National Security Agency

  1. Origins 1914-1952
  2. Vulnerability 1952-1958
  3. Expansion 1958-1962
  4. Maturity 1962-1967
  5. Confrontation 1967-1975
  6. Uncovered 1975-2001
  7. Rebirth 2001-2003
  8. Sources
  9. Links


1914 - World War I began the modern era of code-breaking and intelligence gathering. Major Ralph Van Deman, the "father of American intelligence," created the Military Intelligence Section in the Army General Staff, and a Cipher Bureau (MI-8) within this section.

1918 - America's first transatlantic radio intercept station was built on Gillin Farm in Houlton, Maine, just before the end of WWI .

1920 - Herbert Osborne Yardley created the Black Chamber and began to monitor international cables, despite the Radio Communication Act of 1912 that guaranteed secrecy. This cable monitoring would become Operation Shamrock in 1945, administered in secret by the Signal Intelligence Service, then by the Army Security Agency in Sept. 1945, by the Armed Forces Security Agency in 1949, and by the NSA in 1952. It would be the largest intercept program in US history until officially ended in 1975.

1930 - William F. Friedman created the Signal Intelligence Service and improved sigint with the new mechanical cipher machines and with aerial photography.

1939 - World War II was a victory for military intelligence agencies, the SIS cryptographers at Arlington Hall, the Navy's OP-20-G that broke the Japanese Purple code, the OSS of William Donovan, the Bell Labs digital SIGSALY system, the Dayton NCR Navy Bombes, the cooperation with the British Tizard Mission and Bletchley Park to break the Ultra cipher and develop radar.

ASA field station antenna array at Helemano, Hawaii 1950
1945 - The SIS was reorganized in 1943 as the Signal Security Service, then as the Signal Security Agency, and on Sept. 15 became a new agency, the Army Security Agency (ASA) with the mandate to establish a worldwide network of listening stations. Vint Hill Farms Station in Warrenton VA had been a listening station during WWII for the Signal Intelligence Service, became an ASA station intercepting Russian radio transmissions.

1946 - May 2 study "Preliminary Design of an Experimental World-Circling Spaceship" by the AAF research and engineering division of Douglas Aircraft in Santa Monica (that soon became RAND Corp.), proposed a spy satellite in space.

1947 - National Security Act of July 26 created the National Military Establishment (DOD), the CIA, the NSC, an independent Air Force, and a cabinet-level Secretary of Defense. Cold War created insecurity and the need for new defense technologies, the rocket and guided missile, jet aircraft, A-bombs.

1949 - May 20 the Secretary of Defense signed a secret order creating the Armed Forces Security Agency to oversee the military intelligence agencies (Army Security Agency, Naval Security Group, and Air Force Security Service) but interservice rivalry continued; growing national fear of communist subversion, Alger Hiss, Judith Coplon, first Russian A-bomb tested.

1950 - National Security Council Intelligence Directive No. 9 of March 10 created the United States Communications Intelligence Board

1950 - Korean War that started June 25 was an intelligence failure, led to reorganization that would create the NSA.

1952 - President Harry Truman on Oct. 24 signed a secret 8-page memo that created the National Security Agency (NSA) under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Defense. Gen. Ralph Julian Canine was first director. The agency was located in Arlington Hall VA and the Naval Security Station in DC until moving to new HQ at Fort Meade MD in 1956. The NSA began as a secret agency that specialized in code-breaking and signal intelligence. From its predecessor, the Armed Forces Security Agency, the NSA inherited the Shamrock program of monitoring international cables that Herbert Osborne Yardley's Black Chamber had started in 1920.


1953 - The RAND report on the "Vulnerability of U. S. Strategic Air Power" April 15 warned of danger of Russian bomber attack because the U.S. had no warning system. In July, Russian demonstrated its new swept-wing bomber, the Bison, and in August tested its first H-bomb and launched its first rocket, developed by 5000 German technicians taken from Peenemunde V-2 center occupied in spring 1944. Britain sent a Canberra bomber on spy flight in late August over missile test site at Kapustin Yar in Ukraine, but hit by Soviet fighter gunfire and pictures too blurred. A crisis in intelligence developed due to the lack of means to acquire information.

1954 - RB-47E ferret mission over Kola Peninsula May 8, two planes turned back but third plane of Capt. Harold Austin was attacked by the new MiG-17, barely able to make it back over Finland.

1955 - Ike announced Open Skies plan July 21 at Geneva summit conference.

1956 - Project Homerun began March 21 and lasted for seven weeks, secretly authorized by Ike, from Thule air base in Greenland, a massive intelligence incursion of Russia by 8 to 10 bombers per day that refueled over North Pole and crossed Russian border in teams of two planes, one RB-47H ferret to eavesdrop and one RB-47E to photograph, each plane carried three "Ravens" AF intelligence specialists, 156 missions flown over 7 weeks, revealed no Soviet radar on the northern border.

1956 - Suez Canal nationalized by Nasser, Israel invaded Sinai Oct. 29 invasion of Sinai, British and French invaded Oct 30, UN ceasefire Nov. 6, US broke Brit and French codes and knew of invasion plans. The Suez crisis would become, according to a NSA report, "the first major test of the National Security Agency during a short-term 'brushfire' crisis." NSA was moving to its new HQ at Fort Meade MD during the crisis, and its response was poor. It had few linguists and expertise in the Mideast that had been the sphere of Brit GCQH. The crisis had a "profound effect on the NSA" and caused a reorganization into geographic divisions.

1956 - Soviet tanks invaded Hungary Nov. 4, removed Premier Nagy who had withdrawn from Warsaw Pact.

1957 - Karamursel listening post built on Sea of Marmara 37 mile SE of Istanbul Turkey, to monitor Russian transmissions. On Aug. 26 Russia announced successful test of ICBM rocket, the liquid-fueled SS-6. On Oct. 4 Russian Russia launched Sputnik. The Jodrell Bank radio telescope, started by Sir Bernard Lovell as the world's first radiotelescope, was rushed to completion and on October 11 the carrier rocket of the Sputnik was successfully detected by radar. The parabolic antenna 250 ft in diameter that could transmit and receive radio or radar waves, and would be used by the NSA to monitor foreign government transmissions like the Karamursel post.

1958 - C-130A Hercules (serial number 56-0528) was shot down on September 2, 1958 by Russian MIGs near Yerevan, Armenia, and crew of 17 lost. The U. S. at the United Nations on February 6, 1959, made public a tape recording of the Russian fighter pilot conversations proving the deliberate attack on the C-130, but Russia denied responsibility for the shootdown. The bodies of the 17 crew were finally returned in 1997 for burial in Arlington, and similar aircraft (57-0453) was mounted on display in Vigilance Park at Ft. Meade MD.


1958 - NSA established global listening posts, the northernmost was the Alert land station 500 mi from North Pole, on northern tip of Ellesmere island. The 60-foot antenna near Moorestown NJ picked up signals of Russian Tall King radar as they bounced back from the moon. The Teufelsberg district in Berlin became Field Station Berlin, one of most important NSA listening posts. Other posts were built at Bremerhaven in North Sea, at Todendorf near Keil on the Baltic Sea, at Eskstein on a mountain top in the Bavarian Forest of West Germany to monitor Czechoslovakia. The Kamiseya listening post in Japan used tunnels near Mt Fuji that had been built by Japanese during World War II. The Kagnew Station in East Africa developed from a 1943 radio station at Eritrea after uniting with Ethiopia had a with massive 150-ft movable antenna. Wheelus Air Base in Libya became a listening post operated by the AF 6934th Radio Squadron Mobile.

1959 - AGTR ferret ship number 1 was authorized Nov. 12, the old Liberty ship Samuel R. Aitken became the ferret ship USS Oxford, left NYC Sept. 11, 1961, for Norfolk and duty off South America, used moon-bounce antenna to send highly directional microwave message to Washington DC for first time in 1961.

1960 - Russian trawler Vega patroled the East Coast in April where USS George Washington sub testing new Polaris missiles. The NSA created its own version of the Russian spy trawler, starting with the USS Valdez in 1960 that was sent to Africa, and the USS Muller that was sent to Cuba. The 2nd generation spy ships were ready in 1961, starting with the USS Oxford .

1960 - U-2 spy plane of Gary Powers was shot down over Russia May 1. In addition to photo recon, U-2 also carried out eavescropping, called Green Hornet missions, with equipment called System-V insalled in the camera bay, that recorded data on large reels of Mylar recording tape from scores of small antennas on the fuselage tuned to particular frequencies. Gary Powers flew Green Hornet missions eastward along southern border of Russia. His May 1 flight was the 24th U-2 flight over Russia and the last, at 66,000 feet. He did not know about a secret CIA study the previous summer that indicated improvements in ground-to-air missiles could shoot down the U-2. His first target was the Tyuratam Missle Test Range where NSA listening posts and ferret missions indicated USSR had built a second space launching pad and had recently tried to space launches, both failures. Powers mission was not only to photograph the Test Range, but use special recorders to capture radar signals from the base for NSA. The SA-2 missile exploded behind his plane damaging the tail and wings at 70,500 feet, he found himself out of control heading downward, the wings and tail came off, began to spin, unlocked the canopy and climbed half out, his oxygen hoses broke and he was free of the aircraft. NSA listening post in Turkey picked up high-frequency signals of Soviet radar stations, and could in effect watch Soviet radar screens, and they saw Powers' U-2 disappear from the Soviet radar screen. On May 7 Khru anounced he had the live pilot. Ike did everything he could to coverup his role in the U-2 flights, ordering Cabinet officials to lie under oath to any investigation. At his May 25 televised press conference, Ike showed a U-2 photo of San Diego North island Naval Station.

1960 - The secret spy satellite Tattletale program launched the first GRAB satellite in June. The Galactic Radiation and Background system collected transmissions from Soviet radar and retransmitted to ground stations, recorded on tapes, flown to DC, and proved that satellites were better than ferret flights that were limited to a range of 200 miles from border. The CIA began its Corona spy photo satellite program in August with the successful launch of Discoverer 14.

1961 - The NSA opened Joint Processing Centers in Okinawa and Frankfurt West Germany and Kunia Hawaii, and built the Kent Island Research Facility on Cox Neck Road on Kent Island in Chesapeake Bay. The NSA provided intercepts and information on organized crime to Attorney General Robert Kennedy's Organized Crime Section, and provided information about Cuba to the FBI. The Karamursel post monitored voice of Yuru Gagarin during his April 12 flight on Vostok 1 rocket.

1961 - The failure of the CIA Bay of Pigs operation that started Apr. 17 was in part due to loss of CIA information after Ike cut off diplomatic relations with Cuba and closed the embassy in Havana and the consulate in Santiago. The NSA provided intercepts from its listening stations, picking up in January the voices of Spanish-speaking pilot training at the Czechoslovak airfield at Trencin and tracking the loading and unloading of 50,000 tons military supplies Czechoslovakia sent to Cuba. The destroyer USS Perry (DD-844) was converted into a sigint interecept ship in February monitoring radio transmissions in Cuba. The NSA listened to the plight of the trapped Cuban brigade and the offer of the U.S. Navy to evacuate, but the brigade wanted to fight to the end, asking the U.S. for arms drops but were not answered.


1962 - The Cuban Missile crisis began with the U-2 photos of missiles shown to JFK's ExComm Oct. 16 and ended Oct. 28 with Khru's decision to remove the missiles. "The events of the Cuban Missile Crisis demonstrated the maturity of the U. S. intelligence community, especially in its ablitiy to collect and analyze information. The crucial roles of human intelligence (HUMINT) and photographic intelligence (PHOTINT) in the Cuban Missile Crisis have been known from the beginning. Documents declassified and released in 1998 now reveal that signals intelligence (SIGINT) also played an exceedingly important part in managing the crisis." (quote from NSA and the Cuban Missile Crisis)

1962 - IBM delivered to NSA in Feb. the modified Stretch computer that became the center of the Harvest general-purpose computer complex, included storage retreival system called Tractor to load data from magnetic tapes. In 1976 Harvest was replaced by Carillon, made up of IBM 360s and later four IBM 3033s, and by more powerful Lodestone using the CRAY-1 supercomputer.

1962 - The nuclear submarine Nautilus (SSN 571) with NSA specialist John Arnold was sent to the Bering Sea to eavesdrop on Soviet nuclear tests on Novaya Zemlya island. The Nautilus had sailed to the North Pole in 1958 and sent the radio message "Nautilus 90 north" from under the ice.

1963 - Syncom II communications satellite was put in deep space geosynchronous orbit 22,000 mi. high to transmit telephone calls over half the globe without the need of undersea cables. Syncom III launched in 1964 was used to telecast the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo to the United States, the first television program to cross the Pacific. NSA started the Rhyolite program to put its own deep space satellite in high orbit to intercept signals by 1973.

1964 - The Gulf of Tonkin resolution was passed by Congress August 7 giving LBJ authority for militrary action in Vietnam. JFK had authorized the NSA in April 1961 to provide sigint support to South Vietnam Army, and the Army Security Agency had sent personnel starting with the 3rd Radio Research Unit (USM 626) that arrived May 13, 1961. The Naval Security Group began sigint patrols in April 1963, called DeSoto patrols, off China and North Korea, and in Jan. 1964 in the Gulf of Tonkin. The NSA built an undersea cable, codenamed Wetwash, from Vietnam to Philippines, where it connected with other cables linking it to Fort Meade. The NSA never broke any North Vietnam codes. North Vietnam did not need to break U.S. codes because Americans used open voice and Morse communication that was easily intercepted. NSA airborne sigint included EC-121M "Big Look" Lockheed Super Constellation with radomes top and bottom, and the RC-135C "Chipmunk" modified Boeing 707s that had large cheeklike antennas and the RC-135U "Combat Sent" that had distinctive rabbit-ear antenna to vacuum all frequencies for signals that were recorded analog and digital, and the Ryan high-altitude drones from Bien Hoa air base, and the SR-71 that had developed from the secret A-12 CIA plane. The "Blackbird" flew at mach 3 over Vietnam 16 miles high with electro-magnetic reconnaissance (EMR) equipment to record signals.

1965 - USS Valdez ferret ship off West Africa in April picked up messages to Che Guevara from Havana; Guevara had arrived in Congo to support rebels against Mobutu and his Belgian and U.S. backers; Guevara operated from his jungle base at Kigoma.

1966 - In an agreement signed with Britain, the NSA removed the 2300 residents of Mauritius islands removed and built a listening post on Diego Garcia as part of the Classic Wizard system (worldwide Advanced Tactical Ocean Surveillance System) and link for the White Cloud satellite program. NSA also used the giant Arecibo antenna in Puerto Rico that was funded by ARPA for civilian research. The Harrogate station was built 200 miles north of London, near the Menwith Hill Station that had been purchased as farmland in 1955 by the Army and in August 1966 was transferred from Army to NSA, with new antennas and domes constructed to eavesdrop. A new station was built at Buckley Air National Guard Base in Auraora near Denver. New ground stations were planned for Australia in 1966, starting with Pine Gap 11 miles from Alice Springs, codenamed Merino; another station was built in 1969 at Nurrungar in Woomera area 600 miles southeast of Alice Springs, codenamed Casino.


1967 - Nasser May 18 ordered UN peacekeepers to leave Egypt, seized Sharm el Sheikh May 20, announced blockade of Aqaba May 22, ordered general mobilization of Egyptian army May 23, signed defense treaty with Hussein of Jordan May 30. On May 23 the NSA sigint ship USS Liberty was ordered into the Mediterranean, arrived at base at Rota Spain June 1, and was near Sicily June 5 when the Six-Day War began with Israel air strike on Egypt air fields at 7:45 am that destroyed 304 of Egypt's 419 aircraft and also attacked Jordan seizing the West Bank and also attacked Syria seizing the Golan Heights. The USS Liberty on June 8 arrived at Point Alpha 13 miles from Sinai peninsula and was attacked by Israel, leaving most of crew wounded and 32 dead, most equipment destroyed, and a 40-foot hole in hull. The damaged ship spent 5 weeks in Malta, then back to Little Creek amphibious base near Norfolk July 29. An Israeli informant later said attack was ordered by Defense Minister Moshe Dayan. In 1968, Israel paid $3.3 million compensation to families of 34 dead; in 1969, it paid $3.5 million to the wounded; in 1980 it paid $6 million for ship damage compensation.

1967 - USS Banner was a light auxiliary cargo (AKL) ship that became AGER-1 in the Auxiliary General Environmental Research (AGER) program to collect elint and sigint data by remaining at the same location for longer period of time than aircraft or satellites allowed, as Russian trawlers had been doing. The USS Pueblo would be AGER-2 and the USS Palm Beach would be AGER-3.

1967 - NSA provided intercept information regarding domestic protesters, peace groups, black power groups to the Army civil disturbance unit under Gen. William P. Yarborough. It also gave information to FBI, CIA, Secret Service on domestic citizens, including Jane Fonda, Joan Baez, that became the origin of a growing domestic watch list of the highest secrecy (codeword Trine, then Umbra), the same secrecy level given to most sensitive Soviet intercepts (codeword Gamma). In 1969 the Umbra program was assigned the codeword Minaret.

1968 - Tet offensive began Jan. 30 in Vietnam. The NSA had expanded intelligence gathering in 1967 and provided ample warning of a North Vietnamese buildup. DF missions by small teams of soldiers in Mekong Delta of 199th Light Infantry Brigade of 856th Radio Research Detachment set up listening posts to eavesdrop on enemy transmissions, used PRD-1 on a tripod with diamond-shaped antenna and created a net of three DF sites to fix enemy locations. Airborne Radio Direction-Finding (ARDF) operations by Combat Cougar units expanded with equipment in the bellies of EC-47 "gooney birds" sent enemy locations to NSA Direct Support Units (DSU) at Pleiku or Phu Bai. This buildup was reported by NSA to MACV, but the intelligence reports were ignored. NSA issued an alert Jan. 24 that attack against Vietnam cities was imminent, and another alert Jan. 25. Westmoreland finally on Jan. 30 put all troops on alert and canceled the ceasefire that had been put in place for the Tet holiday. North Vietnam went on total radio silence at midnight, and 856th Radio Resarch Detachment at Long Binh came under the first attack. The attack on the U.S. embassy began 2:30 am. When the Tet offensive ended Feb. 13, 4,000 US troops had been killed, 5,000 SV and 58,000 NV killed. A 1998 CIA review of the war said "The National Security Agency stood alone in providing the kind of warnings the U. S. Intelligence Community was designed to provide."

1968 - USS Pueblo became the ALGER-2 sigint ship and was captured Jan. 23 by North Korea. The Navy ignored warnings from NSA that North Korean defenses were high and sent the unprotected USS Pueblo on its first mission into dangerous waters near North Korea. KY-8 and KW-7 encryption systems were captured from the Pueblo by North Korea and turned over to Russia who may have given information to Vietnam. NSA codes were also compromised when John Walker began selling Navy keylists to the Russians, acting as a spy for the Russians for 18 years, recruiting John Whitworth in San Diego in 1973. Also, NSA Comsec investigators learned that the Soviet trawler Izmeritel off Guam monitored the takeoffs of B-52s taking part in Operation Arc Light, the bombing of South Vietnam, and B-52s did not carry encryption equipment but broadcast voice transmissions. NSA also learned how North Vietnam was able to monitor unencrypted transmissions from KC-135 tankers. US lost the code war in Vietnam just as Germany lost it in WWII.

1968 - Soviets invaded Czechoslovakia Aug. 20 and ended the "Prague Spring" era of Alexander Dubcek; The NSA and CIA were surprised, had lost track of Soviet army for two weeks. The KH-8 satellite launched Aug. 6 did not perform, leaving only the lower resolution photos from a KH-4B satellite launched Aug. 7 and returning a cannister Aug. 21.

1969 - South Africa intelligence agency BOSS (Bureau of State Security) under leadership of pro-Nazi Gen. Hendrik van der Bergh allowed NSA access to listening station at Silvermine near Cape Town.

1969 - Nixon asked Tom Charles Huston June 1969 to gather domestic intelligence; on June 5 Huston became head of internal security affairs and a new Interagency Committee on Intelligence (ICI) was created; by July, Huston drafted a sweeping plan signed by Nixon, bypassing Hoover and Mitchell, but then withdrawn July 27, but only after it had already been sent to all agencies. John Dean replaced Huston in August, and by Dec. the ICI had been resurrected as the Intelligence Evaluation Committee (IEC) under Robert Mardian, and the CIA provided bugs for FBI black-bag operatives to install in foreign embassies. The NSA Minaret program grew to include a domestic watch list of 600 American citizens whose communications were monitored. The Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) and Office of Narcotics Coordinator (ONC) received NSA intercepts in 1970, including pay phone booths in Grand Central Station.

1971 - The New York Times published the Pentagon Papers June 13. Also, a copy of the 47-volume study was given to the Russians by agent Fedora (Soviet diplomat Victor Lessiovski). The Pentagon Papers contained information from Gamma Gupy, intercepts of radiotelephones in Soviet limosines done by Army Security Agency unit USM-2 in the American embassy. As a result of these disclosures, Ehrlichman organized the plumbers unit in Room 16 of White House first floor, that included Egil "Bud" Krogh, David Young, G. Gordon Liddy, E. Howard Hunt who had direct access to NSA intercepts. In August, Nixon created Cabinet Committee on International Narcotics Control (CCINC), and Sept 7 put it under Egil Krogh of Nixon's plumber's unit who appointed an Intelligence Subcommittee to bring together for the first time the NSA, CIA, DIA, State, Treasury in war on drugs.

1972 - North Vietnam on March 30 launched biggest offensive since Tet, but U.S. military was unprepared despite warnings sent by NSA Explorer teams near DMZ since January. U.S. air power became more effective in Vietnam after the NSA succeeded in intercepting signal sent by small spiral antenna of SAM missile for guidance, able to jam it and send missile off course, until Russians changed frequency of signal, but John Arnold developed signal acquisition machine from USS Long Beach and again NSA was able to jam SAM missile guidance.

1973 - TRW built the Rhyolite ferret satellite, launched March 6, used to verify SALT I; Soviets had not been encrypting telemetry until 1977 when it learned of Rhyolite from spy Christopher Boyce at TRW with courier Andrew Daulton Lee, who became subject of Robert Lindsey 1979 book The Falcon and the Snowman. The most valuable listening station was in remote Iran, codenamed Tracksman 2 at Kabkan, 40 mi east of Meshed, and only 700 miles from the Soviet test site at Tyuratam, but the station was lost in the 1979 Iranian revolution.

1973 - Yom Kippur War began Oct. 6 with the Egyptian attack across Suez Canal. Egypt had received four MiG-25 Foxbat reconnaissance planes from Russia able to fly Mach 3.2 at 73,000 ft. and were used to photograph Israel to prepare for the invasion. The U.S. received KH-8 and KH-9 satellite pictures too late, after the war had ended.

1975 - Project X with South Africa and James Guerin company that sold electronics to South Africa despite economic embargo.

1975 - NSA took over the "world's biggest bug" at Sugar Grove West Virginia that originally was the "Big Ear" project in the National Radio Quiet Zone in West Virginia; $60 million was appropriated in 1959 to build a large mobile dish antenna 600 ft diameter and 66 stories tall, but never finished due to cost overruns. In 1969 the site became a Navy receiver, and in 1975 the NSA regained control of the site and turned it into a satellite receiving station. It built the Raymond E. Linn Op Bldg (LOB) named after the chief petty officer killed on the USS Liberty. 60 miles from Sugar Grove in Etam West Va is the satellite dish farm of COMSATwith 62 and 97 and 105-ft dishes. In 1980 NSA built a 105-ft dish to intercept the COMSAT signals as it had near all 4 satellite gateways of COMSAT in the U.S. The COMSAT center at Andover is 125 miles from the NSA center at Winter Harbor Maine in Acadia National Park. The COMSAT west coast center in Brewster Washington is 100 miles from the NSA center on the Army's Yakima Firing Center with the cover name of the "Yakima Research Station." The COMSAT center at Jamesburg CA on edge of Los Padres National Forest was 130 miles south of the NSA station at Two Rock Ranch north of San Francisco.

1975 - The fall of Saigon began April 29. The NSA monitored Operation Comeout and reported from Vietnam at 6:51 AM April 30 that evacuation was complete. The NSA evacuated its personnel but left behind a complete warehouse full of crypto machines including the KY-8 and NESTOR and ADONIS machines and code materials. This loss was kept secret and it would not be until 10 years later that NSA would learn of spy John Walker who had sold the codes to the Russians.

1975 - The Ivy Bells operation began in July; the sub USS Halibut, equipped with skis to sit on bottom, tapped Soviet undersea cables in Sea of Okhotsk that connected Kamchatka with Vladivostok, like attaching a suction cup to a repeater section of the cable, recorded 10-inch reels of 2-inch tape on broadband recorder. Ivy Bells continued until 1980 when a NSA informer told Russians about the tap.


1975 - The Church Committee met summer and fall in executive session, then held public hearings beginning Oct. 29, with testimony by NSA Director Gen. Lew Allen. 1976 - Seymour Cray delivered the first CRAY-1 supercomputer from his Chippewa Falls Wisc. plant to NSA.

1976 - The first KH-11 satellite was launched Dec. 19, had a life span of 2 years, was first satellite with CCD sensors to transmit pictures immediately; took pictures of Jimmy Carter's inaug Jan. 21. The KH-11 was 64 ft long, 10 ft diameter, weighed 30,000 lbs, used 92-in mirror to focus light on CCD sensors, but could only transmit 1-2 hours per day before batteries recharged by solar panels; it transmitted signal via relay satellites to ground station at Fort Belvoir VA 20 miles south of DC. However, the KH-11 manual was sold to the Russians by William Kampiles in 1978.

1978 - Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC) was created under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (F.I.S.A.) as a secret court of 11 judges (increased from seven by the U.S.A. Patriot Act) that meets behind a cipher-locked door in a windowless, bug-proof, vault-like room guarded 24 hours a day on the top floor of the Justice Department building, to issue warrants to the FBI and NSA for domestic surveillance.

1978 - Special Collection Service (SCS) was created as a joint intelligence organization of CIA and NSA, to use skilled agents with NSA bugging equipment on black bag missions, like the Impossible Mission Force on TV's Mission Impossible series.

1979 - Shah fled Iran Jan. 16 after being overthrown by revolution that started previous Feb. caused by brutality of Shah's SAVAK secret police and pro-western policies; the Ayatollah Khomeini arrived in Iran Feb. 1 supported by millions of Shiite Muslims; a student mob stormed the U.S. embassy in Teheran Nov. 4 and seized hostages; NSA destroyed its listening posts in Iran.

1980 - William Safire in the New York Times published his Billygate article that used the NSA intercepts of Libya signals that had revealed Billy Carter working as an unregistered agent of Libya, and caused the Attorney General to launch his investigation that created the Billygate scandal.

1982/11 Andropov became Soviet General Secretary after death of Brezhnev, ordered Operation Ryan to gather all intelligence possible about the West in preparation for possible war, due to growing Soviet fears caused by Reagan "evil empire" speech 1983/03/08 and announcment of SDI 1983/03/23, and election of Margaret Thatcher 1983/06/09, and US response to KAL007 1983/09/01, and Op. Able-Archer 1983/11/02, and deployment of Pershing IRBM and cruise missiles in West Germany 1983/11/23, but hardliners in Moscow lost influence in 1984 and Op Ryan ended.

1983 - Korean Airlines flight KAL007 with 269 aboard, including 61 Americans, was shot down by Russia Sept. 1, called by Reagan a "crime against humanity." The tragedy was caused by Soviet confusion of this civilian airplane with Alaska-based RC-135 ferret plane used in Operation Cobra Ball to track a planned Soviet SS-X-24 missile with MIRV capability to be test fired from Plesetsk in NE Russia to Kuchi on Kamchatka, also monitored by frigate USS Badger in Sea of Okhostsk, and by USNS Observation Island ship, and by Cobra Dane phased array radar on Shemya Island Alaska. The Russian test missile was never fired and KAL007 was off-course and crossed the path of the RC-135 and was shot down by a air-to-air missile from a Su-15 Soviet interceptor jet plane at 3:47 am. George Schultz at press conference 10:45 am released intercept data about the incident that normally would have been kept secret. Reagan on Sept. 5 signed NSDD-102 to launch major effort to put blame on Soviets, but Andropov saw this as another threat and escalated Op. Ryan.

1985/08/01 Vitaly Yurchenko defected Aug. 1 to U.S., told about NSA spy Ronald Pelton, about Canada spy Leslie James Bennet and about Soviet navy captain Atramanov who had defected to Sweden 1959, persuaded to become double agent Nicholas Shadrin, killed accidentally by chloroform overdose 1975 in Vienna during KGB kidnap attempt. Yurchenko redefected back to Russia Nov. 2 walking out of a Georgetown restaurant to Soviet embassy, and persuaded the Russians that he had been brainwashed by the Americans.

1986 - Former NSA employee Ronald Pelton was convicted June 5 in Baltimore of spying for the Soviet Union. The verdict came one day after former Navy intelligence analyst Jonathan Jay Pollard pleaded guilty to espionage on behalf of Israel.

1995 - NSA used its Echelon eavesdrop system to defend against foreign economic espionage, helping prevent foreign countries from spying on U.S. corporations. A tariff on Japanese luxury cars was to go into effect June 28, but Geneva conference sought to avoid the tariff. NSA team went to Geneva to help U.S. negotiator Mickey Kantor, provided intercepts of hotel telephone conversations by Toyota and Nissan executives.

1996 - NSA dedicated its own Supercomputer Facility Oct. 29, at Fort Meade MD.

1997 NSA learned that Iran was attempting to build its own antiship cruise missiles, similar to Exocet missile that killed 37 on the USS Stark in 1987, and to reverse engineer a French Microturbo missile engine built in Toulouse by buying parts through the Hong Kong company of Jetpower. On July 29 Iranians met with Syrian arms dealer Monzer al-Kassar who had been part of Ollie North's secret network and who had been arrested for providing the weapons used to hijack the Achille Lauro in 1985. China President Jiang Zemin visted the U.S. and met with Clinton October 29 to get permission for US companies to sell nuclear equipment to China, and in return Jiang promised to stop arms sales to Iran. In Dec. Microturbo shipped engine parts to Iran but China kept its pledge not to sell missiles to Iran.

1998 - NSA failed to warn of India nuclear test May 11, Clinton administration learned it from CNN, considered by John Pike of FAS to be "the intelligence failure of the decade."

1999 - Electric Boat was awarded contract in Dec. to modify USS Jimmy Carter sub into the most advanced spy sub ever built, to be finished in 2004, and able to tap undersea fiber optic cables.

2001 - NSA and FBI planted bugs in Boeing 767 delivered to president of China in August, but bugs were quickly discovered, perhaps due to spy Katrina Leung.


The Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon caused new funding of intelligence programs, and wider surveillance powers under the Patriot Act. America's spy agencies have become the source of TV and Hollwood film productions. Kiefer Sutherland, star of the Fox network drama series '24' plays agent Jack Bauer of the Counter Terrorism Unit, and accepts help from other agencies including the NSA. The TV docudrama "Master Spy" was based on the Hanssen case. In fall 2003 a new UPN series called "Jake 2.0'' will be a drama about a computer technician who discovers he suddenly has superpowers and becomes an agent for the NSA. On March 3, 2003, the British Observer published on its web site a leaked document that apparently showed that the Bush administration was spying on UN Security Council delegates. The document was allegedly written by an official at the NSA and ordered an increase of surveillance on delegations from Angola, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Chile, Guinea and Pakistan. In June, the accusation was made that the Waihopai station in Marlborough NZ is being used by the NSA to spy on UN Security Council members in order to get support for a war against Iraq. The two satellite dishes at Waihopai are said to be part of the "Echelon" programme that globally intercepts electronic communications. In May, 2003, the Bush administration stepped up construction at Fort Greely, Alaska, for missile silos and a dozen state-of-the-art military command and support facilities for a vanguard force of rocket-propelled interceptors to defend the United States against ballistic missile attack.



revised 4/10/05 by Schoenherr | Documents | Pictures | Cold War Policies | on reserve