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By Peter Finn, Tuesday, April 19, 6:30 PM
So you want to open sealed envelopes without getting caught?
Here’s the secret, according to one of the six oldest classified documents in possession of the Central Intelligence Agency:
“Mix 5 drams copper acetol arsenate. 3 ounces acetone and add 1 pint amyl alcohol (fusil-oil). Heat in water bath — steam rising will dissolve the sealing material of its mucilage, wax or oil.” But there’s a warning for the intrepid spy: “Do not inhale fumes.”
Nearly a century after it was written, the recipe was released Tuesday by the CIA as part of a cache of six World War I-era documents. The documents, which deal mostly with invisible ink, date from 1917 and 1918 — predating the agency itself by decades.
“When historical information is no longer sensitive, we take seriously our responsibility to share it with the American people,” CIA Director Leon Panetta said in a statement announcing the release.
One document lists chemicals and techniques to create invisible ink for what is charmingly called “secret writing.” Another document, from June 1918 and written in French, provides the formula the Germans apparently used for their invisible writing during World War I.
There are a number of other methods used by spies and smugglers, according to the skill and education of the criminals, such as placing writings under postage stamps, wrapping messages in medicine capsules and engraving messages . . . on toe-nails,” which later would be made visible with powdered charcoal, the expert, Theodore Kytka, wrote at the time. “The rule is to suspect or examine every possible thing. The war between the spy or forger and the expert is continually bringing out new methods.”
In 1999, the agency rejected a Freedom of Information Act request to release the six documents, asserting that doing so “could be expected to damage the national security.”
Asked Tuesday why it took so long to release the documents, a CIA spokeswoman said that “in recent years, the chemistry of making secret ink and the lighting used to detect it has greatly improved.”
In other words, it is only now that the agency can tell us some of the fun stuff one can do in a bathtub.
Originally posted by Kram09
What was this intellligence organisation called?
Because it certainly wasn't the CIA. Not during the First World War.
With the United States’ entry into World War II seemingly inevitable, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the first peacetime, civilian intelligence agency in 1941 – the Office of the Coordinator of Information. This office was designed to organize the activities of several agencies.
Shortly after that, the United States suffered its most costly intelligence disaster when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. That intelligence failure – which was the result of analysis misconceptions, collection gaps, bureaucratic confusion, and careful Japanese denial and deception – led to the establishment of a larger and more diversified agency in 1942: the Office of Strategic Services, the forerunner of today’s Central Intelligence Agency.
The first formal US intelligence organizations were formed in the 1880s: the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Army’s Military Intelligence Division. Officers were posted in several major European cities, principally for open-source collection of intelligence.
NEW YORK — It was a night in early November during the infancy of the Cold War when the anti-communist dissidents were hustled through a garden and across a gully to a vehicle on a dark, deserted road in Budapest. They hid in four large crates for their perilous journey.
Four roadblocks stood between them and freedom.
What Zoltan Pfeiffer, a top political figure opposed to Soviet occupation, his wife and 5-year-old daughter did not know as they were whisked out of Hungary in 1947 was that their driver, James McCargar, was a covert agent for one of America's most secretive espionage agencies, known simply as the Pond.
Created during World War II as a purely U.S. operation free of the perceived taint of European allies, the Pond existed for 13 years and was shrouded in secrecy for more than 50 years. It used sources that ranged from Nazi officials to Stalinists and, at one point, a French serial killer.
It operated under the cover of multinational corporations, including American Express, Chase National Bank and Philips, the Dutch-based electronic giant. One of its top agents was a female American journalist.
Now the world can finally get a deeper look at the long-hidden roots of American espionage as tens of thousands of once-secret documents found in locked safes and filing cabinets in a barn near Culpeper, Va., in 2001 have finally become public after a long security review by the Central Intelligence Agency.
The papers, which the Pond's leader tried to keep secret long after the organization was dissolved, were placed in the National Archives in College Park, Md., in 2008 but only opened to the public in April. Those records plus documents obtained by The Associated Press in the past two years from the FBI, CIA and other agencies under the Freedom of Information Act portray a sophisticated organization obsessed with secrecy that operated a network of 40 chief agents and more than 600 sources in 32 countries. The AP has also interviewed former officials, family members, historians and archivists.
The Pond, designed to be relatively small and operate out of the limelight, appeared to score some definite successes, but rivals questioned its sources and ultimately, it became discredited because its pugnacious leader was too cozy with Sen. Joseph McCarthy and other radical anti-communists.
The documents also highlight issues still relevant today: the rivalry among U.S. intelligence agencies that have grown to number 16, the government's questionable use of off-the-books operations with budgets hidden from congressional oversight, and the reliance on contractors to undertake sensitive national security work.
"Rachel Maddow: CIA World War I Documents Are 'So Cool' (VIDEO)"
First Posted: 04/20/11 09:04 AM ET Updated: 04/20/11 09:32 AM ET
Rachel Maddow gleefully examined the ancient, complicated dark arts of U.S. spies on her Tuesday show.
On Tuesday, the CIA declassified its oldest secret documents, which hail from World War I and deal with the best methods for sending secret messages to other spies. (Of course, the CIA did not come into existence until 1947, so presumably it inherited the documents from its spy parents.) Maddow loved, among other things, the section which recommended engraving secrets on one's toenails.
"Engraving stuff on your toenails--this is so cool!" she crowed, lifting her arms aloft.