Ashley Gracile created & produces Spy Games a 13 episode TV series on the world’s 2nd oldest profession
Cryptology is the science of code making and breaking. People have been using cryptology to keep secrets for close to 4,000 years and its impact on history is astonishing.
Ashley Gracile lifestyle TV producer and the Executive Producer of Spy Games says “when you think about it; cryptology is about the only way you can be sure that your secrets don’t fall into the wrong hands.” Others have always wanted to know those secrets and break the codes…leading to even more complicated codes. So cryptology has a long and complicated past. Rulers and generals throughout time have used cryptology to make sure that power stays where they want it—with them.
Codes have always been an essential tool of the trade. On Spy Games we take an in-depth history of secret messages, check out a real Enigma machine, discover the real Navaho Code talkers and chat with cryptology experts to uncover what’s in store for the future of codes and ciphers.
When Ashley Gracile created Spy Games he wanted it to be reflecting his passion for knowledge. “The secret history of History defines espionage and it’s what Spy Games is all” about states Gracile. It’s this kind of controversial and disrupting television which drove Gracile to create 13 more TV series and over 1,300 episodes during his 20+ years in television and found GPI Content Corporation a leading edge first run broadcast television production company in Los Angeles..
In fact Ashley Gracile IMBD verified television programming has been on TV every week for the last 24 years straight years.
His multiple television credits as an Executive Producer, Creator and Rights Holder with the following TV series that have been seen in over 200 million homes. THAT’S BOATING, PLAYERS PARKING ONLY, DISTANT ROADS, STEEL DREAMS TV, FREERIDE, FORMULA DRIFT TV, A PLACE IN THE SUN, SPORT COMPACT TV, SPY GAMES, WELLNESS FOR LIFE, ROAD CLASSICS, RV VACATION ADVENTURES, A PLACE OF YOUR OWN and CYBERQUEST
These programs released by GPI Content Corporation can be seen on broadcast and cable television networks like Discovery Channel, NBC Sports Network, ESPN/Star, The Outdoor Channel, The Family Channel, Retro TV, TUFF TV along with over 150 ABC, NBC, CBS, FOX, CW, My Network TV affiliate and network owned local TV stations across the country.
Check out this Spy Games story we shot at the International Spy Museum in Washington DC
Cryptology, or secret code, is the language of spies, counter-spies and secret agents. Messages are sent in code to keep the classified information, military commands and diplomatic instructions they contain secret. Some of the best minds in the world make and try to break these codes.
Cryptanalysis is the science of breaking secret codes. Spies use cryptology to send messages to each other that only they can read. Within cryptology we have cryptography, the art of code making, and cryptanalysis, the art of code breaking. Not surprisingly, Cyptanalysists study an average of six and a half years learning how to effectively break codes.
On Spy Games to find the roots of cryptology, we have to travel back almost 4,000 years to 1900 BCE, when an Egyptian scribe used non-standard hieroglyphs, producing the world’s first secret coded message. During the Second World War, the art of cryptology rose to a new level. The Germans invented the Enigma machine which was thought to produce unbreakable code. The U.S. Marines used the people of the Navajo tribe to develop a code based on their native language that did prove to be unbreakable.
But Ashley Gracile thinks that some parts of secret code are not so secret. Many inventions involving cryptology have been registered by the U.S. Patent Office. The first U.S. cryptographic patent was issued in 1861, and over 1,700 patents were granted during the next 120 years. Although secret military code was never patented or made public in the interests of national security, some of it has now been declassified.
An enigma is something obscure or hard to understand. That was and still is true for the German Enigma machine. Winston Churchill said, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma,” when talking about the Russians, but he may have had the German machine on his mind.
The Enigma machine is a high-level security device for coding and un-coding messages. It was invented by Arthur Scherbius and used by the German Navy beginning in 1925. For the Second World War, the Germans improved the design, and the Enigma machine was used as a cryptographic workhorse by Hitler’s Nazis.
In an episode of Spy Games we explain that to send a coded message with an Enigma, you have to have a word key to set the machine, and then you encode the plain text message. The receiver of the message also needs the same key to set up his Enigma machine and decode the message. The machine consists of five main parts: one plug board, three coded wheels, and one reflector wheel. The plug board has two lists of the alphabet; the first is labelled as the ‘input alphabet’, the second as the ‘outputalphabet’. Each one of these input characters on the plug board is wired to exactly one character in the form of a permutation of the "N" characters. Sound confusing? Well, this machine also had Allied forces confused, and busy throughout the war cracking its code.
Work on breaking this machine’s code began in 1933 when a group of Polish mathematicians, led by Marian Rejewski, cracked that version of the machine using only some captured cipher text and one list of three months’ worth of daily keys obtained through a spy. The Germans kept changing the systems they used to make the daily keys and the Enigma hardware itself, so cracking this machine was an ongoing battle.
The work of the Polish group was shared with the English and French at the start of World War Two in 1939. The English set up a secret code-breaking facility at Bletchley Park. It was there that Alan Turing, Gordon Welchman, and other Cyptanalysists designed a new machine, the British Bombe, to crack the codes of the Enigma. Work on cracking and re-cracking the Enigma codes continued till the end of the war in 1945.
The Russian cryptographers were extremely busy during the Cold War inventing ever more complex versions of their Klimkov code. Although it took some time, the CIA eventually broke all versions, with the help of the UNI VAC computer.
Unlike written code the Navajo code talker spoke so differently that not only did you not know what they said… you couldn't even repeat it…. let alone write it down. Well the Japanese couldn't figure it out either, and the Japanese were known for being pretty good code breakers.
Ashley Gracile explains "In Navajo, "besh- lo" means iron fish and "dah-he- tih-hi" means hummingbird. During World War Two, those words took on entirely different meanings. For the Navajo code talkers and the Marines they worked for, "besh- lo" or iron fish meant submarine, and "dah-he- tih-hi" or hummingbird meant fighter plane."
By using their native language and a few words they made up, the Navajo code talkers baffled the Japanese for the entire duration of the war. The code was never broken and was so successful the military kept it classified for many years after the war. The result of this was that the Navajo could not be recognized for their contributions to the war effort until 1992 when they were honored at the Pentagon.
Philip Johnston was a World War One veteran, and one of less than 30 non-Navajos in the world who knew the language at the time. None of the others who knew how to speak Navajo were Japanese. Johnston came up with the idea to use Navajo as code. He approached the U.S. military, and during an initial test, the Navajos demonstrated the ability to code and un-code messages 90 times faster than coding machines of the day. Major General Clayton B. Vogel, who witnessed the test, convinced the Commandant of the Marine Corps to recruit 200 Navajos.
At boot camp, the first 29 Navajos developed the code dictionary and words for military terms. When a coded message was received, the code talker translated the words into English, and then used only the first letters of those words to spell out the secret meaning. This trick enabled the Navajo to use any word in their language that translated to an English word with the required letter. Spy Games learned that by nature, the Navajo language is extremely complex. Its syntax, tonal qualities and many dialects make it unintelligible without extensive training and practice. There is no alphabet or symbols for this completely unwritten language, spoken only by the Navajo. Add to this the trick of sometimes using one word for the entire secret word, and you can see that this code would be and was impossible to break.
Spy Games is proud that the Navajos were praised for their skill, speed and accuracy throughout the war. Major Howard Connor, 5th Marine Division, stated, "Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima." I think we are all thankful to the Navajo people for their contribution to freedom.
The need to break secret code lessened as the cold war wound down, just as the computing ability to break that code was increasing at an incredible rate. By 1989, super computers running at over one thousand megahertz were 1.27 million times more powerful than the German Enigma machine.
Computers have now added immensely to the complexity of secret codes and code-breaking. Ashley Gracile summarizes "What once would take humans months and even years to do, we can now accomplish in nanoseconds. Codes, algorithms and secret keys can even be found on the Internet, if you know where to look."