I believe that, by now, everyone on the Planet knows about Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contract-worker, who is now “enjoying” temporary asylum in Moscow, while seeking official papers and transportation to another country. The Media, Congress and other governments are seeking answers. from the Administration, as to why it engaged in Electronic Surveillance. Yesterday, Snowden issued a press release, which said that (he thought) he Won. Mission Accomplished?
But, let’s return to a kinder, simpler time, when the Congress and Media were completely behind the Allies War Effort to stop the Axis Powers (Germany, Japan and Italy), during World War II. Alan Turing was a brilliant British Mathematician who was one of the central figures on the Team that developed the early computer, which led to the Allies breaking the Nazis (what was thought to be) “unbreakable” Enigma Code. Unfortunately, that era did not necessarily turn-out to be kinder or simpler for Mr. Turing.
Mr. Turing was, perhaps, also the first person to figure-out that mere software could change the capabilities of the hardware in which it was loaded. But, Turing never received the Honors to which he was truly entitled. The linked article, from the Washington Post, goes into more detail, http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/the-switch/wp/2013/12/24/alan-turing-was-a-war-hero-prosecuted-for-being-gay-he-finally-got-a-pardon/. 1952, the British Government prosecuted him for being gay; so, he lost his security clearance and committed suicide two years later. Just recently, however, he was given a pardon by Queen Elizabeth II. That’s 61 years too late!
In Intelligence work, the first rule is to “Know Your Enemy”. No, you don’t have to do lunch! But, know their history, their strategic and tactical preferences and, most of all in Military Intelligence, if possible, be able to read their communications. In fact, that train of thought is what actually gave birth to the NSA.
And, besides knowing the content, keeping track of certain communications statistics: volume; changes in length; variations in the times-of-day; etc., can also be indicative of future events. The Breaking of the Nazi Code definitely saved many Civilian and Military lives–and perhaps led to a quicker end to the War.
Sometimes, however, knowing your Enemy has its draw-backs. Now, there is a difference of opinion as to whether British Prime Minister Winston Churchill actually knew in a advance that the Nazi Luftwaffe was going to bomb the Coventry RAF Air Base–or just launch an all-out attack in the London Area. In his book, “A Man Called Intrepid”, Sir William Stevenson, a Canadian who was the personal courier between Churchill and President Franklin D. Roosevelt, wrote that Churchill, in fact, DID know.
The conundrum for Churchill was whether he should evacuate the Air Base, and save many lives; but, that would be revealing, to the Nazis, that the Allies HAD actually broken their Code. Or, does he sacrifice those lives, for the Greater Good–of saving many, many more lives, by not revealing that the Code was broken. That (second) decision, in fact, certainly contributed to accelerated ending the War.
A key point here is that many of the Dependents of the SHAEF (Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces) were billeted at the Coventry Air Base. Now, could you imagine what it must have been like for Churchill to try to go to bed those several nights–or to look the SHAEF Staff in the eye if he were to visit the Headquarters afterward?
In the annals of Computer Science, Code-Breaking and Electronic Surveillance, Alan Turing should rightfully be recognized for the Hero that he is, rather than reviled for a lifestyle that, while uncommon in that era, had nothing whatsoever to do with his Work or any security issues. He was a natural genius.
Lastly, after the Terrorist Attacks on September 11, 2001, General Michael Hayden, then the Director of the CIA, fired a number of the Agency’s Arabic Interpreters for being homosexual. Now, just how smart was that? I’m sure that the U. S. Government was intercepting any Arabic communications that it could find. But, then, who was left to translate them. And certainly, expediency was of primary importance at that time.
As the old Pewter, Paul and Mary song (“Where have all the flowers gone”) from the 1960’s goes: “…When will they ever learn?”