| Perry Fellwock |
The first NSA whistleblower
First public revelation of the true extent of National Security Agency spying
In 1971, Perry Fellwock, a 25 year old former National Security Agency analyst, gave an extensive interview to Ramparts magazine under the name Winslow Peck. Fellock's revelations, of a pervasive secret agency with a budget larger than that of the CIA, were so ahead of their time that it was several decades before many of them were believed. In 1973 the US Senate's Church Committee introduced successful legislation (subsequently ignored by president George W. Bush) to stop NSA spying on American citizens. In the conclusion of his interview, Fellwock states that he was, in part, motivated by the example set by Daniel Ellsberg's release of the Pentagon Papers.
- In August 1972 a twenty-five-year-old former staff sergeant in the Air Force Security Service decided to bare his top secret soul to the magzine Ramparts. A latent Vietnam War protestor and former traffic analyst at listening posts in Turkey, West Germany and Vietnam, Perry Fellwock wove a tale of much fact and some fancy in a question-and-answer session with the magazine, using the pseudonym Winslow Peck. The Joplin, Missouri, native's claim that NSA was able to break all Soviet code systems ("We're able to break every code they've got"), was most likely an exaggeration, but the majority of the sixteen-page article was, unfortunately for the Agency, quite accurate. Once the magazine hit the stands there was little the red-faced officials of the Puzzle Palace could do except to hold their tongues in embarassed silence. Prosecution, they must have reasoned, would only serve to confirm all that Fellwock had said.
Guardian reporter, Duncan Campbell wrote:
Date: Wed, 15 Apr 1998 00:31:58 +0100
From: Duncan Campbell <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Subject: The discovery of global sigint networks : the early years, part 2
Ramparts in 1972 was indeed the starting point. Sadly, many subsequent reporters later confused what "Winslow Peck" [= Perry (not Peter) Fellwock, which *is* his true name] wrote about "keyword" interception of international telephony traffic.
The story from then on ..
Early in 1976, Winslow came to London. I interviewed him at length and then carried out my own research on GCHQ. I then published an article in Time Out, June 1976, called the Eavesdroppers which did for GCHQ and the UK what Winslow did for NSA and the US. My co-author was another American journalist, a Time Out staffer called Mark Hosenball.
The Eavesdroppers was the first (and full) description of what GCHQ was and did. There had been no previous article, although World In Action had attempted a programme in 1972.
GCHQ's directors were apoplectic. The more so because the combined efforts of the GPO (who tapped my phone from May 76 onwards), the Special Branch and MI5 (who followed MH and me around) revealed that we had actually got the article out *without* breaking the Official Secrets Act. I had done my research from open technical sources, and (!) telephone directories; Peck, as an American wasn't covered by the British law.
Seven months later, I *was* arrested in the furore over their deportations together with another Time Out reporter, Crispin Aubrey. We had talked to a former British sigint operator, John Berry. The case became known as "ABC" after our initials. Over the coming two years, I was accused of having too much information and faced two counts of espionage as well as one of breaching section 2 of the Official Secrets Act (a law which was repealed almost ten years ago now). These counts totalled a potential sentence of 30 years imprisonment.
At Court 1 in the Old Bailey in October 1978, this disgraceful prosecution - which marked the high water point of MI5's manic campaigns against "internal subversion" - fell apart. The story has just recently been told in the delightful autobiography of Geoff Robertson QC, who was then my no 2 lawyer. His book is called "The Justice Game". Maybe its time for me own autobio ...
- Philip Agee is married to a ballerina and lives in Germany.
- Mark Hosenball is a reporter in Washington.
- Perry Fellwock is a lobbyist in Washington.
- Crispin Aubrey is an organic farmer in Somerset
- John Berry is a social worker in Somerset.
NSA and GCHQ are still listening.
And I'm signing off for now.
At 13/04/98, John Young wrote:
- >Peter Sommer noted recently that one of the earliest accounts
- >of NSA global electronic interception was published in a
- >1972 Ramparts magazine article, which we offer for a bit
- >of history:
- > http://jya.com/nsa-elint.htm (84K)
- >James Bamford, Duncan Campbell, Nicky Hager and others
- >have confirmed and extended what was at the time viewed as
- >the fanciful antiwar exaggeration of a young former NSA
- >analyst, named Peter Fellwock, first known by the pseudonym
- >Winslow Peck.
- >Bamford says in The Puzzle Palace that NSA elected to not
- >prosecute Fellwock in the hope that no one would believe his
- >astonishing claims of NSA ELINT-ing friends and foes alike.
- >Would anyone know where Peter Fellwock is now? Assuming
- >that the marvelous "Fellwock" is not a NSA-pseudo for "Peck."
Fellwock became an antiques dealer on Long Island.
A Document by Perry Fellwock
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