CIA Sculpture Continues to Baffle Cryptographers
Source : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kryptos
For more than 15 years, amateur and professional code-breakers have been baffled by Kryptos, a sculpture at the CIA’s headquarters in Langley, VA, that features a nearly 12-foot-tall, copper scroll inscribed with four long, coded passages. The coded passages remained unsolved for eight years, until a CIA analyst cracked the first three in 1999. But the fourth passage is still a mystery.
Interest in solving the final part of the puzzle has soared after the publisher of Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Da Vinci Code posted a game on www.thedavincicode.com, which states that numerous encrypted messages on the book’s dust cover hint at the subject of Brown’s next novel. The clues, which were not recognized until the game was posted, include a set of geographic coordinates that roughly locate the sculpture. Brown himself has recently hinted that the Kryptos sculpture might play a role in his upcoming novel The Solomon Key.
Deciphering the Passages
Sculptor Jim Sanborn claims to be the only man alive who knows the solution to the final passage. When Kryptos was installed in 1990, Sanborn was required to hand a sealed envelope containing its solution to then CIA Director William Webster. But Sanborn now says that the letter withheld information critical to solving the puzzle.
Sanborn has confirmed the accuracy of the solutions to the first three passages, which contain deliberate misspellings, letters carved slightly higher than others on the same line, and other irregularities that may themselves be clues to solving the fourth passage and possibly for locating something buried. The first deciphered passage reads: “Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iglusion [sic].”
The second passage, which is followed by geographical coordinates, suggests a location elsewhere on the grounds of CIA headquarters and reads, in part:
“It was totally invisible. How’s that possible? They used the Earth’s magnetic field. The information was gathered and transmitted underguund [sic]to an unknown location. Does Langley know about this? They should: it’s buried out there somewhere.”
The third passage is based on a diary entry made by archaeologist Howard Carter in 1922, on the day that he discovered the tomb of Egyptian pharaoh Tutankhamun. It reads:
“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?”
Experts say that the fourth passage is written in a more complex code than the first three, one designed to mask patterns of recurring letters that code-breakers typically look for. There are no breaks in the 97-character sequence of the final passage, which begins with an initial question mark.
Considering the Entire Sculpture
Sanborn, who has had no training in cryptography, says that he collaborated with a prominent fiction writer in composing the text to be encoded, and then worked with a retired CIA encryption official for four months to create the code. He insists that the code can be solved and says that when he placed the sculpture at Langley, in the thick of the world’s best code-breakers, he thought it would take only months for them to solve Kryptos.
Part of the difficulty in solving the puzzle may be its location, in the center of a high-security compound to which few people have access. Another difficulty may be the failure to consider Kryptos in its entirety. The inscribed scroll is only part of the sculpture, which is intended as an interpretation of how information has been accrued throughout the ages. In fact, Sanborn teases enthusiasts by saying that one clue, the most obvious key to the sculpture, is sitting in plain view but has been overlooked so far.
The sculpture actually begins with two red granite and copperplate constructions that flank the walkway leading to the entrance of the headquarters building, that appear as pages jutting from the earth and are inscribed with International Morse Code and ancient ciphers that spell out phrases such as “virtually invisible” and “it is your position.” There is also a navigational compass carved into one of the rocks, with its needle pulled off due north by a lodestone (a naturally magnetized rock) that Sanborn placed nearby.
Then, in the courtyard of the headquarters, is a calm, reflective pool that lies between two layered slabs of granite and tall grasses. Directly across from this is the centerpiece, the copperplate screen carved with thousands of three-inch letters and symbols.
The scroll is supported by a piece of petrified wood, symbolizing the source materials on which language has been recorded throughout the ages. It is then surrounded by a bubbling pool of water, which symbolizes the dissemination of information to unknown destinations. On its left is a cryptographic table for enciphering and deciphering code called the Vigenere Method, after 16th-century French cryptographer Blaise de Vigenere.
The Vigenere Method involves substituting letters while shifting from one alphabet order to another with each letter of the key, and was used to encode one of the four enigmatic messages on the right of the scroll, which are each written in a different code. Another passage uses the cryptographic method of transposing letters, or changing their position within the message.
Sanborn says that even when the final passage has been decoded, people will discover that what he wrote is only part of a larger puzzle.
The first person to publicly announce solving the first three sections, in 1999, was Jim Gillogly, a computer scientist from southern California. After Gillogly's announcement, the CIA revealed that their analyst David Stein had also solved the same sections in 1998, using pencil and paper techniques, though at the time of his solution the information was only disseminated within the intelligence community, and no public announcement was made. The NSA also claimed at that time that they had solvers, but would not reveal names or dates until 2000, when it was learned that an NSA team led by Ken Miller, along with Dennis McDaniels and two other unnamed individuals, had solved parts 1–3 in late 1992. All of these early attempts to solve Kryptos presumed that K2 ended with WESTIDBYROWS, but in 2006, Sanborn announced that he had made an error in part 2, which changed the last part of the plaintext from WESTIDBYROWS to WESTXLAYERTW
Solutions : From Wikipedia
The following are the solutions of parts 1-3 of the sculpture. Misspellings present in the code are included as-is. Kryptos K1 and K2 ciphers are polyalphabetic substitution, using a Vigenere Tableau similar to the tableau on the other half of the sculpture. K3 is a transposition cipher, and K4 is yet unsolved.
Keywords: Kryptos, Palimpsest
BETWEEN SUBTLE SHADING AND THE ABSENCE OF LIGHT LIES THE NUANCE OF IQLUSION
Keywords: Kryptos, Abscissa
IT WAS TOTALLY INVISIBLE HOWS THAT POSSIBLE ? THEY USED THE EARTHS MAGNETIC FIELD X THE INFORMATION WAS GATHERED AND TRANSMITTED UNDERGRUUND TO AN UNKNOWN LOCATION X DOES LANGLEY KNOW ABOUT THIS ? THEY SHOULD ITS BURIED OUT THERE SOMEWHERE X WHO KNOWS THE EXACT LOCATION ? ONLY WW THIS WAS HIS LAST MESSAGE X THIRTY EIGHT DEGREES FIFTY SEVEN MINUTES SIX POINT FIVE SECONDS NORTH SEVENTY SEVEN DEGREES EIGHT MINUTES FORTY FOUR SECONDS WEST X LAYER TWO
In April 2006 Sanborn said that he made an error in the sculpture by omitting an "X" used to indicate a break for aesthetic reasons, and that the decrypted text which ended "...FOUR SECONDS WEST ID BY ROW S" should actually be "...FOUR SECONDS WEST X LAYER TWO".
Note: The coordinates mentioned in the plaintext: 38°57'6.5?N 77°8'44?W? / ?38.951806, -77.14556; on Google Maps; analysis of the cited location. The point is about 200 feet south of the sculpture itself.
SLOWLY DESPARATLY SLOWLY THE REMAINS OF PASSAGE DEBRIS THAT ENCUMBERED THE LOWER PART OF THE DOORWAY WAS REMOVED 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 X CAN YOU SEE ANYTHING Q (?)
This is a paraphrased and misspelled quotation from Howard Carter's account of the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun in his 1923 book The Tomb of Tutankhamun. The question with which it ends is that posed by Lord Carnarvon, to which Carter (in the book) famously replied "wonderful things". In the actual November 26, 1922 field notes, his reply was, "Yes, it is wonderful."
Part 4 remains publicly unsolved, though there is an active Yahoo! Group (formed in 2003) which continues to coordinate actions of 1000+ members towards final resolution of the Kryptos.
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