Breaking Iranian Codes (Re: CRYPTO-GRAM, June 15, 2003)

John Ridge Cook johnridgecook at
Tue Jun 15 15:48:41 PDT 2004

James Bamford is an author of several books, including some of the first on
the National Security Agency, the code breakers and signals intelligence
operators. He has written a recent book on intelligence manipulation in the
run up to the Iraq war.

During a radio interview he was asked about the Iranian code crack.;jsessionid=0DIL5REBMCVQPLA5AINSFFA?display=day&todayDate=06/08/2004

His reply, from sources in the NSA-

Current cryptosystems  are very complex and hard (near impossible) to crack.
The way its done now a days (as opposed to WWII Ultra efforts), is to
penetrate an embassy (in this instance, Iran's embassy in Baghdad) and bug
the hardware, getting the information before its encrypted.  Of special
interest- bug the keyboard, bug the monitor, bug the power cord.

How its gathered by the interested parties was not discussed,



Peter Gutmann wrote:
> "R. A. Hettinga" <rah at> forwarded:
>>So now the NSA's secret is out.  The Iranians have undoubtedly changed
>>their encryption machines, and the NSA has lost its source of Iranian
>>secrets.  But little else is known.  Who told Chalabi?  Only a few
>>people would know this important U.S. secret, and the snitch is
>>certainly guilty of treason.
> Someone (half-)remembered reading the Crypto AG story in the Baltimore Sun
> several years ago, bragged to Chalabi that the US had compromised Iranian
> crypto, and the story snowballed from there.  The story could have started out
> with a loquacious (Sun-reading) cab driver for all we know.  Some reports have
> suggested the source was drunk, so maybe it was a drunk in a bar.  Maybe
> Chalabi read the story himself and invented the snitch to make it seem more
> important than it was, or to drive the US security community nuts with an orgy
> of internal witch-hunting.  Given the lack of further information, it could
> have been just about anything.
> Peter.
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