[Cryptography] NSA versus DES etc....

Jerry Leichter leichter at lrw.com
Thu Oct 2 16:17:52 EDT 2014

On Oct 2, 2014, at 5:32 AM, John Gilmore <gnu at toad.com> wrote:
>> ...
>> I guess the various well-funded enemies have figured out each other's
>> secret algorithms by now, but out of politeness and common interest they
>> cartelise the secrets.
> Let's go a bit deeper into this.  Politeness?  Common interest?  Really?
A friend (Martin Minow, in case anyone here remembers him) years ago told me a story he heard in Sweden.  The rivers and bays along the Swedish coast are extremely tricky to navigate, being full of underwater canyons and ridges.  For many years, the maps of some of the major ports were considered to be essential state secrets, a means of defense against (mainly Soviet) naval attack.  If you wanted to sail into one of these harbors, you had best get a Swedish pilot, who had access to the maps but would ban you from watching while he used them.

One day, a number of Soviet vessels arrived for some kind of political port visit.  The Soviets had always asked for Swedish pilots in the past - but for some reason this time they went ahead and sailed up river at speed, easily navigating around the not-quite-so-secret underwater obstacles.

This was certainly a decision made at a high level in the Soviet Navy, if not at political levels, though as far as I know, exactly *why* they chose to do it has never been explained.

The Swedes, being reasonable people, stopped classifying the maps.  (If they had followed current American practice, anyone with a government position would have been required to continue to treat the information as secret.)
                                                        -- Jerry

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