Cryptologic History Calendar

1995: CIA Public Ceremony for VENONA Declassification

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

1995: CIA Public Ceremony for VENONA Declassification

Description: 11 July 1995: The CIA held a public ceremony for the first of six public releases of translated VENONA messages. The 49 messages that were initially released revealed extensive Soviet espionage activities directed at the US atomic bomb program. The counterintelligence payoff from these documents was tremendous. They were instrumental in providing the FBI with investigative leads that contributed to the identification of the Rosenberg atomic espionage ring and a number of other agents spying on the atomic bomb program. Over the course of five more releases, over 2000 VENONA translations were made public

At the 11 July 1995 ceremony, several of the individuals who worked on the VENONA project were honored, including the "unsung heroes" Vice Admiral John Michael McConnell, Director of NSA, and his deputy, William P. Crowell. Learn more about this ceremony via the link below to the CIA press release.

The National Security Agency released declassified copies of the VENONA messages. All of the released documents are available for review online (see link below) and at the 'Museum Library.' Some significant messages are part of museum displays.

Visit the links at the end of the page to learn more about VENONA.

Background info from the NSA Web site:

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 cryptologists 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.

The VENONA files are most famous for exposing Julius (code named LIBERAL) and Ethel Rosenberg and help give indisputable evidence of their involvement with the Soviet spy ring.