Center for Cryptologic History – http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/center_crypt_history/index.shtml
Representative questions that can be answered with this resource:
- Where can I find examples of women or African-American cryptographers?
- What was the role of the NSA during the Cuban Missile Crisis?
- How did the Soviets use Project GUNMAN to tap into US Embassy typewriters?
At one time it was said that the federal initials NSA stood for No Such Agency. Today the National Security Agency operates the Center for Cryptologic History. This site has a good amount of procedural and biographical data for a writer creating spies or cryptographers.
Some notable parts of the site include:
Cryptologic Almanac – A set of four articles on notable cryptographers, including Revolutionary War cryptography and Congress Member James Lovell who played a role in Nicolas Cage’s National Treasure movies. He was a master of ciphers and played a key role in decrypting British messages. His efforts to produce secure US communications were less successful. As the Almanac notes:
James Lovell’s secret ciphers produced more confusion than security for American diplomats during the revolution. Only gradually in the years after 1775 did American officials become sophisticated about cryptographic systems. Because of the frustration with ciphers, American statesmen began to rely more heavily upon codes rather than ciphers for secret foreign communications. All of the confusion over the Lovell ciphers provides a remarkable lesson for cipher inventors. Lovell tried to force his system on the best minds of the country–even they didn’t understand it, and the system failed.
Historical Publications – A relatively small but useful number of NSA publications ranging from 15 page brochures to full books. Most are available online and the NSA will send you a print copy if you e-mail them. Since the NSA probably already has your e-mail address, don’t be shy about requesting print if that is the format you are comfortable with. The publications fall into the following time periods:
- Pre-WWII (Prior to 1941)
- WWII Era (1941-1945)
- Cold War (1948-1991)
- Korean War Era (1950-1953)
- Vietnam War (1954-1975)
Good sounding titles from this set of publications include:
- Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900
- Listening to the Rumrunners
- Eavesdropping on Hell: Historical Guide to Western Communications Intelligence and the Holocaust, 1939-1945
- The Quiet Heroes of the Southwest Pacific Theater: An Oral History of the Men and Women of CBB and FRUMEL
- A Dangerous Business: The U.S. Navy and National Reconnaissance During the Cold War (Did you know that 90 Navy personnel were killed while doing Cold war recon?)
- PFC Jay Stoner – A two page story of heroism and sacrifice from the Korean War
- The Voynich Manuscript – an Elegant Enigma
This site also contains two sets of biographies that may be useful to writers that used to buried several clicks from the main page, but are now available on every page from the left-hand menu:
Each biography is a about a page long and also contains background about the social and working conditions that existed during their time at NSA.