Monday, January 17, 2022

Cold War Cash, Politics and Saucer Stories

Leo H. McCormick, as he appeared in
a 1948 edition of The Baltimore Sun

   A two-page pdf was recently obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) as the result of a FOIA request for records pertaining to Leo H. McCormick. The file contains copies of correspondence exchanged in 1956 between McCormick and the Eisenhower administration in which McCormick urged support for the Atlantic Convention Resolution. 

The Counsel Services co-founder was previously investigated by the FBI for employment with a CIA intelligence gathering asset, the Economic Cooperation Administration. The circumstances were explored in a recent blogpost which described the contents of a 30-page file on McCormick obtained from the FBI. It should be noted the Bureau indicated additional records potentially responsive to requests on McCormick were destroyed and/or not in their expected locations. 

The latest information from NARA was obtained after submitting a FOIA request citing the FBI file. Serving as the basis of the request was a 1949 FBI report located in the file which states personnel records for McCormick were maintained at the National Archives. The two-page pdf was subsequently located and provided by NARA. Potential additional responses from NARA are pending. 

In this post we will review and further explore related circumstances. 


    Two letters contained in the pdf recently received from NARA are pictured below. The image on the left depicts McCormick's June 1956 message to President Eisenhower, suggesting McCormick took great interest in what are termed Eisenhower's efforts to support NATO contributions to peace. McCormick then expressed his belief such peace could best be accomplished by the president urging Congress to pass the Atlantic Convention Resolution.

The image on the right appears to be a draft of a response to McCormick from the Public Services Division. The document suggests McCormick's letter was forwarded to the State Department from the White House. It further states that although the administration took a great deal of interest in all steps designed to increase the unity of the Atlantic community, it felt Congress alone had the responsibility to decide on the passage of the resolution.   


Atlantic Union

    Researchers Meyer and Luenen of the Global Policy Institute noted in a 2008 report that the Atlantic Union Committee (AUC) was formed in 1949 and encouraged North Atlantic democracies to promote their shared values. The AUC was chaired by former high-ranking U.S. officials, including Will Clayton, who, together with George Kennan, was the main author of the Marshall Plan. The Marshall Plan was a financial initiative to aid Western Europe. It came to also be known as the European Recovery Program. Its co-author Kennan relentlessly promoted the idea of an Atlantic Union in the United States.

The feasibility and practicality of the Union were debated throughout the 1950s. As reflected in Leo McCormick's 1956 letter to President Eisenhower, proponents took up the strategy of suggesting a convention be held to discuss the issues. A resolution for an Atlantic Exploratory Convention was sponsored in Congress, and, as one might expect of a political platform, drew both support and opposition. 

The Veterans of Foreign Wars opposed the effort. According to the Congressional record, the VFW printed an article in its February 1955 magazine which encouraged its base to appeal to their elected officials to reject the resolution. Likewise, the American Legion, in its May 1955 magazine, called the Atlantic Union a scheme for world government and a plan to sacrifice American sovereignty. Supporters of the initiative called the accusations unfounded to the point of not justifying serious response.         

Meyer and Luenen further reported that in 1959 the Atlantic Union Committee was a primary force in bringing together 700 citizens of NATO member-states in London. The Atlantic Institute was established as a result. Three years later, in January 1962, the AUC was instrumental again in organizing an Atlantic Convention in Paris, which concluded with the signing of the Declaration of Paris. The Declaration established a commission on Atlantic Unity; created a council; formed a court to address international legal disputes; and promoted measures to ensure more effective defense, which included further development of a unified command, among other items.   

McCormick and Counsel Services

OPA promotional material

   Leo McCormick's 1947 Counsel Services went on to be instrumental in the 1956 incorporation and initial operation of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. As recently explored, McCormick previously worked with another Counsel Services founder, Mary Vaughan King, at the Office of Price Administration (OPA). He was employed at the OPA from 1941-1946, serving as the Director for the State of Maryland. King worked under his supervision.  

In 1947, the two, along with L.G. Shreve, founded Counsel Services, outwardly a public relations firm. In 1948 McCormick vacated his position as secretary and treasurer of the corporation for reasons which included launching an unsuccessful campaign for the Democratic congressional nomination in Maryland's 4th District. 

"After careful consideration I have decided to become a candidate and I have freed myself from all business obligations so as to devote my entire time to my candidacy and to the service of the public," McCormick was quoted in an article announcing his candidacy in the March 10, 1948, edition of The Baltimore Sun.

A 1949 FBI report which contributed to the investigation of McCormick states he sold his interest in Counsel Services to King and Shreve on February 17, 1948 (see pages 23-24). King had been acquainted with McCormick since 1942, while Shreve had known him for 15 years, according to the report. Both spoke very highly of McCormick and thoroughly recommended him for a position of trust and responsibility.   

Hillenkoetter and the ECA

    A copy of a March 1949 letter was obtained from the Central Intelligence Agency which establishes the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA), a federal agency, as an ongoing CIA asset (The ECA was a forerunner to the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID). The letter is authored by future NICAP chairman of the board and then-DCI Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter. It is addressed to "Mr. Paul G. Hoffman, Administrator," of the Economic Cooperation Administration. 

Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter,
CIA Director 1947-1950,
NICAP Chairman of the Board 1957-1962
Hillenkoetter stated in the letter the CIA had a continuing need for economic intelligence information. A great and valuable part of this need, the admiral added, could be satisfied by pertinent information that became available through the activities of the ECA. 

Such information was already being furnished to the Agency from the ECA, Hillenkoetter qualified, but was confined to classification of SECRET or lower. The CIA director then requested the ECA put the Agency in the loop for communications and reports of all classifications, including TOP SECRET. Hillenkoetter closed the letter by thanking the administrator for cooperation given in the past.

Counsel Services Goes Abroad

    A May 1949 newspaper clipping, two months removed from Hillenkoetter's letter to the ECA, reported three members of Counsel Services were en route by air to China, working under ECA auspices. Mary Vaughan King was described as executive vice president of the firm and cited as the source. She indicated L.G. Shreve, president of Counsel Services, and others who became affiliated with Counsel Services specifically for the assignment, would be working in China. 

The article additionally stated, "Shreve initiated the project last December when he was in China with headquarters in Canton. A veteran public relations man, he served with the Army in the China theater during the war as information and education officer."

Fascinatingly, it was in August of that year, 1949, that Leo McCormick reportedly terminated his employment with a life insurance company to take a position with the Economic Cooperation Administration (see page 25). This resulted in an FBI investigation to clear McCormick for involvement in the European Recovery Program, a post-World War II economic project administered by the ECA. Readers will recall the European Recovery Program was also known as the Marshall Plan, authors of which strongly promoted the Atlantic Union as described above. By any name, the project was credited with distributing some 13.3 billion U.S. dollars in aid to Western Europe from 1948-1952 (Readers of WAYWARD SONS will recognize this period as the same operating years, coincidentally or otherwise, of the influential CIA and State Department front, the Office of Policy Coordination). Adjusting for inflation, that's about 154 billion dollars dispersed, give or take a few annual budgets of third world countries.  

ECA poster used to promote
the Marshall Plan in Europe
The (by this time) well-connected McCormick was recommended for inclusion in the European Recovery Program by impressive references, including two sitting state governors who were each interviewed by the Bureau about their dealings with the applicant. The Baltimore Sun would later report McCormick was involved in the administration of the Marshall Plan in 1950 and 1951. 

July 1950 newspaper article reported Counsel Services was among nine firms making up a newly formed agricultural development association. "Specialists of Counsel Services," the story continued, "are now under contract to the Economic Cooperation Administration in connection with work in Europe after having worked in the ECA's audio-visual education operations in China."

A later published obituary for Leo McCormick indicates in 1952 he was assistant to the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. McCormick served as secretary of the Democratic State Central Committee for Maryland and traveled with Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson as an aide during Stevenson's first campaign for president. 

In 1953 McCormick began a long association with the consulting and insurance firm of Poor, Bowen, Bartlett and Kennedy. He would later establish his own general insurance agency, Leo H. McCormick and Co.

NICAP Founder Previously Retained Counsel Services 

    Prior to the 1956 formation of NICAP, Counsel Services was retained by future NICAP organizer T. Townsend Brown. The inaugural front man of the UFO org heavily implied that to be the case in a 1971 letter he wrote to then-NICAP executive director Stuart Nixon (see pages 22-24). Brown suggested the public relations firm was first contracted to assist in securing funding from the Department of Defense for Brown's pet project, Winterhaven, which involved antigravity research and the purported weapons and communications applications. Brown began trying to secure funding for the project in 1951. The funds never materialized, but Counsel Services would go on to be a key component in launching NICAP.

T. Townsend Brown
In the summer of 1956, Townsend Brown, Morris K. Jessup, Clara John, Donald Keyhoe, and other NICAP founding figures were meeting around the Washington, D.C. area. While that was taking place, Leo McCormick was lobbying for support for the Atlantic Convention Resolution.

In August 1956 a NICAP certificate of incorporation was submitted to applicable authorities. Incorporators were Townsend Brown and Counsel Services officers Mary Vaughan King and Thomas D. O'Keefe, a former State Department Deputy Director. A contract was quickly drawn up between NICAP and Counsel Services, stipulating King and O'Keefe were empowered to hire and direct consultants at their discretion. NICAP was responsible for all related costs, along with inordinate fees to be paid to Counsel Services to handle organizational management, membership drives, and similar responsibilities. The incorporation of NICAP was formally completed October 24, 1956. 

The launch of NICAP, combined with the personalities involved both directly and indirectly, could be considered intriguing on the timeline of the Atlantic Union Committee and its efforts to solidify public support for stepping up NATO relations. NICAP rapidly assembled an impressive group of community leaders and military intelligence officers, many of which provided the media with an abundance of headline-making statements about air incursions executed by technology-defying craft. If the propaganda efforts of opponents of the AUC, such as the VFW and American Legion, were identified to consist of talking points asserted in bad faith, perhaps the Union and its allies took up similar strategies to manipulate the public. 

For whatever ultimate reasons, one of the consultants apparently enrolled by Counsel Services for help with NICAP was a psychological warfare expert with specific experience in creating a remarkably successful lobbying group. His history also seems more than a bit in step with the activities of Counsel Services and its clients.

Nicholas de Rochefort  

Nicholas de Rochefort delivering a 1954
pro-democracy speech broadcast by Voice of America

    Nicholas de Rochefort was a talented Russian-born Frenchman. Educated in France, he was already speaking and writing for Voice of America by the time he sought United States citizenship in 1954. 

Rochefort was notably credited with founding the Committee of One Million in 1953. The group opposed the domestic and international acceptance of Communist China. It also became the most recognized aspect of the significant and wealthy China lobby. 

Rochefort's Committee of One Million bore a striking resemblance to the Committee of Five Million, a 1949 political action committee chaired by New York attorney Desmond FitzGerald. By the time Rochefort made political waves with his group four years later, "Dez" FitzGerald was a rising CIA star.  

FBI records obtained on Rochefort through the FOIA indicate he was an employee of the U.S. government at the time he organized the Committee of One Million in 1953, although he had not yet applied for citizenship. Researcher Stanley Bachrack strongly suspected Rochefort was working on behalf of the CIA, resulting in suing the Agency for records on the activist in 1975. Despite Rochefort having been deceased for over ten years by that time, a judge dismissed the suit in 1976 on the grounds an intelligence service could be greatly impaired by irresponsible disclosure (see page 61). A much more recent FOIA request submitted by your author to the CIA on Rochefort was met with a Glomar response, stating such records, which may or may not exist, would be classified and exempt from the FOIA. 

FBI investigations on Rochefort, which took place during the summer of 1956 as NICAP was in its planning stages and McCormick helped push for the Atlantic Union, reveal he was quite well-connected. The Committee of One Million involved collaboration with influential politicians, and FBI agents followed Rochefort's trail all the way to the Joint Chiefs of Staff to obtain statements. He was repeatedly portrayed as loyal to democracy and upstanding in character. The psychological warfare expert was also described as a good propagandist, having worked on multiple such projects in a professional capacity. 

Part of the FBI investigation on Rochefort included an intriguing November 1956 significantly redacted message to Director Hoover from the Washington Field Office. It explained the information contained therein was obtained from a confidential informant under the stipulation it was to be held in strict confidence and not disseminated outside the director's office. The message to Hoover, which indicates the confidential information on Rochefort was obtained by the FBI on November 2, 1956, just days after the October 24 formal incorporation of NICAP:

A request for a Mandatory Declassification Review of the above document was submitted. The FBI cited exemptions from the FOIA and declined to further declassify any portion of the redacted material.

Rochefort worked during the final quarter of 1956 on organizing and promoting NICAP. He is listed in NICAP literature as the Executive Vice Chairman. Related circumstances are covered rather lengthily in WAYWARD SONS.

A FOIA request was submitted to NARA after being advised by the FBI of the existence of a file in its possession. NARA replied in March 2020 that Nicholas de Rochefort is in fact the subject of the file. It is estimated to consist of some 200 pages, compiled as part of an internal security investigation conducted between 1955 and 1964. The file requires processing for release under the FOIA, which was estimated to take about 30 months, but one could reasonably suppose it may take a bit longer than initially projected, all circumstances considered.      

The enigmatic Nicholas de Rochefort went on to reside in Georgetown until he passed away due to cancer in 1964. He was a professor at Georgetown University, which happened to be the alma mater of Leo McCormick.                

Closing Thoughts 

     One could debate the significance of circumstantial evidence as presented above. Perhaps a primary point is we should not avert from thorough examination of such evidence in lieu of embracing UFO hearsay and wishful thinking often promoted during the same era. An argument could be made that's like looking for proof of Santa Claus through skywatching and examining the chimney for forensic evidence, while refusing to acknowledge information found on the credit card receipts of select adults. 

Regardless of what legitimately unusual UFO-related phenomena may or may not have traversed the skies, it is simply intellectually negligent to ignore the significant social circumstances surrounding key figures of NICAP and the mid 20th century UFO subculture. The evidence of a variety of agendas is abundant, easily locatable through numerous historic archives and the Freedom of Information Act. Money, power, politics, and the inherent related intelligence agency games are prevalent in those agendas.

This is not to suggest, however, involved parties were necessarily nefarious. Many of them quite likely believed they were acting in the best interest of the American people, or at least convinced one another that was the case. 

FBI records obtained, newspaper clippings, and similar resources repeatedly show men such as Nicholas de Rochefort, Leo McCormick, and Roscoe Hillenkoetter to have been found to be highly reputable by the FBI and other intelligence agencies. Some readers might find this to be less impressive than other readers, given what is now known of projects such as COINTELPRO and MKULTRA. The fact will remain, however, many NICAP players and surrounding cast were decorated war heroes and on the right side of history, at least for their day. It is doubtful, in many instances, they considered themselves to be dishonest or disruptive, even if knowingly deceptive. They seem to have often had what they felt were justifiable reasons for their actions.

This is a point that contradicts many beliefs held, both past and present, in UFO circles. It is much more typically believed that if assets of the intelligence community imbedded themselves in UFO groups, it was necessarily a bad thing. Reasons often include the belief disinformation is being cultivated and spread, usually of the variety that will obstruct facts from the public about an extraterrestrial or advanced intelligence adamantly believed to be here among us. 

As more recent events should have shown us, such lines of reasoning are overly simplistic. Characters involved in the To The Stars Academy and related AATIP story have proven to be colorful, intriguing, and quite skilled at conducting public relations, yet also shown themselves to often be long on claims and short on accountability. The motives and agendas appear to be a mixed bag. Additionally of interest is the continuing shift of the concept that spooks necessarily lie about UFOs. It is no longer so etched in stone, but entirely negotiable, depending, it seems, on whether or not those spooks tell one what they want to hear.

The spooks surrounding the NICAP story were not altogether different than those in your Twitter feed today. Arguably most importantly, neglecting to examine their activities and connections to one another potentially - and quite likely - robs us of significant pieces of the overall puzzle. Its omission tends to promote pro-UFO belief systems which may very well be flawed and incorrect, and those very belief systems were poured into foundations long ago on which ideologies were built for generations to come.

Wednesday, January 5, 2022

The Wider UFO Picture

     Sometimes it can be difficult to stay aware of the forest as we closely examine the trees. Details matter, of course they do, but what is the "takeaway" from some of our deep dives into UFO World?

The late Frank Wisner, who ran the
Office of Policy Coordination before
becoming Deputy Director of Plans
In Wayward Sons, I take extensive looks at some of the organizations involved in mid 20th century UFO shenanigans. They included NICAP, the FBI, the CIA, and some specific aspects of the Agency are explored, such as the Office of Policy Coordination and the Directorate of Plans. The actions of specific individuals are also examined, as compared to just suggesting the ever present "they" were up to something, because details matter. Indeed they do.

That stated, a more overarching plotline might be considered as well. The intelligence community, along with a media consisting of "journalists" who are uninterested in accuracy for a variety of reasons, acted in ways that cultivated unsubstantiated UFO-related beliefs. That is the case regardless of what legitimately interesting and unexplained phenomena might lie at the heart of an extremely small percentage of UFO cases.

UFO researchers, and the orgs they founded and represented, subsequently parroted and embellished the unsubstantiated tales of interplanetary visitors. While there are many different reasons for the credulous actions of UFO investigators, the fact will remain the cumulative effect was a poorly informed public. 

In spite of all the sensationalism, hundreds of conferences, thousands of books, and countless hours of podcasts and online presentations, there is very little established as fact about UFOs. As one contact once put it, "Everything we know about UFOs would fit on a postcard." Unfortunately, many poorly informed people think they know a whole, whole lot.

Researchers such as Greg Bishop, Mark Pilkington, and Adam Gorightly, to their credit, extensively explored the story of Paul Bennewitz. The saga orbited around the actions of such figures as Richard Doty, William Moore, Leonard Stringfield, and Myrna Hansen.

Greg Bishop's Project Beta:
The Story of Paul Bennewitz,
National Security, and the
Creation of a Modern UFO Myth
As the referenced researchers demonstrated, there is virtually nothing in the saga that can be accepted as true. The entire account of aliens kidnapping people, abusing cattle, and inhabiting an underground base in Dulce grew out of regressive hypnosis sessions and fabricated stories released upon an eagerly receptive UFO community. In their individual works, Bishop, Pilkington, and Gorightly tracked this down because details matter. 

What they also teach us, in addition to the details, is the saga contributed to the public becoming grossly misinformed about supposed UFO phenomena. Extremely important point: Many of the talking points first introduced during the Bennewitz Affair continue to be widely accepted today as truthful, as well as embellished upon, as if they were steps in a legitimate unfolding research process. Many people who subscribe to the beliefs simply could not tell you where the Dulce base legend, for instance, actually came from; they just unquestioningly accept "everybody" knows it.

James Carrion took deep dives into the UFO events of 1946-1947. His resulting research included extensive examination of official government documents, establishing such circumstances as the press being misinformed of R&D on a supposedly airborne weapon comparable to the atomic bomb. The referenced operation, Project Seal, was actually related to underwater explosives and had been discontinued before military officers promoted it as the latest and greatest flying weapon.

Similarly, Carrion documented how an intelligence analyst reported his assessment the "Ghost Rockets" story was a deception. The analyst, a Robert A. Winston, explained why he suspected the Swedes were aware of the origin of any such rockets. Winston further explained his reasons for concluding Swedish officers weren't worried about the rockets. Incidentally, Winston became a CIA officer and his story overlapped into my research of the 1960's scene surrounding NICAP as well.

Details matter, and we should indeed follow such lines of research as far as possible. A panoramic view of such circumstances, however, further reveals meddling in things UFO. 

I contend that the wider story from one instance and well-researched saga to the next is that the circumstances exist at all. We have clear and documented evidence the UFO topic has been manipulated since the outset of the modern phenomenon, 1940's to present. That's the case completely independent of the motives and intentions of the players, and it subsequently impacts the public, their beliefs, and their abilities to think critically. While it matters who the involved parties were and what they did, a relevant point that should not be overlooked is the very basis for much of the popular beliefs is grounded in demonstrably unreliable information. 

It's been that way from the outset. We would be wise to act accordingly.  

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Ongoing NICAP Research: FOIA Request Lands FBI File on Counsel Services Co-Founder

    FBI records recently obtained through the FOIA on Leo H. McCormick indicate the co-founder of Counsel Services, Inc. was investigated extensively to clear him for work with the Economic Cooperation Administration (ECA). The records were provided in response to a request for material pertaining to McCormick.

The ECA, a government office, served as an intelligence gathering asset for the CIA. Counsel Services was contracted by the ECA for work in China and later acted as the lead component along with T. Townsend Brown in the incorporation and initial operation of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. The circumstances are detailed in Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC

FBI reports contained in the recently received 30-page file reveal multiple investigations were undertaken on McCormick. It is also suggested McCormick applied for employment with the FBI in 1935 (see page 30), some 12 years prior to launching Counsel Services. In this blogpost we will explore the FBI file on McCormick and review some of the surrounding circumstances.

Leo H. McCormick

    Leo Heise McCormick (1908-1988) became the subject of an FBI investigation in September 1949, per a message written by Director Hoover found on page 1 of the recently obtained FBI file:

Information compiled by the FBI was to be furnished to the ECA. The "European Recovery Program," as referenced in the subject line of Hoover's memo, involved investigating applicants for positions with the ECA, according to the National Archives. The Program was outwardly designed to provide financial support and economic recovery to war-ravaged areas. 

Pages 4-5 of the FBI file consist of McCormick's 1949 application to the ECA. His listed employment history:

Note McCormick's employment from 1941-1946 with the OPA, the Office of Price Administration. The OPA was a federal agency established in 1941 to combat inflation during World War II. 
FBI reports indicate McCormick was the OPA Director for the State of Maryland. 

It should be noted the OPA was created under the Office for Emergency Management, which, coincidentally or otherwise, employed Lewis "Pinky" Thompson during this same point in time. Thompson became a career CIA asset and was a longtime associate of future NICAP board staple and CIA man Joseph Bryan III, as explored in Wayward Sons.

The most recently obtained FBI records show that, in addition to McCormick, the OPA also employed Mary Vaughan King during the early 1940's. She was destined to be an incorporator of both Counsel Services and NICAP. From an October 1949 FBI report compiled in response to Hoover's directive to investigate McCormick for the European Recovery Program (see pages 23-24):

It appears Mary "Vaughan" King was misspelled as "Vaughn" by the reporting agent. McCormick left his position of leading the Maryland branch of the OPA and about a year later collaborated with King to incorporate Counsel Services.

It is noteworthy in 1948 McCormick then left Counsel Services, for reasons including an unsuccessful election campaign for Congress, and in 1949 secured employment with the Economic Cooperation Administration which apparently required security clearance. As documented on page 25 of the FBI file, a Mr. Richard L. Hyde of Union Central Life Insurance advised the Bureau that McCormick resigned from the company in August 1949 to take a position with the ECA. Hoover enacted instructions to launch the latest investigation of McCormick in September 1949.  

Pages 17-18 of the FBI file indicate the Bureau was made aware by a confidential informant at the Civil Service Commission that McCormick was investigated in 1941 and 1942 for suitability for employment with the Office of Price Administration. McCormick came to be politically well connected through his work, listing Gov. Lane of Maryland as a personal reference. Lane recommended McCormick for the European Recovery Program. Similarly, Gov. Bowles of Connecticut was interviewed during the course of the 1949 investigation by the Bureau due to the governor's former employment with the OPA and familiarity with McCormick.

Counsel Services and the ECA

    Correlating the above circumstances with previously explored information, we see Leo McCormick launched Counsel Services, along with associates Mary Vaughan King and L.G. Shreve, in 1947. The ad below was obtained from the March 10, 1947, edition of The (Baltimore) Evening Sun:

March 1949 letter obtained from the CIA, written by future NICAP chairman of the board and then-DCI Roscoe Hillenkoetter, establishes an ongoing relationship between the Agency and the ECA. Hillenkoetter sought to up economic intelligence information supplied from the ECA from levels of "SECRET and lower" to "all classifications, including TOP SECRET": 

1949 clipping indicates by May of that year Counsel Services was working "under ECA auspices" in China:

1950 article reported Counsel Services had "specialists" under contract to the ECA, working in China and abroad:


Counsel Services and NICAP

    In 1956, NICAP was incorporated by T. Townsend Brown along with Counsel Services officers Mary Vaughan King and Thomas D. O'Keefe. A note later penned by Brown (see pages 22-24 of NICAP records) indicates he had an ongoing relationship with Counsel Services. The alliance dated back to no later than 1951 and Brown's apparently unsuccessful efforts to obtain funding from the Defense Department for his Project Winterhaven, a seemingly ill-advised exploration of antigravity technology.  

Brown, King, and O'Keefe formally incorporated NICAP, as shown on the 1956 NICAP certificate of incorporation (see page 3):

An inordinately expensive contract was immediately submitted by Counsel Services to NICAP, stipulating consultants and directors may be retained to work under the supervision of O'Keefe and King (see pages 6-7):

Fascinatingly, O'Keefe's employment history reveals he was a Deputy Director, Commodities Branch, at the State Department in 1947 (see page 192). According to his work history on file with NICAP, O'Keefe's responsibilities at State included sitting on a board charged with selecting personnel for foreign assignments (see page 39).

One such consultant apparently retained as an early NICAP organizer was the enigmatic Nicholas de Rochefort. As explored at length in Wayward Sons, Rochefort was a psychological warfare expert, almost certainly a CIA asset, and credited with founding The Committee of One Million in 1953. The Committee became recognized by historians as the most well-known aspect of the wealthy and powerful China lobby, circumstances we might correlate with both the Counsel Services operations abroad and Rochefort's 1956 work on the upstart NICAP.


    At this point in the ongoing research, it could be considered quite feasible to think it extremely likely the launch of NICAP reflected operations of the CIA. While that does not in itself allow conclusions about the motives and intentions of the entire cast of characters, it is indeed reasonable to question why the UFO subculture has so long averted from the available documentation. 

The more popular narrative opts instead to frame the mid 20th century intelligence community as tyrannically oppressive of UFO activism and as persecutors of NICAP. The fact of the matter is not nearly as clear cut. Official documents actually suggest that not only did the CIA have a number of evolving interests in the activities of NICAP, including reasons that went far beyond UFOs, but outright facilitated the birth of the organization. The UFO subculture may be guilty in some instances of stubbornly clinging to a past that never actually existed in the first place.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Cover-Up Is as Elusive as the UFOs

Adm. Hillenkoetter

    We previously explored letters exchanged between renowned skeptic Dr. Donald Menzel and Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter. The admiral served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1947-1950 and was NICAP Chairman of the Board 1957-1962. The letters, dated 1961-1965, did not support and very much contradicted notions of government orchestrated UFO cover-ups and dubious related conspiracies, particularly the Majestic 12. The ideas nonetheless have long shelf lives among UFO enthusiasts and even some of those who study NICAP. 

Another previous blogpost demonstrated then-DCI Hillenkoetter's correspondence in 1949 with a government agency, the Economic Cooperation Administration, which discreetly acted as an intelligence source for the CIA. The ECA notably contracted Counsel Services, ostensibly a public relations firm. Counsel Services is documented to have worked with NICAP founder T. Townsend Brown since as early as 1951, and assisted him with incorporating NICAP in 1956.

As a matter of fact, two Counsel Services officers acted as NICAP incorporators along with Townsend Brown. One of them, Thomas O'Keefe, was a former State Department Deputy Director whose assignments included sitting on a board which selected officers for foreign service in 1952. Interestingly, and arguably humorously, O'Keefe was identified in a proposed 1956 Counsel Services-NICAP contract as empowered to retain what were termed "consultants and regional directors." The personnel were specified to work under the supervision of O'Keefe and the Counsel Services president. 

NICAP organizer Maj. Donald Keyhoe inherited the director's chair from Brown in early 1957. He embarked upon 13 years of adamantly accusing the CIA and Air Force of covering up their knowledge that flying saucers were spacecraft from other planets. The trouble for Keyhoe was not only did he never prove UFOs were interplanetary, but there is significant circumstantial evidence, as referenced above, suggesting no such cover-up took place - at least not about hiding UFOs. 

CIA Memos

    A now declassified CIA memo, dated January 25, 1965, documents officers of the CIA Contact Division visited NICAP headquarters the previous week. They spoke with NICAP's Richard Hall, who loaned them various samples and reports as requested. The memo, as shown in part below, indicates the material was sought for transmittal to the CIA Office of Scientific Intelligence in preparation for a paper on UFOs:  

A memo, "SUBJECT: Evaluation of UFO's", was soon sent to Director of Central Intelligence John McCone. It was dated January 26, 1965, one day after the above memo. The document was sent from the office of OSI Assistant Director Donald F. Chamberlain, and informed McCone, "Evaluation of these and other reported phenomena reveals no evidence that UFO's are of foreign origin or are a threat to the security of the United States."

The memo further informed McCone that OSI monitored UFO reports, including those investigated by the Air Force, and concurred with Air Force findings, as indicated in the paragraph below. The three-page memo included two pages of relatively mundane sighting statistics the author apparently felt supported the expressed conclusions. 

A 1997 CIA intelligence study further indicated the purpose of the Contact Division visit to NICAP was to obtain material for use in the OSI report on UFOs cited above. The updated UFO evaluation had been requested by McCone, according to the CIA study, "following high-level White House discussions on what to do if an alien intelligence was discovered in space and a new outbreak of UFO reports and sightings." Congressional hearings were also in the wind, all of which should not be difficult for those following the current UFO scene to envision, to say the least.

DCI McCone
f the CIA and Air Force were supposedly conspiring on a massive cover-up as Keyhoe asserted, one would have to wonder why OSI expressed in a memo to DCI McCone that the two agencies concurred on prosaic UFO explanations. Similarly, one would have to question why McCone ever requested an updated assessment from OSI if the Agency, and presumably its director, were already aware of UFO information so substantial it was concealed. 

Specifically, during the very time Keyhoe was adamantly proclaiming a UFO cover-up, the above declassified memos show the highest levels of the accused, the CIA and Air Force, were in actuality concurring there was no national security threat. Moreover, the two agencies basically identified nothing gleaned from UFO reports to be of particular significance, at least not concerning scientific investigation. This simply should not be selectively overlooked in favor of more sensational plotlines. 

It is possible to construct some scenarios that allow for existence of the Agency memos yet still remain open to the possibility the CIA was actively conducting a UFO cover-up. However, the burden of proof lies squarely on the claimant. What's more, those in the business of constructing those scenarios have long shown tendencies to shift carelessly from one narrative to the next as increasingly contorted suppositions are effectively debunked, each falling to the test of time like autumn leaves to gravity. 

Keyhoe and the IC
Maj. Keyhoe
    In Maj. Keyhoe's defense, there were plenty of valid reasons to distrust the CIA. Let's start with Keyhoe had some degree of awareness NICAP was manipulated from the start. Add to that the fact several intelligence agencies would no sooner claim they had no dog in the UFO fight, than Keyhoe would find their personnel in the midst of the fray. The NICAP director's efforts to obtain salient information and relevant documents from the CIA was consistently met with resistance. None of that, however, necessarily proves a UFO cover-up, much less an alien presence.

There are many justifiable reasons information is properly classified. Probably none of them have anything to do with "flying saucers." Classified material resulting from the exploitation of the subject of flying saucers is another story. 

It should be obvious the intelligence community had - and continues to have - no tolerance for outing its classified information and covert operations to overly inquisitive UFO hunters. The stonewalling is often incorrectly assumed to be confirmation of IC possession of significant knowledge pertaining to UFOs. That's just simply not necessarily the case, is not the way facts are established, and is particularly questionable when boosted by intelligence officers, academics, and people who should know better.

Friday, November 5, 2021

Seeking Truth at a Circus

JFK Jr. or somebody
    You got rats on the west side, bed bugs uptown, or at least it frequently seems so in the UFO subculture. Let's take a look at why cynicism is often justified and the genre continues to be about as appealing to self-respecting academics as a town full of money grabbers. Shadoobie. 


    Anjali staked her claim to ufology immortality when she arrived on the scene with a DC press conference. She proceeded to inform the world, or a few dozen of us paying attention, that she knew where some alien-like higher life forms were hanging out, and that she would assemble a team of researchers to document it. Anjali essentially called next on Disclosure.

Absurd on its face, that such circumstances could be occurring without significant attention from the FBI and similar intelligence agencies, the narrative was quite disjointed in many ways. The story relied heavily on a lot of mumbo jumbo about digging into a mountain to access beings who aren't entirely physical and so on and so forth, but these are not really the most problematic aspects of the Anjali saga. 

Arguably more concerning is that the story was embraced by many, some discussing it as potentially true, while others used it as an easy target of severe criticism. The common denominator from one extreme to the other, as represented on various UFO podcasts and video channels, was often the apparent means to increase one's popularity and reach by carrying on about Anjali.

Mental Health Issues

    Anjali's story is not particularly unique in its enabling by hypnosis conducted by Barbara Lamb. This should be a serious red flag, as should the fact symptoms of emotional trauma and various psychological conditions are virtually indistinguishable from behavior commonly exhibited and even celebrated in the UFO subculture. 

UFO enthusiasts, and particularly those who subscribe to beliefs contact is occurring with intelligent non-human beings, heavily avert from the psychological implications. This might be considered particularly hypocritical, in the manner the mental health field is ignored and rejected much in the same way ufologists complain their perceived field of study is not taken seriously. The fact of the matter is, at the very least, a percentage of people reporting such circumstances as portrayed by Anjali are confused for any number of reasons, all of which are further inflamed by the UFO circus. A circus, I might add, consisting in part of deluded people and those who ride their coattails.

Four Years

      December 2021 will mark four full years since chronic UFO sensationalists Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal got their AATIP story published in the Times. Much of the key elements of the piece remain unconfirmed (The DIA states the estimated completion date for AATIP- and AAWSAP-related FOIA requests is Dec. 30, 2022). Moreover, TTSA did not achieve its extraordinary stated and implied goals. I am extremely confident if four years ago we asked anyone swooning from the story what they hoped would be the status at this point in time, they would not have said they'd just love if Elizondo were still suggesting more patience is required.

Nonetheless, a contingent of UFO Twitter accounts, bloggers, and so on continue to at least feign ongoing enthusiasm. A competent argument can be made the rhetoric is substantially less a representation of popular opinion (or reality) as much as a successfully executed public relations campaign that effectively created minor social media influencers. 

Adding insult to injury is the fact some of the former TTSA personnel continue to be referenced as experts and invited to participate in activities in which they appear entirely unqualified. The history of ufology includes numerous circumstances of incorrectly labeling research as scientific. In at least some instances this is an attempt to gain otherwise unearned respect. We would be wise to hold claimed scientific investigation up to the rigors of transparency and measurable progress its definition demands.

Lil' Help?

     UFO investigators and trend setters have long claimed to want acceptance from the scientific community, but their actions suggest otherwise. They frequently engage in activities and cultivate followings that virtually ensure rejection from respected science professionals. 

It is my understanding the current psychological paradigm does not recommend confronting severely traumatized and confused people with contradictions that may be serving as mental coping mechanisms. Such dynamics would be more widely understood by a community if it spent a fraction of the time it invests in searching for truth on YouTube actually consulting the work of qualified professionals. The point being it's not a wise endeavor to take up the hero's journey of playing along with Anjali or any number of people with similar stories, and academics with sincere interests in valuable and responsible research are quite aware.

Likewise, self-respecting researchers who value career paths and integrity are going to minimize involvement with grandstanding personalities whose assertions lack substance. It's not the topic of UFOs in itself that causes the much discussed stigma, it's also largely due to organizations such as TTSA treating the situation more as a political campaign than ever publishing anything of value. 

Similar may be said about self-described journalists who are more aptly described as UFO cheerleaders. Intelligent and capable scientists, historians and researchers are simply not going to take up residence in the crosshairs. 

So, you may ask, if so much of it is hype and sensationalism, why follow it at all? That is a reasonable question and one with which the subculture may one day catch up, but mostly hasn't yet. There are a number of reasons your attention and beliefs are prized, and the reasons change from one player to another. The reasons are subject to change from one specific instance to another as well. These, and the implications spanning from war games to spy games and grifters to emotionally damaged people, may be the only answers ever to be conclusively mined from the UFO circus. 

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

NICAP Plus 65

     The National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena was a Scorpio. The leading UFO organization of its day, and arguably the most popular ever assembled, was formally incorporated October 24, 1956. The NICAP legacy now celebrates and mourns its 65th birthday. 

Thomas Townsend Brown

As explored in a previous blogpost, T. Townsend Brown, Mary Vaughan King and Thomas D. O'Keefe acted as incorporators for the organization in August 1956. Vaughan King was president of Counsel Services, ostensibly a public relations firm yet previously under contract with the Economic Cooperation Administration. A 1949 letter authored from then-CIA director and future NICAP chairman of the board Roscoe Hillenkoetter to the ECA establishes the existence of a working relationship between the agencies. The ECA clearly provided the CIA classified "economic intelligence information" (The Economic Cooperation Administration was a precursor organization to the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID).

Another Counsel Services client was Col. Ulius "Pete" Amoss, a career CIA officer whose areas of expertise included psychological warfare. In 1952 the enigmatic Col. Amoss facilitated sending the USAF Office of Special Investigations on a UFO wild goose chase, the report of which landed in Project Blue Book:

Yet another Counsel Services client was the Townsend Brown Family Foundation. According to a 1971 Townsend Brown letter (see pp22-28) written in response to the inquisitive then-NICAP director Stuart Nixon, Brown's foundation retained a firm, almost certainly Counsel Services, in the early 1950's to assist with securing funding for his Project Winterhaven. The initiative involved anti-gravity theories to be applied to such fields as weapons research and communications, but never obtained funding sought from the Department of Defense. Brown's 1971 letter notably failed to include specific details in response to Nixon's questions about NICAP beginnings and incorporation, and inaccurately represented some of the circumstances.  

Immediately after the trio of Brown, Vaughan King and O'Keefe filed for NICAP incorporation in 1956, Vaughan King presented a contract to Brown and NICAP on behalf of Counsel Services (see pp6-7). The contract proposed inordinate service fees, and stipulated additional consultants and regional directors may be retained "to work under the supervision of the senior officers of this firm - namely, Mr. Thomas D. O'Keefe and Mary V. King".

The employment history of Mr. O'Keefe contains a number of points of interest, including 1952 service on the Selection Board for Foreign Service Officers at the Department of State (see p39). A search of government records indicates O'Keefe was indeed employed at the State Department, serving as a Deputy Director in 1947 in Washington, D.C.

Such consultants seemingly brought on by Counsel Services to work as early NICAP organizers included Nicholas de Rochefort, a psychological warfare expert with extensive experience in the intelligence and political arenas. He was almost certainly a CIA asset, and his records were once sought in a 1970's lawsuit filed unsuccessfully against the Agency on behalf of an investigative journalist. The journalist strongly suspected Rochefort's substantial activity in the powerful mid 20th century China lobby was undertaken for the CIA. The presiding judge dismissed the case, ruling intelligence services could be greatly impaired by irresponsible disclosure, which the CIA identified as enhancing its ability to navigate the FOIA (see p61). 

The FBI was much more forthcoming on Nicholas de Rochefort. FOIA responses from the Bureau provided multiple reports and alerted me to more records located at the National Archives, the latter of which are now in the process of being reviewed for release. FBI files already obtained indicate Rochefort was employed by the Department of Commerce and the State Department during the time, late 1956 and early 1957, we now know he worked on publicity campaigns for NICAP.

Fascinatingly, Bureau files include a Nov. 27, 1956, memo to Director Hoover from the Washington Field Office, containing information on Rochefort provided by a confidential informant (see p20). The document is heavily redacted, and stipulated that neither the information, obtained in early November, nor its source should be disseminated outside of Hoover's office:

The FBI conducted a requested Mandatory Declassification Review on the above memo. It declined to further declassify any part of it, stating the redacted information is exempt from the FOIA.


The above circumstances and much more are explored in detail in my new book Wayward Sons: NICAP & the IC.

Related posts:

Read the Introduction to 'Wayward Sons'

The Birth of NICAP  

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

UFO Three Card Monte: Menzel, Hillenkoetter & NICAP

Dr. Donald H. Menzel

    Dr. Donald H. Menzel (1901-1976) was a distinguished astronomer and astrophysicist. He was also an outspoken critic of UFOs as interplanetary vehicles. The scientist, whose rather extraordinary career path went through Princeton and Harvard, found no compelling reasons to believe UFO reports carried any particular significance to his fields of study.  

Menzel was often cited during the mid 20th century as an authority on UFO skepticism. In The UFO Evidence, a study of some 750 cases published in 1964 by the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, Menzel was recommended as a source for counterviews. He was also cited as a leading yet skeptical scientist by Mike Wallace during a 1958 interview of NICAP head Maj. Donald Keyhoe.

When the infamous and unverified MJ-12 papers were introduced and amplified by Bill Moore and associates in 1984, Menzel was named as one of the twelve who were supposedly ultra secretly assigned to oversee retrievals of crashed flying saucers. Some researchers speculate Menzel's inclusion was a joke among the hoaxers of the documents.

Also named among the MJ-12 in 1984 was Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter. He was the first director of the CIA (1947-1950) and served as NICAP Chairman of the Board of Governors from 1957-1962. The admiral was an obvious choice for inclusion in the alleged MJ-12, as of course the Director of Central Intelligence would have been in the loop if an unearthly saucer and its inhabitants were dragged off of Mack Brazel's ranch in '47.

In the late 1950's and 1960's, Hillenkoetter numbered among many respected intelligence officers who provided NICAP with statements in strong support of UFOs as a significant issue. Some of those officers went as far as to specify they believed saucers represented an alien presence. A look into the former DCI's personal correspondence with Dr. Menzel, however, might lead one to suspect the issues were not as simple as often portrayed. That seems to especially have been the case among intelligence personnel and those in their professional and social circles. 

Mixed Messages

    Acting on info contained in an August 2020 email received from James Carrion, it was discovered a library was in possession of an archive of Menzel letters. Specifically, James shared a copy of a 1963 letter written from Hillenkoetter to Menzel, with a boilerplate message across the top which stated it was printed by the American Philosophical Society Library. Correspondence with the Society Library soon revealed it was the custodian of a Menzel collection, which included a folder titled "Hillenkoetter."   

Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter
The Library helpfully provided a pdf of the Hillenkoetter folder, containing ten pages of material exchanged between Menzel and Hillenkoetter from 1961-1965. The letters contain Menzel criticisms of NICAP, and what he clearly felt was the Committee's irresponsible framing of UFOs and questionable tactics undertaken.

"In my opinion," Menzel wrote Hillenkoetter in 1961, that rather than UFOs, "the congressional investigation should be of Keyhoe and NICAP..."

Hillenkoetter's letters did not offer significant resistance to Menzel's critical assertions. While the former DCI occasionally suggested he initially found flying saucers potentially interesting, he wrote to Menzel in 1963, "I resigned from NICAP about 20 months ago feeling that it had degenerated from an organization honestly trying to find out something definite about possible unknowns, into a body bickering about personalities."

In that same 1963 letter, Hillenkoetter wrote further, "Thank you very much for your book. To my mind, it was very well done and I enjoyed it and found it of great interest. I should say that you have effectively put to rest all surmises about flying saucers being from 'outer space'. You have done a thorough and praiseworthy job."

There are at least two significant points to be taken from this correspondence. One, it is abundantly clear these men shared no history of crashed saucer retrievals as continues to be cultivated by those endorsing MJ-12 unsubstantiated conspiracies. What's more, if Hillenkoetter had any relevant knowledge of UFOs, he sure didn't seem to have much conviction about it. Perhaps his knowledge of related deception operations was another story. 

The second point, and a leading contender for why Menzel saved these letters and they were eventually archived by the American Philosophical Society Library, is it became increasingly apparent to Menzel that Hillenkoetter portrayed his views differently to Keyhoe than he did to Menzel. Hillenkoetter was sending mixed messages, Menzel called him on it, and Menzel apparently wanted to save the receipts.

In a 1965 edition of NICAP's The UFO Investigator, the magazine cites and challenges Menzel statements made during an interview in which he asserted Hillenkoetter accepted his prosaic explanations for UFOs. The NICAP rebuttal included a copy of a 1965 letter to Keyhoe from Hillenkoetter, denying Menzel's claim, and published with the intention of supporting the credibility of UFOs in general and the admiral's ongoing endorsement of the NICAP UFO hunt. Hillenkoetter's letter indeed suggested he never lost faith in NICAP or saucers, and that he had not accepted Menzel's skeptical stance as correct. Moreover, the NICAP article suggested Menzel mischaracterized Hillenkoetter's position. 

Menzel sent a copy of the article to Hillenkoetter, along with a copy of the admiral's above referenced 1963 letter, reminding Hillenkoetter he did precisely what he denied to Keyhoe was the case. It might be considered noteworthy that Hillenkoetter continued to fan the flames of public cultivation of the UFO mystery in the process. It was apparently important to Menzel to save proof he was not mischaracterizing Hillenkoetter's statements, which, as the archived file demonstrates, he indeed was not.

FBI Files

    The FBI provided five files totaling over 200 pages in response to a Freedom of Information Act request on Donald Howard Menzel. Further inquiries to the Bureau resulted in identifying another three files potentially responsive and located at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA). 

NARA subsequently confirmed Dr. Menzel is indeed the subject of each of the three files. The records total an estimated 550 pages and must be processed for release. The files are estimated to be available in 2024 at a projected cost of $440 for a reproduction, such as a pdf, or free to view in person.

The 200 pages released by the FBI thus far represent investigations ranging from the 1940's to the 1970's. The documents tell a Cold War story, often portrayed through FBI memos and statements obtained from confidential informants, of a scientist who spent his life subject to the surveillance of intelligence agencies. This was due to his involvement in such projects as the Atomic Energy Commission, where he was employed at Los Alamos, NM. 

He was also investigated extensively by the Office of Naval Intelligence, due at least in part to his work with "code matters" for the Boston Naval Reserve (see p6). This occurred during the late 1940's. 

Menzel was frequently the subject of security investigations to either clear him for inclusion in classified projects or revisit his political loyalty due to his chronic work with sensitive material. The same applied to many of his associates, including astronomer Dr. Harlow Shapley. Menzel and Shapley were employed together in the Harvard astronomy department in the 1940's.

FBI files on Menzel suggest his relationship with Shapley numbered among the Bureau's deepest concerns about his activities, warranted or not. Although the two strongly disagreed on many professional issues, Menzel defended Shapley's right to hold and express his opinions.

Interestingly, Shapley's take on extraterrestrials would later be published in NICAP literature. In a NICAP brochure within a section titled, "Published Statements on the Question of Other Worlds," the first entry reads, "Dr. Harlow Shapley, former Director of Harvard Observatory: 'We must now accept it as inevitable that there are other worlds with some kind of thinking beings.'" (see p35

After some 30 years of accumulated FBI investigation memos, the Bureau considered grooming Menzel as a double agent. His work frequently offered him the opportunity to travel abroad to international conferences, and he was no doubt a subject of investigation by adversarial intelligence agencies by the 1970's. Page one of a 1974 FBI memo to Director Hoover from the Boston Field Office, requesting "authority to recontact the subject as a potential security informant or double agent": (see p12)

Foreign adversaries were not the only forces the Bureau was potentially competing with for Menzel's attention. Two months following the above memo, a Boston Special Agent in Charge informed the director that Menzel indicated he was more than willing to discuss the Bureau's internal security responsibilities. Menzel was cooperative, the agent advised Hoover, but pointed out that he had been interviewed recently by the CIA about his trip to the People's Republic of China: (see p14)

The significance of Cold War culture and related spy networks looms large in a quest to better understand the UFO topic. The more clearly these dynamics are understood, the more accurately we might process the evolution of resulting belief systems and events taking place today. The omission of spy games is detrimental, and their inclusion in a functional assessment stands to connect a lot of dots.

Read about the above referenced circumstances and much more in my new book Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC.

Related post:

The Birth of NICAP