“The United States Government is as unscrupulous as it has accused the Soviet Government of being. Our main dissatisfaction concerned some of the practices the United States uses in gathering intelligence information … deliberately violating the airspace of other nations … intercepting and deciphering the secret communications of its own allies … Perhaps United States hostility towards Communism arises out of a feeling of insecurity engendered by Communist achievements in science, culture and industry.”
William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell — The first NSA whistleblowers
The National Security Agency faced a terrible crisis in the summer of 1960 when two cryptologists disappeared on vacation. Follow us on Twitter: @INTEL_TODAY
Fifty-three years before Edward Snowden left his job as a consultant with the NSA and ultimately pursued refuge in Moscow, a pair of disillusioned NSA employees, William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell, defected to the Soviet Union.
“It’s a story filled with uncanny parallels that could be plucked directly from today’s headlines: young men working with the National Security Agency (NSA) who grow disillusioned by what they find, abscond with classified information, and end up seeking asylum in Moscow.”
In a worst case scenario for the U.S. government, the pair appeared in Moscow on September 6, 1960 to announce their defection and denounce the United States. For the first time the mission and activities of the NSA—including unauthorized incursions into foreign airspace—were made public.
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Long before the “NSA four” and Ed Snowden, William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell sent a clear message to US allies:
“As we know from our previous experience working at N.S.A., the United States successfully reads the secure communications of more than forty nations, including its own allies.”
About William Hamilton Martin
William Hamilton Martin (May 27, 1931 – January 17, 1987) was born in Columbus, Georgia. His family soon moved to Washington state where his father was president of the Ellensburg Chamber of Commerce.
He graduated from Ellensburg High School after two years. After studies at Central Washington College of Education (now Central Washington University), he earned a degree in mathematics from the University of Washington in Seattle in 1947.
He enlisted in the United States Navy and served from 1951 to 1954, working as a cryptologist with the Naval Security Group in Japan. Martin played chess and collected Japanese sword handles (tsuka). [WIKIPEDIA]
About Bernon F. Mitchell
Bernon F. Mitchell (March 11, 1929 – November 12, 2001) was born and raised in Eureka, California, and enlisted in the US Navy after one year of college.
He gained experience as a cryptologist during a tour of duty in the Navy from 1951 to 1954, serving in Japan with the Naval Security Group at Kami Seya.
He stayed on in Japan for another year, working for the Army Security Agency. Following his Navy service, he earned his bachelor’s degree at Stanford University. [WIKIPEDIA]
Martin & Mitchell: The Defectors
The Untold Story from Truman to Kennedy, will uncover what led to their defection and the aftermath for both the NSA and the defectors.
Remembering the First NSA Defection: William H. Martin and Bernon F. Mitchell (June 25 1960)