11 June 1998: Link to USAF Sources of Intelligence
10 June 1998: Add NS message; link to more by Gomez
10 June 1998
With permission of Tim Skorick and Gomez
This has been forwarded to parties criticized; comments welcome
From: "Tim Skorick" <firstname.lastname@example.org> To: email@example.com Subject: Ramparts Article Date: Tue, 09 Jun 1998 16:34:50 PDT John, I'm forwarding you this epistle from a friend who just finished digesting the Ramparts interview with "Winslow Peck" from 1972. (http://jya.com/nsa-elint.htm) I found his opinion rather illuminating, enjoy -Tim ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Tim: Gee, I hope you can read HTMLized email easily. I am about half finished reading the Ramparts article, but since I was laughing so hard that the words were blurring, I may as well take a break to send you my thoughts on it. The article is so full of half-truths, distortions and the mis-usage of terms that it makes me question the veracity everything in it. It is obvious that _if_ there was an ex-NSA employee, the author(s) didn't pay very close attention or take very good notes! [note from later] I got ambitious, and decided to write a line-by-line critique, which follows. I hope you find it interesting. I apologize if I'm unclear or seem to tease in places. That was not my intent. ....................................................... "Those allowed access all wear iridescent I.D. badges -- green for "top secret crypto," red for "secret crypto." The badges for Restricted Areas and Controlled Areas (which includes those used at Langley, on military bases, in the Pentagon, at Cheyenne Mountain and at NSA listening posts) are all of the same design, which has remained unchanged since the 1960's. They are not iridescent. They are color coded. I won't comment on what the colors mean, other than to say that the above color codes are incorrect. "Nevertheless, the first American killed in Vietnam, near what became the main NSA base at Phu Bai, was an NSA operative. And the fact that Phu Bai remains the most heavily guarded of all U.S. bases suggests that an NSA man may well be the last." This is questionable. I used to know two guys who were in the Green Berets as part of Operation White Star. Special Forces "advisors" built the compound at Phu Bai (and others), long before the spooks moved in. And they told me (if I'm remembering correctly- I knew these guys about ten years ago) that they had casualties / KIA's while they were doing construction, primarily from sniper fire. "But the DIRNSA (Director, National Security Agency) can be further distinguished from the headquarters buildings of these three other giant bureaucracies -- it has no windows. Another palace of paranoia? No. For DIRNSA is the command center for the largest, most sensitive and far-flung intelligence gathering apparatus in the world's history." Nonsense: DIRNSA is a job title and has never been used to refer to a building, agency, or department. "Other methods, the use of sensors and seismic detectors, either don't work or are used merely to supplement NSA's results." Sorry, bullshit. Sensors and seismic detectors are among the most widely-relied-upon information sources in the NSA's arsenal during any conflict, and always have been. Remote sensing ops are also the most "black" of operations run by NSA, even surmounting satellite ops in the level of secrecy assigned to them. Quite a few SEALS have been lost (not necessarily killed by the enemy) emplacing remote sensor packages in countries like Cuba, Iraq, and Lybia; before, during and after various conflicts. "And we are hardly surprised that the U.S. violates the Geneva Code to intercept communist radio transmissions." 1. There is no such document as The Geneva Code, except as a legal bit of terminology referring to The Geneva Convention. 2. The Geneva Convention (as regards warfare, and affairs of state- there is also a Geneva convention on copyright law) deals exclusively with the treatment of prisoners of war. It makes no mention of intel ops whatsoever. 3. The Hague Convention deals with how war is conducted, including the nature of weapons used. I don't honestly know whether it addresses interception of signal traffic, but this at least shows one more area where the article mis-states its "facts". "We feel that the information in this interview -- while not of a 'sensitive' nature..." Bullshit. Although I'm sure the important details have changed since 1972, the fact is that information like what the color codes on area access badges meant was quite definitely "sensitive". In fact, that particular piece of information is or was classified as "confidential", while other information on the nature, meaning, and security features of badges are classified at Secret or even Top Secret, depending on the badge in question. [Snip two brief paragraphs at Gomez request- 061098 16:40] "The NSA, through its sites all over the world, copies -- that is, collects -- intelligence from almost every conceivable source." An exaggeration. NSA does not deal in physically intercepted intelligence such as intercepting letters, HUMINT, or news-gathering, which accounts for a large percentage of all information gathering. That sort of thing is done by CIA. "The second type of signal is related to this. It is intelligence from radar, called RADINT." Another misstatement. The three classifications of electronic intelligence are COMINT, ELINT, and SIGINT. RADINT is one of many subcategories of ELINT. COMINT is a major subcategory of SIGINT, which in turn is a major subcategory of ELINT. This kind of error really puts the whole article into question. This is basic, every-day terminology. If Fellwock was involved in any real way with any real intelligence gathering, ever, it's hard to believe that he would screw up such basic terminology so many times in the interview. Either he was engaged in spreading disinformation in the very act of being "interviewed", or what's more likely, he was some low-level dittybop (radio technician) who heard a bunch of shit second-hand and passed himself off to the gullible and hungry journalists at Ramparts as a real "in-the-know" kind of guy. "You said that we overfly Soviet territory? "Routinely as a matter of fact -- over the Black Sea, down to the Baltic ... it used to be that SAC flew B-52s." While it's certainly true that we used to overfly the USSR and other countries, I don't believe we ever did it with B-52's! There were some versions of B-52's used for ELINT, but these remained well outside their borders. Other planes, such as the "Cobra Ball" platform, would fly along the boarders, and occasionally cross the boarder deliberately to trigger SAM site radars. "Q: All the material you've been discussing is classified? A: Almost all of it." Well gee, I guess that kinda gives the lie to their earlier statement that nothing in this article is "sensitive", huh? "It seemed like they were almost as interested in keeping things from the American public as the Soviets." Well, duh! If something is known to the American Public, then it's kinda certain to be known to the Soviet intelligence gathering people, no? They do read our newspapers, after all. "Hell, I'd give top secret classifications to weather reports we intercepted from Soviet subs. Certainly the Soviets knew that data." Of course they would. Because if you let them know what you know, and how well you know it, or through what means you know it, then you've given away a very sensitive bit of information indeed: your own intel gathering capability! The fact that Mr. Fellwock down-plays this and questions why this stuff needs to be classified reveals that either he had a political axe to grind in making the article, or he knew less than he let on. Unless he was very, very clever indeed, in which case one has to question his purpose in making the article. "The CGG is also located in the I.G. Farben building. That's the West German COMINT agency. Most of them are ex-Nazis. We used to harass them by sieg heil-ing them whenever we say them." So our "informant" would have us believe that CGG is staffed primarily by Nazi geezers of retirement age or older? Come off it! These supposed Nazis, if they held any positions of responsibility or skill during WW-II, would have been 60+ years old in 1972! Most intercept operators are under 30, most intel operations people are under 40. "I don't know if you know of this or not, but the first American killed in Vietnam was at Phu Bai ... we were told this to build up our esprit de corps." The latter admission indicates to me at least, that it probably wasn't true! A number of things he says indicate to me that this guy was quite gullible, and willing to accept information that came from "authoritative" sources as gospel. "You hear a lot about seismic and acoustic sensors and that sort of thing being used. How did this fit into what you were doing? "Not at all. They weren't that effective. A lot of them get damaged when they land; some of them start sending signals and get stuck; others are picked up by the Vietnamese and tampered with." So far as I know, all "remote sensors" had all of their electronic components (except the battery and antenna) encapsulated in an epoxy / abrasive composite. There was no way to "tamper with" the units short of destroying them. They were also notoriously difficult to find. The antennae were camouflaged as bamboo shoots or tall blades of grass. The sensors themselves were often designed to penetrate tripple-canopy jungle (and the ground as well), like a lawn-dart. (Jarts, remember those?) One of the VietNam vets I used to know told me once that he was on the ground, deep inside VC-held territory, when apparently a bunch of sensors were dropped from a high-flying plane (they didn't hear anything). In a freak accident, one of his troops was killed instantly when one of these things (shaped rather like a long, skinny rocket with green tentacles coming out its ass) penetrated his entire body, starting at the shoulder, and pinned him to the ground. What are the odds? Seems damned unlikely, I know, but I never knew this guy to lie, and he just wasn't the sort of person who went around telling tall tales- he wasn't interested in impressing anyone. "Those that come through intact can't tell civilian from military movements. Whatever data is collected from sensors on the trail and at the DMZ is never acted on until correlated with our data." This assertion tells me that this guy was ignorant of a lot of what went on with remote sensing ops. "Pot had become a very big thing. We were even smoking it on board the EC-47s when we were supposed to be doing direction finding." Maybe that's why his EC-47 crashed in the first place! ...................................................................... As for Mr. Bamford's comentary at the very end, I have to add that his own book "The Puzzle Palace" includes misstatements, errors, and apparent distortions of the truth, about the intel community in general and NSA in particular. Around about now, you should be asking yourself what the hell this Gomez person's qualifications are, and where does he get off criticizing or poo-poo-ing the assertions of Perry Fellwock and James Bamford. Unfortunately, there is no way I can validate myself to you or anyone else, so you can take my statements as uninformed opinion or whatever you like. The furthest I am willing to go is to tell you that in my short 4-year hitch in the USAF, I was assigned to the 2nd Communications Squadron at Buckley ANGB in Aurora, Colorado, and that I did short Temporary Duty Assignments at places like RAF-Chicksands in England, another place in Scotland, Woomera in Australia, and Shemya AFB in Alaska. Unlike Mr. Fellwock, I'm not going to posture or claim to have lots of secret knowledge. For one thing, to do so is A) illegal, and B) not smart. I certainly wouldn't discuss classified information or operations, even assuming I knew of any. I will also say this: I was "strongly discouraged" from leaving the USAF after only a 4-year hitch. I was "strongly encouraged" to re-enlist in a classified job with the AFSC of 99106. I had already decided that the military was not for me, and I got out. And I admit that both the Defense Department and USAF managed to put a certain amount of "the fear of god" into me. You may draw whatever conclusions you like. -Gomez ______________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com
Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 11:49:40 -0700 From: NS To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: NSA Critics Debunked SIGINT is the overarching category, composed of COMINT (communications intelligence) and ELINT (electronic intelligence). The latter is often accorded broader meaning, but generically refers to intelligence from non-communications signals. COMSEC usually refers to specific measures to increase our communications security. Creation of cryptographic equipment and material usually considered part of crytographic mission, but arguably a form of COMSEC. "Well, duh! If something is known to the American Public, then it's kinda certain to be known to the Soviet intelligence gathering people, no? They do read our newspapers, after all." This begs the issue of material clearly known to allies and enemies but nonetheless concealed from the American public. Examples here are almost superfluous, but obvious and relevant ones include the UKUSA agreement and the scope of SIGINT and other reconnaisance operations. These have long been known to our allies, and were certainly known to the Soviets, but routinely highly classified, and kept from the American public. One could read articles in, for example, the German press about American SIGINT sites, but routinely find (admittedly thin) cover stories or outright lies in American papers. The Ramparts article was clearly almost comical in its obvious bias and inaccuracies, but did bring out some facts which, at the time, were unknown to the American public at large.