Ralph E. Weber


Weber, Ralph E.

1. "America's First Encrypted Cable." Studies in Intelligence 36, no. 5 (1992): 105-109.

In November 1866, Secretary of State Seward dispatched by Atlantic cable an encrypted message to American Minister to France John Bigelow. The cost: $19,540.50, which the secretary refused to pay. Seward later released the full text of the message to the New York Herald. Less than a year later the State Department issued a new code for diplomatic dispatches, although not a particularly useful one. Eventually, the U.S. had to pay up for services rendered.

2. "Seward's Other Folly: The Fight Over America's First Encrypted Cable." Cryptologia 19, no. 4 (Oct. 1995): 321-348.

The cost ($19,000) of sending an encrypted cable on the Atlantic cable sent the State Department looking for a new encryption system, its first in over 50 years.

[Cryptography/Gen; Historical/U.S./ToWWI]

Weber, Ralph E. "James Lovell and Secret Ciphers During the American Revolution." Cryptologia 2, no. 1 (Jan. 1978): 75-89.


Weber, Ralph E. Masked Dispatches: Cryptograms and Cryptology in American History, 1775-1900. Ft. George G. Meade, MD: Center of Military History, National Security Agency, 1993. Ft. Meade, MD: Center for Cryptologic History, NSA, 2002.

Kruh, Cryptologia 18.2, identifies this work as "twenty-four delightful vignettes [that] explore highlights of America's cryptologic history during its first 125 years." Kruh, Cryptologia 26.4, notes that this "outstanding collection" has been republished with a new format.


Weber, Ralph E. "State Department Cryptographic Security, Herbert O. Yardley, & President Woodrow Wilson's Secret Code." In In the Name of Intelligence: Essays in Honor of Walter Pforzheimer, eds. Hayden B. Peake and Samuel Halpern, 543-596. Washington, DC: NIBC Press, 1994.

The author provides a brief, but nonetheless detailed, history of U.S. State Department codes and ciphers preparatory to surveying some of circumstances surrounding Yardley's breaking a message from Colonel House to President Wilson (revealed 15 years after the fact).

[Cryptography/Gen; WWI/U.S.][c]

Weber, Ralph E. United States Diplomatic Codes and Ciphers, 1775-1938. Chicago: Precedent, 1979.

Petersen calls this one of the "foremost classics in the field." Constantinides quotes David Kahn's description of the book as "definitive," but adds that Kahn also found some shortcomings in the work. According to Pforzheimer, Weber's work begins with the codes and ciphers in use during the American Revolution and "continues in detail down to the Civil War." There is less material for the remainder of the 19th century and "minimal description" of 20th century cryptologic matters "for reasons of security."

Weber, Ralph E., ed. Spymasters: Ten CIA Officers in Their Own Words. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999.

Jonkers, AFIO WIN (14 Dec. 1998), gives this "superb book" a "highly recommended" notation. The work consists of "interviews with ten senior CIA officers ... cover[ing] a wide range of intelligence activity, describing not only a number of critical events, but also the relationships between the agency's directors and the presidents they served.... It is interesting, and often fascinating reading, and important for all who seek to provide context for their understanding of the inner workings of the agency and intelligence operations."

For Kruh, Cryptologia 23.4, this is a "fascinating collection of oral histories" that "shed light on some of the most sensitive issues and activities" of the CIA "during the hottest period of the Cold War." Wiant, Studies 46.2 (2002), notes that Weber "introduces Spymasters with a brief, well-researched history of intelligence in the United States up to the formation of the CIA. The interviews pick up the subsequent story. While they lack the clear narrative line of a history, they offer recollections ... that combine the essence of our past with important lessons for the present."

Paseman, Intelligencer 10.3, calls Spymasters "a welcome and valuable addition to any collection on the history of intelligence." The work is enhanced by the collection and editing of these oral histories by "a scholar who understands both history and the intelligence business." On the other hand, Immerman, Choice, Jun. 1999, comments that Weber's interviews "add little to the extant record. They are uniformly superficial, and Weber chose not to annote them or provide context or critical analysis. The CIA's responsibilities for intelligence and analysis receive short shrift."


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