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Fall 1991

Copper Sculpture Baffles CIA

Copper SculptureA $250,000, 10-foot tall copper sculpture in the courtyard of the Central Intelligence Agency headquarters compound in Langley, Virginia, has the nation's top spies puzzled.

Entitled "Kryptos," the Greek word for "hidden," the sculpture is made of massive, curving copper plates upon which are etched some 2,000 characters of code that spell out a secret message. That message is actually a complex anagram, which presents a second higher-level puzzle for would-be code-breakers.

CIA employees can frequently be found clustering around the copper cryptography attempting to figure out its hidden meanings. So far, none has broken the code.

The Creator of the sculpture is 45-year-old Jim Sanborn of Washington, D.C. He reveals that the materials he used - copper, red granite, quartz, lodestone, petrified wood and two pools of water - are highly symbolic and that a retired CIA worker collaborated with him on encoding the message.

Sanborn has sealed the deciphered solutions in two envelopes and entrusted them to former CIA Director William H. Webster. The envelopes are stored along with other ultrasecret information in a CIA safe. CIA officials did not disclose what metal the safe is made from.

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