Tag Archives: James Sanborn

Kryptos mystery continues

KRYPTOS sculpture at CIA headquarters

KRYPTOS sculpture at CIA headquarters

I watched a fascinating NOVA episode a year or so ago on the subject of Cryptography and it mentioned a piece of “artwork” at CIA headquarters in Langley.  Called Kryptos, it is a large sculpture consisting of four coded chunks of information.  It was commissioned by the CIA, and although the first three portions have been cracked, the last one continues to elude countless cryptography experts and amateurs around the world.

 I was reminded of this by an article in WIRED:

The most celebrated inscription at the Central Intelligence Agency’s headquarters in Langley, Virginia, used to be the biblical phrase chiseled into marble in the main lobby: “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” But in recent years, another text has been the subject of intense scrutiny inside the Company and out: 865 characters of seeming gibberish, punched out of half-inch-thick copper in a courtyard.

It’s part of a sculpture called Kryptos, created by DC artist James Sanborn. He got the commission in 1988, when the CIA was constructing a new building behind its original headquarters. The agency wanted an outdoor installation for the area between the two buildings, so a solicitation went out for a piece of public art that the general public would never see. Sanborn named his proposal after the Greek word for hidden. The work is a meditation on the nature of secrecy and the elusiveness of truth, its message written entirely in code.

Very very cool stuff.  I have to fight the urge to get obsessed with cracking it.

You can check out the WIRED article here.  It specifically talks about the cracking of the first three chunks.