The U.S. Army's Signal Intelligence Service, the precursor to the National Security Agency, began a secret program in February 1943 later codenamed VENONA. The mission of this small program was to examine and exploit Soviet diplomatic communications but after the program began, the message traffic included espionage efforts as well.
Although it took almost two years before American cryptologists were able to break the KGB encryption, the information gained through these transactions provided U.S. leadership insight into Soviet intentions and treasonous activities of government employees until the program was canceled in 1980.
The VENONA files are most famous for exposing Julius (code named LIBERAL) and Ethel Rosenberg and help give indisputable evidence of their involvement with the Soviet spy ring.
The first of six public releases of translated VENONA messages was made in July 1995 and included 49 messages about the Soviets' efforts to gain information on the U.S. atomic bomb research and the Manhattan Project. Over the course of five more releases, all of the approximately 3,000 VENONA translations were made public.
Historical Document | Date Posted: Jan 15, 2009