A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 4

11 06 2012

By Trowbridge H. Ford

Whenever a new administration takes over in Washington, especially that of the other party, there is a vast change in the Executive Branch because of policy needs, the demands of favor, and the needs of individuals.The new President will need a group of like-minded specialists to satisfy the demands of current administration and future policy changes, the needs and expectations of party enthusiasts and special interests who have invested so much of their time and resources in his election, and those who burned themselves out at various posts while trying to keep his predecessor in office.  The shakeup in the White House is so chaotic that it is almost impossible to satisfy basic security concerns while the transformation is taking place.
 
Given this situation, the replacements of administrative personnel are usually seen as normal and most predictable.  Consequently, when Dr. Alexander H. Flax resigned as director of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in March 1969, it was hardly even mentioned, much less raising any eyebrows.  Flax had been director for 3 ½ years demanding years – ones in which the NRO finally completed the objective of the Apollo program of sending men to the moon, and safely returning them to earth just before Christmas 1968 – just when the new Nixon administration has organizing itself to take power the next month. The public would hardly have been surprised if Flax took advantage of the Pentagon’s revolving door relationship with its industrial complex, and opted for a cushy position in the private sector.  
 
From the very outset when Richard Nixon was elected President in November 1968, though, his administration was ideally suited to take advantage of all the capabilities of the NRO. ‘Tricky Dick’ seemed just the man to want the services of an agency officially unknown, and whose abilities were only really known by a most small circle. It was not until five years later – in the middle of the Watergate scandal – that the media finally discovered its very existence, and it took another generation before officialdom – when it wanted to clean up its image – formally acknowledged its existence. The Nixon administration appeared to offer opportunities that Flax could hardly afford to turn down despite its stated intentions of ending America’s war in Vietnam.
 
And Flax did not offer his resignation, only to learn almost immediately that it was dejá vue all over again. Instead of using the NRO to help achieve peace – what the voters expected from Nixon since the Democratic candidate, Hubert Humphrey, had promised to continue LBJ’s campaign there to a successful conclusion – the Republican administration, thanks to input by the new National Security Advisor, Henry Kissinger, and his military assistant, Colonel Alexander Haig, opted to snatch victory from defeat by launching a massive aerial bombardment of the whole area to destroy the ability of the North Vietnamese and their alleged surrogates, the Viet-Cong, to continue fighting.
 
Of course, they have maintained most false claims about what was afoot, once the gambit ended in total failure.  Kissinger wrote in 1979: “The Nixon Administration entered office determined to end our involvement in Vietnam.” (Quoted from Robert J. McMahon, ed., Major Problems in the History of the Vietnam War, p. 425.)  According to Kissinger, the reason why it didn’t do so successfully was because the American public and Washington’s commitments further afield did not permit the time and effort that General de Gaulle had been allowed to withdraw from Algeria. Haig, in Inner Circles, played dumb about the whole matter, acting as if he were merely a White House errand boy who prepared the President’s daily intelligence briefing, merely alluding to a paper he prepared for the President which Kissinger was enthusiastic about, and Nixon “…ordered us to put it into effect.” (p. 196)
 
Nixon’s first chief of staff, in his amended, published The Haldeman Diaries, described a most secret meeting held in Brussels during Nixon’s first visit to Europe on February 24, 1969:  “At the meeting K, his deputy, Al Haig, and a Pentagon planning officer worked out guidelines for a proposed plan for bombing North Vietnamese sanctuaries in Cambodia.  P had decided on the plane to Belgium to order the bombing as a response to the North Vietnamese countrywide offensive that they launched the day before we left.” (p. 33)  The plan included the items that Haig and Lt. Col. Dewitt Smith had recommended to Army Chief of Staff General Harold K. Johnson five years earlier, but had been rejected at the time because they were too risky. (See Haig, pp. 137-9.)
 
While implementing the plan was postponed for three weeks in order to override State Department opposition, Operation Breakfast – the codename apparently befitting Haig’s morning intelligence duties – was kicked off on March 16th, a Sunday, after a dutiful church service.  Two days later, Haldeman reported, “K’s ‘Operation Breakfast’ a great success.  He came beaming in with a report, very productive.  A lot more secondaries than had been expected.  Confirmed early intelligence.  Probably no reaction for a few days, if ever.” (p. 41)  The next phase of the secret war, Operation Lunch, the military incursion into Cambodia, followed in due course, but one would never know from reading Haig’s account.
 
Of course, Haldeman was referring to a North Vietnamese reaction, but there had already been a response.  Flax tendered his resignation just then, knowing that the Nixon administration had the tiger again by the tail, and he wanted no longer to be a part of it.  Haldeman, along with other administration leaders, also did not anticipate the increasingly hostile press coverage of the accelerating operation, thanks to leaks to the media about it.  Soon the Washington Post and New York Times reporters, especially William Beecher, were barred from the White House, and Haig, who was now regularly consulting with Nixon in the Old Executive Office Building where they both had offices, was busily involved in determining their source.
 
To implement the secret Kissinger-Haig plan, the White House created a “backchannel” with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, thereby circumventing not only SOD Melvin Laird, Secretary of State William Rogers, and the Cabinet but also NSA and the CIA.  “Using special codes, teletypes, and secure terminals located at the Pentagon and in the White House Situation Room,”  Len Colodny and Robert Gettlin wrote in Silent Coup: The Removal of a President, “the president and his national security adviser could send and receive messages to selected American officials and members of foreign governments around the world without alerting the rest of the United States government.” (p. 8)
 
Of course, the secret war needed the NRO to collect the aerial intelligence, and to provide the necessary communications for the successful completion of what the agenda called for – disrupting the transmission of men and materiel along the Ho Chi Minh Trail, the ousting of the North Vietnamese from their Cambodian sanctuary, pursuing those who fled into Laos, the mining of Haiphong Harbor, etc. – and a second set of false reports about results in order to keep others in the dark about what was going on.  Haig, in characteristic style, explained the campaign as the result of the North Koreans shooting down a US Navy EC-121 reconnaissance plane on April 14th (p. 204ff.), a month after the bombing of Cambodia had started.   
 
For all intents and purposes, Rear Admiral Rembrandt C. Robinson – the top assistant to Admiral Thomas H. Moorer – the CNO who would soon become the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs – was the NRO’s deputy director under the new arrangements.  While Robinson was said to be running, later along with Yeoman Chuck Radford, a liaison office, connecting the JCS with the NSC – he was actually seeing to the implementation of what had been agreed to by Kissinger and Haig regarding the secret war.  Robinson may well have been the Pentagon planner present at Brussels at its inception.  The Admiral was a go-for-broke type who would stop at nothing to win the war in Vietnam      
 
As Admiral Robert O.Welander – Robinson’s replacement to the White House when the operation had to be closed down – explained to John D. Ehrlichman, the President’s Assistant on Domestic Affairs, and David R. Young, an aide to Kissinger, on December 23, 1971, his joint-position had existed for about ten years, and he took over from Admiral Robert Ginsburg who had held the position in the LBJ administration:  “I’m a two-way avenue of communications. I try and explain things to the (NSC) staff.  I mean some of the formal military positions, things of that sort.  I’m an in-house military expert; if they need some things done quickly.  I can go ahead and punch into the organization over there much more quickly and hopefully effectively, than if we go down through the formal mechanism.”
 (Quoted from Colodny and Gettlin, p. 447.) 
  
While Robinson was responding to NSC commands with NRO missions, Haig was increasingly trying to determine the source of the growing number of leaks, especially because his former boss, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, had commissioned a study of why policy-making had gone so badly in Vietnam – a work Haig had been asked to join but had declined, unlike many former colleagues in the process, especially Daniel Ellsberg.  When the FBI finally declined to investigate more suspected leakers after having bugged 17 persons, most of them members of the NSC, over an 18-month period without any positive results, Haig saw to the hiring of The Plumbers aka Special Investigations Unit, and their installation in the Executive Office Building to continue the work
 
The Plumbers’ background has never been adequately examined, and the reason seems to be Harvey’s leadership of it. It was the descendant of his old ZR/RIFLE group in the Agency’s Division D which had expanded its “black bag” experts to plant bugs and photograph documents in foreign embassies into official assassination efforts (James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 479) – the authority that Harvey, now aka Harvey Lowmeyer, had used is getting rid of MLK and RFK.  Fred Emery, in Watergate, made no attempt to explain the group’s origin, just the decision by the Nixon White House to hire it to do its “black bag” operation. (p. 53ff.)  The CIA’s approval of the switch seems to have been made by DCI Richard Helms who was trying to separate Nixon’s covert operations from the Agency’s one, and slimming down its ranks to get rid of its most dangerous operators, especially Harvey, E. Howard Hunt, G, Gordon Liddy, and James McCord.
 
The troubles with the Kissinger-Haig-NRO secret war were manifold.  The North Vietnamese and the Viet-Cong were unwilling to negotiate anything more than the cessation of hostilities, and the withdrawal of American forces, as their unwillingness to let the Soviets negotiate some kind of lesser settlement indicated. Washington only added to these problems by opening the door to Red China, and talking to Moscow about a treaty to limit nuclear weapons, thinking falsely that these efforts would undermine their assistance of the Vietnamese.  And American losses continued to mount, as the media indicated – the NYT even publishing the photographs of service men killed since the Nixon administration had taken office.  Then NSA Kissinger was growing increasingly pessimistic about what the secret war was achieving.
 
These developments, especially the negotiations with the communist powers, drove the JCS to start using the “backchannel” to spy on what Kissinger and Haig were up to, especially as the secret war wound down. Admiral Welander and Yeoman Radford instead of being conduits to the NRO became spies for Admiral Moorer, chairman of the JCS.  “Military officers sensed that they were merely being used as instruments,” Colodny and Gettlin wrote, “to further Nixon’s own ends; their belief that this was the case was furthered by the events of ensuing months, during which they saw themselves being ignored, cut out, and circumvented on all the important issues – the conduct of the war, troop withdrawals, the peace negotiation, and SALT (Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty), just to name the most important ones.” (p. 10)
 
This spying – which started for real in October 1970 –  was discussed by Nixon, Attorney General John Mitchell, Haldeman and Ehrlichman at a meeting at the White House on December 21, 1971 where they interviewed Welander’s assistant, as James Rosen recounted in “Nixon and the Chiefs,” on KeepMedia on April 1, 2002:  ” ‘Under the implied approval of his supervisor,’ Ehrlichman said at another point in the conversation, Radford ‘has systematically stolen documents out of Henry’s briefcase, Haig’s briefcase, people’s desks – anyplace and every place in the NSC apparatus, that he could get his hands on – and then duplicated them and turned them over to the Joint Chiefs, through his boss’.”  While the President was interested in seeking a prosecution of those thought responsible, especially Haig, the Attorney General talked him out of doing so for fear of disastrous blowback.
 
Instead, the liaison office was immediately closed, and the files Welander had were handed over to Haig who understandably handed those relating to the spying to Ehrlichman while keeping the rest himself. Welander was transferred to a sea command as far away from Washington as could be found, and Radford was reassigned to Oregon’s Naval Reserve Training Center.  Admiral Robinson, while revealing nothing about his being a NRO conduit during the secret war when he was interviewed, was conveniently killed in a helicopter crash in the Tonkin Gulf in May 1972, leaving Haig in the confident position of denying in an uncharacteristic footnote Silent Coup‘s claims only about him:  “…I do so now by stating categorically that any suggestion that this officer committed any act of disloyalty whatsoever to the United States or his Commander-in-Chief while serving in the White House is totally false.” (p. 245)
 
Officially, during this time, the NRO was busily occupied positioning its new generation of satellites, Rhyolites, constructed in TRW’s M-4 facility in Redondo Beach, California, and making arrangements around the globe for the secure retrieval of their take.  The satellites – the size of a minibus, and equipped with a solar-powered, dish-shaped antenna aimed towards the earth – were designed to pick up microwave and satellite communications on a continual basis - what the Soviets were increasingly relying upon in communicating across their vast country – and down-loading what they recorded without any encryption to avoid any additional weight in securing their positioning in space. In order for the satellites to work continuously, they had to be placed in geosynchronous orbit – 22,380 miles above the equator, and at a longitude where a secure place existed below.
 
Flax’s replacement, Dr. John L. McLucas, was the ideal director for the job, as he had spent his previous, relevant career in the private sector, and, cconsequently, knew nothing about the NRO’s ongoing operations, especially its secret war in Southeast Asia.  McLucas, the former CEO and President of MITRE Corp., had been involved in developing communication systems for national air security, and McLucas, in becoming Air Force undersecretary too, just thought
his function was to smooth relations between the public and private providers of satellites, as he explained to researchers for the Defense Acquisition History Project shortly before he died:  “So I saw it as mainly dealing with hardware and with the people who were necessary to procure and upgrade the hardware.”
 
McLucas left the positioning of the new satellites to subordinates, and their real challenge was to find a place where they could conveniently and securely download their take in the far Pacific. Australia offered the best sites possible, and as long as it was governed by politicians friendly to America’s venture in Vietnam, it was no problem. The site selected was at Pine Gap, near Ayers Rock, smack-dab in the middle of the continent.  “Like a vacuum cleaner,” Helen Caldicott wrote in Missile Envy, “they suck up a wide spectrum of Soviet and Chinese military communications and radar emissions and beam them back to Pine Gap.” (p. 127)  Pine Gap also received photographs and electronic transmissions from the latest satellites in the KH series, KH-8, and 9 (BIG BIRD).
 
For the purposes of this article, though, the most relevant program at Pine Gap was the CIA’s Pyramider project, about which Dr. Caldicott wrote:  “It communicated with foreign agents using sensing mechanisms placed in strategic locations around the world, and backup communications for overseas systems.  The Pyramider program was supposed to ensure ‘maximum undetectability’.” (ibid. Pyramider was part of the program that DCI Helms was using to ferret out alleged spies among the anti-war ranks worldwide, and to pave the way for the secret operations by rogue agent William King Harvey et al. Of course, no system ensures undetectability, especially if someone in it decides to talk. What, for example, would have been the protection against Dr. Flax himself telling tales – and well he might, given his unexpected, abrupt resignation – and who really were the leakers that Colonel Haig was now so worried about?
 
To complement what was going on at Pine Gap, DCI Helms created the National Underwater Reconnaissance Office (NURO).  The joint CIA-Navy project was organized much like the NRO, with the Navy taking the place of the Air Force, and its management being directed in the Agency’s direction.  The impetus behind the NURO’s creation was the Navy’s attack sub Halibut finding a stricken Soviet Golf attack submarine on the Pacific Ocean floor – loaded with nuclear weapons, “crypto-codes”, and its communication systems – and the CIA was going all-out to build a vessel to retrieve it. 
 
In 1970, the Halibut was given the assignment to tap the Soviet cable in the Sea of Okhotsk to its port on the Kamchatka Peninsula, Petropavlovsk.  To facilitate such operations, the Navy built three stations to transmit very-low-frequency (VLF) messages to the probing subs: the biggest one on the Northwest Cape of Western Australia, a second one at Jim Creek, Washington, and a third at Cutler, Maine. 
 
To insure the security of the new NURO’s operations, its CIA-led leadership carried out Operation Kittyhawk – a disinformation one to persuade Moscow falsely that it had SIGINT operations by the Americans under control.  In June 1966, KGB agent Igor Kochnov made himself available to the Agency as a continuing agent in place by offering his services to CI chief James Angleton over the phone.  To help settle disputes, and coordinate operations between the Bureau and the Agency, he was recruited, and allowed to handle a Soviet defector, former Red Banner fleet officer Nicholas Shadrin aka Nikolai Artamonov codenamed LARK, who was working for the Office of Naval Intelligence. 
 
While Shadrin helped settle their disputes over another defector, Yuri Nosenko, Mark Riebling wrote in Wedge, “Shadrin also began to pass doctored naval secrets to the Soviets.” (p. 232)  The kind of doctored information he was supplying was the difficulty the Halibut was having in finding the cable in the Sea of Okhotsk, the worries the Americans had about her being discovered in Soviet waters, the infrared guidance system that Soviet cruise missiles had which were so threatening to American carriers, etc.   (For just how hopeless The Sword and The Shield:  The Mitrokhin Archive and the Secret History of the KGB is as a source, note that Mitrokhim has no information about Kochnov, and Shadrin ‘s contribution is limited to his false claim that he could discover Nosenko’s whereabouts! (p. 387)
 
As with the NRO’s secrets about SIGINT operations during the Vietnam war, NURO’s secret operations against Soviet SIGINT were betrayed in late 1967 by Chief Warrant Officer John Walker, a communications watch officer on the staff of the commander of the Atlantic Fleet’s submarines who walked into the Soviet Embassy in Washington to offer his services shortly after fellow spy Robert Lipka had left NSA.  “He had access to reports on submarine operations, technical manuals, and daily key lists,” Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew wrote in Blind Man’s Bluff, “that were used to unscramble all the messages sent through  the military’s most widely used coding machines.” (p. 351)  As expected, the Mitrokin Archive has nothing to say about what the eighteen years of spying by him, his recruit Jerry Whitworth, and three members of his family contributed to Soviet security.
 
The success of the Walker spy ring was well demonstrated when the Halibut finally went on its first NURO mission to tap the cable in the Sea of Okhotsk in October 1971 just when the SALT talks with Moscow were entering their most difficult stages. The Soviets knew that the submarine would be looking for a sign along the coast somewhere, warning mariners not to anchor because a cable lay underneath – what  Captain James Bradley, the Navy’s top underwater spy, was convinced existed because of his experience on ships as a youth on the Mississippi. 
 
After more than a week’s search, lo and behold, the Halibut discovered a sign, stating in Russian:  “Do Not Anchor. Cable Here.”  In placing the tap on the cable – what enabled Washington periodically to read the routine communications between Moscow and its submarines in the Pacific – submariners discovered a mass of destroyed cruise missiles, small pieces of which they carefully recovered in the hope of coming up with a complete homing device of the cruise missiles.  While the Navy’s Department of Energy lab reconstructed a missile, its engineers were never able to put together the homing device.  In sum, despite the NURO’s massive efforts, it really never came up with anything important because of the spying by the Walkers.  
  
When Nixon was nearing the end of his life, former DCI Helms told Cambridge history Christopher Andrew in an interview in April 1992 his side of the story in dealing with the former President’s White House.  (See his For the President’s Eyes Only, p. 350ff., and notes.)  Of course, Helms wanted readers to believe that Nixon was the guiding hand behind Operation Chaos, claiming that the only way the Agency could prove to the President that domestic dissent was not inspired by foreign communist powers was by investigating all anti-war persons, and all contacts they had had with any foreign person.  In putting all the onus of the program on the President, though, Helms never expressed any real opposition to it nor threatened to resign because it was completely swamping his agency.
 
Then Helms was worried about the legacy Harvey had left in immobilizing other agencies while he had carried out the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Robert F. Kennedy.  Agents of the Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD) had repeatedly had their drug-trafficking investigations, particularly those of James Earl Ray and his courier Charlie Stein, stopped because of NRO wiretapping which showed that CIA agents were involved.  These concerns became a crisis when Nixon ordered on June 5, 1970 Vice Admiral Noel Gayler, NSA’s director, “…to program for coverage the communications of U. S. citizens using international facilities.”  (“James Bamford Statement on NSA Surveillance,” February 3, 2006, cryptome.org)  Same as now, NSA needed neither a warrant nor probably cause for the wire-tapping in Operation Minaret.
 
This presidential directive set off alarm bells at CIA, and it moved immediately to limit any damage from new wire-tapping, especially those of sources working with the BNDD. Of course, the Agency and Bureau both had been supportive of the program when it was started back in 1967 – only to be closed down a month later when the FBI was unable to find any connection between the Vietnam Veterans against the War and the Communist Party – only to be resumed in 1968 after MLK and RFK had conveniently departed the political scene.  The CIA was worried about investigators learning about the hiatus and wondering why, especially since February 1970 when Director Hoover broke off all contact with Langley – what would show that the Agency was using the BNDD as a cover for Harvey activities, and a firewall against dangerous blowback.
 
Two weeks after Nixon had ordered warrantless eavesdropping on foreign communications of Americans by NSA, BNDD agents carried out the biggest drug-bust in history – Operation Eagle during which 150 suspects were rounded up from cities around the country.  “As many as 70 percent of those arrested had once belonged to the Bay of Pigs invasion force,” Peter Dale Scott and Jonathan Marshall wrote in Cocaine Politics, “unleashed by the CIA against Cuba in April 1961.” (p. 26)  The others were connected to the Mafia, especially the crime families of Santos Trafficante, Carlos Marcello, and Sam ‘Momo’ Giancana.  Of course, their arrests, prosecutions and imprisonment not only took them out of circulation but also rendered their terrorist activities for the Agency a dead letter.  
 
Of particular concern to Langley was the activities of the Florida-based financial conglomerate, the World Finance Corporation (WFC).  Headed by Guillermo Hernández Cartaya, a member of the Operation 40 group which planned to take over Cuba in the wake of Castro’s demise, the WFC was riddled with CIA agents, noticeably Juan Restoy, Ricardo Morales, and Mario Escandar, and Agency fronts.  The arrests and indictments were an effective diversion from what were their primary responsibilities – murders, decoy operations, terrorist bombings and underworld enforcement – and after the crisis had passed, they largely escaped prison on legal technicalities. Of course, the CIA leader of all these anti-Castro Cubans was E. Howard Hunt, the eccentric writer who was now an employee of the Mullen Company, and back then thought that domestic dissent in Cuba, triggered into action by a small invasion force, could easily lead to his ouster. 
 
The arrest of some Agency assets and the transfer of others had been just in time as the disarray of Washington’s intelligence services had reached a new low in cooperation.  At the same time that Nixon ordered the warrantless eavesdropping by the NSA, it seemed that the FBI, CIA, NSA, and DIA had agreed to a new level of cooperation in meeting the unprecedented domestic unrest by agreeing to the Huston Plan – what the President’s liaison with the agencies Tom Charles Huston had proposed – but Director Hoover refused to go along with the program which would leave him responsible for any illegal activities, and broke off not only all liaison with them but also with the Secret Service, the IRS, and the individual armed services intelligence services.  “By cutting off liaison,” Curt Gentry wrote in J. Edgar Hoover: The Man and the Secrets, “Hoover hoped to distance the FBI, and his own reputation, from the inevitable holocaust.” (p. 655)
 
Hardly a week later, the fat was in the fire when the New York Times announced that the Pentagon study of the conduct of the Vietnam war had been leaked to the press. While Nixon first thought that it would be a boon to his re-election since it showed the double-dealing of JFK and LBJ, he soon changed his mind when State Department memoranda showed the deep involvement of Henry Cabot Lodge and the Agency’s Lt. Col. Lucien Conein in Diem’s overthrow.  Then the effort to get leaker Daniel Ellsberg by criminal due process was completely frustrated by the FBI taps that had been ordered to discover the leaker of the Nixon-Kissinger-Haig secret war –  the DOJ could not use them without showing that they had earlier been trying to get his friends, especially Morton Halperin.
 
Charles Colson, Nixon’s special counsel, was ultimately obliged to have the Plumbers break into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist, Dr. Lewis Fielding who had refused to tell the Bureau the findings of his examination of his patient, hoping to find the information themselves – setting off a process which dragged into White House operations just those people the Agency was trying to distance itself from.  Hunt.- thought to have been the “mastermind” of the Bay of Pigs Operation – turned out to be the leader of Cartaya’s group, the people who had just been arrested by the BNDD.  More important, Hunt promised to provide “the right resources”, as Fred Emery explained in Watergate, to turn Ellsberg’s betrayal into a political triumph.  Then Hunt was consulting with Conein, another operative involved, along with Ted Shackley, and was working for Harvey on how to make it look as if JFK had been more involved in Diem’s overthrow that thought.
 
From the NRO’s point of view, the most damaging aspect of the Plumbers’ work was Hunt’s forging cables to prove the Kennedys had personally conspired in the assassination of South Vietnam’s President Diem – what President Nixon not only demanded, but deliberately referred to in his September 16th news conference, taking the initiative way from opponents using the release of The Pentagon Papers against the administration
 
Thanks to input from Conein, and help from Plumber secretary Kathleen Chenow, Hunt was able to put together forged cables – the Gemstone Papers – which falsely claimed that the US Embassy had asked for instructions about possible asylum for Diem and his brother, Ngo Dinh Nhu, if they were overthrown.  More important, as Fred Emery wrote in Watergate, a forged cable back to Ambassador Henry Cabot Lodge in Saigon declared:  “At highest level meeting today decision reluctantly made that neither you nor General Harkins should intervene in behalf of Diem or Nhu in event they seek asylum.” (Quoted from p. 72.)
 
While Hunt was unable to publish an article, based upon his forgeries, in the last issue of Life magazine, Conein took advantage of them when he appeared in December on the NBC-TV program “White Paper: Vietnam HIndsight” – what led NYT reporter Neil Sheehan, who had leaked The Pentagon Papers, to connect Daniel Ellsberg to the break-in, and to conclude that Conein’s statements left no doubt about the extent of the Kennedy administration’s involvement in the assassination of the South Vietnamese leaders.  And there was no denial from any former JFK officials or former Ambassador Lodge about having either said or seen any of the material claimed, and neither the NSA nor the NRO have raised any questions or complaints since about their alleged existence.
 
Little wonder that when the Agency learned early in 1972 that disgruntled agent Victor Marchetti, a former assistant to the DDCI who regularly attended planning and intelligence meetings attended by DCI Helms, was writing an article and a book about the Agency’s corruption, independence and incompetence in conducting foreign operations, its leadership pushed the panic button to stop them.  After having stolen the material from the office of a New York publisher, and placed Marchetti under surveillance, the Agency went successfully to court to get an injunction against the book’s publication, claiming that he was bound to secrecy, and obliging him to permit prepublication censorship before it appeared. 
 
After a series of court hearings about what had to be removed, and two years later, the book, The CIA and the Cult of Intelligence, finally appeared, with only the Agency’s claim to secrecy for 27 items regarding SIGINT satellite intelligence, as Angus Mackenzie concluded in Secrets: The CIA’s War at Home, standing up in court.  The NRO’s work was still the Republic’s deepest secrets.          
 
 

 
 




A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 1

26 11 2011

by Trowbridge H. Ford

 

One of the least known agencies in the Cold War against the Soviet Union – and what little is known is often wrong – is the National Reconnaissane Office (NRO). Conceived to learn more about the internal workings of the USSR after the simplistic assumptions about ending the confrontation proved hopelessly wrong – e. g., the Soviets could easily be rolled back, spies could readíly unlock what real secrets it possessed or defectors could supply what the West really needed to know about it – the NRO showed that Moscow was much weaker than human intelligence (HUMINT) claimed.

In achieving this result, though, it became so powerful that it functioned almost without any public supervision – almost a state within a state. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the NRO became the instrument of Republican and Democratic Presidents alike to win the war on Washington’s next opponents, whoever they might be, without almost any congressional or democratic control. The NRO became Washington’s preferred secret weapon in the “war on terrorism” because its capabilities were hardly known, hard to stop the continual development of, and much less capable of being defended against.

In WWII’s aftermath, the reorganization and expansion of America’s intelligence agencies was a most confusing process because of uncertainty about its future, how to proceed under the circumstances, and bureaucratic opposition, especially by J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI, to any significant changes. Given the desire by the weakened Republican opposition for a return to America’s splendid isolation, the Democratic followers of FDR had a difficult time in gaining support for a continuing international role, particularly when many of them were increasingly suspected of being communist tools.

The root of the problem rested with Earl Browder, leader of America’s communists who believed he had influence with the President, allying them with the Democratic Party, arousing beliefs among liberals that he had the support of the fallen President, and suspicions of betrayal among anti-communists – what was only compounded by Stalin seeing to Browder’s ouster from the leadership in 1945, and later expelled. Louis Budenz, a former leader of the Communist Party of the USA turned FBI mole, soured the situation even further by claiming that Browder’s successor, Eugene Dennis, “…had directed a ring of Communist agents in the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) that included Carl Marzani.” (John Earl Haynes & Harvey Klehr, Venona: Decoding Soviet Espionage in America, p. 218)

The leader of the OSS had been Colonel ‘Wild Bill’ Donovan, and he was involved in trying to revive the spy agency after its post-war shutdown was being reconsidered, as the amalgamation of the code-breaking services of the Army, Navy and the new Air Force took center stage. Thanks to Hoover’s continuing opposition to any encroachments on his turf, especially because of his intense dislike of Harry Truman and his entourage, though, only the Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA), and a weak Central Intelligence Group( CIG) – headed by a Director, and assisting a National Intelligence Authority – were allowed to be created. The beginning of the Cold War in earnest led to the expansion of the CIG into the Central Intelligence Agency, and the signal intelligence (SIGINT) problems surrounding the Korean War resulted in the creation of the National Security Agency (NSA) out of the AFSA.

The NSA’s creation caused the greatest intelligence turmoil with the CIA, the fleeing of Soviet spies Donald Maclean and Guy Burgess to the Soviet Union providing the catalyst. Their flight proved that American intelligence had been riddled with leaks, and NSA’s decoding capacity provided a sure way of proving so at the expense of other intelligence agencies, especially the CIA and its forebearers. NSA’s challenge to the CIA was also most threatening since almost no one knew of NSA, aka ‘No Such Agency’, since it was established by secret presidential order rather than an act of Congress, like the CIA. (For more on this, see Christopher Andrew, For the President’s Eyes Only, p. 168ff.)

While NSA was busy at Arlington Hall and later at Fort Meade working on Moscow’s coded messages during part of WWII with those people who had had contact with Soviet intelligence (Venona Project) – what threw far more panic throughout American society than the claims of Senator Joseph McCarthy about communist conspiracies – the CIA really got involved in overthrowing governments Washington did not like, and assassinating troublesome foreign leaders. While most people are aware of the successful coups that the Agency engineered against Iran’s Mohammed Mossadegh, and Guatemala’s Jacobo Arbenz, few are acquainted with its elimination of Korean opposition leader Kim Koo, North Korea’s Premier Kim II Sung, Mossadegh himself, Philippino opposition leader Claro Recto, Indian Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, and Egypt’s President Gamul Abdul Nasser, plus unsuccessful attempts on several other world leaders. (For more on this, see William Blum, Rogue State, p. 38ff.)

CIA also prevented NSA’s SIGINT capability from making inroads into its intelligence operations by persuading its leading codebreaker, Frank B. Rowlett – when the new agency wanted to make him head of its code-making business, COMSEC – to come over, and run its operations,”… stealing foreign cipher materials and recruiting foreign crypto clerks and communications employees.” (James Bamford, Body of Secrets, p. 447) DCI Allen Dulles hoped that Rowett aka The Magician could do some more magic on the Soviet codes.

Rowlett had been the leading genius of the William F. Friedman’s Black Chamber which the Army had reconstituted from WWI back in June 1930, and Friedman was now running the CIA’s Division D and wanted Rowlett to rejoin him. Rowlett had been particularly responsible for breaking the Japanese diplomatic code Purple aka Magic on September 20, 1940, resulting in decrypts which increasingly showed that Japan was preparing to attack French Indochina – what meant war with Washington but failed to foresee that it would be triggered by the attacks on Hawaii. (For more, see Andrew, p. 105ff.)

The only trouble with CIA’s ‘little NSA’, to use Bamford’s term, was that it had little to work with. Prohibited from operating within the United States, and having a most chilly relation with the FBI, it was unable to do what MI5’s Peter Wright in its D Branch had accomplished in Britain regarding stealing codes and breaking encryption machines at the expense of its SIGINT agency, GCHQ.(Spycatcher, p. 80ff.) While Britain was finding out what Egypt was up to during the Suez crisis, NSA did not have a clue about Israel’s ambitions because that was co-conspirator Britain’s responsibility during the preemptive action, and the Eden government didn’t tell Eisenhower’s anything about what was planned.

Up until that time, NSA had been going great guns with its RB-47 reconnaissance flights over the USSR, their Air Force Ravens operating electronic cameras to photograph Soviet installations of interest while other equipment monitored Soviet responses to the intrusions – what established that the USSR was unaware that it could be attacked with devastating results by bombers flown over the North Pole from Greenland (Project Homerun). Once Moscow learned of these numerous intrusions – what Eisenhower approved despite the fact that they could trigger WWIII – and protested to Washington behind the scenes about them, NSA’s capability in this regard became greatly reduced, as the planes could be shot down, and the Soviets rapidly improved their radar all over the vast country to achieve it.

NSA’s embarrassment over these difficulties – what caused the retirement of its first director, Ralph Canine – provided the CIA with an opportunity to recoup, and Richard Bissell, the new Deputy Director for Planning, was quick to take advantage of it. Bissell had been given the post after its warring factions in carrying the war to the Soviets had been humiliated by the Hungarian uprising – what they helped foment – and Eisenhower was looking for a more reliable instrument for containing the struggle. Bissell’s claim to fame was the designing and construction of the U-2 reconnaissance plane which flew above the range of Soviet defenses. “The plane could in one flight,” Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones wrote in The CIA & American Democracy, “take up to 4,000 high-definition photographs of an area 2,174 miles long and 30 miles side.” (pp. 107-8)

To put the U-2’s capability on an analytical intelligence basis, Bissell was given the assignment. It was, of course, because of the U-2’s ability to systematically monitor a given piece of territory that Soviet IRBMs were discovered in Cuba in September 1962 – what resulted in the Cuban Missile Crisis. As R. Jack Smith, a senior Agency analyst who helped brief the President about the crisis, claimed in a somewhat biased way: “American intelligence, and especially the CIA, experienced one of its finest hours…we sifted and sorted until we finally got the evidence that enabled us to target the U-2 correctly.” (Quoted from Rhodri Jeffreys-Jones, Cloak and Dollar, A History of American Secret Intelligence, p. 191.)

Unfortunately, the Agency’s HUMINT, its dominant side, did not see matters that way at all. The settlement of the Cuban Missile Crisis was its final humiliation – going all the way back to the alleged “missile gap”. Back then, William King Harvey, who had taken over Division D after Rowlett had gone back to the NSA in 1957, had arranged an engine ‘flame out’, it seems, which brought down Gary Powers’ unauthorized U-2 flight – making it look like the Soviets had brought it down for the May Day 1960 celebration – but not only Powers but also his aircraft essentially survived to Eisenhower’s great embarrassment, making the claim about the intrusion a matter of international record. Given the fuss that Khrushchev made over the flights, the Paris Summit was canceled, and Ike was forced to show what they could potentially disclose, somewhat minimizing the assertions by the “missile gap” scaremongers.

Still, the downing of Powers’ U-2 ruined the summit – what the President had put such great hopes in, and seriously considered resigning over – once the lying by the White House was exposed. No sooner had it denied any such overflight than the Soviet leader produced the pilot and part of the U-2 wreckage on television. Of course, the Soviet explanation of the crash – a missile did enough damage of bring it down while destroying a Soviet fighter which was closing in for the kill of the U-2 – made no sense, and the Agency did not help matters by failing to explain how Powers still survived the doomed flight, as did the plane itself. Damaged U-2s were programmed to self-destruct.

Moscow had been tipped off about the U-2 overflights by two NSA analysts, mathematicians Bernon F. Mitchell and William H. Martin. The increasingly dangerous antics by its Deputy Director Louis Tordella – who ran the agency for a generation – finally persuaded Mitchell to fly to Mexico City in December 1959 where he asked for political asylum, but the KGB persuaded him to stay in place, so that it could learn more about NSA operations. Tordella was Wright’s leading ally in Washington, prepared to do any operation which stirred up anti-communist paranoia. (See Spycatcher, p.145ff.) While Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin tried feebly to make out in The Sword and the Shield that Mitchell and Martin had somehow defected then (pp. 178-9), they were in Washington on May Day when Powers went down.

They told Moscow of the planned ‘flame out’, and the Soviets made sure that it was shot down. And after the crisis had passed without any claims of American spying having contributed to the crisis, Mitchell and Martin made their escape to the USSR, via Mexico City and Havana. On September 6th, they gave a press conference in Moscow’s House of Journalists, explaining that they had defected because Washington had been spying on the secret messages of its allies, like France, Britain and Israel, which had recently caused the Suez Crisis!

Of course, it would have been a far different matter if Mitchell and Martin had explained that they had helped shoot down Gary Powers’ U-2 – something that neither Krushchev nor Ike wanted known. While the defectors ultimately settled down grudgingly in the USSR, ultimately marrying Russian women, they contributed little more to Soviet covert government. They even contemplated returning to the West, but they never made it, as Andrew and Mitrokhin have explained: “As chairman of the KGB, Yuri Andropov gave personal instructions that under no circumstances was either Mitchell or Martin to be allowed to go, for fear of deterring other potential defectors from the West.” (p. 179) Moscow, actually, could not afford them saying that they had made such sacrifices for nothing.

To prevent a recurrence by the Agency, Eisenhower took its photo-reconnaissance capability away from it, creating the National Reconnaissance Office right after the embarrassing show trial of Powers in Moscow had ended and right before the embarrassing press conference by Mitchell and Martin. “For the next generation,” Andrew has written, “NRO was to be the most secret of all U.S. intelligence agencies. Its existence was not discovered by the media until 1973, and not officially acknowledged until September 1992.” (For …, p. 250) It was a high price for CIA to pay for just keeping the “missile gap” myth alive. To limit further damaging fallout, the CIA exchanged the most successful Soviet spy, Colonel ‘Rudolf Abel’, for Powers when it got the chance.

Then, thanks to the prodding by Wright (see Spycatcher, p.145ff., esp. p. 154.) Harvey got Division D deeply involved in trying to assassinate Castro, using the cover story that it was trying to steal codes and recruiting Cuban cryptographers. Thanks to poison pills provided by the Agency’s Technical Services Division, and contacts supplied by the Mafia, two unsuccessful attempts were made to kill the Cuban leader while power was being transferred from Ike to JFK. After the ill-fated Bay of Pigs invasion, Harvey was again at it – thanks to more prodding by Wright – as head of the Agency’s Task Force W in Miami, providing agents with a wider variety of weapons to kill Castro but still no success.

To get a handle on increasingly runaway covert government, Kennedy had rightly raised the alleged “missile gap” claim and the plans to overthrow Castro’s regime during the 1960 presidential campaign in the hope that the electorate could make a reasonable choice about the risks America faced but Nixon wrongly declined to debate the issues on the grounds of national security. It was only after Jack’s election that Eisenhower – along with Bissell and Art Lundahl, the head of the Agency’s National Photographic Interpretation Center (NPIC) – set the record straight by briefing him about the intelligence capability America had in terms of technology and allies, concluding spiritedly: “The enemy has no aerial photographic systems like ours!” (Quoted from Andrew, p. 258.)

Still, soon after JFK was inaugurated, he suffered the black eye of the Bay of Pigs fiasco (Operation Zapata) by Bissell’s people, and the President reacted by forcing the retirement of DCI Dulles and DDP Bissell because of the fallout from the fiasco. While the President had assured the public at a press conference on April 12th that American armed forces would not take any part in an armed intervention in Cuba, the facts turned out to be far different, as Aleksandr Fursenko and Timothy Naftali have reported in The Secret History of the Cuban Missile Crisis: “One Hell of a Gamble”: “Reconnaissance missions flown by U-2s on April 8, 11, and 13 picked up that Cubans had thirty-six combat aircraft, some of which were T-33 jets.” (p. 92)

The NRO had helped the anti-Castro Cubans before JFK spoke, and continued to do so right up until the invasion. Thanks to information supplied by the NRO, as Andrew has indicated, “Zapata began at dawn on Saturday, April 15, with an air strike against Cuban airfields by eight B-26s flown by Cuban exiles.” (p. 263) When the White House learned of the NRO’s support for the bombers – what happened the next day at 10 a.m. during a meeting at CIA headquarters (see National Security File, Maxwell Taylor Papers, Box 12, Memoranda of Meetings, JFK Library, Boston.), Secretary of State Dean Rusk and American Ambassador to the UN Adlai Stevenson insisted that there be no more aerial attacks, dooming the mission.

To make sure that Bissell did not maintain some informal influence in the NRO, Kennedy appointed Dr. Joseph V. Charyk, an Air Force undersecretary, as its director in Setepmber 1961. Charyk, though, was an areonautical engineer, only interested in developing replacements of the U-2s and new satellites. Ultimately, Charyk, and his replacement Dr. Brockway McMillan, relied upon gung-ho Air Force Brigadier General Jack C. Ledford to carry out NRO operations, and he was ready to follow up any discovery of Soviet IRBMs in Cuba with attacks by the 1040th Field Activity Squadron, stationed at Washington’s Bolling AFB. When JFK was assassinated, Ledford was director of the US Air Force’s special operations projects.

To receive more reliable intelligence and fewer surprises from the CIA, Kennedy approved the creation of the Defense Intelligence Agency, and transferred the CIA’s paramilitary operations to the DOD. To head the new coordinating agency, SOD McNamara picked one-time FBI agent, and Air Force Inspector General Joseph Carroll because he was not just another Pentagon bureaucrat. Carroll had not only arrested Public Enemy No. I Roger “Tough” Touhy during WWII, but also helped explain away the defections by Mitchell and Martin – making out that there were more homosexuals in government because of abnormal sexual activity while they were adolescents. While the agency was being revamped from top to bottom because of their leaks – what had been attributed to more communist disaffection – Carroll determined that they were homosexuals who feared being caught!

And the showdown with Cuba and the USSR over the IRBMs – what hardliners in government planned to result in the end of the Castro regime – did nothing to redeem them despite all the evidence that Oleg Penkovsky supplied about Moscow’s strategic weakness. As an unidentified source, most likely NSA Diretor General Gordon Blake, in the Cabinet Room on October 19, 1962 explained during the height of the crisis about General Joe Carroll’s capability: “The National Reconnaissance Office is involved in this. They’re, in a sense, a third agency, responsible for the U-2s, responsible for the drones, anything relating to special reconnaissance for CIA, DIA. Carroll knows how to do this.” (Quoted from Ernest R. May & Philip D. Zelikow, The Kennedy Tapes, p. 188.)

To rub in Carroll’s triumph, papers like Washington’s The Evening Star ran stories about how his analysis of photographs taken by an NRO U-2 – what CIA analysts had not found convincing – had changed “the days that shook the world”. On October 15th, Carroll had noticed signs of construction being carried out in a remote area of western Cuba, near San Cristóbal, and alerted the Deputy Secretary of Defense Roswell Gilpatric about it, starting a process which would only end when Khrushchev started removing the IRBMs from the island. (Kelman Morin, “Gen.Carroll Saw Something,” November 1, 1963, p. 1.)

Carroll’s son James put it this way in his biography of his father, An American Requiem: “His rivals within the military intelligence establishment had been defanged, and his turf-protecting counterparts at CIA, NSA, and the State Department had learned to work with him – a tribute to my father’s skills as a bureaucratic infighter, and also a signal of the strong support he had from McNamara.” (p. 140) As evidence of this, Carroll was appointed to the U. S. Intelligence Board two months before the Dallas assassination in the hope that he could continue to keep the renegades at bay.

The fallout from the settlement, however, drove Harvey, with Helms’s tacit approval, to increasingly desperate measures against the Kennedys. (For more on Harvey and Helms, see my articles on Veterans Today, and in the Trowbridge Archive at codshit.com about them.) Harvey – as head of the ZR/RIFLE project in the Agency’s new center of operations in Miami, code named JM/WAVE and run by a leading operator Ted Shackley -crucially misused NRO’s capabilities to conclude his own war against Castro and the White House. Claiming that he was still trying to achieve Rowlett’s objectives (see Bamford, pp. 478-9 for details.), he actually arranged to make it look as if Castro had shot down another U-2 reconnaissance flight – what constituted an act of war, if true – once his efforts to recruit two Red Army colonels from the island as spies, and to claim that Castro had not removed all the IRBMs had failed. (For more on the Bayo-Martino-Pawley mission, see Peter Dale Scott, Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, p. 113ff.)

While most people thought that Cold War relations were improving with the Soviet withdrawal of its IRBMs from Cuba – with JFK and Mrs. Kennedy trying to make amends with the disgruntled Cuban-American community, Department of the Army adviser Major Al Haig trying to find livelihoods for veterans of the Bay of Pigs operation, Attorney General Robert Kennedy beginning to enforce the Neutrality Act against those who still wanted to overthrow the Castro regime, Harvey finally being told to cut his ties with Sam Giancana’s contact Johnny Rosselli and forced to take off for Rome, the President signing a Limited Test Ban Treaty with the Soviets, etc. – the changing mood just drove the hardliners to more reckless measures.

The first alarming sign was when DCI John McCone reorganized all the Agency’s science and technical capability under one roof, ignoring the concerns of its predecessor, Deputy Director of Research Herbert Scoville, Jr. As Scoville, a dove, wrote to McCone on April 25, 1963 – after he had resigned and refused to return when asked because of his continuing disputes with the other directorates about the planned reorganization – “he also expressed his frustration with regard to a joint CIA-DOD program – a reference to the CIA’s participation in the National Reconnaissance Program and the National Reconnaissance Office.” (See synopsis of ltr., Document 20, in The National Security Archive of SIGINT material, obtained by FOIA applications of its managers.) Scoville had been at odds too with NRO directors about its authority, their authority, and their relation with the DDR.

“McCone,” John Marks wrote in The Search For The “Manchurian Candidate”, “apparently believed that science should be in the hands of the scientists, not clandestine operators, and brought in fellow Californian, an aerospace ‘Whiz Kid’ named Albert ‘Bud’ Wheelon to head a new Agency Directorate of Science and Technology.” (p. 209) The DCI, though, in letting the scientists who had tried to create intelligence zombies – former Technical Services Staff head Sidney Gottlieb, his new chief Seymour Russell, hypnotist Dr. George White and others – know what he thought of them, he just angered them, and induced them to more reckless operations, as one ex-CIA recalled upon learning of wild cowboy Seymour’s appointment: “The idea was to get a close interface with operations.” (Quoted from Marks, p. 210.) And this is what Wheelon wanted too.

While this close interface was demonstrated when White tried to quickly hypnotize Lee Harvey Oswald, it seems, in Mexico City in July 1963 to kill JFK (pp. 202-3, and n., bottom p. 244) – which failed, and led to Miami Agent George Joannides helping set him up as the fall guy for the JFK assassination, the more relevant experience for this article was the apparent downing by the Cubans of NRO Captain Glenn Hyde, Jr.’s flight while over Cuba on November 20, 1963, on the eve of JFK’s fatal trip to Texas – what crashed into the Florida Straits, activating new agent Porter Goss to retrieve the plane and its photographic material in the hope that it would show that the Soviets still had IRBMs on the island, and were willing to use force to hide their existence.

The LaGrange (Ga,) Daily News (LDN), the paper of Hyde’s home town, headlined its issue the next day thus: “LaGrange Pilot Missing In U-2 Crash Near Cuba” and printed under it a large photograph of the smiling pilot. There were three stories under the headline: one about the man behind another downed U-2, another about Hyde’s last moments Stateside before his sudden disappearance, and a nationally syndicated story about the apparent shoot-down. A United Press Bulletin reported that Navy divers, operating from a PT boat in the Florida Straits, had found the wreckage of the plane, and had started salvage operations to raise the plane. Then there was a story about his wife, entitled “I Believe My Husband Is All Right”, from Leland, Mississippi where the flight had originated from, and where she was residing while he was performing this crucial duty.

The crux of the stories was what while the Strategic Air Command (SAC) theorized that the plane had experienced mechanical difficulties, military sources in Washington “…did not discount entirely the possibility of a Cuban attack on the U2, the intelligence craft that discovered the Soviet missile buildup in Cuba last year and has kept the island under surveillance since.”

On the day JFK was assassinated, the whereabouts of the missing pilot was the headline on the front page, and the story added that an all-out search was underway to find Hyde, and that “divers, during a preliminary investigation at a 100-foot depth, said there was no signs of Hyde inside the fuselage of the plane.” Its implication was that evidence on the craft would determine what it had encountered, and what was the cause of the crash.

The day after the fouled-up conspiracy assassination – what had accidentally or deliberately included Texas Governor John B. Connally, and he had survived, threatening to prosecute those who had apparently double crossed him – the interest in connecting it to Cuba simply died, and with it the fate of Captain Hyde and the evidence within the downed U-2. In the LDN, these concerns were reduced to a three paragraph story on the bottom of a inside page, the fuselage on the bottom of the Florida straits reduced to merely “minor debris”. Much of the hoax was in evidence when the alleged deceased’s survivors were awarded at the Greenfield AFB in May 1964 his Distinguished Flying Cross and the Fifth Oak Leaf Cluster to his Air Medal for flights which did not include the one which, it seems, killed him.

The crude cover up of this NRO hoax might have been exposed if several other more immediate cover-ups of the killing were not already underway, and the agency was not the vital instrument of JFK’s lasting legacy – landing an American on the moon by the end of the decade. The Apollo program was the NRO’s baby, and it played it for all it was worth. While the NSA was getting embroiled in the Vietnam War because of its fabrications regarding the Tonkin Gulf incidents, the CIA because of its illegal MH-CHAOS operation against its opponents, and the Bureau because of its similar COINTELPRO program, the NRO, with its satellites, spacecrafts, and new aircraft, was pushing everyone’s vision towards the stars.

Still, in its most secret enclave, it would get into much more dangerous projects and results, as we shall see.

See Also - A History of America’s National Reconnaissance Office – part 2