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

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Identify What You Want

    We've all been there. You log into your favorite social media site and rapidly forget what you even liked about it. Snark is rampant, jokes aren't funny, and your intelligence is insulted by nonsense meant to be taken seriously. It can be difficult to remember what you hoped to get out of social media, and it can be even more difficult to keep in mind that not everyone shares your goal. Most may not, actually.

Identifying what we're doing on a social media site may be a good idea. If you're reading this blog and have a Twitter account, for instance, you may have hoped to find people discussing UFO stuff online. Maybe you hoped you'd learn something about UFOs, or share some of your ideas with others. 

Many hope to find like-minded people to talk about topics they find challenging to share with friends and family. Many such attempts result in a wide variety of online responses, ranging from over the top credulousness to caustic rebuttals. This is an inevitable part of social media interactions, and the sooner we accept it, the better. This doesn't mean we should accept abusive remarks, but neither should we expect emotionally safe behavior from dysfunctional keyboard warriors. Ya gotta step in some crap if ya wanna get to the barn.

We might take responsibility for seeking online interactions, and what type of interactions we're looking for. Are we looking for UFO contacts? What for, exactly? What do we expect to gain? What are we willing to contribute in return, and are we able to voice this?

I'm reminded of complications that frequently arise between UFO witnesses and investigators. Both parties often seem to think their intentions should be understood without having to state them. A more functional perspective might be that witnesses could intentionally identify what kind of assistance they are seeking, and investigators could be prepared to clarify what services they claim to offer.

Are we looking for a competent investigation, or are we seeking emotional support? The skills and resulting activities for providing such services could vary greatly. It would be helpful if we could accurately identify what we hope to gain from contacting a UFO organization or investigator, and questions we might ask to facilitate the process. 

Similar might be said for swimming around social media. We would be wise to know what we hope to gain and how we intend to achieve it. Understand the inherent risks of emotionally leading with the chin in public forums. Choose your support systems wisely, as well as sources you identify as offering quality information.

Be kind to yourself and expect to make mistakes. They're signs you're trying. And identify what you hope to achieve. Otherwise, you'll never achieve it.

Friday, August 13, 2021

The Birth of NICAP

Things get complicated when you get past eighteen

But the class of '57 had its dreams

- The Statler Brothers, The Class of '57


Preorder the e-book now.
Paperback also now available.
    In 1956 an eclectic group of community leaders began meeting around Washington, D.C. Among them were T. Townsend Brown, an inventor with an eye on antigravity technology; Morris K. Jessup, a UFO investigator and author; Clara John, the original ghostwriter for George Adamski; and Maj. Donald Keyhoe, a writer with a belief UFOs represented interplanetary spacecraft. Inspired by Clara John's flying saucer club, they laid the foundation for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, or NICAP. 

Initially led by T. Townsend Brown, NICAP formally applied for incorporation in August 1956. The group was incorporated by Brown and two representatives from a consulting firm, Counsel Services, Inc., with which Brown had an ongoing relationship. The representatives acting as NICAP incorporators were the president of the firm, Mary Vaughan King, and a former State Department employee, Thomas D. O'Keefe. From the certificate of incorporation (see page 3):

Vaughan King soon left NICAP. Likewise, O'Keefe rapidly resigned as treasurer, and the organization would have its next treasurer come and go just as quickly. Brown was destined to have a short stint at the helm, as well.

Maj. Donald Keyhoe landed in the director's chair in January 1957, and NICAP operated under his guidance the next 13 years. A public relations campaign drew some 14,000 members. The org collected and investigated UFO sightings, accused the Air Force and CIA of conducting a cover-up, and pushed for and obtained Congressional hearings on UFOs. 

Within a year of the release of a 1969 Air Force-sponsored UFO report resulting from the hearings, Keyhoe and top personnel departed NICAP amid accusations of CIA interference. A former CIA officer on the Board of Governors was widely suspected of dismantling the org. A close look, however, reveals NICAP beginnings were just as much in question.

Mary Vaughan King and associates announced the formation of the Baltimore-based Counsel Services in March 1947. From a Baltimore newspaper:

A March 1949 letter to the Economic Cooperation Administration was authored by then-Director of Central Intelligence and future NICAP chairman of the board Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter. The ECA was a government office headquartered in Washington. Hillenkoetter and the CIA clearly had an ongoing relationship with the Administration, and expressed a desire to increase the amount and security clearance of intelligence obtained from the ECA:

A May 1949 clipping from The (Baltimore) Evening Sun indicates Counsel Services was working "under ECA auspices":

A 1950 article reported Counsel Services had "specialists" under contract with the ECA:


In 1956, immediately after acting as a NICAP incorporator, Mary Vaughan King of Counsel Services presented Townsend Brown a contract for approval (see pages 6-7). Among other items of interest, the contract stipulated additional consultants may be retained as needed to work under the supervision of Counsel Services officers, namely former State Department man Thomas D. O'Keefe and her:

Circumstances as documented above, combined with additional information presented in my new book, Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC, strongly suggests an intelligence community interest in the birth of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. The e-book version of the book is currently available for preorder and will drop on or about August 21. The paperback version is also now available. 

Sunday, August 1, 2021

Preorder E-Book 'Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC'

     Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC is now available for preorder in e-book format. Your Kindle purchase will download on or about Saturday, August 21. Cost is $9.99. A paperback version will be offered about the same point in time. Below please see the table of contents and introduction contained in the nonfiction book.

Please note the e-book may be most suitable for certain readers. The book frequently references a variety of linked sources, so the links are easier to navigate in e-book form. Another consideration is a number of images of documents are provided which may be most effectively viewed on an electronic device. Also, I did not create an index for the paperback since an e-book is searchable. While I created a paperback version because I understand some readers prefer a hardcopy book, I encourage taking the above circumstances into account and giving some thought to what will offer you the best reading experience when choosing a format. [UPDATE: I received a proof copy of the paperback and the images of documents transferred quite well. I would therefore say the most important issues in choosing your preferred format are if it is important to you to have live links and a searchable medium.]

Thank you for your interest. Should you choose to obtain the book, I sincerely hope you find it a worthy read.

To request a review copy, email subject line "Wayward Sons" to jackbrewerblog@yahoo.com and I will reply with a pdf version of the e-book.


    The significance of the NICAP story is subjective. Like many historical sagas, it depends on who you ask as to what it meant, and, in some cases, what even happened. Select events can be established from records and archives, and we will certainly examine them, but the fact remains people have differing ideas about what was most important and most interesting about the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena.

It is notable that the NICAP saga may be viewed in at least two contexts. One, which is my interest, is the organization's intersection with the intelligence community. A second, and more commonly viewed context, is NICAP UFO investigation. People interested in UFOs understandably want to know if the group learned anything important. The investigators of NICAP sure thought so, but dissecting the situation leads us to the paradox of the matter. The story of NICAP, and what is most significant about it, is not so easily discerned.

Did NICAP do some good work? Yes, it did. Were NICAP investigators credulous? Yes, that's true too, depending on specific circumstances considered. Was NICAP a CIA front? That might be accurate as well, short lived and/or intermittent as it may have been. Did NICAP rattle swords with the CIA and Air Force about a UFO cover-up? Yep, it certainly did. Was the CIA monitoring NICAP? It sure appears so, to more and less extents and depending on the particular circumstances. Did the CIA dismantle NICAP? Maybe so, or, at the least, it is true that CIA associates did basic managerial work for NICAP throughout its lifespan and stages of decline. Did NICAP run itself in the ground through financial mismanagement? Yes, to an extent it did indeed, which also means the CIA was not fully responsible for its demise, at least not necessarily. Much like the parable of the blind men and the elephant, many perspectives are correct to some extent, depending on how one comes at it.

Many feel NICAP was derailed by the Central Intelligence Agency. Perceived motives often include thwarting UFO investigation and destabilizing the group's effort to challenge the Condon Report, which was an Air Force-sponsored assessment that minimized the saucer situation. The presence of CIA associates in the saga is clear enough, but motives are much less so. We will consider the circumstances along with the perspectives of those familiar with the events.

I actually came to strongly suspect the CIA was substantially involved in the incorporation and initial operation of NICAP. We will explore this in detail on the coming pages.

Ironically, I am not convinced the situation significantly impaired or even particularly affected the way Maj. Donald Keyhoe would run the outfit for the next 13 years. During his tenure there was some overt CIA interest in NICAP activities, as well as some possible not so overt interest. The activities of CIA psychological warfare specialist and NICAP Board of Governors member Col. Joseph Bryan III will be explored, as will profiles of his intelligence colleagues from the Office of Policy Coordination. We will examine those situations along with some surrounding spectacles that found their ways into a NICAP orbit.

A focus of this book is NICAP's relation to the intelligence community, particularly the CIA and FBI. We will draw upon documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), newspaper clippings, and many more cited sources.

Much of the material referenced was obtained from records published on the websites of intelligence agencies or by submitting my own requests under the FOIA. As of this writing, several FOIA requests remain open. I will post the material at my blog, The UFO Trail, as it is received.

Another primary source for information covered in this book was NICAP files provided by researcher and archivist Barry Greenwood. I am tremendously grateful to him for supplying the material.

A 69 MB folder provided by Mr. Greenwood consists of 42 pdfs containing NICAP records. It may be accessed in whole on Google Drive or as individual files I will reference and link, as will be the case with many additional sources.

I apologize in advance for the errors which will inevitably inhabit this offering. I hope we find them few, far between, and of minimal consequence.

I am thankful to all who helpfully fielded my questions, provided material, and assisted me in reaching people of interest. I also thank all the researchers whose work and materials are cited. Select archives played key roles as well, and I am grateful to their administrators for their valuable assistance.

Thanks to those who maintain intelligence agency online reading rooms. I am grateful to the FBI, NARA, CIA, NSA, USAF, and the many FOIA officers at several agencies who filled my requests, informed me when no material was available, conducted correspondence, and continue to process records pertaining to this saga. Their work is important and appreciated.

I am grateful to the friends, loved ones, and acquaintances who supported this effort. Your messages, encouragement and phone calls are important to me. Thank you.

I am grateful to you for joining me on an exploration of events beginning some 70 years ago. Thanks for coming along. In doing so, we will hopefully catch a meaningful glimpse or three of what took place. I trust you will share the interest I developed, and find that circumstances from years gone by tend to shed light on more recent events.

Friday, July 23, 2021

CIA Conducts MDR on Bluebird Docs

     The CIA recently conducted a Mandatory Declassification Review (MDR) of a file containing Cold War era documents pertaining to Project Bluebird. The action resulted from a 2020 request for an MDR submitted by this writer. The Agency provided the updated file today by email. It may be compared to the previously released file originally obtained from the CIA online reading room. 

Research conducted on members of the Board of Governors of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, or NICAP, contributed to interest in requesting further declassification of select Bluebird records. Inaugural Director of Central Intelligence Roscoe Hillenkoetter initially approved the project which ultimately led to MKULTRA. Hillenkoetter, who directed the CIA from 1947-1950, went on to act as NICAP Chairman of the Board from 1957-1962. NICAP, an organization which investigated UFOs, was launched in 1956.  

NICAP Board staple Col. Joseph Bryan III was later identified as a CIA officer who directed a psychological and political warfare subdivision within the Office of Policy Coordination (OPC). The OPC operated on CIA funding in conjunction with directives expressed by the State Department from 1948-1952. At that point it was merged with the Office of Special Operations and the two became the Directorate of Plans, effectively forming the CIA Clandestine Services.  

The above referenced Project Bluebird records indicate representatives from the OPC were included on a short list of eyes only personnel providing support for the operation. While it has long been known Hillenkoetter approved the project, the MDR nonetheless offers a bit further insight into the circumstances, such as the DCI's signature shown in the image below on a 1950 memo, along with the indication of OPC involvement.

Page 19 of the updated file was newly released as a result of the MDR. The document is a 1950 memo discussing responsibilities related to the interrogation of Robert Vogeler, accused of espionage in Hungary on behalf of the United States. The now declassified memo appears to be part of a volley of communications pertaining to interrogating Vogeler with Bluebird methods should he be released from prison and accessible to the Agency. 

The CIA would go on to fund a study of Hungarian immigrants within Project MKULTRA. Subproject 69 sought to improve psychological warfare techniques hindered by the Iron Curtain. Hungarians fleeing to the U.S. from conflict were perceived as opportunities to better understand how techniques could be made more effective. MKULTRA was formally approved by DCI Allen Dulles in 1953.

Memos contained in the above referenced Bluebird file outline project objectives and methods, which included increasing the effectiveness of interrogation techniques. Specifically, one memo states, "The purpose of this project is to provide for the immediate establishment of interrogation teams for the operational support of OSO [Office of Special Operations] and OPC [Office of Policy Coordination] activities." This was to be accomplished through the use of such tools as speech inducing drugs, narcoanalysis and hypnotism. 

Offices with the appearance of medical facilities were to be set up in Washington, D.C. The OPC and Office of Special Operations were designated to provide support and undercover staff. 

It might be considered difficult to identify if such documents tell us more about the NICAP Board members or the obsession of the CIA with such lines of research. Either way, it seems reasonable to give deeper consideration to the full employment histories of people often projected to be UFO Disclosure heroes. The pro-UFO quotes of DCI Hillenkoetter are frequently promoted in certain social media circles. His support for unethical human research projects, not so much.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Office of Secretary of Defense: DIA Ran AATIP Until It Ended in 2012

    The AATIP was managed by the Defense Intelligence Agency from 2008 until it ended in 2012, a Government Information Specialist from the Office of the Secretary of Defense stated in an email received Wednesday. The statement comes on the heels of a FOIA final response indicating a search conducted by the DIA found no correspondence, such as emails or memos, exchanged between Luis Elizondo and the DIA pertaining to the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. The message also comes in the wake of a May 24 email in which Pentagon Spokesperson Sue Gough stated DIA managed AATIP and Elizondo was not assigned to DIA. 

Email received Wednesday, June 30, stemming from FOIA request
for OUSDI records pertaining to AATIP and AAWSAP 

Elizondo and his associates have repeatedly claimed he directed the AATIP, and have specifically stated his directorship began in 2010 from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, or OUSDI. Pentagon spokespersons have repeatedly stated Elizondo had no assigned responsibilities for AATIP while assigned to the OUSDI.

The Wednesday email came as the result of a FOIA request seeking documents on the AATIP and AAWSAP, or Advanced Aerospace Weapon Systems Applications Program. The request for records on the apparent Pentagon UFO projects was submitted to the Office of the Secretary of Defense/Joint Staff (OSD/JS) with the intention of initiating a search for potentially responsive files located in the OUSDI. 

A final response to the request was received June 24 attached to an email from Government Information Specialist Raymond Hartwick of the OSD/JS FOIA Requester Service Center. The response stated the request had been misdirected and should be sent to the DIA.

A reply to the email was sent, informing Mr. Hartwick of an understanding there are allegations the AATIP was transferred into the OUSDI from the DIA. He was therefore asked if the request was submitted to the proper office that would respond to FOIA requests for the OUSDI, and, if not, would he please advise as to where to submit the request to the OUSDI. 

Having not heard back from Mr. Hartwick by Tuesday morning, he was telephoned. A voice mail message was left, reiterating a desire to submit the request to the OUSDI. Wednesday afternoon he emailed, assuring the expressed questions had not been forgotten.

"I am still working with my components to provide you with accurate answers," he added in the email.  

Later Wednesday afternoon another email, pictured above, was received. The message did not address the FOIA submission process for the OUSDI and again advised to direct the request to the DIA. Mr. Hartwick further stated, "The AATIP was managed by DIA from 2008 until it ended in 2012."