A Soviet Espionage Cable Redacted, Revealed, and Confirmed
By John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr
In 1995 the National Security Agency (NSA) began releasing World War II telegraphic cables between Soviet intelligence agencies in Moscow and their American stations. These cables, totaling more than 5,000 pages, were deciphered by the NSA’s “VENONA” project and are indisputably one of the richest documentary sources on Soviet espionage in the United States.
One minor annoyance in the exploitation of the VENONA cables has been the NSA’s decision to redact some names and passages, particularly in footnotes written by Agency analysts. The pattern of redactions suggested that the NSA blacked out the names of individuals involved in Soviet espionage whenever they cooperated under questioning by the FBI, or when the identification of the real name behind a cover name was somewhat less than certain.
There was, however, one puzzling and prominent exception to the pattern of redactions being confined to the footnotes: VENONA cable 1354. Dated 22 September 1944 and sent from the chief of the KGB station in New York to headquarters in Moscow, this message discussed the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), American WWII’s foreign intelligence agency. Here is the two-page cable as released by the NSA:
Such an extensive redaction of the actual text of the Soviet message can be found nowhere else in the more than 3,000 cables released by NSA.