Perry Fellwock, the first NSA whistle-blower, came from Missouri



Gawker is sometimes dismissed as a gossip website, a news aggregator and a purveyor of clickbait. But sometimes, it produces solid journalism.

Yesterday was one of those days. Gawker writer Adrian Chen on Tuesday unearthed an antiques dealer named Perry Fellwock, who more than 30 years ago exposed to Americans, for the first time in any meaningful detail, the existence and activities of the National Security Agency in an exquisitely well-written and well-researched feature.

It tells the story of how Fellwock emerged from an ordinary upbringing in Joplin, Missouri, to later getting caught up in the Vietnam War like so many of his generation. Fellwock joined the Air Force in 1966 and later took an analyst job with the NSA, tracking Soviet Union and North Vietnamese military movements.

His disillusionment led him to approach editors at the now-defunct glossy left-wing magazine Ramparts, which later published a transcription of Fellwock's interview under the nom de plume Winslow Peck. The New York Times soon after made Fellwock front page news.

"Most people in those days thought that the NSA and CIA worked for the U.S. government," Fellwock tells Gawker. "But they don't. They're an entity unto itself...This community operates outside of the Constitution, and from everything I've seen, it still does."

Nowadays, the NSA is the object of international scorn because of leaks from ex-agency contractor Edward Snowden. Some feel like the spy agency is running amok, peering indiscriminately into the private lives and communications of people, ranging from ordinary Americans to presidents of European countries.

Give the Gawker piece a read for a deeper understanding of how the NSA has functioned over time, seemingly independent of the federal government's oversight and accountability.

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