Jack Brewer writes "The UFO Trail", a blog dedicated to publishing credible info on incredible topics. Brewer's research interests include the UFO subculture, the intelligence community, and related social dynamics, and he's here to discuss all these topics as well as his new book Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC.
Jack's Blog, The UFO Trail: http://ufotrail.blogspot.com/
Jack Brewer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheUFOTrail
Note: This is a rush transcript. Please refer to the original podcast when quoting.
JOSEPH L. FLATLEY: So, Jack Brewer. I spoke to him a week or so ago. He is one of these UFO independent researchers.
JG MICHAEL: Jack Brewer to me is like the New Age Jim Moseley of Saucer Smear.
JLF: Well, explain that now.
JGM: Okay, so Jim Moseley’s Saucer Smear sort of dealt with all the feuds within the UFO subculture. And he did it in a very playful sort of poking fun at everyone sort of way. And I think the connection there is that like Jack, Jim had a sort of more skeptical approach to things in a lot of ways. And I think the UFO community could use a lot more of Jack Brewer or Jim Moseley these days, because I feel like skepticism has gone out the window. If it was ever there to begin with.
JLF: Oh, sure … UFOs are a subculture. People are drawn to it, because they're in love with the topic. And that attracts a lot of really dedicated people and it kind of attracts a lot of wingnuts, and dedicated solid people, and grifters.
- BEGIN INTERVIEW-
JACK BREWER: I started really getting interested in why there were so many intelligence people at these conferences, in the community. You didn't see that in the ghost genre or other types of fringe communities, And it became increasingly apparent to me that a lot of people are interested in UFOs that work at defense agencies and security clearances in their line of work. And it became apparent that there could be a lot of intelligence and counterintelligence games taking place. And so I got interested in the history of that. And my book looked into NICAP, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, and the name of the book is Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC. And I actually was surprised at how much information was readily available through the Freedom of Information Act and newspaper clippings. And some people helped me out with their personal archives … and I was actually surprised how solid a trail I could find that put CIA and State Department interest not only in NICAP, but seemingly even in facilitating the launch of the organization. And NICAP was a UFO investigation outfit and is pretty highly respected among some of the more discerning we might say members of the UFO subculture. Because NICAP at least outwardly made an effort to scientifically investigate things. I could debate that, I think sometimes it was more a nod to deflect criticism than actual scientific research. But the premise of my book was that there was just a great deal of collaborating going on between people that were wading into the UFO arena and had one foot in the intelligence community at the same time. And while motives can be difficult to discern with a lot of certainty, it's more than apparent that there were layers of agendas and interests among these different people in agencies. And I actually started becoming rather struck by how much it seems to correlate with things we see today as well.
FAILED STATE UPDATE: I think the UFO group that most people are familiar with is MUFON, Mutual UFO Network. I'm just wondering what year did NICAP form, and what year did MUFON form? And can you kind of compare and contrast the two groups? That might help people understand this world a little more.
JB: Sure, NICAP was incorporated in 1956. And it went on to have some 14,000 members that at least subscribed to their literature and journal. And that today is the largest, most successful group as far as a membership UFO organization. By 1969, NICAP was losing its members and there's a whole story there about some people thinking there was CIA interference, but for whatever reasons, its leadership was being relieved of its positions by its board members. And that was pretty much the functional end of NICAP, but it continued on through the 1970s and was formally disbanded and dissolved finally in 1982, when its files were taken by J. Allen Hynek’s Center for UFO Studies I think it's called. CUFOS. And during that time, the 1970s they're more and more groups were building because of NICAP’s problems and was scattered, and there were plenty of people interested that needed direction. And one of them was I think they were first called the Midwest UFO Network. And as they grew in size and coverage, they became the Mutual UFO Network and MUFON. And I think you're right that still today, many people identify UFO studies and organizations with MUFON. And it's had its problems and challenges over the decades. It does still operate and is probably considered the group to seek today, while people might debate its functionality or integrity.
FSU: Was NICAP like MUFON in the sense that if I spotted a UFO, something I couldn't identify, I could call them and they would investigate it?
JB: Very much. So yes, very much so. In a manner of speaking, NICAP was quite functional as compared to some of the later efforts. They had a committee that was based in Washington, DC. And then subcommittees that worked on particular projects, membership drives, and publishing literature, at least in theory. They were usually behind, but that's how it was supposed to work. And then they had subcommittees around the nation and eventually the world and other cities that acted as chapters. So they could farm out reports that they got, they encouraged the public to report to them. And they made pretty impressive connections with police departments, military bases, newspapers, and reporters to try to facilitate investigation and then releasing public details as considered appropriate. And this actually kind of ran ‘em into some trouble too.
What NICAP became most known for was its director, Keyhoe. He was known for getting confidential reports from people that allegedly had security clearance and were pilots and people in significant places in the military. And that no doubt contributed a lot to the problems and the sword rattling that NICAP [indistinct] them with the CIA and the Air Force, and their accusations of cover-ups. But the answer to your question is yes, NICAP very much acted like a place that civilians, the public, anyone could report their sighting and hopefully get an investigator and some reasonable answers and investigation. And in that way, I'm sure, I'm quite confident, some people like Richard Hall that worked with NICAP, Gordon Lore, a number of field investigators they had, were very much interested in UFOs and tried to do sincere work. While I think we have some other aspects of the intelligence community that launched the organization for other reasons, and that people like Richard Hall and Gordon Lore that came later weren't aware of, and as far as the intelligence community goes, I don't think needed to be read into
FSU: What was kind of the relationship as best you could determine between NICAP and the CIA or NICAP and the FBI?
JB: The CIA had some agencies that I can link to; their director of 1947 to 1950, the CIA director was Roscoe Hillenkoetter. And the most obvious link right there is that Admiral Hillenkoetter became the chairman of the board for NICAP between 1957 to 1962. So that, you know, right off the bat there, you know, we'd have a lot of people just kind of say, Okay, what was that all about? And then it just gets increasingly complex from there. The original frontman for NICAP was T. Townsend Brown, and he dabbled in anti-gravity theory and fancied himself a physicist that was landing contracts with the Department of Defense to conduct his research. And sometime in the early 1950s, he had undertaken a contract, retained a PR group called Counsel Services. And I was again surprised at how easy it was to link Counsel Services to an organization that was directly linked to Admiral Hillenkoetter and gathering CIA intelligence. And there were a number — just the more I looked into it, the more it unraveled, one of the Council Services officers was Thomas O’Keefe. And he was a former State Department Deputy Director, and one of his duties at the State Department was to sit on a board that selected personnel for Foreign Service — which I think many of your listeners might recognize as designated spies — and a contract taken between counsel services and NICAP. He was designated, Thomas O’Keefe was, empowered to select consultants for NICAP, and they would work at his discretion, and they would answer directly to him. So I started coming across a lot of red flags like that, and Counsel Services even assisted T. Townsend Brown in incorporating NICAP. Thomas O’Keefe was one of the original incorporators, and I'm still working on FOIA requests and getting material that just further solidifies all of those relationships.
FSU: I think this is an important point, and I want to make sure we understand it. So Council Services was a contractor working for U.S. government.
JB: That's correct. At one time. I'm not sure they were at the point that they incorporated NICAP, but I can lay that out a little more clearly.
In 1949, as CIA director, Roscoe Hillenkoetter wrote a letter to an agency called the Economic Cooperation Administration, the ECA, and in this letter, he thanked its administrator for supplying the CIA with financial intelligence in the past and requested that they up the level of classification from Secret to Top Secret and continue to supply the agency with intelligence. Then I located newspaper clippings that within the months and two years following that letter, Council Services was subcontracted to the ECA and worked abroad in China and Europe. And then in 1956, Council Services incorporated NICAP.
FSU: So what exactly was Counsel Services’ business?
Recommended for You
JB: Ostensibly, they were a public relations firm.
FSU: So why is a public relations firm starting a UFO investigator [organization]?
JB: That's a very good question. They were originally retained by T. Townsend Brown, and what he described in a letter that I obtained to assist him in getting funding from the Department of Defense for his anti-gravity research. So he had an existing relationship with them. And then it's really not clear why they would continue this relationship and launch a UFO organization and put a State Department man involved in selecting consultants.
FSU: Yeah, so So t Townson Brown. What was his background? Exactly?
JB: He had taken physics in college. I'm not sure how much we really should call him a physicist, or if he completed his degree. As early as in college, he had ideas about anti-gravity and electric currents and tried to get people interested in experiments he did. But professors said that he was just making misidentifications of other known phenomena. And he seemed to really get it stuck in his sights that he had to prove his theories about anti-gravity, and he thought that what he was working on could be used for weapons and communications platforms. His archives and his family's website make reference occasionally to working in classified or national security, intelligence things. I don't know how much of this can be substantiated as compared to part of his mystique. But he did do some work at labs that, at least, supposedly was related to anti-gravity research. So he was — the answer to your question, his background was he at least presented himself as being involved in possible aircraft propulsion, or weapons and communications applications.
He has a really convoluted story that ties back to what became known as the Philadelphia Experiment, where some conspiracy writers later tried to saddle his work with being what launched the whole story of the Philadelphia Experiment, and the instantaneous movement of a ship, you know, several miles, and that whole mythology. And interestingly enough, and a UFO writer that was heavily involved with that, Morris Jessup was also involved in the original founding of NICAP. So that gets pretty complicated there. But Brown’s background was at least outwardly in scientific investigation, an inventor interested in anti-gravity technology. That got involved with Counsel Services, to help him get funding, and that relationship continued, and to the incorporation of NICAP.
FSU: So it sounds like he was in that world of government contracting. And like a lot of people in that world, had an interest in UFOs. And it's like the world, it becomes blurred, you know. We see this all the time, just because somebody was in the military, or is in the military, or works for a defense contractor, we're supposed to take what they say about UFOs or UAPs. seriously, or we're supposed to believe them without looking at the obvious conflict of interest. You know, if you're in the defense industry, why are you making these claims? Do you have an agenda?
What else about NICAP, aside from the fact that there are these connections? That certainly deserves scrutiny. What would you say it is about NICAP’s actual operation that leads you to believe that it wasn't on the up and up?
JB: Well, I could leapfrog right off of your statements there and say that one of the first things that the group did when Brown, Brown worked with them a short period of time, and Donald Keyhoe quickly took over in early 1957.
FSU: And Keyhoe was military too, right?
JB: That's correct. He was a pilot. Yes. And one of the things that the group did very successfully was assimilate a board of directors and various support boards and advisory committees that were extremely impressive for men of their day. They had highly decorated military men, intelligence officials, community leaders. And these men were not bashful in the least about making extraordinary statements about what they believed about UFOs. It pretty much set the stage for years to come, and at times, is rather remarkable. And its lack of supporting evidence that, and again, I think we kind of see that today, that statements are put forth that the supporting evidence, at least not conclusive evidence is not provided along with it to the press. And there was another CIA officer that wasn't as wasn't nearly as well known to be a CIA officer as Hillenkoetter, or, at the time, a Colonel Joseph Bryan, that took up with NICAP and became a staple of the board throughout the 1960s. And on into the 1970s, I believe. And he was a former CIA officer and was adamantly supportive of UFOs as interplanetary spacecraft. And one of the things that struck me as interesting was some of the men and the positions they were like, there were Air Force generals that sat on intelligence boards and CIA directors involved in this even, that would have certainly been aware of some projects that were about radar spoofing, and different things. The U2 program that we now know, would have contributed to at least some reports of strange air phenomena. Knowing these things, they continued to stoke the UFO story. And they also, a theme of this group was demanding that classified files be opened about UFOs. And I found this rather extraordinary and still do today, that men and women that were employed and the intelligence agencies would make such demands. When they of all people should know that there could be a lot of information associated with so-called UFO reports that have nothing to do with UFOs.
FSU: That seems to be a kind of a constant thread, insofar as the government being a lot more active, or there being actors not necessarily speaking officially for the government that promote UFO stories as a way to obscure real government projects. Is Is that what you feel like the bottom line, is NICAP was up to?
JB: I think it's a mixed agenda. As I said, I think there were certainly some people that went to NICAP or had good intentions and [...] were sincere. I think Donald Keyhoe probably believed he was on to a cover-up. I think there was some cover-up, I just don't think it had anything to do with interplanetary spacecraft. And I think that some men like Joseph Bryan, that worked in the Office of Policy Coordination from 1948 and 1952—
FSU: And that’s the CIA.
JB: That's correct, CIA and State Department, became completely CIA under director Walter Badell Smith who, even according to the CIA had an interest in using UFOs as a psychological warfare tool. So I think there's a lot of circumstantial evidence there. And I continue to get deeper and deeper in it, with some of the economic aid programs that were happening at the time as well, and that seem to have been opportunities for the CIA, to distribute fines in Europe, and as as the letter indicates, written by Hillenkoetter to collect economic and other types of intelligence. And I explore that in the book and continue to at my blog, the UFO Trail is well.
FSU: Did you uncover links, maybe a parallel operation between NICAP and the FBI?
JB: One could make some interesting [trails off]. The FBI and NICAP in itself provides interesting areas to research. One of the more interesting documents I got was, okay, I had mentioned that Thomas O’Keefe and Counsel Services, were empowered to hire consultants to help organize and launch NICAP. One of these people seems to have been a man named Nicholas de Roquefort [???], who was a psychological warfare expert. He was a Russian-born Frenchman that sought American citizenship in 1954. And there were FBI investigations to clear him for work on one project or another, pretty much from about 1954 until his death in 1964. He worked on different propaganda projects, was considered good at it in a professional capacity. He was well connected just like other people at Council Services. And the trail for people that the FBI interviewed about him went all the way to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that had a familiarity with him. And he was one of the men brought on to help launch NICAP. So I found that extremely interesting. There's even more about his CIA ties that I go into in my book, but the document that I found perhaps most interesting, that I obtained from the FBI, was when they were conducting their investigations of him, an agent at the Washington Field Office sent Hoover a letter that was not to be disseminated outside of Hoover's office. It contained information from a confidential informant. And the information was blacked out on the document, but it says that it was not to be given to anyone but Hoover. It was obtained under those stipulations in November of 1956, which was right in the heart of when Roquefort was working with NICAP. And I requested a review for further declassification from the FBI and they conducted one, but they declined to further release any of the information on the document. But as far as the FBI and NICAP go, that was one of the things I found interesting. And the FBI had an ongoing situation with NICAP where, on the one hand, the public was writing Director Hoover and asking him could they trust NICAP. There was the Red Scare, they were concerned about communist agendas. And he tried to outwardly keep a neutral stance on the organization. And his secretary would return letters and tell them that they didn't give appraisals on organizations, it was just their job to investigate crimes and things. And on the other hand, he had NICAP bugging him constantly, wanting to know what's the FBI policy on UFOs? And his answer would be we don't have one, I'm not interested. And then they'd find FBI agents at various scenes conducting interviews. And so then it would stir up Keyhoe and Richard Hall and his NICAP crew again, to bug the director about well, if you're not interested in UFOs, why are you interviewing these witnesses?
And that, I think, Lenny, kind of leads us into, people either have like, UFO-tinted glasses, or they don't. And I tend to think since you come at this a lot from the political standpoint, like some journalists that I think got interested in the UFO story in recent years, because it started involving, like real U.S. Defense officers and officials. And so that interested me too. And when we wear these UFO glasses, we just necessarily think ththose FBI agents are there to threaten people, cover it up, find out what the Martian said, whatever we want to think. I think if we take those UFO glasses off, I can think of so many reasons an FBI agent might be interested in why someone would just be coming up with some crazy UFO report or story. Or even if they're sincere, well, then what did they really see, who's influencing them? And as we kind of touched on it at the beginning, there can be so many opportunities for intelligence and counterintelligence operations going on. And these stories of, I saw something extraordinary flying near the Air Force Base, or Air Force officials that are talking off the record should be of interest to the FBI, you know. It's illegal to disclose classified information, as well it should be, you know, so that Hoover had his hands full with NICAP and the whole UFO mess.
FSU: So you know, coming forward to 2022. As someone who has been studying this for so long, what do you make of the whole these figures like Lou Elizondo coming out? And people with military backgrounds and political backgrounds in the case of Harry Reid, do you see this as, for lack of a better term, a government op? Do you see it as sincere? What's your kind of expert opinion?
JB: I think that like NICAP, there's a lot of layers of agenda. A lot of people are involved for different reasons. If we come right down to the key people, like you mentioned, I've come to think we really can't assign an explanation as much as we can look at, do they provide a reasonable amount of evidence to match these statements they're making? And if that's my question, no, I do not think they do. I think that Christopher Mellon and Luis Elizondo and To The Stars Academy conducted an impressive public relations campaign, I think they did an effective job in getting what connections they made, and they had at newspapers and media, talking about their special interest. I do not think that they have shown to a reasonable conclusion that that special interest is of the extraordinary means that they frequently suggest, and then have at the same time, when it's beneficial, said things like nobody's saying aliens. When they very much push the alien meme or mythology, the whole Skinwalker Ranch, paranormal, multiple dimensions, whatever we want to call it, they have very much pushed that agenda, while not providing anything that would lead us to believe that would be more than a belief that they hold for one reason or another. So while I can't in good faith, accuse anyone of a particular deception or operations that are under the table, I feel like I can reasonably look and see that they have not verified their assertions to an extent that should be considered acceptable. I think things like that, I think it starts and ends with standards of evidence. And I think that in their PR campaign, they talked a good game, but have not demonstrated the transparency and presentation of evidence that they're demanding of others.
FSU: So we talked about AAWSAP, that came out of the Pentagon. The Bennewitz affair was, you know, pushed by Naval Intelligence. You know, you've talked about the NICAP/CIA connection. These disparate government groups kind of indicate to me that there's not some like Washington master plan of manipulating the UFO community as much as it's something in government's toolbox. People are aware that if they want to push an agenda, the UFO community is one way to do that. Now, do we like to have to look forward to a future where every time somebody brings up UFOs, they might be being pushed by the government for some agenda or another?
JB: That is a concerning aspect, and it breeds a lot of paranoia in the UFO subculture. I don't think you'll be surprised to hear, Lenny, the people I know that had been in this a long time. I think every one of them has had quote, friends, unquote, that they became suspicious of these person's motives and what are they doing, and why’d they asked me that? And things like that. And it certainly breeds I think in the current AAWSAP, and definitely the old NICAP. While there's a lot of mixed agendas, I'm not convinced that what deception or lying through omission might be going on, that the officers that are carrying it out — I think they may believe they are acting in a patriotic way and in the public's best interest. And that if we knew what they knew, and how they are trapping spies or collecting intelligence or whatever it is that their agendas may sometimes be, that we would support that. Now, you know, that can certainly be argued one way or the other. And I'm sure plenty of people could say, plenty of reasons the FBI and the CIA are not the most upstanding organizations around themselves. I mean, I'm not going to argue that at all, I'm just saying that I think some of these officers believe they're doing things for the right reasons. And that it required manipulating the UFO community along the way, or that that was even a byproduct that they didn't really care about one way or the other, and an inconsequential, you know, collateral damage-type of thing. And I think, sometimes we can find incidences of that. Pretty bad people get hired to do what somebody in some office somewhere has decided is a good thing that needs to be done.
George, White in MK-ULTRA comes to mind. You know, was a alcoholic, dirty cop, by all accounts. And we could think about the Watergate plumbers and things like that, you know, you need to hire criminals to do criminal work. So how often that happens, I'm not sure. But I think what we're kind of working our way around here to the bottom line, as I mentioned, is standards of evidence. And if as a public we want to believe a certain story or other, we need to make sure that the evidence has been presented for public review, and it's passed the test. As we found out with weapons of mass destruction and things like that.
— END INTERVIEW —