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Sanborn's ambitious work includes the 9-foot 11-inch-high main sculpture—an S-shaped wave of copper with cut-out letters, anchored by an 11-foot column of petrified wood—and huge pieces of granite abutting a low fountain. And although most of the installation resides in a space near the CIA cafeteria, where analysts and spies can enjoy it when they eat outside, Kryptos extends beyond the courtyard to the other side of the new building. There, copper plates near the entrance bear snippets of Morse code, and a naturally magnetized lodestone sits by a compass rose etched in granite.
"I was reminded of my need to preserve the agency's secrets," Scheidt says. "You know, don't tell him the current way of doing business. And don't create something that you cannot break—but at the same time, make it something that will last a while."
The first code breaker, a CIA employee named David Stein, spent 400 hours working by hand on his own time. Stein, who described the emergence of the first passage as a religious experience, revealed his partial solution to a packed auditorium at Langley in February 1998. But not a word was leaked to the press. Sixteen months later, Jim Gillogly, an LA-area cryptanalyst used a Pentium II computer and some custom software to crack the same three sections. When news of Gillogly's success broke, the CIA publicized Stein's earlier crack.
But Sanborn also claims that the envelope he gave Webster didn't contain the complete answer. "Nobody has it all," he says. "I tricked them."
The NSA also claimed that some of their employees had solved the same three passages, but would not reveal names or dates until March 2000, when it was learned that an NSA team led by Ken Miller, along with Dennis McDaniels and two other unnamed individuals, had solved passages 1–3 in late 1992.
In 2013, in response to a Freedom of Information Act request by Elonka Dunin, the NSA released documents which show the NSA became involved in attempts to solve the Kryptos puzzle in 1992, following a challenge by Bill Studeman, then Deputy Director of the CIA. The documents show that by June 1993, a small group of NSA cryptanalysts had succeeded in solving the first three passages of the sculpture
If anyone manages to solve the last cipher, that won't end the hunt for the ultimate truth about Kryptos. "There may be more to the puzzle than what you see," Scheidt says. "Just because you broke it doesn't mean you have the answer."
All of this leads one to ask: Is there a solution? Sanborn insists there is—but he would be just as happy if no one ever discovered it.
Kryptos subversively embodies the nature of the CIA itself—and serves as a reminder of why secrecy and subterfuge so fascinate us. "The whole thing is about the power of secrecy,"
Sanborn's ambitious work includes the 9-foot 11-inch-high main sculpture