The Original NSA Whistleblower Looks Back -Executive Summary

Executive Summary of

ADRIAN CHEN ‘s After 30 Years of Silence, the Original NSA Whistleblower Looks Back

By Julia Clark Organization

 1920, Herbert O. Yardley, a government codebreaker, moved in with a gang of math geniuses and began deciphering intercepted Japanese diplomatic telegrams. This was the Black Chamber, America’s first civilian code-breaking agency. 

Perry Fellwock – AKA Winslow Peck. NSA’s first whistleblower. going to the press to explain the spy agency’s immense scope and mission to a public that had barely been allowed to know such an organization existed. His revelations in the radical magazine Ramparts were picked up by the front page of the New York Times. He went on to be a key player in the turbulent anti-surveillance movement of the 1970s, partnering with Norman Mailer and becoming the target of CIA propaganda. But today he’s a semi-retired antiques dealer living in Long Island, as obscure as the Black Chamber once was.

1972 Ramparts article, “Electronic Espionage: A Memoir,” in which Fellwock had exposed the NSA.

He did not trust journalists. “If you go back to the Church Committee, you’ll find that many, many of your colleagues worked for the intelligence agencies,” he told me over the phone. He spoke deliberately, in a warm, authoritative-sounding Midwestern baritone, like a documentary narrator. “I believe that you’re honest, but who knows about the people in your office? Who knows about your boss, what kind of deals he’s doing?”

“They never thought anybody would ever be able to write about them,” said the journalist James Bamford, who has written three books on the NSA, including the first definitive account of the Agency, 1982’s Puzzle Palace. “At the time it was an agency that sort of existed apart from the rest of the government, almost.”

 in 1972, was a rogue analyst, some kid in his 20s, describing the NSA’s business down to the colors of the badges worn at its headquarters. Winslow Peck claimed that the NSA had broken all of the Soviets’ codes, that the government’s official account of the Vietnam War was a lie, and that the agency was guilty of salacious corruption:

Quite a few people in NSA are into illegal activities of one kind or another. It’s taken to be one of the fringe benefits of the job. You know, enhancing your pocketbook. Smuggling. People inside NSA got involved with the slave trade.

What had happened to Fellwock to make him turn to Ramparts, and what happened after? 

My attorneys have advised me not to speak more about this,” Fellwock said. “I spoke to them and we went over some things. The only thing I can say is that you really should look at what’s happening to the other whistleblowers.”

I told him I was aware the Obama Administration has zealously cracked down on whistleblowers and leakers. “But you haven’t done anything for years,” I said. “What could they do to you now?”

They can’t do anything to me for what I did back then, but I don’t want them to do anything to me for what I’ve done now. I’ve already spoken too much.” He paused, lowering his voice dramatically: “This is not a good time. This is not a good time for our country.”

During his training, Fellwock was approached by three men who, he later learned, worked for the National Security Agency. He took a battery of tests and was selected to join the NSA as an analyst. “Their main concern was our sex life,” he told Ramparts in 1972. “They wanted to know if we were homosexual.”

[ Summary note: Though it may seem odd all the focus on homosexuality. It really is not odd. Sexual behavior is the easiest to exploit. Where “they” missed the ball was, the focus should have been on ethical sexual behavior. ]

Fellwock’s faith in his mission was shaken within a year. In 1967, the Six-Day War between Israel and a number of neighboring Arab countries erupted. Israeli forces attacked an NSA spy ship, the U.S.S. Liberty, while it was on an eavesdropping mission off the coast of Egypt. Thirty-five crew members were killed, and 171 wounded.

Israel claimed that in the fog of war it had misidentified the ship as Egyptian. But James Bamford, in his book Body of Secrets, has made a strong case that the IDF knowingly attacked the spy ship in order to cover up their massacring of hundreds of Egyptian POWs in a nearby town. Whatever the case, the incident sparked outrage within the NSA, especially after Lyndon Johnson’s administration covered it up so as not to embarrass the U.S.’s strongest ally in the Middle East.

The guilt and stress made Fellwock realize he had to get out of Vietnam. He managed to wrangle an early end to his Vietnam tour and in mid-1969, 13 months after he’d arrived, he returned to the States, transferred to the Air Force reserves, and went back to college, hoping to put the war behind him.

He made it one semester. Then, on May 4th, 1970, National Guardsmen opened fire on unarmed student antiwar protestors at Kent State, killing four and wounding nine. Kent State made it impossible for Fellwock to fade back into a normal life.

That was one of the final straws because it was very clear that U.S. troops should not be killing students,” he said. He had left one theater of war and found another. Once again, he would throw himself into the front lines.

Now that Fellwock was coming forward again, even hesitantly, he wanted to do it right. He squinted at a small piece of paper on which he’d written the key points about the NSA he had wanted to get across with his Ramparts article.

“Most people in those days thought that the NSA and CIA worked for the U.S. government. But they don’t. They’re an entity unto itself.”

Most people in those days thought that the NSA and CIA worked for the U.S. government,” he said. “But they don’t. They’re an entity unto itself, a global entity that is comprised of the Five Eyes.” The Five Eyes is the informal name for the intelligence-sharing agreement between the United States, Great Britain, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand. “This community operates outside of the Constitution,” Fellwock said, “and from everything I’ve seen, it still does.”

interviews appeared in Ramparts verbatim. This is what he meant when he said it wasn’t “really an interview.”

“They published this rambling interview that said some things that were true and some other things that weren’t true,” he said. “They just turned it into a sensational piece of gossip as far as I was concerned.”

Fellwock told me he believes Collier and Horowitz were never truly part of the left, and that they misused his words purposefully to cause maximum chaos in a demented quest to hurt America.

 fall of 1972, Fellwock and Tim Butz, a former Air Force intelligence officer and fellow antiwar activist, founded a new group, under the rather clunky name of the Committee for Action/Research on the Intelligence Community, or CARIC. Their goal was strikingly similar to what Wikileaks would propose decades later: to watch the watchers by acting as a clearinghouse for information about surveillance and covert operations.

Where Julian Assange has advanced the idea of “scientific journalism,” based on dumping primary sources and documents to back up claims, CARIC developed what it referred to as the “New Intelligence,” which aimed to be a beneficent mirror held up to the dark arts of the CIA and the FBI.

The New Intelligence,” explained an issue of Counter-Spy, “is the product resulting from the scientific collection, evaluation, analysis, integration and interpretation of all information concerning experiments in technofascism and eventually the conditions which produce it.”

In practice, this meant exhaustively documenting and exposing covert action wherever it occurred. One of CARIC’s earliest coups was tipping off the Washington Post that Nixon’s Committee for the Reelection of the President had hired George Washington University students to spy on anti-war protests. Another early focus was the CIA’s Operation Phoenix, a secret assassination program in Vietnam.

Only a full and undisguised look into this hidden world can displace unwarranted fears, and guide the public effort to end this illegal and unjustified espionage,” read an early CARIC handout. “The secrecy with which the government surrounds itself must end.”

Norman Mailer. In February of 1973, the brawling novelist-journalist-activist held a lavish party at the Four Seasons, partly to celebrate his 50th birthday and partly to announce and raise funds for a new venture, something he called the Fifth Estate.

What Mailer told me is that the CIA is basically a white Christian Protestant organization,” Fellwock said. “And white Christian Protestants have to find a devil in order to justify what they do. Their Christian values say they should help the poor, like the Communists were. But they were not helping the poor. They were helping the very rich. And this created a conflict inside of the white Christian Protestant mind that could only be resolved by them seeking out a devil and making that devil into an exaggerated thing. Thus, they exaggerated the threat of communism just like they’re exaggerating the threat of Islam today.”

None of us who were in the movement back then enjoyed what was going on,” Fellwock said. “This wasn’t a good time for anybody. We were not thrill-seekers. There was no joy. There was, will we survive to the next day? Can we do something to stop these bastards?”

Whenever I brought the conversation to his personal life, I was met with uncomfortable silence. Was he married? “I don’t want to get into that,” Did he have kids? “I’d rather not talk about that.” He insisted I not mention the name of the antiques business he’s a partner in, so that his colleagues wouldn’t be “dragged into this.”

It’s just my life is in a different world now and I don’t want my life now disrupted,” Fellwock said. “I only have a few years left. I want to enjoy those years. I want my family to be safe and enjoy life”

It was intense,” said Fellwock. “Clearly it really upset the security agencies, what we were doing. They were all over us. I just generally accepted that the next person in the next booth would be some security person following me.”

In late 1975, Counter-Spy pushed the government farther than it ever had before, and the government pushed back. Frustrated by the lack of reform in the surveillance state, even after Nixon’s resignation in 1974, Counter-Spy decided in its Winter 1975 issue to take another step: the magazine would name names, blowing agents’ cover, with the explicit purpose of damaging the spy agency’s ability to work abroad.

A November 1974 Washington Monthly article by John Marks called “How to Spot a Spook” showed how it was done. All you needed to do was scour lists of foreign embassy staff, then crosscheck those names with the State Department’s Biographic Register for telltale signs of spook-dom, such as odd gaps in career histories or inexplicable job titles.

The most effective and important systematic efforts to combat CIA that can be undertaken right now are, I think, the identification, exposure, and neutralization of its people working abroad.”

On December 23, 1975 listed as the CIA station chief in Lima, Peru. It turned out to be the wrong station, but that inaccuracy wouldn’t change how events were about to unfold. Welch’s real post was Athens, and, the Times reporter said, he had just been murdered there.

The CIA saw the Welch murder as a way to swing the pendulum of popular opinion back to its side. Morton Halperin, then a researcher with the Center for National Security Studies, wrote three years after the assassination:

The Welch Assassination case is the only one that I am aware of where there is evidence of manipulation of the American press for the purpose of influencing events in the United States. CIA successfully exploited the murder of one of its station chiefs to set back efforts to bring the CIA under constitutional control.

We had the president of the United States lying about us,” Fellwock said. Counter-Spy received death threats from right-wing Cuban immigrants and former intelligence officers. Tim Butz started carrying a gun.

The days after the Welch thing blew up in the press were intense,” Doug Porter, a longtime Counter-Spy staffer, wrote in an email. “We operated under the assumption that every phone conversation was being bugged and there were several instances where we saw unmarked cars observing our activities—even stuff like shopping for groceries was cause for paranoia.”

Even before the Welch affair, Counter-Spy’s funding had been drying up as the left broke up into squabbling factions in the post-Nixon years. The Welch murder “gave the liberals all the excuses they needed to peel away from the movement,” Fellwock said. “That was the final nail in the coffin for us.”

A few months after Welch was buried in Arlington Cemetery in a state funeral, Counter-Spy dissolved.

The Post hinted at drama behind the scenes, writing that the split came amidst accusations that members were “police agents, anticommunists, sexists and liberals.” One of the Counter-Spy associates accused of being a police plant was Doug Porter.  Today, Porter runs the San Diego Free Press, a local progressive news website. He lost his vocal cords to cancer, so he couldn’t talk on the phone. But the bitterness over how things ended at Counter-Spy bled out of his words in an email.

I’ve moved on, had a whole lot of interesting experiences and yet the one thing I cannot bring myself to do is to forgive Peck/Fellwock,” he wrote.

 I’ve spent thousands upon thousands for therapy since that time. Getting shunned is no small thing. And I’m in a pretty good place these days. But I’ll never get over Winslow. Fucker.”

Fellwock looked concerned when I told him about Porter’s anger. “I’m sorry to hear that,” he said. Fellwock said that Porter had been kicked out over concerns from a group of Counter-Spy associates in Chicago, who’d become convinced that he was some sort of agent provocateur 

All I have to say about all my colleagues back then,” he said, “no matter what disputes I had with them personal or ideological, is that to my dying day I’ll think they were the bravest people I’ve ever met.” Now Fellwock was crying.

The most concrete legacy of Counter-Spy might be the Intelligence Identities Protection Act. Passed in 1982 as a direct response to the Welch assassination, the Act makes it a crime to disclose the identities of covert agents abroad with the intent to harm U.S. intelligence activities. 

But Fellwock’s story also reflects a shift in today’s anti-surveillance crusaders.  but encoded in the fury has been a sense that the real extent of dissent to the surveillance state consists of simply spreading the news of Snowden’s disclosures. eager online activists from a swarm of nations, what did any of them actually do for Snowden? Nothing.”

Snowden’s biggest ally through his saga has been Wikileaks. 

For a few years after Counter-Spy disbanded, Fellwock agonized over whether he should continue his activism. “Some days I would be political, other days I wouldn’t,” he said.  I was conflicted. But by 1980 I realized there was nothing more I could do politically and all—I should just forget the whole thing. So I came to New York and I started working for the banks.”


Comments of note:

 Now more and more we learn that the threat was pretty much an advert campaign for arms manufacturers and defense contractors, including the intelligence community, to keep the funds rolling in

So essentially if everyone had enough money to be content enough to care about more than themselves from paycheck to paycheck maybe we can see that next stage start to take place.


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