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Code-breakers tackle Howard's "I believe" document
13 May 2004 by Malcolm DruryThe experts who cracked Nazi Germany's Enigma codes at Britain's wartime intelligence centre at Bletchley Park are attempting a major new challenge, perhaps greater even than Enigma itself - to decipher an alleged policy document released earlier this year by Michael Howard, the current interim leader of the Conservative Party. The document has defied all attempts to date at deciphering its meaning. It consists of the words "I believe" repeated several times, in each instance being followed by what appears to be a policy statement.
The director of the Bletchley Park establishment told our reporter that the Howard document looks as if it is a language-based puzzle. She said these were prevalent during the mid-eighteenth century, the time when the policy is thought to have first been drafted. "It was how people protected information they wanted kept secret. It looks as if it's probably going to need language expertise - maybe Greek and maybe forgotten languages - as well as mathematics and puzzles," she said.
The "I believe" list ends with the four letters UYTB. Asked about the significance of this, Professor Douglas Ramsbottom of the Department of Cryptology and Political Studies at the University of Bootle, and a member of the wartime Bletchley team, said that he believed it was a reference to an opponent of some kind. "The TB possibly refers to Tony Blair," he said, "but the UY has got us stumped. Some members of the team think the Y could stand for 'your' or possibly 'yours', but we can't be sure, and as yet we have been unable to crack the significance of the U."
He noted that the list also contained some entries that began "I do not believe". He said that this kind of reversal was once a common ploy to throw anyone who might be close to deciphering the message off the track by causing confusion.
Mr. Howard refused comment when approached by our reporter, except to scoff at a suggestion that the code-breakers had accepted an offer of help from his predecessor as interim party leader, Iain "Duncan" Smith. "Iain didn't even understand his own policies, such as they were," he said, "so why would he understand mine?"
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