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Decrypted cables
Read Venona Intercepts
by Peter Tyson

In 1995, the U.S. National Security Agency broke a half century of silence by releasing translations of Soviet cables decrypted back in the 1940s by the Venona Project. Venona was a top-secret U.S. effort to gather and decrypt messages sent in the 1940s by agents of what is now called the KGB and the GRU, the Soviet military intelligence agency. The cables revealed the identities of numerous Americans who were spies for the Soviet Union, including those chronicled in NOVA's "Secrets, Lies, and Atomic Spies."

The four Venona cables presented here provide striking evidence of the covert activities of several atomic-era spies, including Klaus Fuchs, Julius Rosenberg, and Theodore Alvin Hall. Through the cables and accompanying stories, peer through the keyhole into the secret lives of these and other agents, who gave away details of the atomic bomb and other highly sensitive technologies. Watch for code words such as "Enormous," which stood for the Manhattan Project, America's atomic-bomb program. To see the complete set of Venona documents released so far, go to the NSA's Venona Documents page at

Peter Tyson is editor in chief of NOVA Online.

The chief source for this article was Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, by John Earl Haynes and Harvey Klehr (Yale University Press, 2000). For other sources consulted, see the books listed in Resources.

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