Delusions of Intelligence: Enigma, Ultra, and the End of Secure Ciphers

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Delusions of Intelligence: Enigma, Ultra, and the End of Secure Ciphers [Hardcover]

R. A. Ratcliff
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ratcliff, a freelance scholar and consultant, offers a provocative analysis of WWII signals intelligence from a German perspective. The author focuses on Enigma, the electronic ciphering machine the Germans believed foolproof, and Ultra, the war-winning intelligence derived from the Allied operation that broke Enigma's codes. The work begins with a discussion of Enigma's technology that's particularly useful for non specialists. Ratcliff's emphasis, however, is on the cipher war's human aspects. Germany gave intelligence, particularly strategic intelligence, low priority for limited resources, leading to "compartmentalization and competition" among agencies that were increasingly unwilling to share even basic information. German intelligence security was also reactive, based on solving problems as opposed to anticipating them. Above all, German imagination failed by refusing to consider the possibility that Enigma could be solved. That led to increasingly far-fetched explanations for Allied intelligence successes—which further distracted attention from the real problem. Ratcliff contrasts German failure with the Allies' readiness to centralize signals intelligence at Bletchley Park; to ignore structural barriers in favor of results; and, not least, to do something difficult for democracies even in total war: keep the secret. The author juxtaposes that triumph with the blinkered German belief that technology assured security—a mind-set resembling that of the contemporary United States far too closely for comfort. (Aug.)
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"We have all heard how the Allies' solution of German cryptosystems helped them win World War II. Now R. A. Ratcliff tells us for the first time the hidden underside of that story: how the Germans lost the code war and then the whole war."
David Kahn, author of The Codebreakers

"In Delusions of Intelligence, Dr. Ratcliff has gone beyond the standard and somewhat inadequate explanations for the Allied success and Nazi failure in cryptology. Ratcliff has written the first thorough analysis of the fundamental reasons why Nazi Germany did not (and perhaps could not) win the war of codes and ciphers."
Robert J. Hanyok

"It is a splendid contribution to signals intelligence and covers much new material."
Joseph C. Goulden, The Washington Post

"Delusions of Intelligence is well written and accessible and is indispensable to any student of wartime intelligence. For the general reader, it is an excellent introduction to the topic of wartime code breaking."
Roderick Bailey, Imperial War Museum, Times Higher

"Who would have guessed that signal intelligence could make such a riveting read!...The book not only amazes the expert, but is eminently readable for anyone interested in matters of intelligence, past and present.... Ratcliff has written a fabulous book. It is well-researched, well-argued, and beautifully written. I sincerely hope that it will find a wide array of readers from all walks of academic and non-academic life. It holds insights and lessons aplenty."
-H-German, Katrin Paehler, Department of History, Illinois State University

"Ratcliff, a freelance scholar and consultant, offers a provocative analysis of WWII signals intelligence from a German perspective." - Publisher's Weekly

"Ratcliff has written an exceptionally informative book that belongs in your personal library and for use as a gift for a friend interested in WWI Sigint." - Louis Kruh, Esq.

"Ratcliff has written an intriguing and well-argued book..."
Arnold Krammer, Texas A&M University, German Studies Review

"Ratcliff's book is a valuable, and original, addition to the historical literature on British intelligence in the Second World War."
Calder Walton, The International History Review

Book Description

In 1974, the British government admitted that its WWII secret intelligence organization had read Germany's ciphers on a massive scale. This book, the first comparative study of WWII SIGINT (Signals Intelligence), analyzes the characteristics that allowed the Allies SIGINT success and that fostered the German blindness to Enigma's compromise.

About the Author

R. A. Ratcliff, who currently lives and consults in the hills above Silicon Valley, has taught history and rhetoric at the University of California at Berkeley and the University of San Francisco and has lectured at the National Security Agency's intelligence school. In addition to working in the high tech industry, Dr Ratcliff has written articles for Cryptologia, Intelligence and National Security, and the NSA's internal newsletter.
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