National Cryptologic Museum (Noise)

Anonymous nobody at REPLAY.COM
Thu Feb 15 09:50:04 PST 1996

I peeled this off of Usenet, Wondering if this is Tim doing a little trolling?


The Christmas Troll


Hi all,

If you've never heard of the National Cryptologic Museum and have an
interest in this kind of stuff, you MUST go take a look.  It's at Fort
Meade, outside Laurel, Maryland, and actually lies on the grounds of the
NSA. I dropped by the other day and was very impressed.  The NSA is to be
grudgingly %^) commended, although the material on recent operations
(post-1950) is understandably a little thin.

The very coolest exhibit is a functioning Enigma machine on which visitors
are allowed to encrypt/decrypt messages. It really does work well, and I
got the same gloating thrill I felt the first time I decrypted a PGP
message from a friend. There is also a piece of Gary Powers' U2, a Cray
X-MP processor that you can sit on and peer into, several specimens of old
Japanese crypto machines, and incontrovertible proof of the Rosenbergs'
perfidy and treason, among many other interesting displays.  

The staff is friendly and informative, but you will not get the current
key codes for ICBM launch control out of them, of course. I did not see
any mention of PGP or related topics in my brief visit, either. Oh, and
most surreal was the entrance: at the end of the road, an almost unmarked
gate a yard wide in a razor wire fence, dangling a padlock.  I wondered
for a moment if it were the right place and if I would be shot if I
actually went inside.

Allow half a day if you are a serious student of these topics, and an hour
or two if not. All in all, it was the second most interesting museum I saw
in Washington (after Air & Space). I still don't trust Clipper, but it was
certainly nice to see the human side of the big bad spooky NSA. They have
done an important job for the country and don't deserve most of the abuse
that I see heaped on them on the Internet.


Christopher C. May, M.D.
Univ. of Texas Health Sci. Ctr. ‹ San Antonio
may at  *  72707.413 at
"Too much Law; not enough Order."


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