David Kahn 每 Author Of Books (The Reader of Gentlemen*s Mail) About Codes, Codebreakers, Cryptography History, Political And Military Intelligence
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David Kahn 每 Author Of Books (The Reader of Gentlemen*s Mail) About Codes, Codebreakers, Cryptography History, Political And Military Intelligence

David Kahn:
Expert in codes; cryptography; political military and communications intelligence; author of books, articles and publications on ciphers and American intelligence

David Kahn is a historian of intelligence, particularly of communications intelligence, or codebreaking. In addition to his books, Kahn has written scholarly and popular articles on the subject of codes, cryptography and ciphers in publications ranging from The New York Times to Playboy, from the Journal of Strategic Studies to the Encyclopedia Americana. Some of David Kahn's articles about codes, codebreaking, and cryptography are featured in the Articles section of this site. David Kahn lectures widely on political and military intelligence and appears on television and radio and in news stories to give the historical background of current events in the area of ciphers, codes, and cryptography. Kahn has taught courses on modern political and military intelligence at Yale and Columbia and has testified before Congress on policy matters dealing with cryptography. Though David Kahn makes his home in Great Neck, Long Island, a suburb of New York, he has lived for a year or more in Washington, Paris, Freiburg-im-Breisgau (location of the Militärarchiv), and Oxford, places in which he met many political and military intelligence professionals.

Dr. Kahn*s lifelong love affair with codes and cryptography began when, as a boy in Great Neck, he read Fletcher Pratt*s Secret and Urgent, a 1939 history of codes, ciphers, and cryptography. He joined the American Cryptogram Association and, later, the New York Cipher Society. After college (Bucknell University) and while working as a reporter for Newsday, the Long Island daily, David Kahn wrote an article for The New York Times Magazine in 1960 backgrounding the revelations of two defectors from the National Security Agency, the nation*s supersecret code-making and -breaking organization. This led to a contract to write a book on codes and cryptography, some of which was written during his two years as an editor on the International Herald Tribune in Paris. The Codebreakers was published in September 1967; it was a Book of the Month Club alternate selection and a History Book Club main selection. The Pulitzer jury selected the book for the 1968 general nonfiction prize, but the Pulitzer board awarded the prize instead to Will and Ariel Durant. The Codebreakers has remained in print continuously, with translations of the book published in whole or in part in French, Italian, Polish, Serbo-Croatian, and Arabic; a second edition appeared in 1995; a thorough revision of the book into a paperback is contemplated.

David Kahn then decided to investigate German military intelligence in World War II, which lay at the intersection of thorough Teutonic scholarship and legendary German arms. For this he went to the Militärarchiv, learned German, and for a year researched and interviewed more than 100 intelligence specialists in Germany. After writing in New York for a couple of years, David Kahn became a senior associate member of St. Antony*s College of Oxford University, where he used his research to write his dissertation; he was awarded the D. Phil. (the Oxonian designation) in 1974. Hitler*s Spies was published in 1978.

After teaching journalism for a few years at New York University, Kahn returned to Newsday as an op-ed editor. While there, he researched and wrote Seizing the Enigma (1991), the story of how the Royal Navy captured documents from German weather ships to enable British codebreakers to read Kriegsmarine Enigma intercepts and help win the Battle of the Atlantic. In 1995, he was selected as the scholar in residence at the National Security Agency. He refused security clearances. The agency asked him to write a biography of the founder of American cryptography, Herbert O. Yardley. Though it declassified its documents about Yardley, these technical and administrative papers did not suffice for a biography, so David Kahn visited Yardley*s home town in Indiana and Los Angeles, where he wrote movie scripts, to find the documents that would tell the human story of America's first code-breaker. The result is The Reader of Gentlemen*s Mail 每 a title adapted from the famous quote by Secretary of State Henry L. Stimson about his reason for closing down Yardley*s codebreaking agency in 1929: ※Gentlemen do not read each other*s mail.§

David Kahn retired from Newsday in 1998. He continues to write articles on political and military intelligence (see bibliography and Articles section). Kahn sits on the boards of trustees of the Great Neck Library, the World War II Studies Association, the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation, and the International Intelligence History Association and on the board of advisors of the International Spy Museum. He is a founding co-editor of the scholarly quarterly Cryptologia and is a member of the boards of editors of Intelligence and National Security, the International Journal of Intelligence and CounterIntelligence and The Journal of Intelligence History. Kahn is a member of the American Cryptogram Association, the International Association for Cryptologic Research (former board member and former member of the editorial board of its Journal of Cryptology) and the American Historical Association. David Kahn recently donated much of his collection of books, offprints, interview notes, and journals dealing with codes, cryptography, and intelligence to the National Cryptologic Museum Foundation at Fort Meade, Maryland.

At present Dr. Kahn is writing a one-volume study of American intelligence in World War II for Viking Penguin. He plans other projects after that.

David Kahn lives in Great Neck. He is amicably divorced from the former Susanne Fiedler and has two sons, Oliver and Michael. A few more details, mostly unnecessary, may be found in Who*s Who in America.

Copyright © 2008 David Kahn. All rights reserved.