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Monday, 21 July 2014


Why was he killed? 
The case for a VENONA related killing..

Over the years, many people have presented their thoughts on how the Somerton Man died, amongst the theories put forward was suicide, accidental overdose, poisoned by mistake and even that he was murdered. The latter coming as no surprise given the findings from the inquest which suggests as much but, in my humble view, it makes sense to question every aspect when espionage is a suspected element of a case.

In this post, (it will be lengthy and broken into a number of parts), the plan is to present a series of events that took place in the years leading up to the discovery of the mans body on Somerton Beach and how these events provide us with clues and evidence, albeit circumstantial, that point to a VENONA related killing/assasination. By default this post will tell us why he was killed and perhaps give us some options on just who may have caused his death.

Who Knew About VENONA & When?

         Ben Chifley                          Clem Attlee                     'Doc' Evatt

Sir Percy Sillitoe DG MI5      Roger Hollis MI5        Guy Liddell, DDG, MI5

VENONA Summarised

'A Soviet code clerk preparing a message first reduced its text into numeric code groups drawn from a codebook (a kind of dictionary in which the words and common phrases correspond to four-digit numbers). After encoding the plain text with numeric code groups, the clerk would obscure the code groups by adding them, digit by digit, to a string of random digits. This second series of digits, called 'additive' or 'key,' was known to both the sender and receiver because it was printed on the pages of a 'one-time pad. ' One-time pads were periodically pouched to Soviet consular missions in sealed packets. The pad pages--with 60 five-digit additive groups per page--were used in order, always starting with the group in the upper lefthand corner (the pad-page number to be used was more or less concealed somewhere on the face of the message). Code clerks in different Soviet missions used up these packets at varying rates, depending on the volume of messages to be enciphered or deciphered'. Source CIA website

Timeline of events

Finnish Intelligence sell copies of Russian Code books to OSS officers, these books contained the top secret codes that became the beginning of the VENONA project, a US led and organised Signals Intelligence operation. The Americans discovered that the Russians had unwittingly distributed duplicate copies of some of their 'One Time' pads that contained code sequences that should only have been used once. This enabled US cryptologists to 'break' some of the vast volume of Russian secret Military and Trade cable traffic.

Second set of Russian code books found in a German Army building which was about to be handed over to Russian Forces.

US sets up Army Security Agency with a mandate to establish a World Wide network of specialised 'listening' stations to intercept Russian radio traffic.

UK-USA Security Agreement known as the 'Secret Treaty' is signed. It's focus was SIGINT or signals intelligence and the signatories were the US as the first party and Australia, Britain, Canada and New Zealand as the second parties.

QUESTION: Where were the Australian Listening Stations Located? from an unnamed source one location could have been between Woomera and Nurungara. From personal knowledge, there was a US radio station in SA close to Adelaide on the road between Salisbury and Gawler. You could drive right past it and above the barbed wire fences and behind the red brick buildings you could see numerous large radio masts. This was in the late 70s and my understanding is that they had been there since WW2 days. If you have any other locations that you are aware of or have any relative information please let me know.

Sir Percy Sillitoe, Director General MI5, having been briefed by senior US Intelligence officers, meets with British PM Clement Atlee in December 1947 and discloses the VENONA project to him. In particular he tells Atlee that there had been a serious leak of very sensitive information about British long term strategies and that the leak had been traced to Australia and the Department of External Affairs. Atlee tasked Sillitoe with travelling to Australia and informing Ben Chifley, Australian PM of the findings. This presented a major problem to Sillitoe as the disclosure could put at risk the whole VENONA project, a cover story was suggested and adopted as the best way forward. The cover would be that the information on the leaked documents came from a Russian defector and plans were made to have Sir Percy travel to Australia, he would take Roger Hollis, MI5, with him. In fact they eventually both travelled on separate days towards the end of January 1948. Atlee cabled Ben Chifley and told him to expect a visit from Sillitoe on a matter of some importance. In Defence of The Realm

According to Guy Liddell's diary, (Deputy Director General of the Security Service) during January 1948 a number of top secret meetings were held within the offices of MI5 with the topic being the US cables (VENONA) project and Sillitoe's impending visit to Australia for meetings with Ben Chifley and 'Doc' Evatt. The cover story was exapanded and was somewhat nervously agreed to. Roger Hollis would accompany Silletoe with both men leaving for Australia at the end of January.

During Silletoe's absence, further meetings were held discussing the setting up of an MI5 Australian Office with a number of potential MI5 officers being considered for the position in Australia. This was even before Sillitoe and Hollis had met with Chifley and revealed the real nature of VENONA and an unusual level of confidence on behalf of MI5.

NOTE: Both Roger Hollis and Guy Liddell were later to be accused of being Russian moles.

In the next post, which will be added here within 48 hours, we will move the timeline of events further along into 1948 and include more people who were involved in the project. There is much already revealed here with more to come, for some site visitors this information will be quite new and may even cause them to rethink their views of those early cold war years and the involvement of Australians.

Sunday, 20 July 2014

SOMERTON MAN: When Was The 'Code' Written?

When was the code written?

What do we have that could point us in the right direction? The code page and micro writing to start with, according to one report the back of this book had been torn off which could mean that the impressions left were from the original writing done on the real back of the book. Here's the thing, the process for agents using secret writing techniques was to write the code or message on one piece of paper possibly in invisible ink and then to write over it again in normal handwriting or as we have discussed, used the larger letters as a guide and written the microcode into them.

The next step would be to remove any indentations from the page beneath and that was done by steaming/iron and water. That didn't happen as is evidenced by the fact that the Police were able to lift the indentations from the inner page and it's those markings that they traced over.

The question is why wasn't the next step taken by the person who wrote the 'code' to remove the indentations by the steam process?

A possible answer is that there wasn't time, so the complete book was grabbed and possibly during an escape the back was torn off and sent in one direction and the rest of the book tossed into an open window of a nearby car hopefully to be collected later.

That could mean that the 'code' was written on SMs last day. It doesn't necessarily follow that it was SM that wrote it. Given this scenario is correct that would make it on November 30th 1948. That may be a date worth bearing in mind as we get on to the Venom or Venona post.

Saturday, 19 July 2014

SOMERTON MAN: How Did The Police Examine The Code Page?


The book in which the Code Page was found was handed into SA Police in response to a published request for anyone to come forward who had or who knew of a copy of the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam that was missing the two last words 'TAMAM SHUD'. To be precise the words were torn out.

Image of Torn Piece

What would the Police have done when they received the book? One of the first things would have been to see whether the torn piece of paper found on the Somerton Man matched the space that was apparent in the handed in copy. There is some ambiguity, par for the course in this case, because we have a copy of a report that states that the paper type was the same in both the torn piece and the book. What they didn't say was whether the piece matched precisely the torn out section.

The Advertiser newspaper had published an image of how the page looked that showed a torn out section but according to Gerry Feltus, the ex Detective Sergeant who had the case on his desk and author of the Unknown Man book, he believes that the copy shown in the newspaper was not the one held by the Police. His reason for saying this was that the book shown was too large in the first instance and that he has a copy of the Whitcomb and Tombes book and it is a pocket sized version meaning it measured approximately 110mm by 145mm, just the right size to fit into a coat pocket. Gerry also had the actual torn piece in his possession and he was able to prove that the printed words 'TAMAM SHUD' were exactly the same size in both the torn piece and in his pocket sized copy of the Rubaiyat. He would also tell you that according to Detective Brown, the torn piece matched the torn section of the book precisely. As you can see in the image on the left, there is quite a difference.

I carried out an experiment to see whether it was possible to tear out a piece of paper without tearing from the outside edge of the page as per the image above and the result was that it can be done and the piece came out surprisingly similar to the shape of the 'TAMAM SHUD' torn piece. On the left is the torn piece and below is the page with the piece removed.

It's an interesting experiment and it shows that it would have been quite possible to tear the piece out in one hit without resorting to tearing from the outer edge of the page.

The Police were actually very concerned about not revealing the shape of the piece so much so that they folded over the edges before photographing it for distribution to the press.

The Process

On receiving the copy of the book and given the suspicious circumstances of the mans death, not the least of which were the apparent deliberate removal of any form of identification and finding the small torn piece with the cryptic words 'TAMAM SHUD' (It Is Ended), the Police would have been well justified in thoroughly examining the book to the extent that they would have looked for any trace of writing including 'INDENTED' writing marks. This kind of writing consists of the impressions left when you place one sheet of paper over another, write on the top sheet and then a copy of the words you wrote will appear in an indented form on the page beneath. The process for this step was to firstly examine by eye from different directions and at different angles. The next step is to examine the pages under UV light as shown in the 
image just above.

UV light has the effect of highlighting indentations and this was indeed the case for the book that had been handed in. On the last page of the book, (It was reprted that the actual back page had been torn off), two telephone numbers were found plus what appeared to be 5 lines of random letters. One of the phone numbers was for a local Adelaide bank and the other belonged to Jestyn and her husband.

There are a couple of options as to how the writing was written in the first instance, either it was written on the real back outer page of the book and transferred as an indentation from there, or, the back having been previously torn off, the letters and telephone numbers were written on to a separate piece of paper with the back of the book used as a rest. My view is the former and that is based on the significant number of micro letters and numbers found within the larger letters which in turn were indented onto the back page. More on that shortly.

Having established the presence of indented writing, the next step would be to enhance the information and lift it so it became visible. The process used at the time was to apply Iodine Vapour. This technique was used first in 1863 and developed with some speed during WW1 and then WW2.

The image on the left shows an initial treatment for a document being examined by the FBI for indented writing. Iodine Vapour was and is still used in some cases to lift fingerprints from paper. A Silver Nitrate solution, developed in 1933, was another way that fingerprints could be lifted from paper and it does beg the question why no mention of fingerprints being taken from the book was ever made.

The image on the right is of a handkerchief, it is believed to have been one handed to the FBI by the Commander of German U Boat, U234, that surrendered to the US Navy in May 1945. You should be able to make out code letters that were in fact indentations left by whatever writing instrument was used to apply the 'secret' inks. There was another case, George Dasch, a German Spy landed by submarine as part of a team of saboteurs and who surrendered to the FBI in early 1943, he also had a similarly marked handkerchief which in his case contained a list of his US contacts, this handkerchief was possibly subjected to the same treatment to reveal the information.

In this next image you can see US Government Censors at work examining some of the millions of letters and other documents during WW2 looking in particular for signs of  secret writing, inks and codes.

In fact in this image they are examining Military personnel letters. In one year during WW2 it is said that this effort produced 400 examples of secret writing.

Notice the way the documents are hung to dry and the use of pegs. The Code Page shows a couple of marks that could well be from it having been treated with Iodine Vapour and then dried out in this way.

It is possible that because of the nature of Iodine that the original code page would have been damaged and could well have 'rotted' so that it no longer exists. Having said that, my belief is that a photograph of the code page, prior to its being marked up by the Police, would have been taken and that may still be in existence.

The Code Page

Notice how light in colour this code page looks and then compare it to the quite dark rust colour of the Iodine treated handkerchief. Notice also the dark marks in the top corners especially the the one on the right. Why would that be? Talking with Gerry Feltus he believes that part of the process used was to turn the image of the code page negative in which case, given this was treated with Iodine vapour, the darker area would turn light in colour and the lighter areas, the letters, would turn darker. It was this image that was then marked over by the Police as you see here and it was probably done over glass or acetate.

Having been processed, the next step for the Police was to send a copy of the marked up code page to Naval Intelligence in Melbourne. I admit to having a problem understanding why a marked up photograph photograph was sent and suspect that this may not have been the case but that is for another, later, post.

Naval Intelligence were apparently unable to decrypt what they saw on the code page and informed the SA Police accordingly.

How Secret Writing Was Concealed

When people think of 'Secret Writing' they often think about vinegar, milk or even certain bodily fluids that can be used to create 'invisible writing'. Whilst there is truth in that, the real world of espionage took the whole notion of invisible ink and writing to another level. They developed smart chemicals that would, for example, need to be processed two or three times at hourly intervals before the message would be visible. Ingenious ways of concealing the raw materials of ink were developed including washing a shirt in a fluid containing the ink such that when needed you simply washed it again and kept the liquid for your secret writing needs. Starched, detachable, collars were known for that particular method.

Having done their writing they didn't always just leave it on a page or a handkerchief as shown in the earlier example, they were smarter than that. They would write their message in secret ink and then they would write over it in normal letters or handwriting. Is that ringing any bells? This in my view is how the code page was written in the first instance.

Consider the finding of micro writing on the code 
page. here we have one example where you can make out what are very small letters and numbers apparently written into the shape of a larger letter. This seems to be very much akin to the methods used by espionage agents. The coded message is written and then written over or it could be that the larger letters are written first and then the micro code added within the guidelines now provided by these larger letters. Could it be that what we see here is exactly that? Could it be that the real message was written on to the back of the book and the micro code added perhaps in special ink and what we see now is the indentation from that writing? I believe that's just what it is and the evidence is here to support that view.

There are those who have suggested that the micro writing shown is in fact not microwrting but 'digital artefacts'. These artefacts somehow take on the shape and form of letters and numbers and then wrap themselves rather neatly within the confines of the larger letters of the code. To date no one has been able to demonstrate that or produce any images showing the effect. In the next post I will deal with that theory and show how exactly why what we have found on the code page are not digital artefacts, they are real micro letters and numbers.