Monday, 27 September 2010

Why America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ Spooks Had Gareth Williams Assassinated

by Trowbridge H. Ford

Part I - Background

No American agency has been more protective of its very existence, much less what it does, than the National Security Agency (NSA). The direct descendant of the US Army's Black Chamber, its code-breaking outfit, that had secretly decoded 10,000 messages by foreign governments in the decade after WWI, William Frederick Friedman had revived it as the Signal Intelligence Service in the Munitions Building in Washington's center in June 1930. It remained almost paranoid about itself until its official existence was finally admitted during the depths of the Watergate scandal. As the war in Europe was coming to an end, TICOM, short for Target Intelligence Committee, was created by General Eisenhower to find and recover as many German codemakers, and as much code-making machinery as possible to strengthen now the Army Security Agency's ability to meet the growing Soviet challenge. While it was combined with the Navy and Air Force codebreaking outfits into the Armed Forces Security Agency a year before the Korean War, it failed to prepare US and South Korean forces for the surprise attack, leading President Truman to replace the cumbersome agency by the highly secret NSA after he left the voting booth on November 4, 1952 which resulted in Ike becoming President.

NSA's first major responsibility was continuing the Shamrock project, the illegal taking of all communications, especially highly-secret, official ones, which passed through America's telecommuications companies on a daily basis to anywhere in the world. It all recalled how the Black Chamber had been closed down by President Herbert Hoover in 1928, only to have it secretly revived behind Secretary of State Henry Stimson's back by Herbert Yardley, the Army's cryptanalytic head during WWI, two years later. Yardley got the telecommunication companies to go along with the project then by bribes, (2) this time Army Chief of Staff General Eisenhower supplied a letter of appreciation to the nervous Western Union, RCA and ITT, the basis of the code name, for services rendered "This was the preferred method of communicationas for most of the foreign establishments in Washington and New York,"(3) James Bamford explained. At its Vint Hill Farms Station in Warrenton, Virginia - what survived the closing down of the Army's Signal Security Agency's listening stations at the end of WWII - and others around the world, NSA eavesdropped on Soviet secret messages sent by high frequency radios which had been encrypted by its Fish machines

Britain's similar establishment, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), was the outgrowth of the famous Bletchley Park facility aka Government Code and Cypher School which was so successful in breaking codes, especially German ones, during WWII. It was much less concerned about continuing its existence or playing any catchup with anyone as its location in Buckinghamshire - only 47 miles from London, and equidistant from Oxford and Cambridge - guaranteed that it could recruit all the new mathematicians it needed. The lead that the Brits had over the Americans in this regard was well illustrated when GCHQ handed over all the STELLA POLARIS material aka BRIDE and then VENONA - what the Finns had collected from the Soviets, and had sold to the Swedes when they feared that it would fall back into the hands of Moscow - to ASA in 1946.(4) It was because of work on this material, first at Eastcote in West London and then from 1953 at headquarters in Cheltenham, that GCHQ was successful in finding out that Klaus Fuchs and others were indeed Soviet spies.

During the Eisenhower years, NSA had some significant successes. In fact, ones so signiticant that it lost part of its organization, the sigint part collecting aerial information over the USSR because of the Gary Power's U-2 fiasco. Its RB-47 soupped-up spy plane in Project Homerun gave the Soviets fits by the intrusions of its vast airspace around the Arctic Circle to collect electronic and imagery information. "Throughout the 1950s the ferrets," James Bamford wrote, "like mosquitoes hunting for an exposed patach of skin, buzzed the long Soviet border. They were searching for holes in Russia's vast fence of air defense radar sites." (5) In the lead-up to the Suez crisis, GCHQ, whose responsibility under an agreement with Washington was to keep it informed of possible developments in Western Europe and the Middle East, withheld information about the French-Israeli-British plot to regain control of the canal from the USA which led to devastating blowback..

The fiasco not only led to a complete humiliation of the plotters when Washington refused to go along with it, but also a complete reorganization of NSA along geographic rather than functional lines. One can only suspect that NSA withheld some of its own information from project Shamrock from the President to make the most of the debacle when it occurred, especially when it claimed that it was in the process of moving its headquarters to Fort Meade, and had little military information about what the plotters were up to when it really was a question of the diplomatic moves in the countries' capitals which were so important in anticipating moves, and was being monitored from Vint Hill. As a NSA analysis later lamely admitted, "1956 was a bad time for NSA to get involved in a crisis." (6) Instead of a single high-level cryptography department for its half of the world, NSA was given four deparments to handle cryptanalysis and traffic analysis for the communist world at various levels. In the reorganization, GCHQ was left out in the cold, especially since it was more concerned in determining who were Soviet spies, past and present, rather than what they were up to now.

While America was essentially going it alone when it came to the collection of sigint intelligence, the disputes were essentially between the White House and NSA, especially about its U-2s. While almost everyone remembers the famous crash of Captain Gary Powers' U-2 on May Day 1960 in anticipation of the Paris Summit between Eisenhower and Khrushchev, few know that the President had ordered that no such provocation take place, and when it did, he took away its aerial reconnaissance capability, and gave it to a new, even more secret agency, the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). Even less is known about the crash, as NSA will not acknowledge the role of Soviet spies Bernon F.Mitchell and William H. Martin in the U-2's downing, acting at best as if it had nothing to do with the Powers' hoax (7) - the plane flaming out and crashing so that it and he essentially surivived at Ike's expense.

"The agency was then completing work on a super-fast, super-high-flying successor to the U-2, codenamed Oxcart," (8) Bamford explained yet elsewhere, so they both were expendable. Still, NSA was willing to see that Powers was exchanged in 1962 after he had only servied two of his ten-year sentence for leading Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel, showing that his masters were really interested in his well-being for services rendered. For good measure, as the Missile Crisis in Cuba was heating up, NSA's Director Lawrence Frost was sacked because of the Mitchell-Martin defections, thought originally to be caused by ideology but later labelled homosexuality -and was replaced by Air Force Lieutenant General Gordon Blake who, according to Bamford, "...who knew what he was getting into: he had earlier run NSA's air arm, the Air Force Security Service," (9) About the blacklisting of homosexuals in the services, Ike had the FBI draw up a list of all those suspected of being gay. "According to documents obtained for Body of Secrets, " Bamford concluded, "the fear of homosexuals caused by the men's defections became pathological within the White House."(10)

Allegedly, the cryptologists soon tired of the USSR, and wanted to return home, though they both married, and settled down to comfortable lives in the USSR. To belie the facts, Christopher Andrew doctored Mitrokhin's basic information to claim that the KGB fabricated a claim that the gullible spies had been sentenced by the US Supreme Court to twenty years' hard labor in absentia if they returned - when the Rosenbergs had been executed for doing far less - and that Director Yuri Andropov directed that they never be allowed to return when the fabrication, it seems, still didn't deter them from wanting to.(11) Mitchell died in St. Peterburg in 2001, and Martin died in Tijuana, Mexico in 1987 while undergoing treatment for cancer, belying Andrew's fabrication as Andropov had long since died, and soon the Soviet Union itself collapsed. Mitchell was able to return if he wanted but he never did because of the terrible risks of doing so. For good measure, Andrew added the KGB fabricated a story by Izvestia's Yuri Semyonov that the Americans were trying to poison them - what Mitchell allegedly believed to be untrue - and the Mitchells, at least, were prevented from returning to America, though their applications for visas were turned down by Australia, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and the United States!

This was all damage control by NSA as the showdown with the Soviets in Cuba was heating up, attempting to prevent any more defectors from joining Martin and Mitchell. The GRU, Soviet military intelligence, already had another spy from NSA in place, Air Force Staff Sargeant Jack E. Dunlop, and he was followed by Victor Norris Hamilton after Dunlop allegedly committed suicide in 1963 (12), though there is no information from Mitrokhin to confirm the claim. More likely, Dunlop simply retired since he had no more to provide. Then, in 1965, another walk-in joined the American defectors in Moscow, US Army clerk at Fort Meade Robert Lipka, who was responisble for shredding its material, and handed over to the KGB whatever he thought it fancied. When Lipka stopped spying in 1967, Chief Warrant Officer John Walker and his gang took over, supplying Moscow for eighteen years with detailed information about US Navy ciphers. In short, US intelligence, especially NSA, was leaking like a sieve, making its increasingly paranoid about the process, and the only people who knew almost nothing about it was the American public.

The separation of NRO from NSA had just made leaking and defections worse, as JFK was discovering during his last days when the NRO's Air Force cowboys faked the downing of Captain Joe Hyde Jr's U-2 over Cuba on November 20, 1963 - a repeat of what had happened for real to one piloted by Major Rudolf Anderson, just thirteen months earlier during the Cuban Missile Crisis - in the hope of kicking off a resumption of the confrontation. When Chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff General Maxwell Taylor heard of the loss of Anderson and his U-2, he recommended an immediate response to the SAM site responsible. SoD McNamara replied that 500 sorties would be flown in preparation of an invasion which, thanks to JFK prudent management, never came. This time there was no invasion either, thanks to the surprise wounding of Governor John Connally, and his stating that he would get the people who really did it. In the process, Joe Hyde disappeared from the radar screen forever, apparently getting a new identity as Horace Smith, and remarrying his widow in Houston.(13)

Britain then resumed its own witch hunt, thanks particularly to the assistance CIA's DDO Richard Helms supplied MI5 Assistant Director Peter Wright's Fluency project to help keep it occupied by looking for spies within the Establishment from VENONA rather than more current troubles. "...Inexplicably, GCHQ had suspended its work on VENONA in 1954, apparently with MI5's consent on the grounds that the work was unproductive." (14) Graham Mitchell, the Director of D Branch, was responsible for the suspension, making him the prime suspect of the chief Soviet mole within the Security Service rather than Wright himself, and the mole-hunting didn't die until the Cold War did. Since 300 alleged spies remained to be identified in Britain and America at the end - and those allegedly identified had been tainted with a broad brush - it all seemd a vast waste of resources since the damage had essentially been done, and even its identifications could not be used to punish those few, important ones, awaiting punishment. Since the Americans had long given up on the process, their assistance to GCHC just seems to have been to keep it out of the way.

The precarious position of NSA, " agency unrestrained by laws or legislative charter and led by a man obsessed with secrecy and power," (15) allegedly
collapsed after its Deputy Director Louis Tordella agreed to an Army request that it spy on domestic protesters of the Vietnam War aka MINARET in the fall of 1967 -which was granted its own charter soon after Nixon took office. When Nixon's White House tried to put the collection of watch lists on a national basis, thanks to the Houston Plan, Hoover's FBI refused to go along, and it was withdrawn a few days later. When Watergate got out of hand three years later, though, pr4esidential counsel John Dean used his knowledge of the Houston Plan as a bargaining chip to escape prosecution for what the Plumbers had done, especially the assassination of former Alabama Governor Geroge Wallace. Then it turned out that Tordella had been using the Bureau for break-ins at embassies to steal codes and ciphering machines in order to save NSA the trouble of breaking them themselves. Finally, the Senate's Church Committee learned of project Shamrock - the illegal copying of the tapes the telecommunication companies had of telegrams they had transmitted.

One consequence of the Church Committee's unprecedented report was the passage of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) which outlawed any repeat of project Shamrock, and the MINARET watch lists of Americans. In order for NSA to target an American citizen or a permanent, resident alien - a "green card holder" within the United States - it must obtain a secret warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), showing that the person is either an agent for a foreign government or involved in spying or terrorism. The act placed the same requirement on the FBI - the agency much more involved in such activity because of its national jurisdiction in law-enforcement. The investigator, it seems, largely responsible for the reforms, Britt Snider who later became the CIA's Inspector General, was quite satisfied with their results when he retired twenty-three years later in 2000.(15)

In understanding the apparent results, one must appreciate the stopping of the Vietnam War, and détente with the Soviet Union - what made watch lists of Americans much less important except when the Reagan White House was helping the Contras in their fight with the Sandinistas, and stopping Moscow spies rather than domestic dissidents when it came to finishing off the USSR. Also, it required getting Britain's GCHQ finally involved in the eavesdropping process. The Conservative government, headed by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, had been struck by a series of work stoppages just when the Cold War was heating up in Afghanistan with the Soviet invasion, and the depature of the Shah from Iran. While CIA was being increasingly shut out of the intelligence loop by an independence-seeking NSA, the Thatcher Ministry was being prevented from getting vital information about these two, adjoining hot spots, leaving Washington and London in a rather paranoid, angry condition. DCI Admiral Stansfield Turner complained that the sigint agency was withholding intelligence "to make itself look good rather than to protect secrets." (16) London was in a choatic condition where quite often the whole government was getting no intelligence at all. The worry was that NSA would go its own way while London tried, apparently hopelessly, to ban unions at its intelligence facilities.

In the wake of regaining control of the Falklands, thanks to NSA's assistance in breaking Argentine codes, Britain made a serious effort to create its own eavesdropping system until 1987, project Zircon, but the costs and domestic opposition finally proved too much. The project was also hurt by the revelations about it by Duncan Campbell in the New Statesman, and Peter Wright putting his complaints about British intelligence in writing in Spycatcher. They showed Britain to be an incompetent, leaky partner in the Atlantic alliance, one which should let Washington lead the way. The value of the close link between NSA and GCHQ was demonstrated by General Odom's agency being able to produce a sigint intercept, linking Iranian hard-liner Ayatollah Montazeri to the bombing of the Pam Am flight over Lockerbie while GCHQ was unable to come up with any 'smoking gun' about who caused the tragedy.(17) The cost of this unequal partnership was that NSA could hide from GCHQ what it wanted to keep secret, and dispose of as it saw fit.

This was clearly demonstrated when the Reagan administration decided to end the Cold War by a pre-emptive non-nuclear strike against the USSR after it had been triggered by the assassination of Swedish troublemaker Olof Palme because of his interference with the whole Iran-Contra affair. Washington was confident that its operations were finally leak-proof because not only the spying by the John A. Walker, Jr. ring but also that of Jonathan Pollard and Ronald Pelton had been exposed and disposed of. The Walker group had been put out of business by his former wife who reported his spying to the Bureau.(18) Pollard was finally caught by Naval Intelligence after coworkers reported his suspicious handling of classified material. Pelton was caught after defector Vitali Yurchenko mentioned a spy who had made a call to the Embassy in Washington back in January 1980, but whose name and mission he never learned. "The FBI began going through old recordings of Yurchenko's conversations that had been captured by wiretaps. Investigators found the call and played it back to some NSA employees. They recognized the voice." (19)

The trouble with these discoveries was that it encouraged the risk-takers to go for broke - what only caused other agents, especially the Agency's Aldrich 'Rick' Ames and the Bureau's Robert Hanssen, to take their place. NSA was at the core of the operation as it was the agency to coordinate what the Anglo-American-NATO forces were doing while it kept track of the Soviet response. Of course, the spying permitted Moscow to take the necessary countermeasures to contain the confrontation. Knowing that the Stockholm shooting would trigger it, and the set-up of apparent assassin Stig Bergling - what Moscow closed down by refusing to have anything to do with him - the Soviets prevented NSA from learning what Moscow was doing by shutting down its bug of the leadership's reactions, and operation EASTBOUND whose sensors were to determine if the Soviets were preparing their ICBMs for a nuclear response - what Alexander Litvinenko managed to discover with his railway inspection squad. In sum, the operation was a complete, though most dangerous, fiasco.(20)

The Agency and the Bureau were understandably most reluctant to determine its cause, though NSA was furious about the result, leading it to adopt more forceful solutions to apparent problems. As Independent Counsel in the Iran-Contra investigation Lawrence E. Walsh detailed in Firewall: The Iran-Contra Conspiracy and Cover-Up, NSA went to the most absurd lengths to prevent even the most perfunctory inquiry into the massive fiasco.

"The general counsel to the National Security Agency, Elizabeth Rindskopf, was tough. An attorney trained as an advocate for plaintiff's class actions, she seemed to us not easily deterred by facts, reason, or appeals to fairness. Her concern was not only the preservation of intelligence sources, but also the protection of her agency from embarrassment. She exaggerated claims of national security risk so grossly that I wondered whether she was bucking for a White House appointment. (After George Bush became president, Rindskopf was promoted to succeed Russell Bruemmer as general counsel of the CIA.)"

She even tried to get Attonrey General Richard Thornburgh not to comply with Judge Gerhard Gesell's order, permitting Oliver North to introduce Robert McFarlane PROF note, wanting to purge all NSA's traffic files.

As the problems of the government, particularly NSA's, continued, it apparently started really purging troublemakers through its group 1-3 aka Pegasus, patterned after Britain's Group 13. There were just too many surprising deaths or unexplained murders for it not to have been behind some of these. For example, the murder of prime suspect in the Palme case - where things had started to go badly wrong - Viktor Gunnarsson after he emigrated to North Carolina, and a policeman, who had long pursued him, Börje Vingren, had published a book, claiming Gunnarsson had done it. When the killing was so well hidden that it was unlikely that Gunnarsson's naked body would ever be found, the mother of his alleged girl friend, Catherine Miller, was gunned down to keep the set-up of former policeman L. C. Underwood alive - what ultimately resulted in his being convicted of both murders. It took over a decade in prison, and over $100.000 in fees for Underwood to get the convictions thrown out, and a new trial or his release after 180 days ordered this past January.

Then, after Luther 'Jerry' Parks, the former head of Governor Clinton's security, so pursued Vince Foster of crimes relating to Mena's International Airport that he committed suicide, unknown parties made the site where his body was found look like a murder scene, and the following March Parks was gunned down by unknown assailants. The last thing the Clintons wanted was for people to think that Foster killed himself, and covert operators made it look like he might not have. Just the month before, Ames was finally exposed as a Soviet spy, and NSA made sure that he was imprisoned for life for the inconveniences caused.

There were others too, enough for posters to start sites, attributing it all and much more to President Clinton, and labelling it his Body Count. It was all reminiscent of the body count that Mark Lane put together in Rush to Judgment after the Dallas assassination to improve claims of it being a plot, just making it look most dubious.

The biggest unexplained assassination, apparently by NSA group 1-3, was the killing of former DCI William Colby in April 1996. Interesting that Bamford makes no mention of him in his books because he proved the biggest problem for the eavesdropping agency, as he was the one who exposed not only its illegal spying on Americans, especially MH-Chaos, but also the plots to get rid of Castro to the Church Committee - what led President Ford to fire him.(22) The Colby murder was not a simple act of vengeance, but the removal of a most influential critic if and when NSA decided again to eavesdrop on America whatever the legal situation. Bamford got around the problems by making out that NSA was responsible to the Defense Department when it really was officially under the control of CIA. Colby's death triggered as many false claims as that of the recent killing of GCHQ/MI6 agent Gareth Williams, and apparently for the same purpose - shutting up and getting back at

For good measure, NSA saw to the prosecution of Robert Lipka as a KGB spy after all those years of inactivity, thanks apparently to a tipoff from Mitrokhin. In May 1993, an FBI agent, posing as a GRU one, contacted Lipka, and tried to get him to renew his spying by a threat of exposure and a dangle of $10,000 which he accepted because he claimed it owed him much more because of his original spying. Once the trial of Ames had established that a spy could at least spend the rest of their lives in prison, Lipka was arrested in February 1996, and tried in May 1997, avoiding the same sentence only by agreeing to a plea bargain which resulted in him having to serve eighteen years in a federal prison, and pay back twice as much money than he had gotten from the Bureau. "I thought I had put this to bed many years ago and I never dreamed it would turn out like this," (24) Lipka complained bitterly

Anglo-American eavesdropping operations improved considerably after martinet NSA Director Kenneth Minihan ended his term in 1999, especially when the 9/11 attacks occurred. Minihan's first assignment, it seems, was to get rid of Colby. For the previous decade, NSA had seen its budgets cut steadily each year, resulting in fewer personnel doing more tasks for less, causing a quite demoralized work force, fighting over perquisites and promotions in a environment plagued by racial and sexual preferences. Minihan, while hoping to revive Shamrock, had gotten rid of a third of the employees, and his deputy director William Crowell who wanted to improve the way NSA attacked code problems and disseminated the results, fearing that it would just empower America's enemies. "Nor did Minihan get along with the various senior directors in the agency - the deputy directors for operations, information security, and so on".(25) And all over the world, listening posts were being closed down or replaced by automatic equipment. NSA was clearly on the short end when it came to getting funding.

At Cheltenham, a similar downsizing was occurring, the staff down to 5,100, a loss of 900 from 1995. Its listening posts around the world were disappearing too. "Some at GCHQ feared that if its staff number dropped below 4,500, the agency would begin to seem minor in the eyes of NSA." (26) It began to look as if the new headquarters in Cheltenham, completed in 2003, would just be a collection center where code breakers, data gathers, and cryptologists skilled in various languages would put together reports, based upon the calls and messages intercepted, and send them on to Fort Meade and other countries in the Five Eyes pact - Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

To counteract this centralizing process of eavesdropping in America, Britain continued to go out of its way to train people better suited to satisfy the needs it required, especially in mathematics and languages, and develop gizmos in the private sector which NSA would find attractive. Its need of highly qualified people in these fields is well illustrated by Appendix C of Body of Secrets, cryptologic occupations needed at NSA - linguistic and mathematical experts - what America is noted for being poor at providing. Bamford's listing looks like an employment brochure for NSA's mammoth Crypto City which always seens to be wanting qualitative literacy by its employees in these fields - like professionals who can solve cryptographic problems though the use of math, especially since there is such a demand for those who can in the private sector.


1. James Bamford, Body of Secrets: How America's NSA and Britain's GCHQ Eavesdrop on the World, p.133.
2. James Bamford, The Shadow Factory: The Ultra-Secret NSA from 9/11 to Eavesdropping on America, p.164.
3. Op. cit., p. 133.
4. Nigel West, VENONA: The Greatest Secret of the Cold War, p.10.
5. Bamford, Body..., p. 37.
6. Quoted from ibid., but not in the sardonic way it should be.
7. See, e. g., where Bamford puts their spying, p. 92ff., as far away from the Powers' problem as possible, p.45ff. until the note on p. 62.
8. Ibid., p. 149.
9. Ibid., p. 96
10. Ibid., p. 543
11. Christopher Andrew and Vasili Mitrokhin, The Sword and The Shield, p. 179. Note Andrew's claims about their trying to leave is not based upon any sources except a most questionable story in The New York Times on June 24, 1962 (Notes, Chapter Eleven, note 28, p. 607), when the missile crisis was building, and NSA was most interested in persuading anymore deviants among its ranks for defecting too. For more on Andrew's doctoring of Mitrokhin's Archive, and its effects upon him, see there links:
12. Ibid., p. 344.
13. For more, see this link:
14. West. op. cit., p. 138.
15. Bamford, Body..., p. 440.
16. Quoted from ibid., p. 384.
17. Mark Urban, UK Eyes Alpha: The Inside Story of British Intelligence, pp. 97-8.
18. Sherry Sontag and Christopher Drew, Blind Man's Bluff: The Untold Story of American Submarine Espionage, pp.350-1.
19. Ibid., p. 354.
20. For more, see this link:
21. p. 176.
22. For more, see this link:
23. For more, see:
24. Quoted from Andrew, p. 18.
25. Bamford, Body...p. 563.
26. Ibid., p. 547.