After writing the book the Rosetta Deception (available for free at http://rosettadeception.blogspot.com ), I have been in a constant search for corroborating information to bolster the theory that the Ghost Rockets over northern and southern Europe in 1946 were the product of a strategic deception operation by the US and UK against the Soviets with the endgame being the breaking of the Soviet diplomatic code. I have now uncovered the smoking gun evidence for the deception.
I didn’t have to dig through Government archives - those records are for sure still classified and will remain so despite any Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests - I simply had to examine the open source evidence that the deception planners could not hide away in locked file cabinets marked Top Secret - the New York Times online newspaper archive for 1946 providing the necessary clues.
At the same time the Ghost Rockets were flying over Europe, another geopolitical event of enormous importance - the Paris Peace Conference was being held July 29, 1946 to October 15, 1946 – also playing a role in the Rosetta Deception. The Paris Peace Conference involved the victorious WW2 powers of the US, UK, France and the Soviet Union negotiating war reparations and the redrawn borders of Italy, Romania, Hungary, Bulgaria and Finland. But it is how these two events played out in the US news media that reveals the inner workings of the Rosetta Deception.
If you have taken the time to read the book, you will understand how complicated the deception operation was and how important the timing of each step was to pull off a successful operation. In Chapter 53 of the book, titled appropriately “Timing is Everything” I explained the chronological rationale for the events that took place. I will reiterate some of that here but first let me recap for the reader who has not had the chance to read the book or who maybe started and never finished it, the crux of the deception operation. To break the Soviet diplomatic code, this was the blueprint followed:
1. Create anxiety on the part of the Soviets that some country was experimenting with advanced missile technology first over northern Europe in Scandinavia and later over southern Europe. The Soviets knew they were not involved but would be desperate to find out who was.
2. Influence the Scandinavian countries to declare a news blackout on the Ghost Rockets at the end of July 1946 but keep the stories alive in the American Press.
3. Because of heavy FBI surveillance, Soviet agents in the United States were operating at reduced capacity with most of the intelligence gleaned coming from the American Press. Any sensitive intelligence that a Soviet agent wanted to communicate to Moscow was done through Soviet diplomatic channels. Since the Soviets could only use radio in the event of an emergency, they relied on US commercial telegraph carriers to transmit encrypted messages back to Moscow.
4. Known as Operation Shamrock, the major US telegraph companies were making copies of encrypted Soviet messages and sending these to the Army Security Agency (ASA), the predecessor of the NSA. The attempted breaking of these Soviet messages is what became later known as the Venona Project.
5. The ASA had two major challenges to deal with to break the Soviet diplomatic code as the code was double encrypted – first by a code book and second by a one-time pad. The ASA had already discovered at this point a tedious method to break the second layer of encryption based on a Soviet screw up in their cryptographic practices as each one-time pad had been manufactured more than once and was essentially a two-time pad. The code book however had to be rebuilt completely from scratch.
6. To speed up the whole process, the US/UK used a technique known as gardening – planting text that the Soviets would unknowingly encrypt as intelligence and send back to Moscow. The intercepted traffic could then be decrypted by exploiting the Soviet screw up in pad manufacture. Through comparative analysis the second layer of encryption could be removed revealing the first layer of encryption that required a code book to read.
7. To reconstruct the Soviet code book – the first level of encryption would be examined for tell- tale “cartouches”, code groups that contained Anglicized names that literally had to be spelled out character by character from a spell table that represented the Latin characters. Once these Anglicized names were isolated, the surrounding code groups that represented Russian words from the code book could be guessed based on knowledge of the planted text. This would allow the code book of 10,000 Russia words to be reconstructed out of thin air. The more plain text that could be planted and communicated by the Soviets through diplomatic channel, the better the chances were of reconstructing the Soviet code book.
8. Once the code book was reconstructed, it could be put to use decrypting all other Soviet diplomatic code messages hoping that the messages contained information about Soviet spies in the United States and other persons of interest to US/UK counterintelligence.
The wild card that the deception operators were most concerned with was how to force Soviet intelligence in the US to send planted text in the American press via encrypted Soviet diplomatic channels rather than through open non-encrypted channels. In other words, what was stopping the Soviet TASS news agency from sending US newspaper stories in the clear via standard wireless radio or telegraphic communication, and not via encrypted Soviet diplomatic channels? The answer? Using what the Soviets claimed their system of Communism championed – the rights of the common worker.
On August 7, 1946, a strike by 300 Press Wireless workers was called in New York, Washington and San Francisco by the American Communications Association (ACA). Press Wireless, Inc. supplied newspapers and press associations with news reports from abroad, not obtaining news but transmitting messages by radio between the United States and fourteen countries in Europe, Asia and South America. In its peak year, 1945, it handled 157,000,000 words or an average of over 430,000 daily. In 1946, communication from the US to Europe was sent either through standard radio communication, radio telegraph or transoceanic telegraph cable. The first voice over transoceanic cable was not functional until the 1950s.
The reason for the strike was the decision by Press Wireless to lay off or reduce the wages of 46 employees because of a sharp reduction in traffic since the end of WW2. Despite a no-strike clause in the labor management contract, the Union refused to call off the strike until the employees were reinstated and the company refused to reinstate until after arbitration.
A week later, the ACA extended the strike, ordering its members in all other cable and wireless companies and foreign operations centers not to handle overseas press messages. The New York Newspaper Guild in turn told its members not to handle Press Wireless messages, prompting the New York Times to issue front page apologies from August 14 till the news embargo ended on August 19, stating that because of the strike, certain foreign news stories could not be published. The strike effectively curtailed most of the radio and cable transmission of international news to and from the US.
Affected by the expanded news embargo which began at 2 PM on August 12 was the Soviet TASS news agency. The Telegraph Agency of the Soviet Union (TASS) was the central news agency for the collection and distribution of internal and international news for all Soviet news media (newspaper, radio and television). It had a monopoly on official state information, most of which was not published in the Soviet Union but issued as information for Soviet officials. The agency was frequently infiltrated by the Soviet intelligence and security agencies and many of its employees also voluntarily served as information sources for the KGB.
So imagine you are a TASS/KGB agent and the method you have used for normally transmitting media reports of intelligence importance has suddenly been cut off. What do you do? You find a different channel of communication. The strike affected all news agency message traffic, but commercial traffic was exempted. Soviet diplomatic personnel relied on US commercial telegraph companies to transmit encrypted messages to Moscow, a communication channel which was also routinely used by the Soviet intelligence agencies. In light of normal overt communication channels being cut off, the commercial channel could act as the backdoor for transmitting media articles on the Ghost Rockets and the Paris Peace Talks to Moscow - media articles that were planted by the deception planners with the full cooperation of newspapers like the New York Times.
Rosetta assets had considerable experience infiltrating labor unions, learning from the best of the best – British Intelligence in the guise of British Security Coordination (BSC), also based in New York City. For these experienced operatives, it was child’s play to kick off the strike and manipulate both sides until the deception planner’s goals were met.
The Rosetta deception planners created a bottleneck of information flow for the Soviet intelligence agencies in the US at a very crucial time – a time when Moscow desperately needed overt information to flow on the Ghost Rockets and what the US media was reporting on the Paris Peace Conference. That bottleneck forced transmission through the commercial telegraph carriers who were more than happy to transmit encrypted news media stories while rejecting all overt news media and simultaneously feeding these encrypted messages back to the ASA/GCCS where allied codebreakers would attempt to break the Soviet diplomatic code. Ingenious really – and the fact that this story has only come to light some seventy years later – attests to both the thorough detailed planning and execution of the deception and the extreme compartmentalized secrecy of the operation.
From August 12 – 19, 1946, just one short week when TASS was forced to use the encrypted Soviet diplomatic channel to send US news media stories to Moscow, the US/UK deception planners completely controlled the information flow between Soviet Intelligence on American soil and Moscow Centre, a code breaking feat that even the Anglo code breakers of the enigma code and the Japanese cypher could not claim.
The US/UK governments have no reason to hide the details of this operation from the world. The events transpired almost 70 years ago and the methods used no longer apply in a world where information flows across the globe in fractions of a second. It is time for the truth to be told and the deception planners acknowledged for their ingenuity and resourcefulness. If the history books on the Cold War have to be revised accordingly, so be it.
It is time for the magicians of Rosetta to take a bow for their incredible performance.