By a thread

Joseph J. Rochefort is a name famous in intelligence circles but not as well—known to the general public as he should be.  Rochefort headed the cryptanalysis section of the Pacific Fleet — Station Hypo — in the early days of World War II.  At the beginning of the war, the Pacific Fleet was at a substantial disadvantage relative to the Japanese due to the Pearl Harbor attack and to the Japanese building program of the 1930's.  Admiral Nimitz, Commander—in—Chief in the Pacific, was confronted with the problem of how to allocate his limited resources to prevail over a superior opponent.

Rochefort was able to pull off two historic intelligence coups. 

Rochefort's team had cracked parts of the Japanese naval code — JN—25.  He got snippets of Japanese communications and augmented them with signals analysis and other intelligence.  Based on this, he was able to tell Nimitz that the Japanese planned an assault on Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, which would be a prelude to an attack on Australia. 

Nimitz sent a task force to block this move, which resulted in the first battle between aircraft carriers, the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.  This was actually a tactical defeat for the U.S. because the flagship of the fleet, the aircraft carrier Lexington was sunk by the Japanese, while we only sank one of their smaller escort carriers.  But it was a strategic victory because it stopped Japanese progress toward Australia and sustained our sea communications with them, a critical strategic objective.

Rochefort was able to exceed this intelligence feat by informing Nimitz that the Japanese would attack Midway Island, 1200 miles west of Hawaii, in early June.  There was a raging debate on this point with Washington, since the analysts in Washington thought the Japanese objective was California.  Nimitz backed Rochefort, and sent his three aircraft carriers, his entire striking force, on station north northeast of Midway.  They bushwhacked the Japanese in one of the most crushing naval victories in history, the Battle of Midway, on June 4, 1942.  We sank all four Japanese aircraft carriers, the heart of their striking force.

Why is this story relevant?  Because Rochefort's work along with that of others was the precourser to the current NSA, our primary signals intelligence agency.  And this story shows that the fate of nations can hang by a single thread — by the work of one team in the case of Station Hypo.  It was one of the darkest secrets of World War II that we could read — at least occasionally — the Japanese signals and that the Brits could read the German signals. 

Now we are engaged in another war.  It appears that the NSA has or had capability to read the communication of the bad guys.  But that did not sit right with someone, or ones, in our government.  So they have blabbed this to the press. 

Let me speak as a citizen who had several friends in the World Trade Center north tower.  Firemen have been known to jump from high floors in burning buildings to avoid the fate of being burned alive.  And we know that many of our countrymen took this step from the high floors of the World Trade Center — a step into the void, into certain death.  Those who did not or could not, roasted alive.  And Osama bin Laden smiled at that. 

We are dealing with enemies who want us dead.  If you as a government employee imagine yourself more enlightened than George Bush, I have some advice for you.  Bush is our president, re—elected just a year ago in an election that was explicitly about this war.  The people have spoken, whatever you personally may think.  It may be a legacy from the Vietnam War protest years that it is "cool" to be a "rebel."  I've got news for you.  This is not Vietnam.  Ho Chi Minh wanted Saigon.  The bad guys we are up against want New York.  The president and the rest of us are bending every effort to throw them back. 

If you find that your are employed in a sensitive position but that your conscience will not permit you to support the administration...resign.  Resign.  I've got news for you.  We citizens have no investment in your career.  It means nothing to us whether you get a pension.  So don't wait.  If it grates on your conscience to be privy to our secrets, resign.  Run for office.  Open a restaurant.  Sell used cars.  Find a profession that you can live with.  But don't reveal the secrets we need to win.  Our edge over the bad guys may be so small, you can't even see light on it — it may be a single thread.  And if you cut that thread, as far as I am concerned, you aren't cool, you shouldn't be fired, you should be hanged.

Greg Richards  12 2005

Joseph J. Rochefort is a name famous in intelligence circles but not as well—known to the general public as he should be.  Rochefort headed the cryptanalysis section of the Pacific Fleet — Station Hypo — in the early days of World War II.  At the beginning of the war, the Pacific Fleet was at a substantial disadvantage relative to the Japanese due to the Pearl Harbor attack and to the Japanese building program of the 1930's.  Admiral Nimitz, Commander—in—Chief in the Pacific, was confronted with the problem of how to allocate his limited resources to prevail over a superior opponent.

Rochefort was able to pull off two historic intelligence coups. 

Rochefort's team had cracked parts of the Japanese naval code — JN—25.  He got snippets of Japanese communications and augmented them with signals analysis and other intelligence.  Based on this, he was able to tell Nimitz that the Japanese planned an assault on Port Moresby in Papua New Guinea, which would be a prelude to an attack on Australia. 

Nimitz sent a task force to block this move, which resulted in the first battle between aircraft carriers, the Battle of the Coral Sea in May 1942.  This was actually a tactical defeat for the U.S. because the flagship of the fleet, the aircraft carrier Lexington was sunk by the Japanese, while we only sank one of their smaller escort carriers.  But it was a strategic victory because it stopped Japanese progress toward Australia and sustained our sea communications with them, a critical strategic objective.

Rochefort was able to exceed this intelligence feat by informing Nimitz that the Japanese would attack Midway Island, 1200 miles west of Hawaii, in early June.  There was a raging debate on this point with Washington, since the analysts in Washington thought the Japanese objective was California.  Nimitz backed Rochefort, and sent his three aircraft carriers, his entire striking force, on station north northeast of Midway.  They bushwhacked the Japanese in one of the most crushing naval victories in history, the Battle of Midway, on June 4, 1942.  We sank all four Japanese aircraft carriers, the heart of their striking force.

Why is this story relevant?  Because Rochefort's work along with that of others was the precourser to the current NSA, our primary signals intelligence agency.  And this story shows that the fate of nations can hang by a single thread — by the work of one team in the case of Station Hypo.  It was one of the darkest secrets of World War II that we could read — at least occasionally — the Japanese signals and that the Brits could read the German signals. 

Now we are engaged in another war.  It appears that the NSA has or had capability to read the communication of the bad guys.  But that did not sit right with someone, or ones, in our government.  So they have blabbed this to the press. 

Let me speak as a citizen who had several friends in the World Trade Center north tower.  Firemen have been known to jump from high floors in burning buildings to avoid the fate of being burned alive.  And we know that many of our countrymen took this step from the high floors of the World Trade Center — a step into the void, into certain death.  Those who did not or could not, roasted alive.  And Osama bin Laden smiled at that. 

We are dealing with enemies who want us dead.  If you as a government employee imagine yourself more enlightened than George Bush, I have some advice for you.  Bush is our president, re—elected just a year ago in an election that was explicitly about this war.  The people have spoken, whatever you personally may think.  It may be a legacy from the Vietnam War protest years that it is "cool" to be a "rebel."  I've got news for you.  This is not Vietnam.  Ho Chi Minh wanted Saigon.  The bad guys we are up against want New York.  The president and the rest of us are bending every effort to throw them back. 

If you find that your are employed in a sensitive position but that your conscience will not permit you to support the administration...resign.  Resign.  I've got news for you.  We citizens have no investment in your career.  It means nothing to us whether you get a pension.  So don't wait.  If it grates on your conscience to be privy to our secrets, resign.  Run for office.  Open a restaurant.  Sell used cars.  Find a profession that you can live with.  But don't reveal the secrets we need to win.  Our edge over the bad guys may be so small, you can't even see light on it — it may be a single thread.  And if you cut that thread, as far as I am concerned, you aren't cool, you shouldn't be fired, you should be hanged.

Greg Richards  12 2005