Edward M. Scheidt (born 1939) is a retired Chairman of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) Cryptographic Center and the designer of the cryptographic systems used in the Kryptos sculpture at CIA Headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Biography[edit | edit source]

Scheidt was born in 1939 in California. His father worked for the government, and his mother was a switchboard operator at AT&T. He graduated in 1957 from Cor Jesu High School in New Orleans and then joined the Army,[1] where he worked in Signals Intelligence. In 1963, he was hired as a communications officer for the CIA, and in the 1980s, he became a communications security officer. He worked for 26 years at the CIA, working primarily in operations and retiring in December 1989. Scheidt spent 12 years posted overseas, including serving in Laos in the early 1960s, the Middle East in the late 1960s, and a tour in Southeast Asia. Most often he used one-time pad paper systems of encryption. Scheidt received a B.A. in computer science from the University of Maryland in 1970 and a degree in telecommunications from George Washington University in 1975.

CIA Director William H. Webster referred to Scheidt as "The Deep Throat of Codes." Scheidt is best known for his involvement with Kryptos, a sculpture in the CIA courtyard which contains one of the world's most famous unsolved codes. Kryptos was created by Washington DC sculptor Jim Sanborn, who was commissioned by the CIA in the 1980s to create art around their new Headquarters building in 1988. After Sanborn decided he wanted to incorporate some encrypted messages in his artwork, he was teamed with Scheidt, who was in the process of retiring. Up until that point, Sanborn had never used encryption or text in his work. Scheidt taught various encryption methods to Sanborn, who chose the exact messages to be encrypted. Of the messages on the sculpture, three have been solved, but the fourth section, 97 or 98 characters at the very bottom, remains uncracked. Scheidt has said that he knows the answer, along with Sanborn and "probably someone at the CIA."[2][3][4][5][6]

After retiring from the CIA, Scheidt helped found an encryption company called TecSec Inc., in 1990 in Vienna, Virginia, where as of 2011 he works as Chief Scientist. One of their first ventures was to manufacture portable satellite versions of the secure "STU-III" telephones used by the government. Scheidt manufactured the first model in his home basement workshop, and approximately 500 were in use worldwide by the United States Foreign Service as of 2002.

In February 2010 TecSec filed a lawsuit against several large tech vendors claiming infringement of several patents covering encryption technology.[7]

Scheidt has been a speaker on cryptography at Bouchercon, a mystery convention. He also volunteers as a local scoutmaster.

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