NSA Declassifies 200 Year Old Report

06.09.11 | 2 min read | Text by Steven Aftergood

The National Security Agency announced yesterday that it has declassified a report that is over two hundred years old.

The newly declassified report, entitled “Cryptology: Instruction Book on the Art of Secret Writing,” dates from 1809.  It is part of a collection of 50,000 pages of historic records that have just been declassified by NSA and transferred to the National Archives.

The NSA said the new release demonstrated its “commitment to meeting the requirements” of President Obama’s January 2009 Memorandum on Transparency and Open Government.

The bulk of the newly released documents are from World War II and the early post-War era. (NSA itself was established in 1952.)  A list of titles released to the National Archives is here (pdf).

Last April, the Central Intelligence Agency declassified several documents on the use of “invisible ink” that dated from the World War I era.  But those were not even a century old.

Meanwhile, in more recent developments, the case of former NSA official Thomas A. Drake, who is charged with unlawful retention of classified information, is said to be “changing hour by hour.”

On Sunday, the government told the court (pdf) it had decided to withdraw several of its proposed exhibits rather than declassify them for trial, Politico reported (“Feds pare back NSA leak case to shield technology” by Josh Gerstein, June 6).

As a consequence, prosecutors are now seeking a plea bargain, the Washington Post reported, but Drake has twice refused to accept their offer (“Ex-NSA manager has reportedly twice rejected plea bargains in Espionage Act case” by Ellen Nakashima, June 9).

The trial of Thomas Drake is currently still scheduled to begin in Baltimore on Monday, June 13.

See all publications
Nuclear Weapons
New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship: Creative Perspectives on Rethinking Nuclear Deterrence 

To empower new voices to start their career in nuclear weapons studies, the Federation of American Scientists launched the New Voices on Nuclear Weapons Fellowship. Here’s what our inaugural cohort accomplished.

11.28.23 | 3 min read
read more
Science Policy
Expected Utility Forecasting for Science Funding

Common frameworks for evaluating proposals leave this utility function implicit, often evaluating aspects of risk, uncertainty, and potential value independently and qualitatively.

11.20.23 | 11 min read
read more
Nuclear Weapons
Nuclear Notebook: Nuclear Weapons Sharing, 2023

The FAS Nuclear Notebook is one of the most widely sourced reference materials worldwide for reliable information about the status of nuclear weapons and has been published in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987. The Nuclear Notebook is researched and written by the staff of the Federation of American Scientists’ Nuclear Information Project: Director Hans […]

11.17.23 | 1 min read
read more
Social Innovation
Community School Approach Reaches High of 60%, Reports Latest Pulse Panel

According to the National Center for Education Statistics’ August 2023 pulse panel, 60% of public schools were utilizing a “community school” or “wraparound services model” at the start of this school year—up from 45% last year.

11.17.23 | 4 min read
read more