Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Scoles's 'They Are Already Here' a Page-Turner That Works

When journalist Sarah Scoles first contacted me to discuss some things for possible inclusion in her book, I felt the same way as when any media person wants to ask questions about UFO World: I want to answer their questions if I am able, but I fear they are looking for sensational material and ultimately won't want to hear what I have to say anyway. However, by the time I was finished talking by phone with the author, I was pleasantly surprised and optimistic a worthy work might be forthcoming. Turned out it was.

Scoles traveled the countryside, visiting the hallowed grounds of American UFO lore, allowing a wide range of people to explain, in their own words, what it's all about to them. The result is They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers.

The author does not present herself as a UFO expert, but an inquisitive explorer, and the book is a page-turner that works. Scoles clearly separates her opinions from those of the people portrayed on the pages, and she does not casually accept unproven beliefs absent evidence. The writing style is one that more UFO writers, and non-fiction writers in general, would be wise to adopt.

The book includes pertinent history on the topic of the government and UFOs, and viewpoints from UFO investigators, witnesses, skeptics, agnostics and believers. While They Are Already Here definitely appeals to readers with casual interest in what's going on in the UFO genre, it also includes plenty of material for those more experienced with the steeplechase. An intriguing visit to famous Area 51 is likely to interest even the most seasoned UFO research veteran. A road trip to the much discussed Skinwalker Ranch and summaries of current UFO World drama also await readers, among many more topics and destinations.

Other sections of the book I found particularly interesting and enjoyable include a journey to the UFO Watchtower in Colorado. The site, its residents and visitors are fascinating and captivating, whatever may or may not be observed traversing the heavens above.

Scoles takes readers through the posts of UFO forums in an attempt to gain insight into the mystery of Sunspot Observatory, which was locked down by the FBI without immediate explanation in 2018. In what might be among the coolest stunts a writer on a conspiracy beat ever undertook, Scoles camped in the New Mexico desert and hiked into town at sunrise to ask the Bureau what was up. This adventure alone is worth the price of admission.

The author has direct experience in working in a small town that exists because of its observatory, as is the case with Sunspot, and she shares her insights. Scoles periodically allows readers glimpses into her personal history and how it influences her current interpretations of the individual stories and the collective unfolding saga. She manages to do this while keeping the people she meets and topics explored as focal points of the book. In doing so, she indirectly reminds us that we, too, are at the mercy of a shaky reliance on personal conditioning for interpreting our journeys through life and UFO World.

It is refreshing to read an informative and entertaining work on the UFO genre in which the writer is even-handed, while simultaneously revealing a flair for the creative and poetic. I appreciate this book, the work that went into it, and the style portrayed. Scoles demonstrates we don't have to forsake reasonable skepticism in order to develop an appreciation for people and mysteries, nor must we abandon critical thinking to appreciate life's metaphors and ironies that surround us all.

They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers is 304 pages from Pegasus Books. It is available on Amazon in Kindle (18.99), hardcover (14.99), and audio CD (34.99).

Thursday, March 5, 2020

FBI Report: NICAP Organizer 'Good Propagandist'

The FBI file on Nicholas de Rochefort referenced in this post may be viewed at Keep&Share and Google Drive.

A file obtained from the FBI on Nicholas de Rochefort, a man credited with being an original organizer of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), contains a report describing him as "a good propagandist." The description was attributed to de Rochefort's former employer, Theodore Repplier, president of the Advertising Council. In the synopsis of the Nov. 27, 1956, FBI report, an agent explained, "Subject's employment with the Advertising Council, Inc, Washington, D.C., in 1954 and 1955, on a project to counter Communist propaganda verified." 

The 29-page FBI file contains a series of reports and memos pertaining to investigations of de Rochefort. His employment, which included various agencies as an activist, consultant, or interpreter, is listed. He went on to work at Georgetown and American University as a Professor of Political Science. 

The Russian-born de Rochefort was a French citizen. He renounced his citizenship to become an American citizen in 1954. According to the NYT, he was an expert in psychological warfare. He died of cancer in 1964 at the age of 62.

Employment activities of de Rochefort as documented by the FBI
which coincided with the forming of NICAP

The late UFO researcher and NICAP member Richard Hall described de Rochefort as an original organizer of NICAP "with past CIA connections." Hall reported NICAP was formally incorporated Oct. 24, 1956, which would have been about a month before the Nov. 27, 1956, FBI report referenced above was composed. FBI investigations and reports contained in the 29-page file obviously coincided with the forming and incorporation of NICAP. 

A request was submitted to the FBI for further declassification of page 9 of the file, which contains a redacted section of what appears to be information obtained from a confidential informant. The request remains pending as of this writing.

Freedom Day

Photos Credit: The Brown Bulletin
A 1954 edition of The Brown Bulletin provides some insight into de Rochefort's political activism. He and Dr. Charles W. Lowry were credited with spearheading a movement to declare June 17 as Freedom Day in Berlin, New Hampshire, which included plans to erect a monument in support of East Germans and their revolt against Communism. The effort culminated in a crowded ceremony that featured de Rochefort as a speaker and was attended by national media and even the governor.

"The Voice of America beamed the program, in three different languages, to the enslaved people throughout the world, giving them encouragement and support in their constant effort to shake themselves loose from their Red 'hand-cuffs'," the Bulletin reported.

Representative Charles J. Kersten of Wisconsin entered de Rochefort's Freedom Day work into the 1954 Congressional Record. Kersten praised the efforts of de Rochefort and Lowry, and brought the circumstances to the attention of the House. He emphasized the advantageous impact abroad of Freedom Day. Kersten then stated in part to Congress on July 29, 1954:
A lesson can be drawn from this experience.
Two men of small financial means, but armed with imagination, perseverance, and knowledge of methods and techniques of psychological warfare were able to plan and carry out an operation of this nature, in finding assistance and aid from the part of the American people. 
Such projects as this, staged in America, implemented by American citizens and groups of citizens, can better be worked out, prepared and initiated by private initiative than by the Government.
It would therefore be desirable to create a private organization for this very purpose, the members of which could devote all their time and their skill to devising actions of unconventional psychological warfare, inspire and coordinate them. It would not require millions of dollars; relatively modest sums would suffice.

Coincidentally or otherwise, NICAP was incorporated by de Rochefort and others some 27 months later. It seems like a good time to remind readers the 1953 CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel wrote, on the topic of "Unofficial Investigating Groups": 
The Panel took cognizance of the existence of such groups as the "Civilian Flying Saucer Investigators" (Los Angeles) and the "Aerial Phenomena Research Organization" (Wisconsin). It was believed that such organizations should be watched because of their potentially great influence on mass thinking if widespread sightings should occur. The apparent irresponsibility and the possible use of such groups for subversive purposes should be kept in mind.

Joseph Bryan III and Robert A. Winston

Readers may recall that Joseph Bryan III was among the CIA men who led and belonged to NICAP. Bryan directed a CIA political and psychological warfare subdivision during the 1950's and prior to his formal involvement with NICAP. Bryan's history also included a dust up with apparent long-time friend and CIA colleague Robert A. Winston. The altercation beat a path through Congress and the FBI, as indicated in the final pages of a file on Bryan obtained from the Bureau. The conflict involved, at least in part, circumstances surrounding the FBI "Obscenity Room," a reference to a closely guarded Bureau file containing actions and/or language used by subjects of interest and typically considered vulgar and derogatory. Keep that in mind. We'll circle back to it and Winston shortly.

Joseph Bryan III
Athan G. Theoharis wrote a 1983 paper, The CIA and the New York Times: An Unanswered Question. The author explored a pair of mysterious meetings conducted in 1951 by Bryan. The first took place between Bryan and the Times European bureau chief, and the second was a meeting between Bryan and the Times publisher. The publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzburger, was the uncle of the European bureau chief, Cyrus Sulzburger.

Interestingly, Bryan's meetings with Times officials coincided with his request, initiated that same winter of 1951, to gain access to the FBI obscenity file. Author Theoharis aptly questions the relationships between the CIA, Times, and FBI. 

As we explored in a previous post on Bryan, his psychological warfare unit, the Office of Policy Coordination, operated and distributed funds on a "massive" scale throughout Europe. It would be reasonable to surmise his relationship with the Times European bureau chief was at the least indirectly related to his overseeing of these European activities. 

While discussing these events by email with James Carrion, I pointed out how, as mentioned above, the FBI file on Bryan happens to contain references to the "obscenity" material and CIA man Robert A. Winston. Carrion then aptly brought up that Winston was a prominent figure in his book, Anachronism, an exploration of Cold War spy games and deception surrounding the "ghost rockets."

While I did not recall Winston by name, I soon discovered that I indeed well remembered his role in the book. Carrion documented how it was Winston who wrote some of the most comprehensive reports on the so-called ghost rockets. In 1946 he was the Naval Attache to Sweden and Carrion quoted his memos rather heavily. It indeed might be considered intriguing that Robert Winston, recorder and analyst of the ghost rocket reports, found his way into the CIA and this FBI-related saga - and by way of Joseph Bryan, no less.

Backrack v. CIA

Researchers both in and out of the UFO genre called attention to de Rochefort over the years for his presumed affiliation with the CIA. The Agency apparently remained tight lipped about the relationship, as demonstrated in the now declassified Secrecy vs. Disclosure, A Study in Security Classification, composed by the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence. 

Secrecy vs. Disclosure references Stanley D. Backrack v. CIA, William Colby, a 1976 California lawsuit. Backrack sued for all information on the relations of Nicholas de Rochefort with CIA and its predecessor organizations. 

Judge William P. Gray, presiding over the case, wrote, "While there is a strong public interest in the public disclosure of the functions of government agencies, there is also a strong public interest in the effective functioning of an intelligence service, which could be greatly impaired by irresponsible disclosure."

In the words of the CIA, "Through the decisions of these district courts a series of precedents is emerging which have already greatly enhanced the legal stature of sources and methods as an independent means of protecting intelligence information - at least in the context of FOIA requests for information."

A records request was submitted to U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for the case files on Backrack v. CIA. The Court directed me to submit the request to a specific branch of the National Archives. The Archives referred me to a Los Angeles court for further info that will hopefully help locate the records. The search remains in progress as of this writing.