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National Security Agency Tour: Cryptologic Museum & Recon Airfield (With Lunch)

  • Mar 15, 2014 · 10:00 AM
  • Canine and Savage Roads

PLEASE NOTE:  The individuals who are now waitlisted for the February 15th tour will get a first crack at this event.


IMPORTANT:

1.  Attendees need to have a profile photo showing their likeness, and, on the supplemental question, they must provide their full legal name as well as an email address at the time of their RSVP; for guests (if applicable), only the full legal name is required.

2.  On the second supplemental question, please indicate if you are attending lunch.

3.  When we go by the two Ops Buildings, no photographic equipment (including cellular phones ) can be pointed towards the two Ops buildings or else the DOD Police will confiscate any such instruments that are pointed towards the two Ops Buildings.  You may photograph the surveillance planes with your back towards the two Ops buildings and you may photograph all items inside the Crypto Museum (except by the classified documents library located by the fire exit).

 

 

This is what we will be greeted with as we enter the portal at the beginning of our tour.

 

 

 

THERE IS NO COST FOR THIS EVENT, AND GUESTS (INCLUDING CHILDREN) ARE WELCOME.  Please read the entire activity write-up before you RSVP, and only RSVP if you can definitely attend.  Those who do not follow the outlined directions will be removed from the RSVP list with no further communications.  You must stay with the group at all times. This unclassified private tour will be completely on NSA property, at Fort George Meade, Maryland.  This area is controlled by the Department of Defense.  The Agency is Maryland's biggest employer, and, budget-wise, it is the largest intelligence agency in the world.  The facility we will visit was originally designed to house artifacts from the Agency and to give its employees a place to reflect on past successes and failures.  The Cryptologic Museum is now a priceless collection of the nation's intelligence history.  We are going to be assigned a set of "docents" from the Agency who are long-time NSA employees and we will be shown cryptologic equipment and provided with first-hand information on how the NSA does its work.

 

 

One wondered about the strange radio emissions coming from this Great Seal located in our Moscow Embassy.

 

 

 

 

 

Well, well, well; look what the Russians placed inside our Great Seal.

 

 

 

We'll see the released Venona documents, the various cryptologic systems used to break codes in the world wars, get a presentation on Navajo code talkers, get a briefing on the history of cryptography, and much more.  During our tour, we will see the "Jefferson Cipher Wheel" named after Thomas Jefferson; learn about Civil War encrypted visual communications; see the biometrics exhibit used in law enforcement support and intelligence gathering; learn about wordless Hobo sign communications used during the Depression; tour the galactic radiation satellite exhibit; witness cold war items that superpowers used to spy on one another, including a special gift from Moscow: the only known piece of Gary Power's aircraft; we will learn about cryptologic items related to the USS Liberty that was attacked by Israel; view items related to the USS Pueblo that was attacked by North Korea; learn about the Great Seal microphone that was hidden in the bugged carving the Soviets gave us (and which NSA found); see the entire decrypted Venona documents that show KGB tradecraft in detail; in the Cray supercomputer section, we will see the XMP-24, as the NSA is the world's largest supercomputing facility (NSA inventories its computers in acres rather than by an actual count); and telemetry processing will also be covered.  We will see how sound detecting intelligence against North Korea is done; get a glimpse of post cold-war COMSEC developments for US communications systems; view the Kahn collection (Dr. Kahn's seminal work, The Codebreakers, is one of the world's greatest books on cryptography, and he donated his entire work to NSA).

 

 

 

So simple to use yet so complicated to break.  The Cypher Disk was invented in Italy in 1470, and used ever since.

 

 

 

 

We will see Purple cypher switches, enigma machines, ultra machines; appreciate the American Black Chamber (codenamed MI-8) which broke the Japanese code; view the Zimmerman Telegram that changed the course of one world war, and you'll learn about the cryptologists breaking "JN-25" Japanese message that revealed that Midway would be attacked, providing us with a turning point in the war in the Pacific.  We will reach a somber moment when we see the double black wall reflecting "Those Who Served In Silence" being a testament to the 153 cryptologists, the silent warriors who made the ultimate sacrifice in their field against the enemy.

 

 

 

 

Those that gave their lives for our nation's secrets

 

 

 

 

 

 And then there is what Germans called "The Big Machine," being the only cryptographic system whose codes remained unbroken during the world war as its rotors could go forward and backwards with each key stroke.  The Germans never broke it albeit they tried relentlessly and the Japanese gave up after trying. By contrast, our own cryptanalysts broke the German Enigma because the rotors of the enemy cryptography machines stopped at each key stroke and only went in one direction.  This is how America knew that the Germans did not know about the final, massive invasion we would conduct in Europe.  You will see the analog machine that broke the "Purple" Japanese code and why it is considered the greatest feat in cryptologic history. Sadly, this also comprises the famous message that told the Japanese ambassador to break all relations with the US just before the attack on Pearl Harbor.  Our cryptologists had fully decrypted the message that Japan was ready to go to war - 9 hours before the Japanese ambassador even received his own copy - but no senior US military official acted on the message until it was too late, as it was judged to contain no true military information.

 

 

 

 

The famous and rugged Nestor.

 

 

 

 

My favorite section is that showing the Navajo code talkers, whose legacy began when an army captain overheard two Choctaws speaking in their own language. The language was unknown outside of the Navajo nation, so the enemy could never decipher the communications.  The rest is history.  And then there is the Enigma Machine on display, an electromechanical apparatus created by the Germans that was said to be impregnable.  With each key stroke, the letter would change into a new one. But three brilliant Polish mathematicians were able to beat the machine.  After that, we knew where the German U-Boats would be, which saved many thousands of American lives, and we were able to resupply Europe. Germany preferred to lose its boats than to believe Enigma was broken.  Then there is the SIGSALY exhibit whose systems are used in secure telephones.

 

 

 

During a prior visit, some of our members pose in front of one of NSA's SIGINT aircraft.

 

 

 

Finally, after we learn about spycraft, we will go outside to the airfield, and we will see specialized reconnaissance aircraft used for photographic and signals intelligence.  There will be a refurbished C-130 used for intelligence gathering over the Soviet Union, an RU-8D Seminole used in SE Asia, an EA-3B Ranger 12 aircraft assigned to the Navy's Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron.  And then there are the two huge satellite dishes that can be seen way beyond the treeline, one pointing over the Atlantic and another pointing over the Pacific, no one will tell you what they are for, but by that time you should know.

 

 

 

Go ahead; make the call......

 

 

 

 

We will see the Washington-Moscow Hotline.  This telecommunications system was one of the Agency's creations meant to keep the world safe from an all-out nuclear war.

 

 

This mainframe has 45 miles of wiring inside it.  It also requires a 50-ton refrigeration unit to keep it cool when it is processing data.

 

 

Biometrics were used to locate a particular individual who was on the most wanted terrorist list for the past decade; it was a cellular phone emission identified using biometrics that played a pivotal role in the mission's success.

 

 

 

There's a lot of phone records here.

 

 

Bring a camera and you can take pictures in the designated area where we will be.  Under no conditions can you take photographs of the Operations Buildings behind the parking area and the military airfield.

Here is the address for mapping purposes:

8290 Colony Seven Rd, Annapolis Junction, Maryland

Go to the building that has this sign on it:

NCM


Here are the general directions.  Park next to the Museum and then enter the Museum's single entrance.  Be aware that GPS systems may become inoperable in the general area:

http://www.nsa.gov/about/cryptologic_heritage/museum/map/index.shtml

 

Parking and admission are free.  Of course, this entire event is free, as your taxes already paid for it (except for the food, that is).  After the tour, we will caravan across the military facility to a great area restaurant for a late lunch.  The restaurant will have an area reserved for us.  This is a place with excellent food at reasonable prices, and it has won many food awards.

Mamma Roma, at 8743 Piney Orchard Parkway, in Odenton, Maryland, 21113

Here is the web site (got to the Odenton restaurant):

http://mammaromas.com/

Directions from NSA to Mama Roma:

http://mapq.st/1cgdhhk


BRING CASH FOR THE RESTAURANT IF YOU ARE JOINING US FOR THE MEAL

Join or login to comment.

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great tour, great people, great restaurant, great host. Very well organized. The birthday cannoli was awesome. Thank u, thank u:).

    March 16, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Great tour guide, but even better stories from Bob!!

    1 · March 15, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Our private tour was very educational, and we covered cryptography from Old Testament times to the space age, with an emphasis on our nation's wars. We were able to get a current NSA employee to provide us with an in-depth and fascinating talk on the items that we saw. Much one-of-a-kind material from the World Wars and the Cold War were covered. Seeing an actual part of Gary Powers' U-2 plane that was shot down by the Russians (while the Russians claimed they never saw it) reminds us how dangerous these spy missions truly are. Our indoor tour ended appropriately at the somber NSA Memorial, entitled "They Served In Silence," where the names are etched in black granite of the 171 employees who gave their lives protecting our nation's secrets. After the indoor tour, we ventured to the airfield where the surveillance aircraft were located. Finally, we left NSA, and headed to Mamma Roma's for a delicious meal. It was a good day, spent with a great bunch of members.

    1 · March 15, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I am so sorry I have to cancel, but something has come up that I need to attend to. I hope someone can go in my place. Thanks for all you do,Bob.

    March 14, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Please make sure that you are there before 10 AM and do not go in the NSA visitor parking but follow the directions above.

    March 14, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Folks - Please update your RSVP now if you cannot attend this event. Also, solidify your carpool plans now rather than the night before the activity.

    March 13, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Bob, mom is in the hospital w/heart problems and I have to be there. Sorry to bail out on short notice. Thank you for the great job you do organizing events! Hopefully you can give my spot to someone. Thank you.

    March 12, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Ailene, a prayer goes out to our mother, and also to you. Please make sure that you take care of yourself during her hospitalization, as it is easy for caregivers to get swamped.

      March 12, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Still looking to carpool from Gainesville area or further east. Anyone interested ?

    March 11, 2014

  • Albert C. T.

    I'd like to carpool from the Falls Church/Dunn Loring/ Vienna area. Can drive if needed. Contact me if interested.

    March 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Looking to carpool. Coming from the Gainesville/Haymarket area. Please let me know if you are interested.

    March 8, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Be advised that the system is set at auto. You cannot go to more than one of these tours, as there are too many waitlisted members. If you get on more than one RSVP list, the system will then change your RSVP so that you are going to solely one. This is a prelude to the rise of the machines as occurred in Terminator.

    February 11, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Be advised that you cannot go on more than one of these tours if you have signed up for more than one.

      March 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Bob, thanks to the automatic set up system I'm finally in for the March tour. Since I signed up with + 1, is my guest also automatically included?...

    February 6, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Yes. Take a look at the list on the right......

      February 6, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Giuliana - I had you in on the March 1st tour so I will take you off of this one.

      March 5, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I was taken off the wait list and followed the below instructions to answer the questions and it changed me to NO!!!! Please fix this. I've waited 3x to attend this!! Yes, I will be going to lunch.

    February 11, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Well, well Mr. Bob. Just read your response to my note (a little behind on my emails! I can only guess you are not a bit surprised!). First of all, thank you thank you for "fixing" whatever you had to fix. As far as my remote controls I can successfully navigate the buttons. You're a trip! Look forward to this meet up and thank you for organizing it MANY times. You are very generous with your time and efforts. Look forward to meeting you.

      February 23, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      p.s. no need to send THE MAN to my abode:).

      February 23, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    How do we answer the questions? I just came of the waitlist.

    February 10, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Click the CHANGE button for your RSVP. Don't click anything else or else you will lose your slot.

      February 10, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    I'm waitlisted on the February event as well as the March event. Will I automatically be placed on the "yes" list April since I've been wait listed x2?

    January 23, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Bob did you decide to do another tour in April? I thought March was the last until next year.

      January 23, 2014

    • A former member
      A former member

      Three tours is all I can do and all they will give me staff for. March is the last one for this year.

      January 23, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    This sound very interesting. I just sorry I did not see this sooner. If there are cancellations on an earlier date please let me know and I could change the date.

    January 18, 2014

  • A former member
    A former member

    Bob, if I get into one of the tours, I'll take my name off the other two.

    November 26, 2013

    • A former member
      A former member

      There you go, wheeling and dealing......

      November 26, 2013

30 went

  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member
    +1 guest
  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member
  • A former member
    +1 guest
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    +2 guests

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