr's book, "Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America." Its use here clearly constitutes plagiary, taking up almost a quarter of the article, without adequate indication that it is someone else's work. There are three references at the end of the first sentence of the plagiarized section:

Schneir, Walter and Miriam (1995-08-21). "The Schneirs on the Venona Papers". The Albert Hiss Story. Boston, New York: Harvard, NYU.
Schneir, Walter; Schneir, Miriam (Aug 1995). "The Venona Papers". The Nation (Washington).
"FBI Office Memorandum; A. H. Belmont to L. V. Boardman". February 1956. Retrieved 2006-06-27."

These references are cited repeatedly throughout the three sections as if there were three distinct sources, and are never used in conjunction with quote marks despite the repeated use of wording identical with the Schneirs' article. The first reference is puzzling, but the link shows that the original source the editor used was the "Alger Hiss Story" website at NYU, which reprints the Schneirs' article, but incorrectly dates it August 21, 1995. There is no link for the second citation, but it obviously comes from the NYU website again, and is simply a bibliographical ghost. The Schneirs did write an article titled "Cryptic Answers", published in The Nation on August 14, 1995, but this is irrelevant to these three sections. It has to be, since the Belmont memo was not released until 1999, as the Schneirs themselves note in their article. The third reference is linked to the cryptome website, which provides a transcription of the Belmont memo discussed in these three sections, without any indication of where it came from (it is from the Venona file, pages 61-72, located at the FBI reading room) and without any indication of who did the transcription. In fact, since every quote from the Belmont memo in the article comes from the Schneirs' article, there is no justification for referencing the transcription on cryptome, except to make it look like the material was put together by a third party.

I will come back later today and delete this material, replacing it with a summary that is not plagiarized and a link to the proper sources. Rgr09 (talk) 10:21, 3 October 2013 (UTC)

Revision of another improperly cited source[edit]

The article originally cited John Lowenthal's article from a secondary source, failed to identify Lowenthal, and failed to indicate that the description it gave of Lowenthal's views was actually a direct quote. It also failed to indicate the long debate that Lowenthal's article provoked. All fixed. Rgr09 (talk) 18:05, 9 October 2013 (UTC)

"Several current authors, researchers, and archivists consider the Venona evidence on Hiss to be inconclusive or incorrect"[edit]

I believe this statement is misleading although another editor evidently believes it to be accurate. "Several current authors, researchers, and archivists" greatly exaggerates the breadth and depth of scholarly opinion taking this view. As Stanley Kutler has noted, "the publication of the Venona intercepts of wartime Soviet espionage referring to "Ales" settled the matter -- to all but the truest of believers, "Ales" only could mean Alger Hiss." Now who are these "truest of believers"? These few actors are almost all connected in some way to either Hiss personally or to The Nation, Victor Navasky's magazine that calls itself "the flagship of the left." "The Alger Hiss Story" web site was created for NYU Libraries with grants from The Nation Institute and "participation from members of the Hiss family". According to the New York Times, the site is "largely the brainchild of Hiss's son Tony". The NYT quotes a historian who says the website is "the best defense mustered of Hiss by the dwindling band of those who believe in Hiss. I don't think anyone is going to treat this site as the repository of truth, except for those who have already made up their minds that Hiss was innocent." The NYT also notes Sam Tanenhaus saying "My only concern would be that the academic/institutional aegis, and the educational angle, might mislead some into supposing this is a balanced, scholarly Web site." The site is maintained by Jeff Kisseloff, a "NY-based writer who served as Alger Hiss's legal researcher in the 1970s". Not a scholar, in other words, but a writer supported by The Nation.
Kisseloff uses John Lowenthal's analysis to conclude that linking ALES to Hiss is "incorrect." Who is Lowenthal? One of Hiss' lawyers who contends that the VENONA cables must be treated with "caution and skepticism" because of the "professional involvement of intelligence agencies in deception and disinformation". Historian Eduard Mark reviewed Lowenthal's allegations and thoroughly debunked them, noting how only Hiss met all the criteria to be ALES: he was a State Department employee, not detailed from the military or another agency; had been named by Chambers as involved in espionage in the mid-1930s along with his wife and brother, Donald; would have had several opportunities to speak with Vyshinskiy in Moscow; and had returned to Washington directly from Moscow with Secretary Stettinius. Mark also disposed of Lowenthal's argument that Hiss couldn't have been a spy because he was named in cable 1579, noting that there are many cases in VENONA where the Soviets mistakenly used true names. Readers should be advised just who these "researchers" are claiming VENONA is dubious. The NYT article I have linked here notes that "conservatives hail Chambers as a hero, liberal defenders counter that Hiss was framed" because the NYT considers this left-right dynamic newsworthy. Wikipedia should do likewise.--Brian Dell (talk) 21:43, 20 January 2014 (UTC)

You seem to want to argue the underlying facts and what is newsworthy. Keep in mind that Wikipedia is neither a primary nor secondary source and has no interest in deciding what is newsworthy, what Wikipedians call "notability" (see WP:NOTABLE). Other than confirming authoritative sources that support notability, it's not something Wikipedians independently decide. If the information presented here isn't neutrally biased, I recommend identifying and referencing additional authoritative sources that provide information which improves neutral bias. See WP:POV. —Danorton (talk) 22:15, 20 January 2014 (UTC)
You seem to want to "argue" that the "facts" are irrelevant. I dare say Wikipedia's readers may not agree and serving the reader notable, neutral, accurate information is Wikipedia's primary mandate. What IS irrelevant is your making an issue out of "primary" sources here as no editor is using a primary source. By the way, this whole article currently suffers from giving far too much time and space to what one might call "VENONA skeptics." Adding yet more material is not going to address the problem of overcoverage of this fringe view.--Brian Dell (talk) 22:32, 20 January 2014 (UTC)

Injection of personal opinion by Bdell555[edit]

User:Bdell555 (talk) has twice inserted the adjective "left-leaning" in a phrase in this article:

Several currentSome left-leaning authors, researchers, and archivists consider the Venona evidence on Hiss to be inconclusive…

This change seems to rely on no reliable source, but is strictly the personal opinion of the editor. Whether or not the source is considered by many or even the source itself as "left-leaning" isn't the point. If we added such an adjective every time we mentioned a left-leaning or right-leaning group, we'd be adding that and many other adjectives to every single article in Wikipedia. Perhaps the editor felt that the information was unduly biased. If that is the case, the editor is free to identify and cite authoritative sources that express that opinion in the context of this article, identifying specific sources and the specific references that the source describes. —Danorton (talk) 21:51, 20 January 2014 (UTC)

I just did that in the previous section ("express that opinion in the context"), identifying the New York Times, but I see you ignored that to start this new section. By the way, you are not the final arbitrator of what is or isn't the point. The "point" is to inform the reader. You evidently consider it absolutely outrageous that a political liberal should be properly described, accusing me of vandalism for daring to point it out. Perhaps you could supplement your outrage with an explanation for just why this is so outrageous. re adding "such an adjective every time we mentioned a left-leaning or right-leaning group" see Straw man. The only other instance in this article that I see on a quick look is the Australian context. Why is it acceptable to make an observation about the political alignments in the Australian context but not the American one? This piece in the Los Angeles Times goes ON AND ON about left versus right and Alger Hiss! Here Cass Sunstein says the "Hiss case casts light on why conservatives and liberals are suspicious of each other, on their different attitudes toward elitism, on their understandings of patriotism and on the parallel universes in which they seem to live." This identification of potentially relevant motive should be brought to the attention of the reader.--Brian Dell (talk) 22:17, 20 January 2014 (UTC)

I have not commented on others' edits and I make no assertion whether or not Bdell555's complaints about them are valid. If Bdell555's references are relevant to the article topic and authoritative, then Bdell555 might ought consider adding them to the article. I have not questioned cited sources in this article, only unsourced opinion. —Danorton (talk) 22:51, 20 January 2014 (UTC)

VENONA outbound only?[edit]

My impression is that the VENONA cables—as shown on NSA site—are predominantly/only "outbound." US to Moscow. Minimal/no "inbound" Moscow to US. Is this accurate? If there are inbound, please offer examples. DEddy (talk) 12:28, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

My VERY rough count for total number of VENONA messages is ~3200, of these about 800 originate in Moscow, so 1/4 more or less. Note that the Moscow-US lanes make up only a little more than half of the decrypted traffic (~55%); there are as many messages from the Stockholm-Moscow lane as there are from the Washington-Moscow. The ratio of Moscow originated messages to locally originated messages varies; for New York-Moscow it is about 8-1 local to Center, but for Washington-Moscow it is 2-1 Center to DC. Many of the best known messages (Rosenbergs, Ted Hall) are Moscow to New York. Here is Moscow ordering a $4000 payment to "Liberal" (Julius Rosenberg); here is Moscow evaluating material from CHARL'Z (Fuchs) and MLAD (Hall), with Hall identified by name in the notes; Here is a very complete message giving new cover terms. There are hundreds of messages sent by Moscow to the States. I recommend again Benson and Warner (Venona: Soviet Espionage and the American Response 1939-1957), which gives over a hundred messages with very clear discussions of their significance. Rgr09 (talk) 16:47, 3 March 2014 (UTC)

Stella Polaris and Venona[edit]

Did Finnish intelligence and its "Stella Polaris" program assist in the deciphering of Venona? This issue has been discussed before; a recent edit sourced Athan Theoharis's Chasing Spies for this claim, but Theoharis does not mention Stella Polaris. I have replaced this with Nigel West's Venona (2000) which gives the most detailed description. This is a problematic claim, however; Benson's history of Venona specifically denies it. Rgr09 (talk) 16:56, 20 January 2015 (UTC)

Swedish intercepts used by NSA/GCHQ.[edit]

Although Stockholm decrypts are mentioned in the Venona project article I cannot see that the ca 3600 telegrams intercepted by FRA in Sweden are mentioned. These were given to GCHQ in 1960 and were very important in the continuation of the project. About 390 of these telegrams were subsequently decrypted, partly only in most instances.

The book 'Venona'(Wilhelm Agrell, 2003, ISBN 91-89442-84-9) is an excellent account of the Swedish angle to Venona. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 09:38, 27 January 2015 (UTC)

Thanks, I'll get my book out. After the first revelation, two books came out about the same time. What was the name of the other book? Now, Amazon has several. -- Charles Edwin Shipp (talk) 16:35, 27 January 2015 (UTC) --

Ramon Mercader[edit]

The article originally had a section on Ramon Mercader, the Soviet agent who murdered Trotsky, which said the Venona messages 'confirmed' Mercader's identity. During his trial and subsequent imprisonment, Mercader insisted his name was Jacques Mornard. According to Isaac Don Levine's book on Mercader The Mind of an Assassin, in 1950 Mexican authorities were able to get records, including fingerprints, from Spain which allowed them to identify. I know of no works that document Venona's role in identifying Mercader. The section I removed was from the article on Ramon Mercader, and cited a letter from Stephen Schwartz in The Nation, but Schwartz didn't give any specific documentation. As Klehr and Haynes 1999 noted, there are a number of messages relating to Soviet attempts to help Mercader escape from prison (cryptonyms for Mercader include GNOME and RITA), but Klehr and Haynes say nothing about a Venona role in identifying Mercader. Let me know if there are other references I'm missing. Rgr09 (talk) 04:02, 30 October 2015 (UTC)

External links modified[edit]

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External links modified[edit]

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Extent of Soviet espionage in Venona[edit]

The article section on the significance of Venona originally stated that "In the opinion of some, almost every American military and diplomatic agency of any importance was compromised to some extent by Soviet espionage," and cited as its source for this claim Hayden Peake's review of several Venona related books in the Naval War College Review for Summer 2000.[1] The closest that Peake comes to saying this is the statement, "VENONA makes absolutely clear that [Soviet intelligence] had active agents in the U.S. State Department, Treasury Department, Justice Department, Senate committee staffs, the military services, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), the Manhattan Project, and the White House, as well as wartime agencies. No modern government was more thoroughly penetrated." This is simply not the same as "almost every American military and diplomatic agency of any importance was compromised to some extent by Soviet espionage." Peake is one of the foremost historians of intelligence, and his opinion is worth citing, but in a more accurate and better attributed form. The whole section in fact needs better sourcing and less redundancy. I've temporarily removed Peake's quote; will reinsert in more accurate form when I have time to revise the section. Rgr09 (talk) 15:55, 10 August 2016 (UTC)

Always left out of these VENONA discussions is the minor detail of the context of WWII where top objective was to keep Soviet Union in the war while we spun up our industry & military. While we were safely spinning up our factories, Soviets had to dismantle their industries & move them behind the Urals. Non trivial task. Soviets had been fighting for 18 months before we invaded North Africa. Besides... if Soviet agents were so pervasive... what did they actually get? Soviet Union/Russia has never recovered from the Nazi devastation. Today Russia is a third world country, trending down.
Finally the observation that American's industrial revolution was stolen from England. Theft sponsored by Alexander Hamilton & US Treasury. DEddy (talk) 17:44, 10 August 2016 (UTC)