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