You were happy when Montenegro returned to power through
democratic means; you thought that everything would change under his rule
and your work would again become urgent. What a disappointment. There
was no significant threat to national security as there had been during his
dictatorship. You were forced to admit that times had changed. Even worse,
during the last stretch of Montenegros administration, the vice president, a
charismatic technocrat pardon the contradiction with wide eyes and
dimpled cheeks, had decided to reorganize the Black Chamber and turn it
into the focal point of the fight against cyberterrorism. This will pose one of
the key challenges to the twenty- first century, he had said when he came to
announce his initiative. We must be prepared for what is to come.
Immediately thereafter the vice president introduced Ramírez-Graham, the
new director of the Black Chamber: One of our countrymen who has
succeeded abroad, a man who has left a promising career in the north to
come and serve his country. A round of applause. He had annoyed you from
the very start: the impeccable black suit, the well-polished loafers and neat
haircut he looked like some sleek businessman. Then he had opened his
mouth and the bad impression only worsened. True, he might have had
slightly darker skin than most, and somewhat Andean features, but he spoke
Spanish with an American accent. It certainly didnt help when you
discovered that he wasnt even born in Bolivia but was from Arlington, Virginia.
You search the walls for a sign of salvation. Around you are only
silent structures, muted by the vigilance of a supervisor who believed it
prudent that employees of the Black Chamber not be distracted. Aside from
the aluminum emblem at the entrance, there are no signs or notices, no
noise that might distract you in the endless search for the text that resides
behind all texts. But you can find messages even on immaculate walls. Its
simply a matter of looking for them. Your glasses are dirty fingerprints,
coffee stains and the frame is twisted. There is a slight pain in your left
eye caused by the lens bending at the wrong angle. For weeks youve been
intending to make an appointment with the ophthalmologist.
Ramírez-Graham has been director of the Black Chamber for
almost a year. He has fired a number of your colleagues and replaced them
with young computer experts. Since you obviously dont fit in with his plans
for a generational change, why havent you been fi red? You put yourself in
his shoes: you cant be fired. After all, you are a living archive, a repository of
information regarding the profession. When you go, a whole millennium of
knowledge will go with you, an entire encyclopedia of codes. Your colleagues
who havent yet turned thirty dont come to ask you practical questions.
Rather, they come to hear your stories: of Étienne Bazeries, the French
cryptanalyst who in the nineteenth century spent three years trying to
decipher Louis XIVs code (so full of twists and turns that it took more than
two centuries to decode it), or of Marian Rejewski, the Polish cryptanalyst
who helped to defeat Enigma in World War II. There are so many stories, and
you know them all. Your new colleagues use software to decipher codes and
see you as a relic from times when the profession was not fully mechanized.
The world has changed since Enigma, but being historically out of sync is
nothing new in Río Fugitivo.
You pause in front of the Bletchley Room, where slim computers
use complex mathematical processes to understand coded messages and
fail more often than not. Years are needed to decode a single phrase. With
the development of public key cryptography, and particularly with the
appearance of the RSA asymmetric system in 1977, a message can now be
coded using such high values that all of the computers in the world working
to decipher it would take more than the age of the universe to find a solution.
A Man Called Intrepid author dies aged 89(Dec 03 2013) William Stevenson, a journalist and author who drew on his close ties with intelligence sources to write two best-selling books in the 1970s, A Man Called...