27 November 2014


November 23, 2014 

Finally, A New Clue To Solve The CIA’s Mysterious Kryptos Sculpture — ‘The Everest Of Codes’

Kim Zetter, writing on the Nov. 20, 2014, website Wired.com, begins by noting that, “in 1989, the year the Berlin Wall began to fall, American artist Jim Sanborn was busy working on his Kryptos sculpture, a cryptographic puzzle wrapped in a riddle that he created for CIA’s headquarters; and, that has been driving amateur and professional cryptographers mad ever since.”

“To honor the 25th anniversary of the Wall’s demise and the artist’s 69th birthday this year,” Ms. Zetter writes, “Sanborn has decided to reveal a new clue to help solve his iconic and enigmatic artwork. It’s only the second hint he’s released since the sculpture was unveiled in 1990; and, may finally help unlock the fourth, and final section of the encrypted sculpture, which frustrated sleuths have been struggling to crack for more than two decades.”

“The twelve foot high, verdigrised copper, granite, and wood sculpture on the grounds of the CIA complex in Langley, Virginia, contains four encrypted messages carved out of the metal, three of which were solved years ago,” Mr. Zetter wrote. “The fourth, is composed of just 97 letters, but its brevity belies its strength. Even the NSA, whose master crackers were the first to decipher other parts of the work, gave up on cracking it long ago. So, four years ago” she notes, “concerned that he might not live to see the mystery of Kryptos resolved, Sanborn released a clue to help things along, revealing that six of the last 97 letters — when decrypted — spell the word “Berlin” — a revelation many took to be a reference to the Berlin Wall.”

“To that clue today, he’s adding the next word in the sequence — “clock” — that may, or may not throw a wrench in this theory,” Ms. Zetter observes. “Now,” she says, “the Kryptos sleuths have to just unscramble the remaining characters to find out.”

“Is A Clock A Clock?”

“Sanborn told Wired that he’s always been fascinated by Berlin’s many clocks; but, the Berlin Clock — in particular — has intrigued him the most,” Ms. Zetter says. “The clock, also known as the Berlin Uhr, or Set Theory Clock, was designed in the 1970s by inventor and tinkerer Dieter Binninger. It displays time through illuminated colored blocks, rather than numbers; and, requires the viewer to calculate the time based on a complex scheme.”

“A yellow lamp at the top of the clock blinks every two seconds, while a row of red lamps beneath it represent five hours. Red lights on a second row denote one hour each, and time is calculated based on the number of lights illuminated,” Ms. Zetter wrote. “”So, if in the first line 2 lamps are lit; and, in the second line, three lamps, it’s 5+5+3=13, or 1p.m,” notes one description of the timepiece.”

“Most people have no idea who Dieter is; and, all of the other people who made strange clocks in Berlin,” Sanborn said. “There’s a very interesting back story to the [Berlin Clock].”

“The focus on the clock, however, may just be a bit of sly misdirection from Sanborn — who is among Kryptos fans for his puckishness,” Ms. Zetter wrote.

“Clock,” could easily refer instead to the method devised by a Polish mathematician and cryptologist during WWII…to crack Germany’s Enigma cyphers — a method that was expanded on by Alan Turning and his team at Bletchley Park…who are credited with ultimately cracking Enigma,” Ms. Zetter notes. (It may be no coincidence that Sanborn has decided to release his new clue at the same time as The Imitation Game, a film about Turning’s work on Enigma is opening in U.S. theaters on Nov. 28).

How Kryptos Has Remained Unsolved For 20 Years

“Sanborn’s Kryptos sculpture was unveiled at the CIA on Nov. 3, 1990, a month that has a recurring theme in the sculpture’s ethos,” Ms. Zetter noted. “The artwork features a large block of petrified wood, standing upright, with a tall copper plate scrolling out from the wood — like a sheet of paper. At the sculpture’s base, is a round pool — with a fountain pump, that sends water moving in a circular direction around the pool. Carved out of the copper plate, approximately 1,800 letters, some of them forming a cryptologic table based on a method developed by a 16th-century Frenchman named Blaise de Vigenere.”

“In 1995, a small group of cryptanalysts inside the NSA quietly deciphered the first three sections of the sculpture, though no one outside the agency and the CIA’s top brass knew about it. In 1998, CIA analyst David Stein cracked the same three messages — using paper and pencil and about 400 lunch-time hours. Only his CIA colleagues knew of his success, however, because the agency didn’t publicize it. A year later, California computer scientist Jim Gillogly, gained public notoriety when he cracked the same three messages using the Pentium II.”

“The first message is a poetic phrase that Sanborn composed,” Ms. Zetter wrote:

“Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion.”

The second one hints at something buried:

“It was totally invisible. How’s that possible? They used earth’s magnetic field. x The information was gathered and transmitted, underground to an unknown location. x Does Langley know this? They should, It’s buried out there somewhere. x Who knows the exact location? Only WW. This was his last message. x Thirty eight degrees fifty seven minutes six point five seconds north, seventy seven degrees eight minutes forty four seconds west. x Layer two.”

“WW,” Sanborn told Wired, in 2005, refers to William Webster, Director of the CIA at the time the sculpture’s completion. Sandborn was forced to provide Webster with the solution to the puzzle — to reassure the CIA it wasn’t something that would embarrass the agency,” Ms. Zetter wrote.

“The third message is a take on a passage from the diary of English Archaeologist Howard Carter, describing the opening of King Tut’s tomb on November 22, 1922,” Ms Zetter noted. “Slowly, desperately slowly, the remains of passage debris that encumbered the lower part of the doorway was removed. With trembling hands, I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner. And then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. The hot air escaping from the chamber caused the flame to flicker, put presently details of the room within emerged in the midst. x Can you see anything? q”

“Sandborn has said that the first three sections contain clues to solving the final 97 letters; but, no one has figured out what those might be. After no progress cracking the last section, Sandborn released the “Berlin” clue four years ago, considering it “a significant clue. I’m throwing it out there. It just makes that many fewer characters people have to figure out,” he told Wired, — at the time.”

“The six letters that spell “Berlin,” Ms. Vetter writes, — NYPVTT — are the 64th through 69th letters of the final 97 letters; and, the new “clock” are deciphered from the next five letters that follow it. Code detectives worked to crack the puzzle following the Berlin revelation. Members of a popular Kryptos Yahoo Group led by Elonka Dunin, the foremost expert at Kryptos, tried for months to resolve it — but, to no avail.”

“Who knows if the new clue will prove to be any more helpful,: Ms. Zetter wonders. And, even if it is,” she argues, “and, sleuths decipher the final code, there’s additional message they will still need to resolve. Once decrypted, the fourth section reveals a riddle, which Sandborn has said requires sleuths to be on CIA grounds to solve.”

The Mystery Of The Riddle

“In the part of the code that’s been decrypted, I refer to an act that took place when I was at the agency; and, a location that’s on the ground of the agency,” Sandborn said. “So, in order to find that place, you have to decipher the place; and, then go to the agency to find that place.”

Ms. Zetter writes “the riddle may refer to something buried on the CIA grounds at the time he installed in the sculpture, possibly in a location spelled out in section two of the sculpture, which lists a latitude and longitude coordinates: 38 57 6.5N and 77 8 44 W. Sandborn has said they refer to “locations of the agency.”

“Dunin has suggested the coordinates may refer to the location of the Berlin Wall monument on CIA grounds. Three slabs from the Berlin Wall sit at the spy agency’s headquarters, a gift from the German government. Sandborn has also told Wired that the collapse of the wall was “big news” at the time he was “casting about” for things he wanted to include in his sculpture, However, the wall monument wasn’t dedicated at the CIA till 1992, two years after Kryptos was unveiled. Although the coordinates of the monument’s location — 38 57 2.5N, 77 8 40 W — differ from the coordinates mentioned in Kryptos by four seconds in both the latitude and longitude, Dunin has speculated that the CIA may have originally planned to position the monument at the coordinates Sandborn mentions on Kryptos — but then, chose a different location. Alternatively, Sandborn may have been using an incorrect U.S. geological map when he created his sculpture; and thus, got the coordinates wrong,” she notes. After all, Sandborn has other errors in his sculpture, both intentional, and unintentional,” Wired said.

“Kryptos includes intentional spelling errors, and misaligned characters set higher on a line of text than characters around them. But, in 2006, Sandborn realized he had also made an inadvertent error, a missing “x” that he mistakenly deleted from the end of a line in section two, a section that was already solved. He discovered the omission while doing a letter-by-letter comparison of the plaintext, and coded text in preparation for a book about his work.”

“The x was supposed to signify a period or, section-break at the end of a phrase. Sandborn removed it for aesthetic reasons, thinking it wouldn’t affect the way the puzzle was deciphered, but in fact it did. What sleuths had until then deciphered to say ID by rows” was actually supposed to say “layer two.” The correction hasn’t helped anyone solve the rest of the puzzle, however, in the subsequent years. Now, this second clue, Sandborn hopes, will reinvigorate efforts to crack he mystery; though, he has mixed views on whether he wants the journey to end. The artist has said he’d like to see Kryptos solved in his lifetime; but, he also enjoys that some of the smartest minds in cryptography — including those at the CIA and NSA — continue to be baffled by his work.”

“Only two other people, aside from Sandborn, were initially said to know the solution to Kryptos: one was the retired Chairman of the CIA’s Cryptologic Center Ed Scheidt, who helped Sandborn choose and alter the coding techniques for the sculpture. The other was William Webster, the CIA Director who received a sealed envelope containing the solution at the sculpture’s dedication. However, in 2005, Sandborn revealed to Wired that Scheidt and Webster only thought they knew the solution. In fact, he had deceived them,” Ms. Zetter wrote.

Ms. Zetter concludes, “in 1989, after the East German government announced that its citizens were free from then on to cross over the Wall into West Berlin and West Germany, crowds of euphoric Germans began chipping away at the barrier. With this new clue provided by Sanford, let the chipping away on Kryptos begin,.”

‘The Everest Of Codes’

Interesting article. Despite Wikileaks, Edward Snowden, and other unauthorized leaks, the mystery of the Kryptos sculpture and, it’s 1,800 characters — has endured for nearly a quarter of a century — and, flummoxed many a seasoned NSA cryptographers — among others, As Philip Sherwell wrote on the 20th anniversary of the sculpture’s unveiling in the January 9. 2011 edition of London’s The Telegraph, “the final mystery of Kryptos — it means “hidden” in Greek — is known as “the Everest of Codes,” among the thousands of cryptographers who are obsessed in deciphering it.” V/R, RCP

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