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Project Venona: Theodore Alvin Hall and the Soviet Penetration Of The Manhattan Project

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posted on Feb, 11 2005 @ 02:03 PM
Recent declassified documents in both the former Soviet Union and the United States have revealed how deeply the Soviets had penetrated the Manhattan project during WWII. Despite the high profile trial of the Rosenbergs and thier subsequent execution. Perhaps one of the greatest traitors of all, Theodore Alvin Hall, was known to be guilt, but was allowed to go free.

It all started with a concerted effort on the the part of the United States to read Soviet communications during WWII and after. Because the Soviets were using an unbreakable one time pad, documents had to searched first by hand then punch-cards to see if the seemingly random gibberish had been repeated. If the Soviets operators had become sloppy then those messages could be decoded.

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 cryptologist's 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.

Because the Soviets did not think that their code could be broken, they sent thier gibberish messages via Wester union and the like. The evidence of spies was startling and included such notables as State Department official Alger Hiss and Harry White, Assistant Secretary of the Treasury in FDR's administration. However many of the principals were allowed to go free. Why? The FBI did not want to compromise the fact that they were having success in breaking to code, so if other evidence could not be found, they were simply not charged.

One of the people working on Venona made a huge discovery when he decoded a message that had been sent in 1944:

The message was sent from New York to Moscow in November 1944. Theodore Hall, 19 years old, a graduate of Harvard, a physicist, handed over a report about "CAMP-2"—the KGB cover name for Los Alamos—and named the key personnel working on "Enormous," the KGB cover name for America's nuclear program.

Hall had a friend named Saville Sax. The KGB considered it expedient to maintain a liaison with Hall through Sax.

It is startling to note that Hall at the time was living in Chicago and sharing and office with the father of the hydrogen bomb, Edward Teller. The FBI picked him up, but he admitted to nothing and no evidence was found other than the intercepts which they did not want to use. Halls widow has admitted that he had spied for the Soviets and the KGB, not for money but for humanitarian reasons. His initial contact was a Soviet journalist named Sergei Kournikov and to him he gave a list of scientists and information about the project that clued the Soviets in. He passed on the first detailed information about "implosion" and other classified material. He gave the Soviets the blueprint for the first atomic device. Unbeknown to Hall, the Soviets had another agent, Klaus Fuchs, who also fed them information. The Soviets kept each agent in the dark for both security reasons and as well as using thier reports to judge the validity of its information.

It is possible that Ethel Rosenberg was executed to send a message to Hall and others. Evidence does seem to point that she was far a central figure in the spying and life in prison may have been a more appropriate punishment for her.

The activities of Hall and other saved the Soviets years of research and development costs.

[edit on 2/11/05 by FredT]

posted on Oct, 19 2011 @ 09:24 AM
It's a shame more people don't know about Project Venona. I just learned about it today.
edit on 19-10-2011 by 547000 because: (no reason given)


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