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14 november 2008

National Security Agency Releases History of Cold War Intelligence Activities


Soviet Strategic Forces Went on Alert Three Times during September-October 1962 Because of Apprehension over Cuban Situation



Washington, DC, November 14, 2008 - Forty-six years ago, a month before the Cuban Missile crisis, Soviet leaders put their strategic forces on their "highest readiness stage since the beginning of the Cold War," according to a newly declassified internal history of the National Security Agency (NSA) published today for the first time by the National Security Archive. Possibly responding to President Kennedy's call for reserves, perhaps worried that the White House had discovered Moscow's plans to deploy missiles on Cuba, the Kremlin kept forces on alert for 10 days, beginning on September 11, 1962.

The NSA's signals intelligence (SIGINT) history also discloses that, a month later, on October 15th, the Soviets initiated a "precautionary, preliminary" alert, perhaps because Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev feared that U.S. intelligence had discovered the missiles. After President Kennedy's speech on October 22nd 1962, announcing the "quarantine" (blockade) of Cuba, the Kremlin put military forces, especially air defense forces, on an "extraordinarily high state of alert." Significantly, "offensive forces avoided assuming the highest readiness stage, as if to insure that Kennedy understood that the USSR would not launch first."

In response to a declassification request by the National Security Archive, the secretive National Security Agency has declassified large portions of a four-part "top-secret Umbra" study, American Cryptology during the Cold War. Despite major redactions, this history discloses much new information about the agency's history and the role of SIGINT and communications intelligence (COMINT) during the Cold War. Researched and written by NSA historian Thomas Johnson, the three parts released so far provide a frank assessment of the history of the Agency and its forerunners, warts-and-all.

According to National Security Archive visiting fellow Matthew Aid (author of the forthcoming history The Secret Sentry: The Top Secret History of the National Security Agency), Johnson's study shows "refreshing openness and honesty, acknowledging both the NSA's impressive successes and abject failures during the Cold War." Another striking feature of Johnson's study is the candor with which it discusses the fractious and damaging relationships between the agencies which make up the U.S. government's intelligence establishment.

Visit the Web site of the National Security Archive for more information about today's posting.
(bron/source: NSA)