VENONA Chronology: 1939-1996 per Denis Naranjo
1939  
10-Jan Soviet intelligence defector Walter Krivitsky has the first of several debriefings at the Department of State.
   
26-June President Roosevelt secretly gives the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Military Intelligence Division (MID), and the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI) exclusive responsibility for counterespionage.
23-Aug Germany and USSR sign Non-Aggression Pact.
1-Sep World War II begins as Germany invades Poland.
1940  
21-May President Roosevelt authorizes the FBI to conduct warrantless electronic surveillance of persons suspected of subversion or espionage; surveillance was to be limited insofar as possible to aliens.
5-June FBI-MID-ONI "Delimitation Agreement" further specifies the division of labor in domestic intelligence work.
28-June The Alien Registration Act (the "Smith Act") criminalizes conspiracy to overthrow the government, requires resident aliens to register, report annually, and provide notice of address changes.
20-Aug KGB agent Ramon Mercader assassinates Leon Trotsky in Mexico.
1941  
10-Feb Walter Krivitsky found dead of a gunshot wound in a Washington hotel; the police rule his death a suicide.
5-May Federal agents arrest Amtorg employee and KGB New York resident Gaik Ovakimian for violating the Foreign Agents Registration Act.
22-June Germany invades Russia.
29-June FBI arrests 29 German military intelligence agents, crippling Germany's clandestine operations in the United States.
23-July US Government allows Ovakimian to leave the country.
25-Sep London KGB resident Anatoli Gorski informs Moscow that his agent reports London has decided to build an atomic bomb.
7-Dec Japanese aircraft attack Pearl Harbor; America enters the war.
25-Dec Senior KGB officer Vassili M. Zarubin arrives in San Francisco on his way to succeed Ovakimian as New York resident.
1942  
20-Mar MID's Special Branch begins producing daily "Magic Summaries" analyzing foreign diplomatic messages for the White House and senior military commanders.
13-June The Office of the Coordinator of Information becomes the Office of Strategic Services (OSS), subordinate to the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
30-June Interagency agreement divides signals intelligence duties: Navy assigned to handle naval codebreaking; the US Army's Signals Intelligence Service to handle diplomatic and military traffic; and the FBI works clandestine radio communications.
8-July President Roosevelt bars all agencies except the FBI and the armed services from code-breaking activities. The services interpret this directive as authorization to deny signals intelligence to OSS.
1943  
1-Feb US Army's renamed Signal Security Agency (SSA) formally begins work on Russian diplomatic traffic. Ms. Gene Grabeel, a Virginia home economics schoolteacher, begins as the first VENONA cryptanalyst at Arlington Hall.
10-Apr KGB New York resident Vassili M. Zarubin meets CPUSA official Steve Nelson in Oakland and discusses espionage.
15-May Communist International (Comintern) resolves to disband.
7-Aug FBI receives an anonymous Russian letter naming Soviet intelligence officers in North America.
31-Oct San Francisco KGB residency acknowledges the receipt of a new codebook.
November ASA cryptanalyst Lieutenant Richard Hallock makes the first break into Soviet diplomatic ciphers; Frank Lewis later expanded the break.
During 1943 VENONA program expands operations; Captain F. Coudert and Major William B. S. Smith assigned in charge.
1944  
1-May The KGB, apparently on short notice, changes the indicator system for its cables, leaving the one-time pad page numbers reusable.
November SSA's Cecil Phillips discovers the new KGB indicator, which is then used to detect "key" duplicated in Trade messages.
November More breaks made in KGB ciphers by cryptanalysts Cecil Phillips, Genevieve Feinstein, and Lucille Campbell.
December OSS purchases Soviet code and cipher material from Finnish sources; the Roosevelt administration orders the material returned to the Soviet Embassy in Washington.
15-Dec The War Department transfers operational control of SSA from the Signal Corps to MID.
1945  
12-Apr President Roosevelt dies; Harry Truman sworn in as his successor.
27-Apr A US Army Target Intelligence Committee (TICOM) team finds Russian code and cipher material in a German Foreign Office cryptanalytic center in a castle in Saxony-Anhalt.
8-May Germany surrenders.
May Military intelligence teams find Soviet codebooks in Saxony and Schleswig, Germany.
10-May FBI conducts a lengthy debriefing of former Soviet agent Whittaker Chambers.
June Earl Browder ousted as leader of the Communist Political Association, which reclaims its old name, the Communist Party of the United States (CPUSA).
16-July The Manhattan Project detonates the world's first nuclear explosion, Trinity, in New Mexico; Soviet agents had warned Moscow in advance.
Summer Igor Gouzenko defects; Elizabeth Bentley and Whittaker Chambers tell the FBI about Soviet espionage activity in the U.S.
14-Aug Japan capitulates.
5-Sep Soviet GRU code clerk Lt. Igor Gouzenko defects in Ottawa.
6-Sep The War Department authorizes merger of SSA with selected Signal Corps units to form the Army Security Agency (ASA), under MID.
12-Sep US-UK signals intelligence Continuation Agreement extends wartime cooperation in this field.
20-Sep President Truman dissolves OSS.
7-Nov Elizabeth Bentley interviewed at length for the first time by FBI agents about her work for the KGB.
1946  
22-Jan Truman creates the Central Intelligence Group and the position of Director of Central Intelligence (DCI).
13-June The State-Army-Navy Communications Intelligence Board adds the FBI and renames itself the United States Communications Intelligence Board (USCIB).
8-July National Intelligence Authority Directive 5 secretly directs the DCI to conduct, as "services of common concern," all foreign intelligence and counterespionage.
10-July CIG joins the new USCIB and gains access to signals intelligence.
15-July A Canadian Royal commission releases its report on the Gouzenko affair to the public.
17-July Attorney General Tom Clark urges Truman to renew and broaden Roosevelt's 1940 authorization to conduct electronic surveillance on "persons suspected of subversive activities"; the President soon approves.
July-Dec ASA cryptanalyst Meredith Gardner begins to analytically reconstruct KGB codebook; decrypts a few messages including one about the atomic bomb.
20-Dec M. Gardner decrypts part of a KGB message containing a list of atomic scientists.
1947  
22-Mar Executive Order 9835 tightens protections against subversive infiltration of the US Government, defining disloyalty as membership on a list of subversive organizations maintained by the Attorney General.
26-July President Truman signs the National Security Act of 1947, creating the National Security Council (NSC) and transforming CIG into the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
30-Aug Meredith Gardner's study of KGB covernames in the messages.
~September 1 Col. Carter Clarke briefs the FBI's liaison officer Robert J. Lamphere on the break into Soviet diplomatic traffic.
September Carter W. Clarke of G-2 advises S. Wesley Reynolds, FBI, of successes at Arlington Hall on KGB espionage messages.
12-Dec NSCID-5 reiterates but qualifies DCI's counterespionage authority to avoid precluding certain "agreed" FBI and military counterintelligence activities.
1948  
1-July NSCID-9 puts USCIB under the NSC and increases civilian control of signals intelligence.
20-July General Secretary Eugene Dennis and 11 other CPUSA leaders arrested and indicted under the Smith Act of conspiring to advocate violent overthrow of the US Government.
31-July Elizabeth Bentley testifies before the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HCUA), publicly accusing Harry Dexter White and Lauchlin Currie of being Soviet agents.
3-Aug Whittaker Chambers names Alger Hiss and Harry Dexter White as Communists in testimony before the HCUA.
19-Oct Meredith Gardner and Robert Lamphere, based at FBI Headquarters, meet at Arlington Hall and formally inaugurate full-time FBI-ASA liaison on the Soviet messages. A large number of espionage cases are opened.
17-Nov Chambers produces the "Pumpkin Papers" to substantiate his new charge that Hiss and White spied for Moscow during the 1930s.
16-Dec A federal grand jury indicts Alger Hiss for perjury.
December FBI identifies covername SIMA assigned to Justice Department analyst Judith Coplon.
1948-1951 Exploitation of VENONA exposes major KGB espionage agents, including Klaus Fuchs, Harry Gold, David Greenglass, Theodore Hall, William Perl, Julius & Ethel Rosenberg, Guy Burgess, Donald Maclean, Kim Philby, and Harry Dexter White.
1949  
4-Mar FBI arrests Coplon and Soviet UN employee Valentin A. Gubitchev in New York. Though Coplon is the first VENONA-based arrest, her conviction is later overturned.
23-Mar Truman approves NSC 17/4, which reconstitutes the secret Interdepartmental Intelligence Conference to coordinate jurisdiction of FBI and military counterintelligence.
20-May Defense Secretary Louis Johnson directs a quasi-merger of service signals intelligence in a new Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), subordinate to the JCS.
23-Sep Truman announces that the Soviets have exploded an atomic bomb.
1-Oct The People's Republic of China is proclaimed in Beijing.
1950  
21-Jan Alger Hiss is convicted of perjury.
24-Jan Klaus Fuchs confesses to espionage.
9-Feb Senator Joseph R. McCarthy, in a speech in Wheeling, West Virginia, brandishes a list of Communists allegedly working in the State Department.
22-May FBI arrests Harry Gold for espionage.
15-June David Greenglass confesses to the FBI and implicates his recruiter Julius Rosenberg.
25-June North Korean troops invade South Korea.
17-July FBI arrests Julius Rosenberg.
24-Aug AFSA assigns Soviet intercept material a restricted codeword ("Bride") and special handling procedures.
23-Sep Congress passes the Internal Security Act (the "McCarran Act"), which it would soon pass again over President Truman's veto. The Act requires Communist-linked organizations to register and allows emergency detention of potentially dangerous persons.
1951  
25-May British Foreign Office officials Donald MacLean and Guy Burgess flee Great Britain to defect to the Soviet Union.
July CPUSA announces that the Party will operate as a "cadre organization," with many of its leaders underground.
1952-1953 An earlier KGB cryptosystem is exploited; GRU messages attacked and broken down. More espionage agents become identified during the next two decades.
1952  
  AFSA detects duplicate key pages in GRU messages.
4-Nov Truman creates the National Security Agency (NSA) to supersede AFSA and further centralize control of signals intelligence under the Secretary of Defense and a reconstituted USCIB.
1953  
  CIA officially briefed on VENONA and begins to assist in counterintelligence work.
  NSA places the "POBJEDA" codebook--recovered in Germany in April 1945--against KGB messages from 1941 through 1943. More than half of the burned codebook proves useable.
5-Mar Josef Stalin dies.
6-Apr KGB defector Alexander Orlov's story appears in Life magazine, finally alerting the FBI to his residence in the United States.
19-June Julius and Ethel Rosenberg executed after President Eisenhower again denies executive clemency.
27-July Armistice signed in Korea.
6-Nov Attorney General Herbert Brownell sparks controversy by claiming in a Chicago speech that former President Truman had appointed Harry Dexter White to head the International Monetary Fund despite FBI warnings that White was a Soviet agent.
1954  
20-Dec CIA's Directorate of Plans creates the Counterintelligence Staff, with James J. Angleton as its chief.
1956  
8-Mar NSC approves the FBI's proposed "COINTELPRO" operation against the CPUSA.
4-June The Department of State releases Soviet General Secretary Khrushchev's secret speech to the Twentieth Party Congress, in which Khrushchev denounced Stalin's crimes.
October Soviet troops suppress a popular uprising in Hungary.
1957  
25-Jan FBI arrests Jack and Myra Sobel for espionage on the basis of evidence provided by double agent Boris Morros.
4-May KGB officer Reino Hayhanen, en route from the United States, defects at the US Embassy in Paris.
17-June Supreme Court in Yates v. US rules the government had enforced the Smith Act too broadly by targeting protected speech instead of actual action to overthrow the political system; this ruling makes the Act almost useless for prosecuting Communists.
21-June Federal authorities detain Hayhanen's superior, KGB illegal Col. Rudolf Abel, in New York.
15-Nov Abel is sentenced to 30 years and imprisoned.
   
1960 U.K. begins to exploit Naval GRU messages. From 1960-80, hundreds of first-time translations of VENONA messages become available; many earlier translations are reissued.
   
1980 October 1, the final work on VENONA comes to a close at Arlington Hall.
   
July 1995 CIA Director John Deutsch holds a press conference in Washington, D.C., formally announcing the release of the first phase of VENONA decrypts.
   
October 1996 The Center for the Study of Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and the Center for Democracy co-sponsor ‚€œThe VENONA Conference‚€, October 3-4, 1996, at the National War College, Ft. Lesley J. McNair, Washington, DC. The conference is timed to coincide with the final declassified release of VENONA message enciphered Soviet telegrams from the 1940s. After the last release, the total messages number 2,900.

Spreadsheet's Author: Denis Naranjo
Last Updated using Excel 97
 

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