Venona, av Haynes och Klehr

För tretton år sedan läste jag en bok om hur USA och UK under många år hade lyckats få inblick i delar av Sovjets hemliga agerande. Detta genom ett signalspanings- och dekrypteringsprojekt vars täcknamn var ”Venona”. Det pågick länge och hölls mycket hemligt. Enligt en obekräftad uppgift var det bl.a. svenska FRA som plockade in Sovjets telegram mellan Moskva och sitt folk runt världen. Det svåra var dekryptering av dessa texter. Där arbetade britter och amerikaner. De lyckades knäcka en del telegram, då Sovjet slarvade och återanvände samma koder fler gånger. Boken heter ”Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America” av John Earl Haynes och Harvey Klehr.
Det var i september 2000, under tiden i Los Angeles, jag läste boken och skrev en recension på engelska. Inte mitt modersmål, men man kan ju alltid prova. Det roliga var att recensionen fick bästa betyg av andra läsare. Nu hade jag retat mig på de typiska svenska bokrecensionerna, som handlar mindre om boken och mer om recensentens ego. Så jag gjorde en mall på hur man kanske borde göra. Och på ”Venona” provades mallen: ”BACKGROUND”, ”TIDBITS”, ”OUTLINING”, ”FACTS / OPINIONS”, ”READ”, ”COMMENTS”. Nu, när jag bloggar om en del böcker jag läser, brukar det mest bli att redogöra för innehållet i stora drag, samt några detaljer. Om det intresserar, så kan ju boken ge mer. Hur boken är skriven känns inte lika viktigt. Skillnaden mellan vad boken säger, vad jag lägger till, och vad jag tycker, hoppas jag framgår. Men, man kanske skulle sätta ihop en mall igen? Här är den text jag skrev i september 2000.  
BACKGROUND
Venona was the cover name of a top secret US government project that from the 1940’s to the 1980’s intercepted and decoded Soviet government messages all over the world. Venona gave numerous facts about Soviet espionage from some 3000 messages. Venona was officially revealed in 1995. The Soviets got hints about Venona, but thought their codes were safe.
TIDBITS
Learning details about spies, the US government often did not prosecute, since it would alert the Soviets that their codes were being broken. Instead the FBI often maneuvered to keep spies away from sensitive positions by stopping promotions or having people fired. Often when a spy was brought to trial, the government still held back evidence. Therefore, many spies were never convicted, or got off easy. This gave ammunition to leftist public opinion who claimed ”McCarthyism”. The book details hundreds of spies/cases such as Alger Hiss, the Rosenbergs, the Manhattan Project, … just to name a few.
OUTLINING
The authors tells how the book came about. The basics of Venona. What the codes looked like. In detail how they were constituted and broken. Then its off to numerous ”cases”. Typically a person or ”ring” is reported on a couple of pages. Some cases cover whole chapters.
FACTS / OPINIONS
Filled with facts of the Soviet operations. Such as birth names, KGB/GRU internal cover names and cover names used in the US. The book gives dates, cities, US Business’, government offices and political organizations. We see the orders the KGB gave, who recommended who to sensitive posts, how much money changed hands… The authors stays with the facts and gives almost no opinions, but some background. The book is not about telling stories, so often we get facts without ”punch-lines”. Venona does not explain everything, and open ended cases are presented as well. Then the book sometimes speculates in a couple of possible scenarios referring to other facts. Fact and speculation are always easy to separate.READThe text is sober and easy to read. The authors always gives clear and open references. We learn only a little about the personal lives and feelings of the spies. Except for their basic motivation. Which are the usual black-mail, ideology, greed, personal vendetta,… 

COMMENTS

The sheer number of spies is staggering. They were everywhere. Including the top of the US government. It makes you wonder how much of what the Western World did, actually was controlled from Moscow. The book makes it easy to understand how all the weapons of mass destruction we develop comes back to haunt us.

 

BÖCKER

Här är boken på Amazon.com: ”Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America” av John Earl Haynes och Harvey Klehr.
Några år senare skrev William Agrell om saken: ”Venona : spåren från ett underrättelsekrig”.

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