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" <tskorick@hotmail.com>
To: jy@jya.com
Subject: Ramparts Article
Date: Tue, 09 Jun 1998 16:34:50 PDT


I'm forwarding you this epistle from a friend who just finished 
digesting the Ramparts interview with "Winslow Peck" from 1972. 

I found his opinion rather illuminating, enjoy



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 

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.


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Date: Wed, 10 Jun 1998 11:49:40 -0700 From: NS To: jy@jya.com 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.