When I was a student there was a door in the basement of the university library marked “This door must remained closed at all times”. I remember joking that perhaps no one could remember what was behind it, and of course they couldn’t check.
The BBC are reporting that GCHQ have received two Engima machines used in the Spanish civil war, in exchange for a German four rotor Naval Enigma machine recovered from Flensburg in May 1945, an Enigma rotor box and related documents.
The machines were apparently discovered “almost by chance, only a few years ago, in a secret room at the Spanish Ministry of Defence in Madrid.” The BBC quotes Felix Sanz, the director of Spain’s intelligence service, saying:
Nobody entered there because it was very secret, and one day somebody said ‘Well if it is so secret, perhaps there is something secret inside.’ They entered and saw a small office where all the encryption was produced during not only the civil war but in the years right afterwards.
It’s good to hear the Spanish intelligence service is taking secrecy so seriously, to almost Monty Python levels of silliness.
An interesting article, it also gives a hint at international co-operation. Mr Sanz is quoted saying:
In today’s world it is impossible to work alone. You need friends and allies. I knock at the door of the British intelligence – all three agencies – as many occasions as I need it and I always get a response. And I hope on the occasion where the British services knock at my door, when they leave my house they leave with a sense they have been helped also.
I find this last sentence interesting. It may be entirely coincidental, or a product of translation, but it doesn’t actually say that he helps the British intelligence services. This reminds me of a joke in the opening episode of the excellent Yes, Minister, in which the meeting of the Minister, Jim Hacker, and his civil servant Sir Humphrey, contains the following dialogue:
Bernard Woolley: “I believe you know each other.”
Sir Humphrey: “Yes, we did cross swords when the Minister gave me a grilling over the estimates in the Public Accounts Committee.”
Jim Hacker: “I wouldn’t say that.”
Sir Humphrey: “You came up with all of the questions I hoped nobody would ask.”
Jim Hacker: “Well, opposition is about asking awkward questions.”
Sir Humphrey: “And government is about not answering them.”
Jim Hacker: “Well, you answered all mine anyway.”
Sir Humphrey: “I’m glad you thought so, Minister.”