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Kryptos is a sculpture / encrypted puzzle located at CIA headquarters in Langley, VA. It
was designed by sculptor James Sanborn and CIA cryptographer Edward M. Scheidt. It has
withstood scrutiny for many years, and only in the late 90's gave up some of its secrets.
However, part 4 has remained a mystery, refusing to give up...
Below are the various hints given by those involved concerning the Kryptos sculpture: Have fun!
William H. Webster: CIA Director at time of installation (1990) - was
given the answer to safeguard - handed it on to later Director
**from Washington Post 1999...**
When he dedicated the work, Webster called "Kryptos" something that "speaks to a sense of place." He told Sanborn, "You have captured much of what this agency is about."
**from New York Times 1999...**
He said yesterday that he had long since forgotten the answer. "I have zero memory of this -- it was philosophical and obscure."
James Sanborn: The Sculptor - has designed a number of sculptures that are puzzles
**from Washington Post 1999...**
... whose work often deals with mystery and the hidden forces of nature, jumped at the chance to do a sculpture for the intelligence agency. He proposed an artwork that contained its own puzzle, and the agency quickly agreed.
He said he was contacted repeatedly by amateur code-breakers hoping for advice, a clue, anything. "About every couple of months, sometimes more somebody would call me up...I had nothing whatsoever to do with any of these people," he said with disdain.
"It's about the thrill of discovery", Sanborn says.
Sanborn suggests that even after the text is decrypted, there will be riddles of analysis to come. " I think all art should be subject to as many interpretations as possible...If there's nothing more to discover about it, then it's not a very interesting artwork."
**from New York Times 1999...**
Sanborn said this week that the sculpture contains a riddle within a riddle -- one that will be solvable only after the 4 encrypted passages are known. The complete answer was handed to William H. Webster, the Director of CIA when the sculpture was completed, and has been held in confidence by his successors.
Sanborn, the artist, who has designed a number of sculptures that are puzzles, has said he believes that the ultimate secret hidden in the text of Kryptos will never be deciphered.
**from 1999 NPR-All Things Considered interview - click to listen...**
"Something hidden, something secret, was the distilled CIA...and the thing that struck me the most significantly with these people, a tremendous number of people at the agency live their whole lives with a secret, that they can never tell anyone. I was never able to keep a secret very well at all, so I figured that the best way for me to do a project for the CIA was perhaps to become privy to information which I then had to keep secret for the rest of my life, and that's what I did..."
(about Howard Carter's discovery of King Tutankhamen's tomb, referenced by the 3rd section of Kryptos)
"It was probably the most exciting thing I ever read as a child... I started out life as an archeologist, thought that that was what I wanted to be. (It) sounded very exciting to discover things, whether it was an arrowhead, or a shark's tooth on a beach, or a dinosaur bone, or an artifact... and that moment of discovery was very exciting... and I think that that same moment of discovery is what a cryptographer feels when they decode a message that's been hidden for years... and so I chose that statement (HC's account), to demonstrate, or really give the essence, or the feeling of discovery."
James Sanborn speaks guardedly about it, not wishing to give any clues, except to hint at the possibility that there is more to the solution than the last 97 letters carved into Kryptos -- "There are encoding systems which use pattern, light and shadow, and it's those kinds of systems that I was most interested in using, because I'm an artist... and I chose not to use, in at least what's been deciphered already, perhaps what has not been deciphered... I like to use spatial systems of encoding and decoding."
(about the 1st section poem telling us that the plaintext is (itself) a clue)
"It's possible, anything's possible."
from World News Tonight - 2 Apr 1991
"Once the plate is deciphered I'm not convinced the true meaning will be clear even then. There's another deeper mystery."
**from Elonka Dunin's 2003 roadtrip...**
He commented how it was odd that "no one has recovered the original matrix". He kept using that word "matrix" quite a bit, such as to say "matrix system". He did not see the "matrix system" on Elonka's slideshow presentation.
He thought Elonka's solution for part 3, with clean diagonals, must be "a by-product of the original matrix system".
Similar to how Scheidt reacted, Sanborn (reacted) when she talked about the extra "L" on the tableau side, which meant that now both sides have the same number of characters. However, neither would comment on this observation.
When showed the out-of-alignment letters, he said, "They're important". Sanborn asked Elonka if anything else had been figured out about them.
He said that the misspellings were deliberate, but it was less important *what* they were, but, "it's more the orientation of those letters that's useful there." Later on in the evening, he repeated the point, saying that it was the "positioning" that was important.
Sanborn was adamant to Scheidt did *not* do the encryption. He said that Scheidt did teach him various systems, "going back to Caesar", and that he had used "several" of them, but that the actual encryption was done by himself, during his trip to retrieve the petrified tree. Sanborn said that he and Scheidt had agreed to keep it "compartmentalized" like that.
Although no one else beta-tested the code, not even Scheidt, Sanborn was certain that he got it right.
He said that Scheidt had told him that misspellings could be good, since they made things harder to solve.
**Getting back to Kryptos, Sanborn commented that he was surprised that no one had tried recovering the original matrix and running it through all the possible "shifts".**
When showed the part 3 KRYPTOS=0362514 number key, he nodded as though he recognized it.
He said that the coordinates of part 2 could actually be one of two different locations, either Xenon's spot, or one near the front entrance area.
He said that the front-entrance pieces were supposed to parallel something in the courtyard, but was surprised and a bit disappointed when it appeared that they did not. (from Elonka's bird's-eye photos)
He said that the particular site of Kryptos was chosen because there had been a tree and associated "tree grate" there, so there was already an 8-foot diameter hole which he could use for the pool.
He didn't design the entire courtyard area -- just the pieces by the entrance, the green semi-circular park area, and the Kryptos sculpture.
He said that the stair-step pattern in the petrified tree didn't mean anything, "that's just the way it broke."
He declined to answer whether the final ?-mark was part of section 3 or section 4. Also declined to say whether "desparatly" was a typo.
He had never heard of anyone, including the NSA, having solved part 4.
He said that the poem of part 1 was an original sentence, written by himself, with "carefully-chosen wording".
He said that part 2 was deliberately written to sound like "an interrupted radio transmission", similar to the Morse code messages.
He and Scheidt already seemed to know that "invisible" was a Morse code palindrome. He implied that the misspelled "digetal" message was intentional.
**from Atomic Time booklet interview**
"What I chose for the piece (Kryptos) was to deal with the science of cryptography. Cryptography began in mathematics. Codes were developed, even from Caeser's time, based on number theory and mathematical principles. I decided to use those principles and designed a work that is encoded. I wrote a fairly extensive text, then encoded it into a matrix system, which seemed to me as an artist, to be fairly simple. I figured it would take the agency (CIA) a year or two to decode, when, in fact, it took them almost 8 years to get a part of it. To date, they haven't cracked the other part. It ended up being something of a challenge for them to do."
"What affected me most profoundly was the realization that the sciences of cryptology and mathematics are very elegant, pure sciences. I found that the ends for which these pure sciences are used are less elegant."
**from a Statement of Plans grant request after Kryptos project**
During the course of my CIA commission, I obtained cast-off materials generated by the Agency in the form of pulped classified documents. I have been experimenting with this associative material and have begun to develop a body of work based on secrecy and language. I have included one slide herewith.
Additionally, I have purchased a 35mm motion picture projector and will be doing some interior projections on large suspended mica screens. This direction relates my previous work to the more recent secrecy and language pieces hopefully an auspicious combination of natural and man-made invisible forces.
**from a recommendation request letter to the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts dated November 11, 1990 - and the reply**
My CIA piece was finally dedicated this past week to a very "secure" group of agency employees. Two and a half years is long enough to work on one project, and I'm glad it's over.
Recently I have beeen(sic) building some large installations using pulped documents from the agency. The enclosed slides of pulp pieces are really studies in preparation for some large "Code Room" like structures about language and secrecy. The pulp takes weeks to assemble and dry, so as of this writing these are the only pieces I could photograph.
Sanborn's use of aspects of sublime landscape long predates the current upsurge of interest in landscape painting. In someone else's hands, his subject matter would become insufferably corny; instead, it becomes both poetic and jarring, offering the viewer an opportunity to confront ineffable, invisible natural forces that deal metaphorically with the environment, political upheaval, or other types of social manipulation. Through the unlikely combination of the scientific and the poetic in both materials and images, Sanborn produces unforgettable, powerful effects.
Currently, Sanborn is working on a series of paper pulp installations using CIA cast-off pulp. He is combining his older interests in invisible natural forces with the power of invisible man-made forces, projecting turbulent film images of volcanic eruptions onto mica sheets in room installations encased in a dense matrix of encoded pulp. The implications of joining the two seeming disparate bodies of imagery underscore the loss of control that one feels when one confronts the volcanic outflow of secrecy in governments, as well as the abominations conferred on our environment. To use this timely information as the matrix of his still poetic work is a measure of its success and importance.
Edward M. Scheidt: The Cryptographer/Code Designer - Former
Chairman of the CIA Cryptographic Center
**from Washington Post 1999...**
Hailed by then director William Webster as "The Wizard of Codes".
A quiet, professional man who favors ties with hieroglyphic patterns, Scheidt spent 4 months devising the systems that Sanborn would use.
The project presented a chance to teach, not just Sanborn, but those attempting to break the puzzle as well.
"I could use methods to encrypt it that had a historic basis, that didn't compromise any current methods" of cryptography used by the government.
Wanted "to make something that could eventually be deciphered or extracted, rather than something that will never be done, ever."
Figured that the first chunks of the puzzle would stand a few years; the last part, perhaps ten.
Says he is happy to see the sculpture he helped to create continue to engage the attention of people around the world. "Most people who talk about cryptography, they remember it in the context of the cryptanalyst," like the World War II geniuses who cracked the Axis codes. "Very few people actually talk about the person who designs the thing."
"The last 97 characters? Don't hold your breath." Scheidt says with satisfaction. "I saved the best for last."
**from Elonka Dunin's 2003 roadtrip, w/ extra commentary from Gary Warzin...**
He was not inclined to answer any direct questions about Kryptos.
He did more than simply teach Sanborn various encryption systems, but did the actual encryption and design of the Kryptos code.
Regarding Kryptos, he talked about how it was necessary to recover the keys, and that the keys were concealed at the sculpture.
He made a point of saying that he used to be an "op", and that part 4 is designed to be solved in a straight-forward manner with pencil and paper, and that he did things to "disguise the English" in part 4, so that it couldn't be solved in the frequency analysis ways that were used for parts 1-3. He said the he and Sanborn had debated over the use of obscure languages and decided against that option on the grounds that it wouldn't be fair to those trying to solve the puzzle.
He had not heard of anyone solving part 4, no even the NSA.
He said that parts 1-3 had been solved without recovering the key first.
He said/implied that he had built in some dead-ends to throw some people off the track.
He said that part of the code was designed to be solved with multiple keys -- a code where different keys could be given to different people, but they'd all still be able to solve it. (presumably, this is section 3, which indeed seems to have multiple keys)
He talked about how the code was designed so that someone could come along 15 years later, having forgotten the keys, and still be able to figure it out via the clues that were there. "Imagine that you have an operative in place that you will need to get a message to in the future. It could be 15 years down the road - you won't have any contact with them in the meantime. You have to assume that they will not remember the 'key'. How do you deliver a message in such a way that it conveys not only the encrypted data, but also the key?"
He made a specific point that the "key" is not necessarily the keyword. "In a modern digital system, the 'key' is the keyword or number that you need to decrypt the message. Everyone knows the algorithm. It is just a black box into which you insert the key and the encrypted text, and the answer comes out the other end. In analog systems (as used in Kryptos) the 'key' is the algorithm."
He implied that even though people may have discovered the text of the first 3 parts, they still didn't understand how the message was constructed and how his fictitious "operative in the field" would have solved the problem.
He talked about how it was a code that could be solved without giving away who'd (JBW thinks "you'd") solved it.
His office does indeed have pictures of Kryptos on the wall, along with some Egyptian artwork. One of the Kryptos pictures from the dedication ceremony in November 1990 was signed by William Webster, where he called Ed the "Deep Throat of Codes".
** from a cryptography talk given approx Sept 17-18, 2004, unreliable source, but parts later confirmed directly **
1. When discussing the topic of Steganography, he said "I used a bit of stego when designing the fourth part of Kryptos."
2. When further discussing the creation of Kryptos, he said, "In the first 3 parts, I gave anyone attempting to break the code the advantage of the English language with all its known patters(sic), but I removed that advantage in the fourth part."
"... There were a string of questions for which I was focusing on how other folks did their analysis relying on the English language and resulting in three parts being decyphered. I did say that in the last part the advantage of the language was taken away. I also stated that there was a piece relating to Stego, but did not state how or in what context. ..." Ed Scheidt
David Stein: Cryptoanalyst for the CIA - First person to crack
the first 3 sections by pencil and paper
**from Washington Post 1999...**
"Ed (Scheidt) came up to me after the briefing," Stein recalls, "and said, 'the solution is correct, but you didn't do it the way I intended you to do it.'"
---he had used frequency analysis and other modern cryptographic techniques to solve it, without figuring out the keywords first...---
**from New York Times 1999...**
"The Kryptos puzzle is a layered puzzle," he said yesterday, "and we may find that it has layers within layers within layers."
"Kryptos was meant to be solved with pencil and paper."
Extract from transcript found in GSA Kryptos files:
from World News Tonight - 2 Apr 1991
Finally here this evening, the embarrassing secret of the CIA. Over the years the Central Intelligence Agency has studied and broken some of the toughest codes ever created. Tonight it's top code breakers are stumped by a puzzle that is quite literally staring them in the face every day. Here's ABC's John Martin.
(CU LETTER) It is called Kryptos, Greek for hidden. It is a curved copper screen of letters in secret code. (MONUMENT) It was dedicated five months ago at CIA headquarters. So far apparently the agency's code breakers can't figure out what it says.
Once the plate is deciphered I'm not convinced the true meaning will be clear even then. There's another deeper mystery.
Sculptor Sanborn created the mystery after he won a 250,000 dollar commission three years ago. He says he decided to create a work that touches the hidden nature of the CIA. (JIM SCULPTING) He refuses to say what the message is. Could it have perhaps a subversive quality?
It could corrupt somehow. It might cause...that people at the agency to perhaps think of things a little bit more, less seriously.
(STUDIO EXT/INT) Somebody, perhaps from the CIA, took the sculpture very seriously. (CIA BROCHURE)
A lot of strange things happened while I was doing the piece. There were people caught on ladders trying to look in my window and photograph the piece through my windows and they were run off by the police.
To code his secret, Sanborn turned to a retired CIA cryptographer. Today, the CIA refuses to discuss the code in public. It insisted that Sanborn hand CIA Director William Webster an envelope containing the code and the message. At its dedication Webster praised the sculpture and called the code a test. So far nobody has passed it.
Sure somebody will figure it out eventually and then personalities will change, you know. Ten years will go by, 15 years will go by and they'll forget what it says again.
(SU) So an agency often synonymous with secrecy in the world has collected one more secret message to go along with the billions already here, confident that it can decipher it and if necessary keep it from the outside world. John Martin, ABC News, Langley, Virginia.
That is our report on World News Tonight. I'm Peter Jennings. Have a good evening, we'll see you tomorrow, good night.
found another reference to physically cutting copper plates in
the "Transcript of B-roll interview between ABC's John Martin and
Kryptos sculptor Jim Sanborn, 1991. Transcript created January 10
2004 by Elonka Dunin and Andy Zimolzak." In this instance it is not
clear if he is cutting the plates or the letters in the plates.
How did you decide what message to encode?
Well that changed during the course of the project as well. And
that developed largely from the reading that I did about the
Agency. And also while I was cutting out, physically cutting out
the copperplates, things in my own mind changed. I wanted to put
something on there which would -- Let's just say, that once the
plate is deciphered, I'm not convinced the true meaning will be
clear even then. I've made a statement which is straightforward,
but that leads to something else. There's another deeper mystery.
As you peel off a layer of an onion, the myst-- you get closer to
the heart of what it is. And so y'know I just wanted to make it even
after it was deciphered, you had to go deeper and decipher something
else. It's in English, it's in plain English, it's in text, and you
can read it, but that isn't necessarily the whole story.
Letter to CIA Agency by James Sanborn
December 15, 1989
Dear Agency Employees:
I am writing this letter to give you an idea of what I am up to at the Agency, and to explain those big tilted slabs of stone.
The stonework in the courtyard and at the entrance to the new building serves two functions:
First, it creates a natural framework for the project as a
whole and is part of a landscaping scheme designed to
recall the natural stone outcroppings that existed on this
site before the Agency, and that will endure as do
Second, the tilted strata tell a story like pages of a
document. Over the next several months, a flat copper
sheet through which letters and symbols are cut will be
inserted between these stone "pages." This code, which
includes certain ancient ciphers, begins as International
Morse and increases in complexity as you move through
the piece at the entrance and into the courtyard. Its
placement in a geologic context reinforces the text's
"hiddenness" as if it were a fossil or an image frozen in time.
An installation in the courtyard further explores this theme. On the paved surface, supported by a petrified tree, will stand a curved, vertical copper plate. Approximately 2000 letters of the alphabet are cut through this plate (a process which requires four months of work). The left side of the plate is a table for deciphering and enciphering code, developed by Blaise de Vigenere in 1570.
The right side is a text that can be partly deciphered by using the table and partly by using a potentially challenging encoding system. The text, written in collaboration with a prominent fiction writer, is revealed only after the code is deciphered.
My choice of materials, like code, conveys meaning. At the entrance a lodestone (a rock naturally magnetized by lighting [sic]) refers to ancient navigational compasses. The petrified tree recalls the trees that once stood on this site and that were the source of materials on which written language has been recorded. The copper, perforated by text, represents this "paper." I also use another symbol; water. In a small pool on the plaza, partly surrounded by the copper plate, water will be turbulent and provocative, constantly agitated into standing waves. In the other pool, located among trees in the courtyard and between two massive outcroppings, water will be calm, reflective, contemplative. Other materials around the site -- large stones, ornamental grasses, and small trees -- are designed to make the natural features surrounding the Agency more visually interesting and thought provoking.
My work at Langley is approximately two thirds complete. If you see me or my apprentices working, please don't hesitate to ask questions about the work.
from "Covert Obsolescence Installations" exhibition catalog (1992) quotes by Jim Sanborn
"Metaphor has always been important to me. Petrified trees and fossils were once moving, growing, and living, but have been somehow transfixed, turned to stone..."
"The words and paragraphs that I selected are very straightforward; I've hidden them from view because I am deliberately secretive about the content of my work. In a lot of ways I am describing the process of the CIA, of what intelligence agencies do and the process of subverting something, the process of encoding and decoding. It becomes about how that process fits into our lives, rather that the details of what is encoded or decoded. What the CIA is encoding and decoding, is, in some ways, less important that how they're doing it, and how that process applies to us." - The physical sciences, archaeology, and mythology are all influences in Sanborn's sculptural installations...
"The greatest chart we have for decoding is the Rosetta Stone. Cracking that code gave us the ability to understand an ancient language. What the CIA does now, as far as encoding and decoding, is a very similar kind of sleuthing: word sleuthing as opposed to physical sleuthing. The method of encoding and decoding that I use, called Vigenere Tableau, is ancient. It was invented by the French diplomat Blaise de Vigenere in 1525. It isn't as simple as Morse code and it isn't as complex as Sanskrit, but it's still very well loved by contemporary cryptographers because it's a classic, elegant system."
from "Secrets Passed" exhibition catalog (June 19-September 5, 1993) for Jim Sanborn
Secrecy in its myriad forms has occupied Washington D.C. artist Jim Sanborn for years and is a consistent thread running throughout his work no matter how much it evolves and changes. Sanborn does not limit his notions of secrecy to traditional interpretations, seeing mystery in nature, concealment in history and clandestine practices in the machinations of man. This exhibition Secrets Passed brings together an installation, paper wall reliefs and copper sculptures that examine and question aspects of secrecy.
"When one has a secret," Sanborn says, "one has power. It might not be negative power, it could be positive. You keep a secret from someone because you don't want to hurt them. Or, you keep a secret because you do want them. Keeping a secret has many aspects."
Sanborn has always been fascinated with the unseen forces of nature. Much of his early work explored the effects of tornadoes, whirlpools, wind and water n the world around them. However, it was not until he received a sculpture commission at the CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia in 1988 that he began to deal with the unseen forces of man. While referring to his earlier work, most of Sanborn's recent explorations revolve around covert operations of government agencies.
That commission has a tremendous impact on the direction Sanborn's work took. Sanborn, who had been accustomed to making the invisible visible now faced the challenge of making the visible into a cryptic form. His first action was to read everything about the CIA. His approach was catholic and included books that were both favorable and unfavorable. After gaining a broader understanding of the CIA, Sanborn decided to create a piece that exploited the cryptic nature of the organization.
The work itself comprises three different sections. The first section, which one walks through to enter the building, is a natural outcropping of stones that appears to have been in situ for thousands of years. Inserted between the stones is a layer of copper through which has been cut a message in Morse code. Although Sanborn will not reveal the meaning, this section is easily decipherable to those familiar with the code. The work operates in stages and this initial section serves as a primer for what is to come; the further one gets into the CIA "campus", the more complex the codes become.
The other two sections are located in the courtyard and deal with what have come to be the parallel themes of Sanborn's work: secrecy and nature. At one end of the courtyard is a large copper screen supported by a petrified tree. As in all of his work, Sanborn considers formal aspects and the way the screen spirals into a yin-yang shape gives a beautiful balance to the piece. The serpentine screen also resembles a piece of paper spewing forth from a computer printer; the artist, who relishes metaphor, notes that the petrified tree was once wood, a source of paper.
Sanborn also draws parallels with Caesar's spies, one of the earliest intelligence services which may have used stone tablets to carry messages. At the base of the copper screen is a whirlpool that can be seen both in terms of Sanborn's urge to make natural phenomena manifest and his use of metaphor, in this case the abyss into which this information disappears.
In the last section, Sanborn has created a landscape in the middle of a concrete environment. A pool of water and benches are separated from the rest of the courtyard by ornamental grasses and stone outcroppings resulting in a secluded place aside from the rest of the courtyard. The pool is alive with fish and lily pads and several ducks and birds have made their home there.
On the copper screen in the middle section is encoded a 2,000-word text written by Sanborn and perhaps in conjunction with a prominent fiction writer, an allegation Sanborn neither confirms or denies. (although later he has denied it) Sanborn then worked with an ex-CIA cryptographer in developing methods for encoding the text, beginning with a chart developed in the 15th century by a French diplomat. This cryptographer offered several options each of which could be modified so the final code would be known only to the artist. Creating a piece that had a clandestine meaning proved controversial to an agency that deals in secrecy, and Sanborn was pressed to reveal the code and/or meaning, pressure he desperately resisted.
Ultimately, he gave the key words to the then director of the CIA William Webster, who was to keep the secret to himself, in exchange for access to pulped documents. While working on the premises, Sanborn had noticed tons of classified documents that had been turned into paper pulp literally flowing out of the CIA like a huge waterfall (in itself a metaphor for the stream of information flowing from the institution). After surreptitiously running tests, he realized the pulp could be used for sculpture.
The first piece Sanborn made from the pulp was a cylinder. The ensuing works were 5x8 foot panels made from mixing the pulp with neutral pH bookbinder's glue and pressing the mixture into steel mesh molds. Letters of encoded text were pressed into the thick, wet paper and the panels were dried in an oven. During the process, the surfaces of some of the paper pulp pieces cracked emulating mud cracks on dried earth. The fissures make the pieces appear structurally unsound; Sanborn sees this as a metaphor for activities that may not be ethically sound. Sanborn used texts from his research on the CIA and had the Russian or Arabic translated before encoding them. Each large panel contains an encoded message related to CIA covert operations and other clandestine subjects. The political correctness of the message depends on the orientation of the reader. Although the point of encoded texts is that they are meant to be read, they also work on several other levels. The letters are recognizable, but the meaning is not because each letter is a substitution. It is like seeing a newspaper in another language.
The natural color simulates limestone, again a reference to the stone tablets that could have carried messages for Caesar. The duality of these works is that one thinks they are heavy, but they are not. They read a monumental fragments not unlike the piles in any ruined city. Both the message and the medium, they refer to the Cold War which, as a bureaucratic war, was fought with paper and they can be seen as souvenirs of the last empire.
Like many artists before him, Sanborn is enamored with chiaroscuro, although unlike earlier painters who simulated light sources, he uses light and shadows in a literal way. As an archeology student in England, Sanborn found ancient ruins by flying over the landscape either early or late in the day. It was only when the sun was raking across the landscape that stone circles cast shadows and the buried structures and fortifications could be seen. Lighting is essential to the paper pulp pieces, for if they have flat light from the front, the letters virtually disappear, yet when lit obliquely from the side, the relief rises from the shadows, much like the ruins that appear and disappear depending on the angle of the sun. This concept of information and/or objects that can disappear or appear depending on the manipulation of light sources is a recurring theme in much of Sanborn's work, serving as a metaphor for secrecy.
Another outgrowth of the CIA commission was an installation Sanborn did in 1992 at the Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, D.C. entitled Covert Obsolescence, part of which, The Code Room, irs recreated here. The Code Room is based on a clandestine device used by George Washington as a decoding and encoding machine. Is consists of a cylinder with perforated letters and multiple alphabet and uses a coding chart that encodes and decodes messages automatically.
The content of The Code Room has to do with the activities of the KGB, the Russian intelligence agency. Written in Cyrillic, the key to the text is the Russian word TEHb meaning shadow. The chart for deciphering the text is on half of the cylinder and the text, which can be deciphered using the chart, is on the other. Although Sanborn will not reveal the exact message, he has hinted it has to do with the suppression of artists, writers and scientists.
Again, lighting is an important component of the work. By placing a small but powerful light source in the center of the cylinder, the letters that are projected on the walls, ceiling and floor are crisp and finely delineated, a necessary quality if one is to take on the challenge of decoding the piece. In addition, because the light is so intense, the viewers become interrogated if they try to look inside the cylinder. Like many of Sanborn's creations, this piece is layered with metaphor. The only English word in the text is MEDUSA which is interesting not only because the last three letters of the word are USA but also because of the myth of Medusa who could turn people to stone with a single gaze. (It could also refer to well-known operations of the CIA that are given similar names, for instance MONGOOSE, OVERLORD or SEALION.) In fact, the only other object in the room is a large piece of petrified wood, placed against the gallery wall. As viewers enter the room, they are covered by the letters of light as if they are implicated by the secret message they contain. As Sanborn notes, "I wanted the letters to spill out all over the viewers in such a way that they would be tainted and the feeling of 'out, out damned spot."
Sanborn's copper pieces evolved from the quarter-scale maquette he made of the sculpture at CIA. To simulate the large copper screen he created a tiny 3x6 inch copper model and had it photoetched with thousands of letters. Sanborn liked the duality of the screens. Not only did they look like the microfilm or the microdots that an intelligence agency would use, they contained an encoded message. In addition, apart from the idea of dividing space, the screens suggest sifting the truth from the fiction.
Sanborn was able to procure actual KGB documents for his text from public sources including the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C. and from a book published by a former Russian spy. He took copies of these texts and had a Russian translator condense them so that there were no spaces around the words yet all of the information remained. Some of the works have been treated with acid and washed with patina, oxidizing the surface and giving them an ancient quality (thus synthetically accelerating the aging process). The acid eats away at the letters in a random fashion resulting in haphazard patterns across the surface. This works against the rigid minimalistic shape of the grid giving them a cartographic quality that relates in a visual way to the global reach of intelligence agencies.
In the relationship of materials and their common meanings one can see the connection between Sanborn's thematic structures of nature and cyphers. Except for the paper pulp pieces, Sanborn uses hard materials that have multiple uses. Copper can be used for everything from telephone lines to cooking pots. Like water, another recurring element in his work, it is both malleable and conductive. The petrified wood connotes transformation but the change is complete. The process remains nature's secret; one knows that the tree has become stone but not how. In his copper screens, Sanborn uses acid, that when combined with water and oxygen, creates the appearance of age. Water is an essential element in Sanborn's work, but both the paper pieces and the petrified wood resulted form absence of water. Unlike many of his outdoor pieces that use moving water, the pond in the courtyard at the CIA does not flow, reversing the essential nature of water functioning in opposition to the idea of the "flow of information." By altering materials, Sanborn changes the viewer's association much the way language is altered when arranged in a code. Thus the original meaning (or use) of materials becomes refined and exists only in memory, much like a cryptic message (or anti-communication) is rendered meaningless to those who see it but cannot understand.
This exhibition reveals an important segue in Jim Sanborn's evolution. Although notions of secrecy in the form of veiled information or unseen natural forces have always been present, his recent work delves deeper into the nature of secrecy while weaving into them aspects of his earlier concerns of natural phenomena. His parallel interests -- the nature of secrets and the secrets of nature -- may be on the brink of intersecting.
Sue Scott - Curator of Contemporary American Art
from Virtual Tour of the CIA: The Story behind "Kryptos"
Kryptos Info at CIA Headquarters
Before the New Headquarters Building (NHB) was finished in 1991, thought was given to enhancing the new structure with artwork that was not only pleasing to the eye, but indicative of the Central Intelligence Agency’s work. Under Federal construction guidelines, a small portion of the cost of the new building was set aside to commission original art for the structure.
To achieve the goal of acquiring fitting artwork for NHB, the CIA Fine Arts Commission recommended that the Agency utilize the services of the Art-in-Architecture program of the General Services Administration (GSA). This is a Federal program which has managed the creation of contemporary art for Government buildings for more than 25 years and which has resulted in highly acclaimed works. GSA formed a team composed of experts led by the National Endowment for the Arts and members of the CIA Fine Arts Council and other Agency employees.
Before starting the task, the Agency side of the joint team developed a Statement of Principles:
“People are the principal resource of the Central Intelligence Agency. It is their intellectual and physical energies that ultimately provide the national policymakers with superior information and analyses---the basis to formulate policies necessary to maintain this country’s position in the world. An esthetically pleasing work environment at its Headquarters is an important stimulus to the efforts of those officers assigned here.”
They also listed these key thoughts:
These principles were the guidelines that artists followed as they competed for the $250,000 commission to design artwork for the New Headquarters Building. The combined NEA and CIA panel evaluated each entry and, in November 1988, chose local artist James Sanborn’s conception of “Kryptos” (Greek for “hidden”), a two-part sculpture located at the main entrance to NHB and in the courtyard between NHB and the Original Headquarters Building (OHB) cafeteria.
James Sanborn is a Washington, D.C., born artist with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Randolph-Macon College and a Master of Fine Arts from Pratt Institute. Mr. Sanborn is noted for his work with American stone and related materials that evoke a sense of mystery and the forces of nature.
To give shape to “Kryptos,” Sanborn chose polished red granite, quartz, copperplate, lodestone, and petrified wood. After reading extensively on the subject of intelligence and cryptography, Mr. Sanborn decided to interpret the subject in terms of how information is accrued throughout the ages. In the case of the two-part sculpture, information is symbolized in the chemical and physical effects that produced the materials and in other more literal ways.
To produce the code for “Kryptos,”
Mr. Sanborn worked for four months with a retired CIA cryptographer to devise the codes
used in the sculpture. Mr. Sanborn wrote the text to be coded in collaboration with a
prominent fiction writer.
(*This has now been disputed by Sanborn: Elonka wrote Sanborn an email after getting many questions about who the writer was. Here was his answer. "It was one idea I considered in the beginning. I decided not to do it: Why let someone else in on the secret?". *)
The Mystery of “Kryptos”
At the entrance to the New Headquarters building, the sculpture begins with two red granite and copperplate constructions which flank the walkway from the parking deck. These stones appear as pages jutting from the earth with copperplate ‘between the pages’ on which there are International Morse code and ancient ciphers. There is also a lodestone (a naturally magnetized rock) co-located with a navigational compass rose.
In the courtyard, a calm, reflective pool of water lies between two layered slabs of granite and tall grasses. Directly across from this is the centerpiece of “Kryptos,” a piece of petrified wood supporting an S-shaped copper screen surrounding a bubbling pool of water.
The petrified tree symbolizes the trees that once stood on the site of the sculpture and that were the source of materials on which written language has been recorded.
The bubbling pool symbolizes information being disseminated with the destination being unknown.
The copperplate screen has approximately 2,000 alphabetic letters cut into it.
The sculpture is like a history of cryptography. The left side of the copper screen, the first two sections, is a table for deciphering and enciphering code, a method developed by 16th century French cryptographer Blaise de Vigenere. The Vigenere method substitutes letters throughout the message by shifting from one alphabet order to another with each letter of the key. Part of the right side of the sculpture uses the table from the left side, and another portion uses the cryptographic method of transposing letters or changing their position in a message according to whatever method the writer devised.
The sculpture has been a source of mystery and challenge for Agency employees, other government employees, and interested people outside of government. In early 1998, a CIA physicist announced to the Agency that he had cracked the code for three of the four sections. This was followed a year later by a public announcement from a California computer scientist that he had done the same. As varied as the codes in the sculpture are, so were the methods to crack them. The Agency employee used pencil and paper, and the computer scientist used his computer. No one has yet to break the code for the remaining 97-character message which utilizes a more difficult cryptographic code.
once said “They will be able to read what I wrote, but what I wrote is a mystery
itself.” Only time will tell if the final message to this multi-layered puzzle is ever
revealed. If you want to try to break the code, here are the letters from
“Kryptos.” (*See above*)
from "Inside the CIA", Ronald Kessler , it mentions Kryptos on page 186
Where the new and old buildings meet is a rectangular courtyard dotted with black plastic picnic tables. In one corner of the courtyard is a part of an installation by Washington artist Jim Sanborn, who was chosen after a competition among two hundred entrants. It took Sanborn two years to build the work, which includes three other pieces within the courtyard and at the entrance to the new building. The cost was $250,000. The main piece is a sculpture that stands more than six feet high and looks like a scroll. Constructed over a pool of water, it is made of petrified wood, granite, red slate, green quartz, and copper. The petrified wood symbolizes the trees that once stood on the CIA's site and the fact that they are used to make paper and record language. Letters are carved in a curved copper plate at the right of the installation represent a table that can be used to decipher the encoded text cut into the plate at the top left. The text can be deciphered only by using the table and a key word, which is Kryptos. Another plate at the bottom left contains more text, which can only be deciphered by computer. Sanborn composed the message in the encoded text with the help of a fiction writer. Totaling two thousand words, the combined messages describe the information-gathering role of the CIA. Sanborn entrusted only Webster, as the then director of Central Intelligence, with a deciphered copy of the text at the opening for the artwork in November 1990. Sanborn found the experience of working on CIA grounds unnerving. One day, he showed up to work on the installation only to find that his art material -- twenty-five tons of granite -- had disappeared. Was the agency checking the stone for bugs? Was it part of some nefarious plot to stifle his creativity? The CIA never explained. It simply issued him a check for $5,000 so he could buy new stone to replace it. Agency officials speculate that maintenance workers, thinking the rock was left over from construction of the new building, simply hauled it away.
James Sanborn, Edward Scheidt, Elonka Dunin, John Wilson, and possibly some others were recently interviewed by Kim Zetter of Wired Magazine.
Hopefully, we will get some new hints from Sanborn and Scheidt from the interview.
from Wired.com 21-Jan-2005 Reporter Kim Zetter
What does it say about the Central Intelligence Agency that its agents can crack the secret codes of enemy nations but can't unravel a coded sculpture sitting outside their cafeteria window?
It says, perhaps, that artist Jim Sanborn, who created the cryptographic sculpture named Kryptos that sits on CIA grounds, could have a career in covert operations if he ever grows tired of stumping the experts.
It's been nearly 15 years since Sanborn installed the 12-foot-high, verdigrised copper, granite and wood sculpture inscribed with four encrypted messages at the CIA's Langley, Virginia, headquarters in 1990. And it's been seven years since anyone made progress at cracking its code.
But publication of the novel The Da Vinci Code has renewed interest in solving the puzzle because author Dan Brown made two veiled references to Kryptos on his book's dust jacket. Brown's publisher sponsored a contest around the references, and Brown has hinted that his next book, which takes place in Washington, D.C., may feature the sculpture in some way.
This is good news to Elonka Dunin, an executive producer and manager at Missouri gaming company Simutronics, who is obsessed with cracking Kryptos and thinks that the more people who work on the puzzle the quicker they'll solve it.
"We have lots of different theories that we're chasing down," Dunin said of her band of sleuths, which includes some CIA employees. "But there's no way we'll know whether we're on the right track until something comes loose."
Kryptos isn't a complete mystery. Parts of it have been solved.
In 1998, CIA analyst David Stein cracked three of the four coded messages after diddling over the problem with paper and pencil for about 400 hours spread over many lunch breaks. Only his CIA colleagues initially knew of his success, since the agency didn't publicize it. A year later, California computer scientist Jim Gillogly gained public notoriety when he cracked the same three messages using a Pentium II.
But for 15 years, the last Kryptos section has remained unsolved. And when experts or amateurs do decipher it, they'll know what it says but not necessarily what it means. Sculptor Sanborn said the text is a riddle, which requires sleuths to be on the CIA grounds to solve it.
"In part of the code that's been deciphered, I refer to an act that took place when I was at the agency and a location that's on the ground of the agency," Sanborn told Wired News. "So in order to find that place, you have to decipher the piece and then go to the agency and find that place."
Sanborn may be referring to something he buried on the CIA grounds, though he's not saying. The decrypted text mentions a burial and gives latitude and longitude coordinates (38 57 6.5 N, 77 8 44 W), which Sanborn said referred to "locations of the agency." The coordinates, slightly altered, appear on the Da Vinci Code book jacket. Brown made the first number 37 instead of 38; he's said that he'll reveal the reason in future books. Some sleuths have determined that the coordinates on the sculpture mark a spot on the CIA grounds about 150 feet from the sculpture. Others have placed it elsewhere, however.
The sculpture's theme is intelligence gathering (Kryptos is Greek for "hidden"). It features a large block of petrified wood standing upright, with a tall copper plate scrolling out of the wood like a sheet of paper. At the sculpture's base is a round pool with fountain pump that sends water in a circular motion around the pool.
Some 1,800 letters are carved out of the copper plate, with some of them forming a table based on an encryption method developed in the 16th century by a Frenchman named Blaise de Vigenere. The table helped Stein and Gillogly decipher portions of the encrypted messages.
The encrypted sections include spelling errors, which Sanborn said were intentional, possibly to throw off sleuths, and misaligned characters set higher on a line of text than characters around them.
The first section is a poetic phrase, which Sanborn composed himself. The second hints at something buried: "Does Langley know about this? They should: It's buried out there somewhere." The third section comes from archaeologist Howard Carter's diary describing the opening of a door in King Tut's tomb on Nov. 26, 1922.
Scores of professional and amateur cryptographers have tried their hand at decrypting the last passage, which consists of fewer than 100 characters. Cryptographers at the National Security Agency have also taken a stab at it, to no avail. Sleuths scrutinize every Sanborn interview for clues. But he's careful to remain oblique.
"In the early days, anything I said was a clue," Sanborn said. "Now things are getting more and more refined the more people (are looking into) this. They are looking for shreds, tiny little slivers of information. So I have to be very careful not to go any further." (To aid sleuths, we've published an edited transcript of our interview with Sanborn.)
Decoders have also turned to Sanborn's other sculptures for clues. After Kryptos, Sanborn created other coded sculptures, such as The Cyrillic Projector, a cylindrical sculpture that sits at the University of North Carolina in Charlotte, which was solved about a year ago, and a work that Sanborn has called the Untitled Kryptos sculpture, which includes primarily the same text that Kryptos has. It took five months to crack the Projector, which was written in Cyrillic letters. Deciphering it required decoding the Cyrillic, then translating the message into English. It turned out to be text from classified KGB documents.
Sleuths have also looked at other works Sanborn created around Kryptos on the CIA grounds. These include slabs of stone with a compass and Morse code on them.
Although there are photos available of the works, physical access is restricted. In 2002, Dunin was one of the lucky few who saw the works in person.
Dunin visited Langley to give a presentation to analysts about steganography and al-Qaida. Although she wasn't allowed to snap photos of Kryptos while there, her CIA guides arranged to have an official photographer take pictures of her standing next to it. She also made rubbings of the text.
Until now, only three people were said to know the solution to Kryptos. Sanborn, a CIA cryptographer named Ed Scheidt who helped him choose and alter the coding techniques for the sculpture, and former CIA director William Webster, who received a sealed envelope containing the solution, which sits in a CIA archive until the time when someone solves the puzzle.
But Sanborn told Wired News that Scheidt, now a retired chairman of the CIA's Cryptographic Center, and Webster only think they know the solution.
The CIA required Sanborn to write the solution down and present it to Webster so the Agency wouldn't be embarrassed if the sculpture turned out to contain a message that was pornographic or critical of the agency. Sanborn gave officials an envelope with a wax seal. But Sanborn said he didn't give Webster the whole story.
"Well, you know, I wasn't completely truthful with the man," Sanborn said, laughing. "And I'm sure he realizes that. I mean that's part of trade craft, isn't it? Deception is everywhere.... I definitely didn't give him the last section, which has never been deciphered."
Scheidt, at the CIA's request, worked with Sanborn to choose the coding processes he used with the sculpture. But Sanborn did the encryption on his own. Scheidt was surprised to learn that he might not know the puzzle's solution. "I haven't heard him say that before," Scheidt said. "It's possible I guess.
"I know what the message was to be. (But) since he's the one who had the chisel in his hands, there could be some changes."
Sanborn said he didn't expect that the code would remain unsolved for this long. Dunin said she doesn't care if she's not the one who solves the puzzle as long as it's taken "off my plate." She doesn't expect it will be a letdown when the code is cracked.
"When we solved the Cyrillic Projector it was exciting and energizing for everyone working on Kryptos," she said. "If we solve Kryptos, there are plenty of other codes to solve after that."
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Sleuths seeking to solve the Kryptos puzzle often scour interviews with artist Jim Sanborn for clues about the cryptic sculpture, which is located at the headquarters of the Central Intelligence Agency. Below is a partial transcript of the Wired News interview with Sanborn conducted for a story on Kryptos. The interview has been edited for length and organization.
Wired News: Before creating the CIA sculpture (Kryptos) you never built something that involved cryptographic code, but since the CIA sculpture you've built a number of pieces that involve code. Are you changing your focus?
Jim Sanborn: The fact that my earlier work didn't include cryptography doesn't mean it excluded things dealing with secrecy. The work that happened before the CIA, and (was) the reason I was chosen (to do the CIA piece), dealt with invisible forces -- albeit natural invisible forces. I built pieces about the Coriolis force that makes whirlpools in the Northern and Southern hemispheres turn in opposite directions. I also worked with the Earth's magnetic field and worked with lodestones ... from which we derived our knowledge of electricity. It was all involved in the secrets of nature before the agency chose my work to deal with the secrecy of man.
WN: Is it important to look at your other works, before and after Kryptos, to understand Kryptos?
JS: For the student of cryptography it's always helpful to gather as much information as possible when zeroing in on and encoding a system.
WN: A number of your works post-Kryptos incorporate elements that are in Kryptos, for example, the Cyrillic Projector (which has been solved) and a work that you've sometimes called the Untitled Kryptos Piece. Do these sculptures contain specific clues to help solve Kryptos? Or can you solve Kryptos without dealing with those at all?
JS: Well, I'm not going to answer that question. (Laughs)
WN: You also have two other sculptures on the CIA grounds that are near the Kryptos sculpture. Are they related to Kryptos in some way?
JS: Well, all I'll say is basically I designed the piece(s) to act (such that) this part is easy, the next part is less easy, the next part is the most difficult. So if you consider the entrance to the new CIA building (to be) the entrance to the agency, the piece that's out front is the most simplistic, basic code that there is. Then they get more sophisticated the further you (go onto the campus).
WN: Do the other pieces in the courtyard have clues for solving Kryptos?
JS: I won't say.
WN: Do you have to be on the CIA grounds in order to solve Kryptos?
WN: So just by reading the text taken from Kryptos and posted online, you can solve the puzzle?
JS: Well, yeah. That doesn't mean that what I've said in the piece doesn't do something physically there at the agency. So the effect of the piece might affect something at the agency so that you'd have to see what I did at the agency.
WN: What do you mean?
JS: In part of the code that's been deciphered, I refer to an act that took place when I was at the agency and a location that's on the grounds of the agency. So ... you have to decipher the piece and then go to the agency and find that place. There are, for example, longitude and latitude coordinates on the piece, which refer to locations of the agency.
WN: When you say act do you mean an act that you did or that happened while you were there?
JS: An act that I could have carried out. I refer to something I'd done out there.
WN: Something that you did do?
JS: I made reference in the encoded text to something I could have done there.
WN: How many (cryptographic) techniques did you use (in Kryptos)?
JS: I would think five or six.
WN: Are the coded systems you used the same systems that (CIA cryptographer) Ed Scheidt gave you or have they been altered?
JS: Mr. Scheidt basically gave me an outline of historic and contemporary ... encoding systems that have been formally used by the agency and were still used by the agency and other people (in 1990). He gave me a whole variety of possible systems to use and ways to modify all of those systems. But as a visual artist, I like to rely on systems that include visual (material) as well as digital material that can be deciphered by machines. It's also well-known that I did use some matrix codes Ed gave me, and I have also designed visual systems for encoding, which are much harder for cryptographers to crack because they're individualistic.
WN: But it's still basically code systems that Scheidt gave you, right? I mean he could decipher Kryptos if he wanted to, correct?
JS: No, he doesn't know the solution. I made that very clear that I didn't want him to be able to decipher what's going on ... that I'd be modifying systems and developing my own, which would make it virtually impossible for him to decipher all of it. I intended the 80 percent (of the text) that's been deciphered to be deciphered and to be deciphered in stages and relatively quickly. The final part is obviously the, you know, the apex of the pyramid there.
WN: The Cyrillic Projector, when decrypted, turned out to be text from a classified KGB document instructing agents on how to interrogate suspects. The projector essentially dealt with covert obsolescence, that is, covert activities that became obsolete with the end of the Cold War. Does Kryptos also deal with covert obsolescence?
JS: No. Not that it doesn't say something about clandestine trade craft. A lot of the work (I do) deals with secrecy and ... the modus operandi of spies -- how they operate, how they turn sources and things like that. Even the (other) pieces at the agency that are in the courtyard -- stone layers that have encoded text on them -- sort of dealt with secrecy as an entity, which has existed through time for eons and generations. Cave people (for example) keeping secret their methods of killing a mammoth or something like that.
WN: If Kryptos is solved, will the answer be something like the Cyrillic Projector's solution -- text from a formerly classified document -- or will it have a larger meaning?
JS: It's a very different animal (from the Cyrillic Projector). The answer will be far more ambiguous. Of the part that's been decoded already there is certain ambiguity in the last few sentences and it's been open to interpretation, as has the whole piece.
WN: The Cyrillic Projector has some of the same code that's on the CIA piece, but it does have some alterations. It's not completely identical. Why is that?
JS: If you make a body of work over many years so that anyone will know that it's your art, you have a common denominator, which means you leave clues. You don't just sign every artwork. There's something about that particular artwork that you say, "Oh, that's a Sanborn." And (the coding) was one of the common denominators that I chose to leave in. Just like my lodestones. I brought my lodestones forward 10 years and used them at the agency. Then I brought Kryptos forward five years and used them after that. And I will continue to bring work back and carry ideas forward in order to get a continuum for the body of work.
WN: Is there anything planted on the CIA property that you've buried?
JS: Oh, I won't say.
WN: Well, you've mentioned before that each night after construction would finish for the day people from the CIA would come out to measure the materials.
JS: Well the new (CIA) building was being built while I was there and at night there were teams that used, I believe, a neutron scan (on) everything that went into the agency so that they could find any bugs or anything that had been planted. (They) used ground-penetrating radar and various other means to see and find everything that was there. And I would suppose they did that with my piece as well, which makes it difficult to do whatever you'd like to do -- not in an espionage way, but whatever you want to do.
WN: What do you mean? Were there things that you wanted to do with the sculpture that you were unable to do?
JS: I didn't say I was unable to do it, I just said it makes things difficult. When somebody comes in and X-rays everything you do every night, it makes it tough doesn't it? (Laughs)
WN: So you did something, but they knew about it?
JS: No, I didn't say that either.
WN: There is someone who says he thinks he knows how the last section should be decrypted. John Wilson says that section three from Howard Carter's diary is giving instructions to the reader for what they should do with the text in the last section in order to decypher it. For example, when it describes Carter putting the candle through the hole, Wilson says it's an instruction for what to do with the text. So Wilson placed the word candle into the text. Is he onto something or off track?
JS: I'm inclined to not comment. If a person deciphers and sends me the exact decipherment -- if it can be deciphered exactly, considering most of my things are rife with mistakes on purpose -- I'd probably let them know that they got it if they did. I will say that I have left instructions in the earlier text that refer to later text. (But) that's as far as I'll go.
WN: Do you want the puzzle of Kryptos to be solved?
JS: Uhhh ... I certainly want it to be considered. I had figured that the parts that have been solved already would have been done a lot quicker than they were. But that might just have been a question of focus of the cryptography community.
WN: One decoded section refers to a "WW." It says specifically, "Who knows the exact location? Only WW." Who is WW?
JS: (Former CIA Director) William Webster.
WN: The CIA required you to write down the solution to the sculpture and give it to Webster. Webster has said that he forgot the solution. Did he ever actually know the answer?
JS: Well, you know, I wasn't completely truthful with the man. And I'm sure he realizes that. I mean that's part of trade craft, isn't it? Deception is everywhere. I had to leave an envelope at the agency saying what was on the (sculpture). I gave it to William Webster at the dedication ceremony with a wax seal on it, but in fact I really didn't tell him the whole story. I definitely didn't give him the last section, which has never been deciphered.
WN: But he thinks you did give him the solution.
JS: That's his problem! (laughs)
WN: Do you remember what the solution is?
WN: You don't remember the solution to your own sculpture.
JS: No. I've got it hidden someplace but I'm not going to read it. I have done everything I can to forget (it). Because I don't want to slip and give somebody information about it. I mean, you read the piece of paper, you burn it, and you forget it. That's the only way information is kept secret. (Otherwise) it's very difficult not to give clues. In the early days anything I said was a clue. Now things are getting more and more refined the more people (are looking into) this. They are looking for shreds, tiny little slivers of information. So I have to be very careful not to go any further.
WN: So if you don't know the answer how will you know if anyone has solved it?
JS: I have the solution hidden someplace. So if somebody cracks it I can cross-check it.
WN: What if something happens to you?
JS: The secret will probably pass away.
WN: You haven't left it in your will?
JS: Well, actually I have. I think it's important that whoever says that they cracked it will in fact find out whether they actually did. So from that standpoint, there does have to be some sort of historic record of what it says.
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Ed Scheidt is former director of the Central Intelligence Agency's Cryptographic Center. Scheidt, who helped artist Jim Sanborn choose cryptographic techniques for his Kryptos sculpture, now works for TecSec, a Virginia company that does cryptographic work for the Department of Defense and other clients. This interview for the Wired News story on Kryptos was edited for length and organization.
Wired News: How did you help Jim Sanborn with Kryptos?
Ed Scheidt: I provided the cryptographic process as well as worked with him with what he was looking to do as far as the story (the sculpture would tell). We came up with a methodology using some of the known cryptographic solutions (at the time).
WN: How many cryptographic processes are used on the sculpture?
Scheidt: There are four different processes. Two of them are similar and the other two are different things. The first three processes were designed so that a person could, through cryptographic analysis, have access to the English language (on the sculpture). And the last process, I masked the English language so it's more of a challenge now. It's progressively harder in the challenges.
WN: What do you mean the first three were designed so that a person could have access to the English?
Scheidt: All four (sections) are done in the English language. The message could have been in another language. (But) this particular puzzle is in the English language.... The techniques of the first three parts, which some people have broken, (used) frequency counting and other techniques that are similar to that. You can get insight into the sculpture through that technique because the English language is still visible through the code. (But with) this other technique (in the fourth part), I disguise that. So ... you need to solve the technique first and then go for the puzzle.
WN: Are all four of the processes known processes? There aren't any that aren't known, right?
Sheidt: The masking technique may not be known.
WN: What do you mean?
Scheidt: That's part of the puzzle I told (Jim) I would keep secret.
WN: How difficult is it to solve that technique?
Scheidt: Well, (the sculpture) has been around (unsolved) about 15 years.
WN: Jim said that he took your techniques and then he deliberately masked them even more so that even you wouldn't know what was in the puzzle.
Scheidt: Ah hah. I can't respond to that one. I haven't heard him say that before. It's possible I guess. I haven't talked to Jim on what he did, but I do know ... there was some masking techniques that were used and that's about it.
WN: So let's say you might not know exactly how to decipher the coded text, but do you know the message that the text says once it's decoded? The riddle within the text?
Scheidt: The solution to the text once it's decoded (you mean). The last (section), I don't know what Jim did, and I obviously haven’t gone back to see if there were changes and things like that. I know what we talked about.
WN: You never went back to the puzzle to see if he actually did what you discussed and to see if you could solve it?
WN: So you may not know what the message says.
Scheidt: Obviously there could be a possibility. I know what the message was to be. (But) since he's the one who had the chisel in his hands, there could be some changes.
WN: Is there anything buried at the site?
Scheidt: I'm not aware of anything being buried, no.
WN: But within the text that's already been translated it does mention something being buried on the grounds of the CIA.
Scheidt: Well, the idea of encoding a message is not only to encode the externals of a message (the English language), but the message itself. Once it is readable, it may have other encoding that's involved in it. That's something that would show up in secret messages. If I wanted to, for instance, say (that) you and I are going to meet at 1 o'clock on Friday. We may establish a code that 1 o'clock on Friday is equal to "cake." So in my message I would say how about you and I meeting at a convenient place for cake? Then you and I really know that cake means the time.
WN: So someone could translate the actual message but not know what the message means.
Scheidt: That's right. And that's where the masking and all these other kinds of techniques can come into play.
WN: Do you know of anyone at the agency who is currently trying to solve it?
Scheidt: I haven't talked to anyone there about it. I would have to believe somebody would, at lunchtime, want to take a look at it. I think there are 98 characters left. That's not a lot of characters. It's a question of how would you approach it? Would you approach it mathematically? Would you approach it in the context of secret writings or symbols? There's a whole array of things which offer a challenge.
WN: When the Cyrillic Projector was decrypted it referred to KGB documents. I kind of hope that Kryptos will have a larger meaning than point to a physical document.
Scheidt: I can only say the intent was to have a larger meaning.
WN: What do you mean by larger meaning?
Scheidt: Well, if I can remember right, intelligence gathering was one of the meanings that was wanted to be portrayed. Now intelligence gathering can take on a lot of meanings in its own self. It could mean the techniques of intelligence gathering. It could mean the process of intelligence gathering. It could be the result of intelligence gathering. It could take on a larger role. My understanding from a while back was that was the intent.
WN: But all of those things are limited to the realm of intelligence gathering. And what I'm hoping is that Kryptos translates into some kind of philosophical truth.
Scheidt: Knowing Jim, he would think along those lines. And just seeing it in some of his other work I think he would want to portray things of that nature. Philosophical things.
WN: Right. Some of his work before the coding pieces was related to nature's secrets.
Scheidt: That's right. So I would have to believe that would come out in his work in time. Another way of saying it is that as one peels the onion away, or the various cloaks, you come closer to the truth from a philosophical sense. And then where does it take you down that path? Well I would assume that the path will lead you down different ways, depending on your philosophical perspective. So it's again back to is it a black-and-white answer or is it an answer that has a lot of gray areas?
WN: I assume that by the sculpture's very nature it would have to have a lot of gray areas, like life itself. No black-and-white answers.
Scheidt: There you go. See? Philosophical.
WN: So you're telling me that I won't be disappointed.
Scheidt:: I don't think (you will be). Just knowing Jim. In talking to Jim, he has philosophies that he would like to portray and this is a medium for him to do that. And also this is a project that has a lot of depth to it. It would give an artist a good opportunity to do a lot of things as opposed to be narrow in their approach.
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More stories written by Kim Zetter
from The Wall Street Journal, Page 1, 27 May 2005
The Secret Passages
In CIA's Backyard
Draw Mystery Lovers
By JOHN D.
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
May 27, 2005; Page A1
LANGLEY, Va. -- The big mystery at the Central Intelligence Agency, sitting in a sunny corner of the headquarters courtyard, begins this way: "EMUFPHZLRFAXYUSDJKZLDKRNSHGNFIVJ."
That's the first line of the Kryptos sculpture, a 10-foot-tall, S-shaped copper scroll perforated with 3-inch-high letters spelling out words in code. Completed 15 years ago, Kryptos, which is Greek for "hidden," at first attracted interest mainly from government code breakers who quietly deciphered the easier parts without announcing their findings publicly.
Now, many mystery lovers around the world have joined members of the national-security establishment in trying to crack the rest. So far, neither amateurs nor pros have been able to do it.
The latest scramble was set off by "The Da Vinci Code," the thriller about a modern-day search for the Holy Grail. On the book's dust jacket, author Dan Brown placed clues that hint at Kryptos's significance. The main one is a set of geographic coordinates that roughly locate the sculpture. (One of the coordinates is off slightly, for reasons that Mr. Brown so far has kept secret.) A game at http://www.thedavincicode.com/1 suggests that Kryptos is a clue to the subject of Mr. Brown's as-yet-unpublished next novel, "The Solomon Key."
Gary Phillips, 27 years old, a Michigan computer programmer, started researching Kryptos last year, hours after learning about its Da Vinci Code connection. "Once it pulls you in, you just can't stop thinking about it," he says. Eventually, Mr. Phillips says, he let a struggling software business go under and took a construction job so he would have more time for solving Kryptos.
The quest to solve the fourth and final passage of Kryptos's message has spawned several Web sites -- including Mr. Phillips's -- as well as an online discussion group that has more than 500 members. The discussion group was founded by Gary Warzin, who heads Audiophile Systems Ltd. in Indianapolis. He became fascinated with Kryptos after visiting the CIA in 2001. But after months of trying to crack the code on his own, Mr. Warzin -- whose other hobbies include escaping from straitjackets -- decided he needed help.
Kryptos devotees are intrigued by the three passages that have been deciphered so far. They appear to offer clues to solving the sculpture's fourth passage, and possibly to locating something buried.
Sculptor James Sanborn, Kryptos's creator, says he wrote or adapted all three. The first reads, "Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion." Jim Gillogly, a California computer researcher believed to be the first person outside the intelligence world to solve the first three parts, came up with the translation, which includes the deliberate misspelling of the word illusion.
The second passage, more suggestive, reads in part, "It was totally invisible. How's that possible? They used the Earth's magnetic field. The information was gathered and transmitted undergruund to an unknown location. Does Langley know about this? They should: it's buried out there somewhere." That passage is followed by geographic coordinates that suggest a location elsewhere on the CIA campus.
The third decoded passage is based on a diary entry by archaeologist Howard Carter, on the day in 1922 when he discovered the tomb of the ancient Egyptian King Tutankhamen. It reads in part, "With trembling hands I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner. And then, widening the hole a little, I inserted the candle and peered in. The hot air escaping from the chamber caused the flame to flicker, but presently details of the room within emerged from the mist. Can you see anything?" Mr. Sanborn confirms that the translations are accurate.
In addition to deliberate misspellings, there are letters slightly higher than others on the same line. Other possible clues are contained in smaller parts of the work scattered around the CIA grounds. Made of red granite and sheets of copper, these are tattooed with Morse code that spells out phrases like "virtually invisible" and "t is your position." In addition, a compass needle carved onto one of the rocks is pulled off due north by a lodestone that Mr. Sanborn placed nearby.
Those poring over the puzzle these days are thought to include national-security workers as well as retirees, computer-game players and cryptogram fans. Some devotees believe Kryptos holds profound significance as a portal into the wisdom of the ancients.
More typical is Jennifer Bennett, a 27-year-old puzzle aficionado who works as a poker-room supervisor near Seattle. She came across the Kryptos mystery last year while on maternity leave, as she searched for online games to play. Now back at work, she still spends an hour a day on Kryptos after her children have gone to bed. Like most would-be code breakers, she relies on pencil and paper.
Others, like Mr. Gillogly, the California code breaker, are partial to computers. Semiretired, he spent 30 years at the Rand Corp., then had his own software business. He estimates that his computers have tried at least 100 billion possible solutions to the fourth passage over the years. His main computer these days, he says, is a 1.7 GHz laptop with a Pentium 4 processor.
Experts say the fourth passage -- known to insiders as "K4" -- is written in a more complex and difficult code than the first three, one designed to mask patterns of recurring letters that code breakers look for.
Efforts at finding a solution have grown increasingly elaborate. Elonka Dunin, an executive at St. Louis computer-game company Simutronics, has hunted down other encoded sculptures by Mr. Sanborn in search of recurring themes. Some, like researcher Chris Hanson, who runs a company that makes software for constructing 3D landscape models, have mapped the CIA's headquarters or built virtual replicas of Kryptos.
Mr. Sanborn has grown uncomfortable with some of the attention his work is getting, particularly from those who see religious overtones. "I don't want my work manipulated in such a way that its meaning is somehow transformed," the Kryptos sculptor says. He dismisses any religious connotations or allusions to beliefs of the ancients.
A spokeswoman for Dan Brown referred questions to Doubleday, his publisher, explaining that he's at work on his new novel and "incommunicado." A spokesman for Doubleday declined to comment.
Mr. Sanborn, who lives and works in Washington, burnished his reputation with Kryptos. He has exhibited around the world, including at the Hirshhorn Museum and Corcoran Gallery of Art. His more recent work has focused on the early development of atomic weapons, employing actual equipment from the Los Alamos National Laboratory.
He had no formal training in cryptography when he created Kryptos, but worked with a retired CIA official, Ed Scheidt, who was starting up an encryption-software business, TecSec Inc. Mr. Sanborn says he withheld the full solution to the puzzle from Mr. Scheidt, as well as from the CIA itself. An agency spokesman says he isn't aware of anyone having solved the fourth passage.
Despite the struggles of would-be code breakers, Mr. Sanborn insists the puzzle can be solved, and teases them by saying that one clue overlooked so far is sitting in plain view. "The most obvious key to the sculpture, nobody has picked up on."
Write to John D. McKinnon at firstname.lastname@example.org
from NPR Interview, Morning Edition, Mary Louise Kelly, 9 June 2005 - http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=4684720
"This is a person, I am a person, who has zero mathematical ability, took tutoring for algorithms in high school...and, um, I am finding that it's increasingly difficult to keep that kind of information secret because the closer people get to cracking the last 97 characters, the more difficult it is to say absolutely nothing about what it does or does not say, and so, it's tough."
(When referring to the solutions that he gave to CIA officials) "I don't really believe I gave them the entire code, so um, you know if it was a deception on my part, hey, so be it, you have to play the game in the way everyone else, you know, at the agency plays the game."
(He says that part 4 isn't the end; he nods when asked whether all 4 Kryptos passages will turn out to be linked and says, whoever cracks part 4 will then be at the beginning of the puzzle.)
"In the 1st 3, you could rely on the fact that, in English, some letters occur more frequently than others, for instance, if you could determine that the # of E's vs. the # of Z's in the English language, then you would have some insight into the potential words that they made up, because that are more E's in English language that there are Z's...in part 4, (I) deliberately masked that advantage."
(He insists even he doesn't know exactly how it turned out; that though he helped with the basic structure of the code, he's never tried to crack Sanborn's final message; and Jim Sanborn, sole guardian of Kryptos' secret, is keeping mum.)
Date: Sat, 18 Jun 2005 09:55:06 -0700
From: Jim Gillogly
Subject: Article in Newindpress (India)
Second paragraph -- mentions Kryptos' starring role in Dan Brown's next book,
The Solomon Key, and attributes this to Sanborn: "The solution, says
the sculptor, points to something momentous buried on the CIA property."
from CNN.COM, 20 June 2005
Cracking the code
sculpture challenges CIA employees
From Justine Redman and David Ensor
Monday, June 20, 2005; Posted: 5:29 a.m. EDT (09:29 GMT) http://www.cnn.com/2005/US/06/19/cracking.the.code/
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- It's been hidden in plain sight at CIA headquarters for 15 years: a message, buried in code, on a large S-shaped copper and wood sculpture called "Kryptos."
"Kryptos," which means "hidden" in ancient Greek, was created by artist Jim Sanborn in 1990. Ever since, CIA staff have tried to crack the code as it sits outside their cafeteria.
"Does anybody know, besides you, what that section says?" CNN's National Security correspondent David Ensor asked Sanborn.
"I don't think so," he replied.
Now the race to decipher "Kryptos" has spread worldwide, accelerated by Dan Brown's best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code." Though the novel itself doesn't mention "Kryptos," the book's jacket holds references to it. Those references might not have been recognized but for a game on the publisher's Web site which states:
"Disguised on the jacket of The Da Vinci Code, numerous encrypted messages hint at the subject matter of Dan Brown's next Robert Langdon novel. And while their ultimate meaning will not be revealed here, we will give you clues as to how to locate and decipher them."
As the book's popularity soared, so did the sculpture's.
A Web forum where cryptographers collaborate on the puzzle went from attracting about 50 hits a day to thousands of hits a day, according to its moderator Elonka Dunin.
Moment of discovery
One of the sections of "Kryptos" that has been de-coded is a quote from the description by archaeologist Howard Carter of the moment when he discovered the tomb of Tutankhamen, the ancient Egyptian pharaoh.
"With trembling hands, I made a tiny breach in the upper left-hand corner, and then widening the hole a little, I inserted a candle and peered in."
"I don't presume to think that "Kryptos" sculpture has the import that finding Tutankhamen's tomb would have," Sanborn says, "but it's that same magic of finding something, finding a fossil or finding an Indian arrow head or something like that. It's magical, because it's something that was made in the past. So I wanted to somehow demonstrate that magic, for everyone, once it was cracked."
When Sanborn received his commission from the CIA, he had no experience in codes, but he learned quickly from retired CIA cryptographer Ed Scheidt.
The sculpture is a tribute to cryptography -- the analyzing and deciphering of complex codes written in numbers, letters and symbols.
Sanborn borrowed from the 16th century French cryptographer Blaise de Vigenere and the cryptographic method of transposing letters or changing their position in a message according to whatever method the writer devised.
But how did a novice come up with such a complex code?
"We all have codes. What's your ATM PIN number?" Sanborn explains. "So this was just one that I did, and I don't think it's unusual to design a code that's difficult to crack. I don't think it's hard, either."
Part of what has made "Kryptos" challenging is that few people actually get to see the sculpture because of its location. Even CNN wasn't allowed to visit the CIA site.
A photo of "Kryptos" appears on the CIA's Web site and describes it "as a piece of petrified wood supported by a large S-shaped copper screen that looks like a piece of paper coming out of a computer printer. On the 'paper' are inscribed several enigmatic messages, each written in a different code."
Sanborn did let CNN have a look at his little-known sister sculpture on the grounds of the Hirshhorn Gallery in Washington D.C. That artwork, titled "Antipodes," contains the same text, although it lacks some of the physical clues scattered on the CIA grounds.
Other clues have come, over the years, from the artist himself. Sanborn chooses his words carefully, and "Kryptos" enthusiasts comb through them even more carefully.
Sanborn: 'Kryptos' sculpture was 'an obsession'
Sunday, June 19, 2005; Posted: 9:31 p.m. EDT (01:31 GMT) http://premium.cnn.com/2005/US/06/17/sanborn
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Since 1990, CIA staff members have been trying to crack the code that artist Jim Sanborn wrote into his sculpture "Kryptos," which sits outside the cafeteria at CIA headquarters.
Now the race to decipher "Kryptos" has spread worldwide, accelerated by the popularity of Dan Brown's best-selling book "The Da Vinci Code." Though the novel itself doesn't mention "Kryptos," the book's jacket holds references to it.
CNN national security correspondent David Ensor talked to Sanborn, who
says he's the only one who knows what the code says. These are excerpts from
ENSOR: What were you trying to achieve with this sculpture?
SANBORN: A long viewing existence. I mean, any artist wants to make a piece that endures. I made it out of copper and stone, basically. But what seems to have endured is the content and the code, and I mean, in that respect it's succeeded beyond my wildest dreams, because as the code is disclosed slowly -- which was a plan -- it seems to be staying in the spotlight, which is great.
ENSOR: How did you get this assignment at CIA? Were you especially interested in code for some reason?
SANBORN: No, but I had tremendous interests in making things which are invisible visible. All through the 1980s what I was working with at that time was things called load stones, and the Earth's magnetic field. Basically, the Earth's magnetic field is an invisible natural force, and I chose to show it visually by setting up large arrays of hundred and hundreds of compass needles that were all aligned north and south. Instead of a small little compass that gives you very small information, I tried to demonstrate the large power the Earth's magnetic field has.
So I was selected based on that work, of dealing with invisible forces. So, the invisible forces of nature was what I was dealing with, so there was a conceptual leap in that I could work equally well with the invisible forces of mankind.
ENSOR: Were CIA officials willing to have you put this sculpture on their property without them knowing what it says on it, at all? With no one knowing?
SANBORN: Not exactly. When I conceived of the idea to do an encoded piece for the CIA, I was determined to keep it absolutely secret from the agency and everyone else. Then I thought about it, and I said well, you know, the agency's going to want to know what I said for obvious reasons. You know, did I write something pornographic, did I write something that absolutely torpedoed the agency? And so I offered it -- actually, the agency suggested that I give it to the Department of Historical Intelligence.
So I, with trepidation, said OK, how am I going to do this without giving them something tangible to remember? And so I went into the office of Historical Intelligence, which at that time was comprised of three people in a fairly dark room. And I had three pieces of paper with me, and I asked, "Listen, who has the best memory? I really want to entrust this code with the person with the best memory."
And two of the people pointed to one person and said, "She has an institutional memory. She remembers everything." And I asked her to leave the room.
So then I had two pieces of paper with the same thing on it. Which basically had the code, the plain text, but it was scrambled in such a way that you could read sentences, but you wouldn't get the whole picture. Sort of a need to know situation. So they, the two people, started reading it, and I realized quickly, and they realized quickly, the import of what they were doing. Because frankly, if I had deceived them in some way, and they had read this and said, "Oh, this is fine," and then the sculpture had gone up and it wasn't fine, then it was their job on the line.
It was a tremendous responsibility that they ended up not being able to accept. So at that time it was decided that I would give the code to William Webster at the dedication ceremony, which I did. In a sealed envelope, as carefully masked in such a way that you couldn't see inside as I could do at the time.
ENSOR: References to this sculpture appear on the cover of "The Da Vinci Code," probably the most popular book in sales in our time. What's been the impact of "The Da Vinci Code" coming out on the interest level in these sculptures?
SANBORN: There's a woman called Elonka Dunin who has a Web site on the "Kryptos" sculpture. And before "The Da Vinci Code," she was getting like 50 hits a day on the Web site. And now she's getting thousands, basically. I know that the agency was getting just a few hits a day on the "Kryptos" sculpture; they're now getting thousands of hits a day on the "Kryptos" sculpture. So it's a pretty stunning change.
ENSOR: When you developed this work of art, did you ever imagine it would become the kind of obsession it has become for some people today?
SANBORN: Well, it was an obsession of mine, and when I designed the piece, I said to myself, you know, when an artist does a public artwork, which is -- this is sort of the quintessential public artwork because it's in the public eye in a large way -- you want to do artwork which will retain interest. I did know there was something special, certainly, about the site.
You don't do something for the CIA and expect it just to go away, and nobody ever hears about it again, because it's for the CIA. So I took out all the stops. I mean, I gave the agency as much as I possibly could, physically, and as the number of objects I put there. And I made nothing from the project.
So I put all my eggs in that basket, assuming that it would work for me in tangible ways later. And it has. I mean, the commissioned work and the success I've had in doing large-scale artworks outdoors, or public artwork, has been significant. And so a lot of artists do artwork just for the resume, and just to have photographs of it and say they did it.
This is one of those pieces where I made very little monetary ... I made nothing monetarily from it, but I knew that the PR would certainly help my future work.
ENSOR: There's one piece of the code that has not yet been cracked, right? Does anybody know, besides you, what that says?
SANBORN: I don't think so. You know, I've done my best to distance myself, actually, from what I wrote. And when the passages that were deciphered already were cracked, I had to go back to my notes to figure out what I'd written. And it's the same with this most recent code as well. When it's cracked, if it's cracked, in my lifetime, I'm certainly going to have to refresh my memory as far as what I wrote. Which is my only way of keeping a secret, frankly. I'm not good at it.
ENSOR: How did you, a novice, come up with code that nobody's been able to break today?
SANBORN: Well the reality is that I'm in a unique position: I'm an artist, OK? I'm not a mathematician, but I do have other skills, more visual skills, that were brought to bear in designing the code. Ed Scheidt, the cryptographer who I worked with, who's retired from the agency, gave me an overview of encoding systems, and worked with me. We met in secret locations at the time. It seems ridiculous, but we felt it necessary to develop something. Then he gave me the systems. I was able to modify them to my own ends.
ENSOR: What can you tell me about what the last bit says? The part that we don't know about. What can you say about that?
SANBORN: Let's just think of the last passage of the "Kryptos" as being like sand in an hourglass. At this point in time, every little grain of sand that leaves that hourglass is a clue, right?
And so, the further along we go, and the more the layers of the onion are unraveled, and the closer we get to cracking the "Kryptos" sculpture, the tinier the grain is that would be responsible for cracking that code.
So I've had to be very careful about the wording, what I say at any given time over all the years. I was very glib in 1990, '94, when these stories first broke about the "Kryptos" sculpture. I am far less glib now. Loose lips, you know?
from Yahoo Kryptos Group, 19 April 2006
Note - From Elonka on Yahoo Kryptos Group*
On Apr 19, 2006, Sanborn went through some of his notes and saw that well-known K2 solution had the wrong ending (ID BY ROW_S). He informed Elonka that one of the X's that appear in the K2 plaintext was missing after the word WEST. By simply inserting the extra character ('S' in CT, which leads to 'X' in PT), the correct ending is revealed (X LAYER TWO). That one gets sensible text from the omission is quite a coincidence for Vigenere encryption.
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