CIA's Kryptos sculpture close to being solved
Jim Sanborn created Kryptos in 1990 for the agency's Langley headquarters
A portion of the code was printed on the dust jacket of The Da Vinci Code, Dan Brown's highly successful 2003 novel
Jon Swaine in New York
21 Nov 2010
For 20 years it has sat in the grounds of the CIA headquarters in Virginia, unsolved even by the sharp-minded agents who pass it every day.
But a solution to the Kryptos sculpture – a 12 foot-high copper scroll, containing a mysterious coded message – may now finally be close, after its creator was driven to give away a clue.
The artist, Jim Sanborn, disclosed over the weekend that "BERLIN" is the answer to a six-letter passage in the fourth and final section of the sculpture's code to remain un-cracked.
Mr Sanborn, who created Kryptos in 1990 for the agency's Langley headquarters, said the titbit should assist cryptographers he has baffled for two decades, adding he had assumed the solution would have been found "in a fairly short time."
His clue sent ripples of excitement through the legions of Kryptos obsessives, many of whom were enticed by a reference to the sculpture in the work of Dan Brown, the mystery novel author.
A portion of the code was printed on the dust jacket of The Da Vinci Code, Brown's highly successful 2003 novel, and Kryptos was incorporated into the plot of the sequel, The Lost Symbol.
By then, three of the four coded sections of the sculpture had been cracked by a CIA analyst, who was estimated to have spent 400 lunch-hours pondering it with a pencil and paper.
He kept his solution secret, however, and it was not until a computer scientist in California cracked the same three sections that they became public.
The first section, containing a deliberate misspelling, was a poetic phrase composed by Mr Sanborn: "Between subtle shading and the absence of light lies the nuance of iqlusion."
The second and third sections were longer passages, one referring to something "buried out there somewhere" and the other a description of the opening of the tomb of Tutankhamun in 1922.
Mr Sanborn, who was assisted by a CIA operative while encoding the sculpture, also unveiled a website through which those racing to solve the other 91letters of code could submit answers.
The 65-year-old sculptor said he was hopeful someone would crack it soon. "I personally think it's a significant clue," he told the Wired technology website, "I don't have that many decades left in me".
Elonka Dunin, an amateur cryptographer who runs the leading Kryptos-watching website, said she and others believed the clue indicated the coded passage could refer to a monument at Langley comprising three slabs of the Berlin Wall.
“One of the main reasons it’s taken so long to solve this section is that it’s so short that finding patterns has been difficult,” Ms Dunin told The Daily Telegraph. “So to have an entire word is a huge, huge hint.”