Thursday, January 10, 2013

UK + US Govts Asked to Release Alan Turing Surveillance Files

The British government under Prime Minister Gordon Brown in September 2009 responded to an online campaign launched by self-described geek coder John Graham-Cumming, and finally apologized for the harassment and prosecution of genius mathematician and father of modern computing Alan Turing, pictured, for being a gay man.

I was reminded of that campaign recently and searched around the web for any British or American surveillance files on Turing released to the general public. Didn't locate any and found nothing relevant about any individual or media outlet requesting such files.

A FOIA request for records was sent off to the Federal Bureau of Investigation because Turing came to the United States in November 1942, spending time in Dayton, Ohio, and Washington, DC, to work with our intelligence agencies at cracking Nazi Germany's secret military codes. FOIAs have also been filed with agencies likely to possess Turing files including the National Archives and Records Administration, the CIA (formerly the Office of Strategic Services), the U.S. Navy and the State Department.

The FBI's standard acknowledgement was shared with my friend and activist Peter Tatchell in London. I asked what he knew about efforts to have the UK security and intelligence agencies disclose their Turing holdings.

He clued me in to Graham-Cumming in September 2009 requesting the Security Service (MI5) release their files, but no luck. Graham-Cumming was instructed to search their web site for any historical Turing documents released, he did and learned there nothing has been made public, as shown in his screen capture above.

His next search was at the National Archives site, holder of vast amounts of files from last century, and again Graham-Cumming similarly found no results. By the way, Graham-Cumming is straight and explains here that he began the quest for Turing's pardon simply because it was the right thing to do.

Much deep gratitude to Graham-Cumming for his pardon advocacy and filing UK FOIAs in 2009.

In May 2012, the Government Communications Headquarters for UK intelligence marked the centenary of Turing's birth by releasing two of his research papers to the public, and are shared here at the National Archives site.

Great that the two papers are on the web, but Peter and I want UK government agencies highly likely to have surveillance records and such on Turing to respond to FOIA requests for those records. I've emailed requests to the MI-5 Security Service, the National Archives and the Home Office.

As the UK and US agencies reply to the FOIAs, I'll post updates. Of course, if Peter and I find out any or all Turing surveillance files have been released, we'll help in promoting awareness of that fact.

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