Barnard College Archives

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If you are researching a person, or piece of history that at some point had crossed paths with Barnard College in New York, chances are there is a cove of information that waits for you in the Barnard College Archives.

It was a pleasure working briefly with the staff at the Barnard College Archives in our recent pursuit of an image for Juliet Stuart Poyntz. Astrid Cravens was the person who was working with us, and she was very quick in responding to our requests and dug deeper into the archives on her own initiative.

The archive has very reasonable rates and fees for the resources that they provide. In addition their site contains all of the information necessary to begin your research as well as video clips, interactive exhibits, and two separate archive searches.

Working with the archives is also a great way to get your project archived. With a keen interest on collecting and showcasing the lives and subjects that play into the history of their school, the archives request that you return a copy of your work to them that they may properly document and catalogue it along side the other items in their collection. Once Clandestine has reached completion, you will be able to find it in the Barnard College Archives.

Selmer Jackson - The Secret Code

Selmer Jackson played in over 400 film or television shows in his 40 year career as an actor. This year he’ll add another credit to his resume in Clandestine.

In 1942, Selmer Jackson played Major Henry Burton, a military intelligence professional who’s job was to find and crack enemy codes in World War II America. The film was The Secret Code, a 15 episode serial about pseudo suspended city cop who finagles his way into a Nazi Spy ring in efforts crack the enemies code. At the end of each chapter Maj. Burton gives a lesson to the audience on espionage and cracking secret codes. (Presumably these are actual cases from the field that he and his team have had to crack in the past weeks, months.)

Whether or not codes were actually distributed the way Maj. Burton describes is anybodies guess. However, we do know in fact that encrypted messages were delivered via Numbers Stations through the use of Shortwave Radios and One-Time Pads. There is a reason this method of spy craft is not mentioned once in the 15 episodes, and it relates to our perception of how spies do what they do. In the 1940’s spies shuffled about hiding messages in lunch boxes with a belt full of smoke bombs and a girl they loved but could never trust. In the modern era, a spy is a link in a chain of a vast network of information flowing to and from satellites, camera’s hidden in eyeglasses, a passport and alias for every culture and country, and an army of people staring at computer monitors from 2025. But the fact is, one method remains the same and yet there is no more publicly available information available on Numbers Stations from our governments then there was in 1940.

Going back to Selmer Jackson, his career seems to be as clandestine as a spies. For many of the films to which he can place his name, many of them he remains uncredited. Look for Selmer Jackson in The Secret Code, and find him as well in Clandestine.

Clandestine on Facebook

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Clandestine is now seeking an audience in a social network near you. The official Clandestine Facebook page is up and the “fans” are pouring in. In the process of getting a page on facebook, we came across some groups that fans of Clandestine might be interested in:

The Conet Project: Decyphering Numbers Stations

Numbers Stations

Shortwave Radio Listeners (SWL’s)

Just to name a few.

In a way, part of the draw of being an amateur radio operator must be similar to the sensation one gets on a social network. The ability to connect with total strangers or long lost friends. But that’s off the topic. Will governments or agents use social networks as a way to transmit ciphered data? Are they using it now? After all, the blog is a broadcast similar to the short wave — anyone in the world can pick it up, and know the source. But of all those that read the blog, which one is the spy.

Likewise, what about relationships? Certainly social networks can conjure up the strongest feelings from the past. Like looking into an old photograph, you see how far you’ve gone, for better or worse. How often does a person look at the profile of an old crush and asked “what if”? How many times do they chose to act on those feelings? When does the reach of the past come to close to the present? Why is there an unsettling ease with which people are willing to jeopardize their current relationships?

As it concerns Clandestine, we have to ask: what does this have to do with listening to a woman in a land far away, softly reading numbers?

Historian, Archivist, Spy

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Linda McCarthy says that “History is a Hoot”. And to those that are bored with history, consider the type of narrative that comes from 24 years service with the Central Intelligence Agency. It is likely full of the stories that are not usually welcome to public eyes. Stories told in secret are not typically kind to their subjects.

Linda McCarthy created the CIA Museum, which contains this tricky working on the web site:

All artifacts have been declassified by the appropriate officials for public viewing. Please note that because the Museum is located on the CIA compound, it is not open to the public for tours.

Despite this, they do offer a virtual tour on the web site, and have a surprise mention of One-Time Pads. Details given are vague. The site explain what a one-time pad is, without explaining how they are used. Among other things, particularly dodges the use of one-time pads in conjunction with Shortwave radios, or that they are a transcript for Numbers Station broadcasts.

But Ms. McCarthy has more work that she is interested in. In addition to many speaking engagements, she serves as a research director for various Film and Television productions. Her work in this field has earned her an Emmy award and brought us to another interesting figure in espionage history.

Morris “Moe” Berg was a mediocre baseball player, who was surprised to be asked to visit Japan with other notable ball players in the 30’s. Being a highly intellectual individual, it began to make sense why he was asked to go when he received a 16mm camera and some instructions from the U.S. Government while on this trip. Ms. McCarthy has all the details on this Berg’s interaction with the O.S.S., which really only begins with his first trip to Japan.

Linda McCarthy’s work as a historian, archivist, espionage enthusiast, and spy (?) resonates and inspires the work that is being done on Clandestine. We hope you will take some time to learn more about her.

Romeo Agent

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Markus Wolf (1923-2006)

The general idea of what popular culture considers to be a spy is in fact a sub-genre of spy classified as a “Romeo Agent”. This is a spy who uses the powers of seduction to squeeze information from an unsuspecting woman. Honeypot being the female counterpart. Markus Wolf, a now known “Romeo”, is quoted in his memoir’s as saying “if I go down in espionage history, it may well be for perfecting the use of sex in spying.” (see link)

Clandestine does indeed paint another portrait of the spy, one that stays up through the night in a corner of the house cuddled next to their Shortwave radio, logging Numbers Stations. Yet it also sheds light on the public perception of a spy, one closer to Markus Wolf, and how the lifestyle of a “Romeo” might be desired by the ordinary citizen.

Juliet Stuart Poyntz

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We came upon her story while searching for spies by the name of Juliet, that’s J in the phonetic alphabet. It is difficult to search directly for stories of spies you do not already know—instead it’s by some fluke, association, or related interest that uncovers them. The problem is that the spy could not have been a prominent figure of their day and kept their job. In fact one would be hard pressed to write a story on a real spy that had not been caught, or defected. It should be obvious why.

The spies featured in Clandestine would not have been chosen had their careers been a success. (Of course their relationship with Numbers Stations, Shortwave Radios and One-Time Pads were of particular interest.) How many occupations do you know of where public exposure is an occupational failure? In addition, many spies who are now famous are not so because they defected. Instead, they are usually jailed, murdered, or in the case of Juliet Stuart Poyntz, simply disappear. Follow the link and read her story. It is a good example of how a public passion can become a subversive calling.

The story of espionage must be historically told.

Public Domain resources

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Wikipedia provides a list of web resources that have, sometimes search-able, databases of public domain images. Many links here are broken, but some seem valuable if they suite your needs. An interesting thing to note is that any work taken by an employee of the Federal Government, while they are employed and at work, belongs to the Federal Government and in turn belongs in the public domain. Read more about it here. Uncle Sam ‘lens’ a hand.

Drug Pack ScorpionClandestine will take advantage of section 105 of the Copyright Act, in utilizing images taken by the Federal Government. Including this one:

Pumpkin Patch

Richard Nixon has a new link with Numbers Stations and espionage as he finds his way into the cut of Clandestine. This clip is from December of 1948 and features Nixon as a young Congressman examining a microfilm during the Hiss case. Brought to you by Original context.

Clandestine - Numbers Stations History

Here is a sample of what to expect from Clandestine. This section exists within the documentary portion of the film and cover’s Bletchley Park, World War II, and Rudolph Ivanovich Abel Russian spy.