Dear Colleagues,D-Day, the 6th of June 1944 occurred a year before I was born. D-Day may be history, but its effect on all of our lives in the Western world is significant for a number of reasons. One was the intelligence skills that were used to inform a huge war machine which was built on the South Coast of England, in co-operation with the U.S. of A and member nations of the Commonwealth with a view to building a "second front" in Europe along the French coast, and attempting to keep that knowledge (of the date, time and landing points) from the Germans, through minimisation of the scale, through suppression subterfuge, and deliberate deception.
As I was doing some D.I.Y. on my house today, overhead could be heard aeroplanes from the Second World War, disturbing my peace as I worked in the garden...There was an event here in Bognor Regis in the South of England, commemorating the event. The droning of those Spitfires looping the loop and Lancasters circling around; with their distinctive markings; in memory of that incredible event where almost 200,000 men, women were transported across the English Channel from the beaches and aerodromes of the South of England and all their equipment were landed on the beaches in Normandy in one day, and the subsequent building of the Mulberries at Arromanche could never have been achieved without those very intelligence and deception skills being utilised so expertly. This is not to undermine or deny the courage and the skills of those armed forces on the ground or in the air, or on the seas, who managed to land on those beaches. and take on an entrenched German army and defeat them at great cost. As Churchill said, "War is total". Secrecy and deception were all part of the game. If you were better at it than them then more of your "side's" lives and property would be saved.
But, behind that great event, there was years of preparation. Without Bletchley Park and without the help and support of the US and the other allies, the Commonwealth and so on; the human cost would have been great, and the Second Front may have failed, perhaps leading to a Europe dominated by Stalin and the USSR who had defeated the Germans on the Eastern Front and were well on their way to liberating, or conquering Europe, depending on one's point of view. What a choice, goostepping and "Seig Heil" or goosestepping and love "Father Stalin".
All before my time.A visit to Bletchley Park (now a museum) shows the role it played in the Second World War, not only in the submarine war and the cracking of the codes, but in the putting together of a new institution and providing the funding and expertise of the best mathematical brains in the UK and internationally, with the aim of collecting, analysing and using Axis communications to determine their present and future intentions. There was the famous 6 who were involved in the building of Collossus, the first electronic computer, which was a pathetic piece of equipment, full of unreliable components like valves and using huge amounts of energy and very slow, and with computing power which is almost laughable today. Yet, at the time it was the best that could be designed. Even with the introduction of the "bombes" from the US. and a staff of thousands, mainly women, it was still incredibly difficult to decrypt the higher German codes and those of the submarines. Human intellect was the main motive power though. Computers and bombes were for the number crunching, for discerning the patterns which cryptographers could use to get clues, cracks, or as they called them in those days, algorithms.. Cribs or the revealing of a letter, word or pattern through a mistake, were one of the main ways of getting into a code.
Winston Churchill and the allies famously worked on the principle that anything which was discovered by the work at Bletchley, could not be used unless corroborating evidence, or alternative sources from elsewhere were found. That was what helped to allay the suspicions of those of the Axis powers who thought that their methods of encryption had been compromised. Such deception didn't work absolutely. Many mistakes were made and the German equivalents of Bletchley Park, managed to crack some of the codes used by the Allies, including the encrypted telephone line between Churchill and the U.S. President.
Why am I mentioning this? Just to remind those of you who are young and may think otherwise, that intelligence gathering and its sister, deception, have gone on for a long time, ever since life occupied the planet and, in my humble opinion, will continue to do so for the foreseable future. Today, we are in a "war against terror". The difficulty I am having is finding out which ones are the terrorists, and which ones are the liberators. Just because the collection, monitoring and analysis of all the data in the internet of things may be lawful (which I doubt), doesn't mean to say that it is right. And, i have noticed over the years that those who work for the state, the higher up they go, the less motivation they have in representing the interests of their fellow citizens.
Whilst I have been interested in encryption and codes and spying and such like since I was a child, and read lots of books on it, I have only ever used it once for a serious purpose, and that was to zip up a file in an email using winzip which contained a lot of personal and financial information referring to a house I was purchasing, which I didn't want to be contained in an "open" email. I have experimented with a number of encryption bits of software, but never really got on with them. Even the so called easy ones, I ballsed up, PGP I forgot my password and Truecrypt I also forgot the password and locked away 10 gigabytes of my hard disk and was never able to get it back. I dare say that my little bit of work lies in the files of the CIA and GCHQ awaiting decryption as I am informed that they always collect encrypted emails and such stuff. I don't mind, but I do hope that one day, when my computer crashes, I will be able to get on to the CIA or GCHQ and get a copy of all of my private and personal data. Now, that would be what I call a real customer service programme, getting a return on all that taxpayer money would be nice. After all, isn't that what the intelligence services are there for, to help us all, to protect us all from terrorism, to make us all safe and secure from the "bad" guys? In the meantime, I consider myself lucky, that i never really got into using encryption and that I never really trusted it. And the CIA and GCHQ have proved me right...packet technology might be efficient on the internet, but it is so easily manipulated. I feel sorry for all those liberation fighters and revolutionaries throughout the world who have been enticed to use the stuff, in the name of American or British freedom and human rights, only to find out too late, if ever, that the antidote software has been sold by some company or other to their home state, and to wonder why they have finished up in jail, or worse still been subject to rendition, or had drones with laser bombs dropped on their homes and their sons and daughters killed as collateral damage as part of a surgical strike .
ATB Douglas Rankine.