There was an email miscommunication but here are Jim Sanborn’s answers to questions about Kryptos.

  • In retrospect, what would you have done differently? nothing

 

 

  • What had you wanted to do but couldn’t due to resources and restrictions?  nothing

 

 

  • What is the significance of the Morse code? It’s primitive

 

 

  • The CIA’s online description of the project mentions, “At the entrance to the New Headquarters building, the sculpture begins with two red granite and copperplate constructions which flank the walkway from the parking deck. These stones appear as pages jutting from the earth with copperplate ‘between the pages’ on which there are International Morse code and ancient ciphers.”  What are the ancient ciphers?  Ask Dan Brown silly.

 

 

  • Especially since it required so much work to carve the letters, the message must have been of enough importance to be worth the effort.  Could you explain the intent/message you were trying to convey in the 1st three sections?  The joy of discovery

 

 

  • Mr. Sanborn, to our knowledge, the Kryptos piece as a whole is: the Morse code sheets, the sundial, the pyramidal rock, the reflecting pools, the grass, the granite slabs in the courtyard and then of course the tree-sheet-pool centerpiece.  What, if anything, else was also part of the piece?
  • You tell me

 

 

 

  • Is Kryptos a stand-alone piece or does it incorporate preexisting elements of the New Headquarters Building or even the old building?
  • Yes

 

 

 

  • Who were your assistants during your work on Kryptos?  Have they moved on with their own artwork and how did Kryptos influence it?  I had many student assistants, ?

 

 

  • How did Agency history impact the message and presentation of Kryptos?
  • Trees were on the site now they are not

 

 

  • Would you say that the resiliency of the 4th part is through poor intelligence gathering or poor cryptology and why?   Skill

 

 

  • Do you wish they’d let you install a light-source?  no

 

  • Do you feel the copperplate would have been better suited for the NSA?
  • most humans in 1988 knew nothing of the NSA

 

 

  • Did you ever intend or anticipate public interest in Kryptos or was it meant solely for the CIA?  Why? Its a heavy site, put a lot into it because I assumed it would rise to the level it has.

 

 

  • Would you encourage or discourage amateur attempts on K4?  Why?
  • Would you rather the CIA or a regular person solve K4 and why?  it’s for everyone

 

 

  • How do you feel about media portrayals of the CIA?
  • no opinion

 

 

  • How did your parents’ careers affect your work?
  • significantly

 

 

  • Are you a fan of history/history buff?  If so, what is your area or period of interest?
  • Paleo Americans, Khmer/Angkor

 

 

  • What languages are you fluent in?
  • english

 

 

  • After the Church and Pike committees, Watergate, Iran-Contras, etc. what effect did that have on the genesis of Kryptos?, the project would not have happened without them for many reasons

 

 

  • Why do you think all of the hobbyists have failed to solve K4?
  • everyone has failed

 

 

  • Did you go to Vietnam?  If so, how did that color your views on the CIA? no

 

 

  • Who are your role models and why?, too old to have role models

 

 

  • Palimpsest and abscissa carry connotations of teaching/classrooms, is there any credence to this association and what other context could they have?  I liked the words and their definitions

 

 

  • Were you trying to teach a lesson in cryptology, intelligence gathering or send a message?
  • yes

 

 

  • Is the 4th part of Kryptos enciphered by a cipher machine/software?  ??

 

 

  • With a lot of interest being solution-focused, do we lose sight of the artistry of the Kryptos elements?  Are they significant to the solution?  hope not

 

 

 

  • What reference materials would you recommend for amateur cryptologists, especially in reference to Kryptos?  I am not a cryptographer

 

 

 

  • Is it digetal interpretatu (commonly accepted) or digetal interpretatit (less commonly accepted)?

??

 

 

  • Without giving too much away, are the E’s in the Morse code aesthetic placeholders or part of the message? , I can’t or won’t remember

 

 

  • As an auditory code, what was the rationale behind using Morse code as a visual code?
  • it is primitive

 

 

  • Is Kryptos more of a political or a social piece and why?  both, I like content.

 

 

  • In the 1992 movie Sneakers, which character would you be and why?
  • do not remember the movie

 

 

  • In a post-apocalyptic, zero-sum world where the CIA buildings and grounds are reduced to charred rubble and only the copperplate screens of Kryptos remains, could the survivors decipher it and follow the directions to learn the full message?  Would it remain relevant then? ask chase brandon

 

 

 

  • As we progressed from analog to machine ciphers and now to digetal, do you think Kryptos may actually become progressively harder to solve as cryptologists become less acquainted with the cipher systems in use except as historical precedents?. as with all science we are too soon to forget

 

 

  • Is your Kryptos narrative more Ian Fleming or JJ Abrams?, neither

 

 

  • Would you consider Kryptos a cipher lecture, a puzzle game or a message?  art

 

 

  • Was Kryptos originally meant to be a cylinder (like the Cyrillic projector) similar to a Jefferson wheel but was then unrolled as a symbolic wall?   no it preceded those ideas

 

 

  • Did you ever have a baffled/projection night-light as a kid?
  •  No

 

 

  • Was Kryptos inspired by shadows cast by public lighting in DC at night? ??

 

 

  • Was Kryptos inspired by the shielded hurricane lamps found in older spy or adventure novels? no

 

 

  • Day vs. night, seen vs. unseen, do you see Kryptos as a progenitor of your large format projection work?  What is the appeal to you of art that is different or visible/unseen at different times and seasons?    no, art must maintain interest

 

 

 

 

  • Who was the fiction author who was supposed to help? David Cornwell

 

 

  • You and Kim in the 2005 WIRED interview talk about a solution to the text once it’s decoded.   riddle within a riddle

 

 

  •   Out of K1-3 there doesn’t seem to be a mysterious message or puzzle.  Are we missing something or does that become clear with the K4 text? we’ll see

 

  • Is the 4th part 97 or 98 letters? try both

 

 

 

  • Do you consider Kryptos to be the copperplate sheet or the Morse code and reflection pools as well?  yes

 

 

  • What can you tell us about the Morse code? read it

 

 

  • Can we see with our eyes all of Kryptos or should we borrow some equipment if we ever visit the CIA?   Yes borrow a time machine

 

 

  • How does Kryptos symbolize or embody intelligence gathering?, it’s not that simple

 

 

  • Why is the 4th part so secretive and significant in comparison to the rest? it’s just harder

 

 

  • There’s some confusion generated by the 2005 WIRED interview.  Usually the keywords are changed and maybe the order of cryptographic systems but it sounds like you changed the actual systems and invented a few.  Is this the case? probably

 

 

  • Who do you think is most likely to solve K4?
  • a Vulcan

 

 

  • How do you feel the message in K4 and Kryptos altogether will resonate in light of current events? it is timeless

 

 

 

  • Have you been approached with any offers of money or otherwise to reveal the answer?
    • Could we fundraise enough to bribe you?    No offers yet. Sure, raise $100k and I will give another one word clue, old age is expensive.

 

 

 

  • Is the actual code/cipher breaking secondary to the actual process of understanding what Kryptos really means? both are important

 

 

 

  • Any advice for people who “get so close” after a complicated multi-step decryption effort who are convinced that they just need more steps or help to solve it? you get it all or nothing at all

 

 

 

  • Any words of wisdom for folks who find arbitrary, small bits of apparent plain text as a byproduct of their decryption efforts?  Should they consider these breaks or coincidence? they are crazy

 

 

  • Should we give up on traditional or historical cryptosystems and look more for the artistic/intuitive ones that might be present? all’s fair

 

  • To quote William K. Harvey, are we asking the wrong questions? never

 

Kryptosfan

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