Nicholas de Rochefort was an original organizer of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. He was a Frenchman born in Russia and educated in France, a World War II veteran, and an expert in psychological warfare.
Rochefort was part of the NICAP 1956-1957 team first formed by T. Townsend Brown, the organization’s inaugural front man. Brown was destined to be abruptly replaced by Maj. Donald Keyhoe. Rumors swirled that Brown, an inventor with an eye for anti-gravity, redirected NICAP funds towards his personal research, or, at best, mishandled the till. After leaving NICAP, Brown took off for a remote part of Florida, where, somewhat interestingly and according to the Brown family website, he spent time doing “intelligence work.” This soon reportedly led to Brown being drawn into an “intelligence organization” in 1958.
|Nicholas de Rochefort speaks at Freedom Day, 1954|
Rochefort, before helping organize NICAP, three years earlier in 1953 launched The Committee of One Million Against the Admission of Red China to the United Nations. It was recognized as the most high profile part of the China lobby, which was considered the most wealthy and influential lobby in Washington at that point in time. Investigative journalist Robert Sherrill wrote about the circumstances and the work of researcher Stanley Bachrack in his 1977 New York Times article, Buying American foreign policy:
Who dreamed up the committee? Bachrack suspects that one of The Committee’s founders, Nicholas de Rochefort, a former French military man (expert in psychological warfare), was working for the Central Intelligence Agency and The Committee might have been the C.I.A.’s idea.
Another founder, and perhaps The Committee’s most ardent executive, was Congressman Walter Judd, a former medical missionary who sincerely viewed the Democratic Party of F.D.R.-Truman as a Satanic host. Bachrack suspects that Judd may have secretly used a House subcommittee in a dubious, if not illegal, way to launch the lobby. But again, his efforts to get at the subcommittee’s secret records have been frustrated by Federal rules.
Stanley Bachrack’s research took him all the way to a 1970’s lawsuit against the CIA. The researcher sued for records pertaining to Agency relationships with the then-deceased Rochefort. The judge dismissed the suit, commenting that effective functioning of intelligence agencies could be significantly impaired by irresponsible disclosure. The CIA viewed the ruling as greatly enhancing the legal structure of sources and methods as a means to protect intelligence information in the context of FOIA requests, according to a now released Agency study in security classification (see pages 61 and 99).
Records obtained from the FBI include 1956 investigative reports which describe Rochefort as a good propagandist and a convincing speaker. FBI obtained an investigation conducted on Rochefort by the Civil Service Commission, or CSC. Information indicates The Committee of One Million and its successful lobbying activities were indeed widely credited to Rochefort, or as Bachrack suggested, perhaps his CIA employer:
FBI records further indicate Rochefort was investigated for a security clearance during the summer of 1956, circumstances apparently related to his employment, ostensibly or otherwise, with the Department of Commerce as a Trade Fair Manager. Rochefort was also employed by the State Department as a translator during the time we now know he helped organize and operate NICAP, however briefly it may indeed have been, approximately October 1956 to January 1957. Interestingly, FBI reports on Rochefort were composed during the same months.
NICAP records helpfully provided by researcher Barry Greenwood indicate Rochefort worked for the upstart UFO organization on fundraising and bolstering membership. A 1956 letter:
Nicholas de Rochefort has long been considered a CIA man by UFO researchers Richard Hall and Todd Zechel, among many more. An intriguing aspect of the NICAP story is there are several different takes on the likelihood the group was infiltrated (if not launched) by the CIA, even among those who were directly involved and have researched it thoroughly.
One perspective is it doesn’t really matter, not to those who are most interested in UFOs. Some feel the intelligence community was not involved in day-to-day operations of the Keyhoe-led NICAP, so it didn’t greatly affect UFO investigations and resulting research published.
Others feel it was ultimately the CIA who facilitated the demise of NICAP. This, they suggest, was done to destabilize NICAP and Keyhoe’s efforts to reveal a UFO cover-up perpetrated by the CIA and Air Force.
Yet others suspect the CIA and its associates may have had interests in identifying leaks of properly classified information. This would also involve monitoring – for national security reasons – specific individuals and adversaries which showed an inordinate amount of interest in such information and its sources. The info would not have to be related to actual UFOs to be potentially quite significant to global intelligence agencies. It really wouldn’t matter what the carriers of such info believed, and might even be intentionally deceived at times about its purported relation to UFOs in order to persuade them to leak it. The espionage and counterespionage possibilities are many.
Another consideration, given Rochefort’s experience with The Committee of One Million, is the CIA saw an opportunity to bolster public support for defense budgets in similar ways as it apparently did with the China lobby and what came to be known as the Red Scare. Perhaps the public was not intended to be frightened by Martians as much as Communists in flying saucers.
It might depend on what interests a person holds most dearly as to what they think about Nicholas de Rochefort. For instance, those who value UFO research tend to reference him and CIA interest in NICAP in negative ways. There is certainly something about the deceptive nature inherent to such apparent undercover work that causes people to react with contempt.
That stated, one who reads the linked FBI material can’t help but notice the manner Rochefort is held in high regard for his anti-Communist service and propaganda talents. Such praise includes statements from a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obviously, this would weigh heavily with Special Agents employed by J. Edgar Hoover.
Should it be considered unsavory for an intelligence agency to want to plug leaks? Is it wrong if such an agency wants to know more about who is interested in the leaks?
We might similarly ask if Maj. Keyhoe was out of bounds in criticizing intelligence services for not being promptly forthcoming with related information. Such are the questions that do not seem to have absolute answers. Opinions, passionate at times, seem dependent on perspective.
The reality of the situation, as well, is the overlapping of NICAP and the intelligence community involved multiple reasons spanning some 30 years. The objectives likely changed from one era, CIA division, and individual asset to the next. Keep watching this space for more on the NICAP saga.