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Delusions of Intelligence: Enigma, Ultra, and the End of Secure Ciphers Paperback – 6 Oct 2008

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Product details

  • Paperback: 332 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 1 edition (6 Oct. 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521736625
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521736626
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.8 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,489,880 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


'This book is a major addition to the existing literature on code breaking during the Second World War, and may well create a stir among historians of cryptology, especially in Europe.' Intelligence of National Security

'A fascinating book! If I was still teaching I would get my students to read it.' Professor Robert Moore, University of Liverpool

'… 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.' The Times Higher Education Supplement

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.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By C.S on 18 July 2012
Format: Paperback
This book compares the efforts of Allied cryptanalysts to those of Axis powers. Unlike most books about Bletchley Park, Ultra and codebreaking, this book does not deal with the process of codebreaking or how intelligence was used in WW2. Instead it examines the respective Allied and Axis codebreaking setup, and what the codebreakers customers (generals, etc.) wanted from their intelligence staff.

On the one hand, Allied cryptanalysis was staffed by a combination of clever civilians and military personnel working together, in centralised coordinated intelligence cryptanalysis agencies (such as Bletchley Park). These agencies worked together, shared information, experience, expertise and resources for mutual benefit - and the successes resulting from this were profound. All the more so, because over time the powers that be came to highly value the intelligence produced.

On the other, the Germans had smaller rival codebreaking outfits that didn't share information, had major trouble communicating and were largely unappreciated by their customers. The results were, with a few exceptions, far less impressive.

This is a very well written book that casts a whole new light on codebreaking during WW2 and I recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about this fascinating story.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 9 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
The Business of Reading Other Gentlemen's Mail 15 Sept. 2006
By Tom Holzel - Published on
Format: Hardcover
While there are many books describing WW-II code-breaking techniques (starting with the bible: David Kahn's "The Codebreakers"), few describe the operation of how it was actually done. R.A. Ratcliff remedies that omission with this thorough and highly detailed survey of how British, U.S. and German code breaking was organized as a business.

He describes the way the various militaries of WW-II set up their code breaking operations and highlights how different they were--both in organization and effectiveness. The answers he provides offer exciting lessons for how to (and how not to) run any effective business organization where the output is cerebral. Here are some major take-aways from this fascinating book:

* Everyone's codes were broken to some degree or another. Reading the books in this genre--particularly about the astonishing successes of the British Bletchley Park operation--one does not notice that, as good as they were in decrypting enemy code, the British and American codes were also broken by the Germans.

In the German case, this led to a sense of invincibility of "We're smarter than they are" that doomed their own code security.

* The Bletchley Park code breaking established the gold standard for how to let intellectuals do what intellectuals do best--think--and keep hide-bound military structure out of their way. Under the nominal control of the British military, Bletchley was run loosely enough inside the walls of the compound so that analysts of could easily seek each other out, compare notes, and spot chinks in the armor across regional and service lines. The German code-breaking effort was a model of military turf battles, with each service jealously guarding its own efforts, and breakthroughs by one group rarely communicated to others.

* A key tactic--and one unrecognized by the Germans--was that of maintaining an iron-clad provenance of any code-breaking results. It was forbidden (and strictly enforced) for any Bletchley results to be recoded and retransmitted without first having the original information paraphrased. This prevented German analysts from obtaining a key to a secure code by being able to decrypt the same message content sent via a broken code. Many German codes were cracked in this manner, as, for example, the same weather forecasts were retransmitted by the different services.

The secret work and great success of Bletchley Park was not revealed to the public until 1974! The final astonishing lesson of this operation was that by trusting the workers with continual cross-discipline updates, everyone was brought more fully into the big picture. This facilitated trust among the workers to help insure security. It also caused small inconsequential-seeming details to be caught, correlated, and fitted into a mass of yet incomprehensible data as a missing link that made sense of the whole thing. One cannot help thinking that this same trust-oriented operation in a single location must have been the model for the U.S.'s Manhattan project. The difference being that Manhattan was as leaky as a sieve from Day One; the 10,000 workers at Bletchley Park kept its secrets for 35 years.
11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Interesting 22 Aug. 2008
By Xman - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book is written in the style of a serious piece of historical analysis (with plenty of footnotes), as opposed to a popular history or science style. Thus, some readers may find it dry; it also assumes the reader already knows the basic history, so it's best to read one of the more popular books first. But if you have sufficient background and interest, it reads very easily.

It argues that the main reasons for the allies' relative success in signals intelligence was their different organizational and institutional approach than the axis. The case is laid out very clearly and persuasively, although there is too much repetition and overlap for my taste.

I did not like the short section at the end about the internet -- I did not find the specifics very persuasive. It would have been better to stick to the lessons about effective use of intelligence and how to build a good organization.
Excellent book on how German military failed to understand vulnerabilities of Enigma cipher system in WW II 3 Nov. 2010
By E. Jaksetic - Published on
Format: Paperback
Professor R.A. Ratcliff has written an excellent case study of how a conceptually good security system can fail. Her thorough book shows how the German military overestimated the security of its Enigma cipher system, underestimated the ability of the Allies to breach the Enigma's security, and failed to recognize various warning signs that the Enigma system had been compromised. A better title for the book would have been "Delusions of Security" because Professor Ratcliff amply demonstrates the German military in WW II failed to appreciate the practical security vulnerabilities of its theoretically secure Enigma cipher system. She presents a cogent argument about how several different factors contributed to the German military's failure to recognize that their confidence in the security of the Enigma cipher was misplaced.

Anyone interested in WW II, the Enigma cipher, or the history of military intelligence should read this book. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of Professor Ratcliff's analysis, this book can be worthwhile reading for anyone interested in understanding why security systems cannot simply be implemented, but must be periodically tested and evaluated to ensure that they continue to offer meaningful security rather than the illusion of security.
Very good read! 27 Jun. 2014
By The Albatross - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased the book for a paper for university as my library could not get it in in less than four weeks. I found the book to be well written and very interesting outside the confines for my paper.
Codebreaking During WWII 10 May 2014
By Woodyboy1 - Published on
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A satisfactory description of intelligence gathering by all sides during WWII. Emphasis is given to the effects of the reluctance of Nazi Germany to recognize that their Enigma system could be broken.
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