Wednesday, July 1, 2020

"A Special National Intelligence Estimate" - 1961 - Part 2


Yesterday, I posted a piece about "A Special National Intelligence Estimate" - 1961, which has recently resurfaced. This blog post provides additional information, to enable the reader to decide for themselves on the question of whether or not it is a genuine document.

Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board

The 1961 document, on the front page, states that it was prepared for "The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board." According to the White House website , today:

"The President's Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB), with its component Intelligence Oversight Board (IOB), is an independent element within the Executive Office of the President. For more than six decades the PIAB has offered the President expert advice on the conduct of U.S. intelligence. Throughout its history, the board has closely guarded its special status by making every effort to ensure the strict confidentiality of its deliberations and communications, and the objectivity of its advice. As a result, the Board has had immense and long-lasting impacts on the structure, management, and operations of U.S. intelligence."

History of the Board

In 1956, President Eisenhower established the President's Board of Consultants on Foreign Intelligence. In May 1961, under President John F. Kennedy, the name changed to The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board. President George W. Bush changed its name to the current President's Intelligence Advisory Board. So by 5 November 1961, when the 1961 document said it was completed, the name was as per the 1961 document, i.e. The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board.

I found reference to a couple of books about the Board, namely:

Absher, K.M., Desch, M. C. & Popadiuk, R. 2010. "The President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board." Oxford Press. Oxford.

Absher, K. M., Desch, M. C. & Popadiuk, R. 2012. "Privileged and Confidential: The Secret History of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board." Uni. of  Kentucky.

Interestingly, the blurb for the 2012 book says, among other things, that:

 " ... is a committee that meets behind locked doors and leaves its paper trail in classified files. The President's Intelligence Advisory Board (PIAB) is one of the most secretive and potentially influential segments of the US Intelligence Community." It would seem like the chances of locating the 1961 document in archives of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board are slim.

 Who was the SNIE ultimately aimed at?

So, by submitting a "Special National Intelligence Estimate" to the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board, you were effectively providing advice that might then by relayed to the President.

Can we find a record of the 1961 document in the archives of the Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board? As I mentioned in yesterday's blog post, I went to the J. F. Kennedy Library and Museum website and typed in the words "Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board." I examined the several hundred response titles, but found no reference to the 1961 document.

Readers of yesterday's blog, may recall that the 1961 document, on page 2, under "Basis for action" stated that the document was responding "In pursuant to Presidential National Security Action Memorandum No. 70..." which I found a copy of, and that it related to issues with NATO about Berlin. It is logical that if the President issued a NSAM No. 70, that the response would go back through the President's Foreign Intelligence Advisory Board for relay to the President. However, it should be noted that NSAM No. 70 was not about UFOs.


The 1961 document has the words "TOP SECRET UMBRA" on it. "TOP SECRET" is of course a security classification. "UMBRA" was one of three codewords placed after the words "TOP SECRET," indicating a level of sensitivity. "UMBRA" was used for the highest level of sensitivity (category 3.) According to one website I consulted  the use of "UMBRA" terminated in 1999. So, the question is, was "TOP SECRET UMBRA" in use in 1961?

I checked with researcher and author Tim McMillan, who advised me that "UMBRA didn't come into existence until 1968." To fact check this, I turned to the definitive work on the US intelligence community, namely Jeffrey T Richelson's book "The U.S. Intelligence Community" 2015. epub. On page 744 I found the following:

"For many years Special Intelligence contained three primary compartments indicating different levels of sensitivity - UMBRA, SPOKE and MORAY- whose sensitivity was indicated by the prefixes attached to each codeword: TOP SECRET for UMBRA, and SECRET for SPOKE and MORAY. UMBRA, beginning in 1968, became the successor to the post World War II SI codewords..."

In a 22 June 2020 blog post on Dr. Eric Davis has this to say about the question:

"Regarding the Umbra stamp, I don't care to get into debates with people that don't know how the government works now or in the past. Classified documents get different markings applied to them over time as part of a reclassification/declassification review process."

Foreign Broadcasting Information Service

One of Paul Dean's points in his recent blog on the 1961 document was that page 2 of the 1961 document refers to the FBIS, which Paul says is the Foreign Broadcast Information Service which did not exist in 1961. He stated, based on a document he found, that in that year it was named the Foreign Broadcast Information Division (FBID). Only in 1965 was it renamed the Foreign Broadcast Information Service.

However, US researcher Douglas D. Johnson contacted Paul and I, to say that he had found a CIA document dated 1 April 1959 which was used the words "Foreign Broadcasting Information Service" in its title, and a second CIA document dated 1 December 1960 which again used the words "Foreign Broadcasting Information Service" in its title. I found that there were numerous examples of CIA "Foreign Broadcasting Information Service" documents from 1961. Thus the use of the term FBIS in the 1961 document is not unusual.

Final words for today

I hope that the contents of yesterday's and today's blogs, will provide better information upon which to basis a judgement as to whether or not, the 1961 document is genuine.

I note from Joe Murgia's blog posts about this matter, that at least one person, Dr. Eric Davis indicates that he is aware of the author of the SNIE. In Davis' own words: "The author of the Nov. 1961 SNIE was a nuclear SME who served a TDY at the AEC in the late-50s."

In a 27 June 2020 update to his 22 June 2020 blog post, Joe Murgia wrote:

"I heard from the source earlier today and he gave me further details on how the document was authenticated and his opinion on the work of a few in UFOlogy. He saw the original SNIE in an office he was a consultant to at a 3-letter agency concerning non-human, non-terrestrial, non-natural UAPs. My source knows who the author of the SNIE is and his job title at the agency."

I hope Joe is able to provide us with further clarification on the "consultant to at a 3-letter agency concerning non-human, non-terrestrial, non-natural UAPs." That certainly sounds very intriguing.

Updates 2 July 2020

1. I received a further communication from US researcher Douglas D. Johnson. He noted that the 1 April 1959 and 1 December 1960 CIA documents which he sent me, (links provided above) were issued under the "OFFICIAL USE ONLY" marking. He went on to say that "This is not a classification, but it does indicate that these publications were intended for use within the government, not for public release."  He went on to say "The Foreign Broadcast entity was placed within the CIA in September 1947. Paul Dean had relied in part on a 1952 memo (attached) on "FBIS History," the writer of which explained that as a "subterfuge" to conceal the FBID's connection to the CIA, "all overt publications, material published abroad, etccetera" was attributed to Foreign Broadcast Information SERVICE, without reference to the CIA, but that internal government documents employed the technically correct then Foreign Broadcast Information DIVISION. Yet the documents I found (I expect there are many others out there) show that this distinction was no longer being observed by 1959, but this point is lost unless you note that they were marked OFFICIAL USE ONLY."

2. US researcher and archivist Barry Greenwood, undertook a search through his digital copy of the website where Dr. Robert M. Wood, and Ryan S. Wood,  had archived their document collection. He was unable to locate a copy of the 1961 document, amongst that collection.

Update 5 July 2020

I received a further communication from US researcher Douglas D. Johnson, which read as follows:

Over the past couple of weeks, Joe Murgia, on his blog and on Twitter (blog at; @UFOJoe11on Twitter) has promoted the authenticity of a four-page document that purports to be a "Special National Intelligence Estimate" (SNIE), titled "Critical Aspects of Unidentified Flying Objects and the Nuclear Threat to the Defense of the United States and Allies."  The document presents itself as the product of "U.S. INTELLIGENCE COMMUNITY AND MJTWELVE OPERATIONS."  It also contains the notations "No. 1-61-E" and "Completed on 5 November 1961."

In a June 22 blog post, found at, Joe Murgia wrote:
I believe it to be a legitimate document because of the following:  An independent source with the appropriate security clearances and need-to-know access had authenticated and validated the Nov. 1961 SNIE with several SIS-level authorities at the U.S. government agency that owns it, so this document is not any hoax or forgery. (SIS = Senior Intelligence Service ~Joe) And the same source added this little tidbit: The author of this SNIE report has a documented history of leaving various, uncorrected typos in their final reports. What?! That piece of information might just be my favorite part of this entire story!!! That tells you just how thorough this source (and others like him/her) are with this material. They need to make sure before they put their reputation behind it. And I realize it’s an anonymous source but I know who they are and I have no doubt this document is legitimate.

In a June 27 update (same URL) Murgia wrote:
I heard from the source earlier today and he gave me further details on how the document was authenticated and his opinion on the work of a few in UFOlogy.  He saw the original SNIE in an office he was a consultant to at a 3-letter agency concerning non-human, non-terrestrial, non-natural UAPs. My source knows who the author of the SNIE is and his job title at the agency. Various researchers in UFOlogy literally have no clue what is what in the pre-1970s black programs world. Their point-by-point arguments are wrong because they don’t know the context and precedence behind the SNIE. It is not a Doty document and it is not a James Jesus Angleton document, nor is it a Bill Cooper document. My source saw the original SNIE at the agency and received verification of its authenticity from agency leadership and archivists during official briefings on non-terrestrial UAP events. The SNIE author is long-ago retired.

Paul James Dean and Keith Basterfield have published blog posts that discussed multiple problematic or questionable aspects of the 1-61-E document:

I previously have contributed a few small comments on and supplements to the Paul Dean and Keith Basterfield blog posts. Yesterday I obtained a several additional items that I think pertinent, which I will now proceed to interject into the discussion.

(1)  I've obtained the attached 8-page National Security Council document [imaged below - KB] that was issued January 24, 1964 with a SECRET classification.  It was declassified over 30 years later. (I think that the handwritten declassification date is 4-14-97, but the marking is somewhat unclear.) The document is a "list [that] includes all National Intelligence Estimates published since 1961 [i.e., 1961 through 1963, inclusive] which IL [the NSC Information Liaison] considers still generally useful..."  The list includes Special National Intelligence Estimates as well as NIEs. The purported November 5, 1961 UFO-nuke SNIE is not on this originally classified list, nor is any similar topic listed.

(2)  Some (probably most) of the NIEs and SNIEs that appear on the January 24, 1964 NSC list have since been declassified, albeit with redactions in some cases.  In order to provide a basis for comparison with the Murgia-promoted UFO-nuke document, I am attaching [first three pages imaged below - KB] one of the then-most-recent listed NIEs -- "Soviet Capabilities for Strategic Attack," issued Oct. 18, 1963.  This Oct. 18, 1963 NIE was issued as TOP SECRET CONTROLLED DISSEM.  The third page of the document was a memo from the Director of Central Intelligence that specified that "no revelation of its existence [may] be made to unauthorized persons." Despite this tight control, the title of this NIE appears on the Jan. 1964 NSC list, even though the list itself was classified at the less restrictive level of SECRET.  (On the list, the Oct. 18, 1963 NIE was marked as "RD only" --"RD" meaning "Restricted Data," the term applied to certain specially controlled nuclear-related information, not to be confused with the low-level "restricted" category of classification.)

(3)  Yesterday, I consulted an academic historian with extensive expertise in the history of the Intelligence Community (and, so far as I could tell, no previous involvement in UFO-related controversies).  This individual did not directly examine the 1-61-E document -- which, after all, is presented as still being highly classified -- but did review Murgia's two statements that I have quoted in total above, summarizing what Murgia reported that the anonymous "independent source" says about the origins of 1-61-E.  This is verbatim the nub of what the expert historian told me:
[If authentic, the purported SNIE] would appear on the lists of NIEs and SNIEs that are in the files.  Government offices continually indexed estimates.  We know of many NIEs only through their appearance in an index, since the document itself has not been released....Intelligence estimates have no 'author'.  They are consensus documents to which many whole agencies each add their snippet of text.  There are CIA analysts who brag for the rest of their career that they got to write a few words in an estimate.  SNIEs appear only after a long trail of paper, proposals, correspondence, drafts, etc.  There’s never an SNIE all on its own.  The procedure is this:  the Office of National Estimates issues a request, including details of what to be included and a deadline, and parcels out responsibilities to different agencies.  The agencies then assemble committees and prepare their parts.  The different parts then go for review to all of the other agencies.  Then you get to full drafts, which are circulated.  So if a person claims to know the 'author' of an SNIE you can be sure that person has never had a job in intelligence.

(4)  The expert historian also directed me to a CIA historical document, originally written and classified SECRET in 1965 and 1976, which may be instructive.  Note especially the second link, which lists the steps that were involved in the preparation of a National Intelligence Estimate during that era.

(5)  I realize that the specialist historian's assessment regarding the claims of Murgia's anonymous "independent source" may be discounted by some, even though this falls squarely within that historian's field of expertise, because the historian also wishes to remain anonymous.  I encourage anyone interested in this subject to locate persons not connected with ufology, with suitable expertise in the history of the production of National Intelligence Estimates, and/or in assessing the forensic attributes of purportedly classified or once-classified documents, to obtain independent assessments.

I have additional thoughts regarding the actual substantive content of the 1-61-E document -- if limited to a single adjective, I would choose "incoherent" -- but I will defer those comments to another occasion.


  1. Thought the consultant was Davis.

  2. Thank you Keith for tying to put the pieces of this puzzle together.

  3. I will expand now on the comments that I made in the July 2, 2020 communication that Keith Basterfield quoted above. I am bothered by the anachronisms within the document (e.g., claiming participation in its preparation by one organizational entity that had already long passed out of existence), and by the irregular serial number (which I discussed in a comment on another post on this site), by the absence from the 1964 classified NSC list, and by other aspects large and small in which the document manifestly differs from authenticated NIEs of the era, including NIEs issued with strictly controlled distribution such as the 1963 TOP SECRET CONTROLLED DISSEM document that I cited (11-8-63).

    But beyond those non-inconsequential problems, I will observe as a layperson that 1-61-E is a wretchedly written document -- disjointed throughout; internally contradictory; riddled with gross errors of grammar, syntax, usage and spelling (e.g., "INTELLEGENCE"); descending into virtual incoherence by the final paragraph. Also, the writer assumes the posture of addressing an audience of persons who apparently already have knowledge of remarkable events (e.g., referring, without elaboration, to "six cases in which nuclear materials were involved in the retrieval of unidentified space vehicles"), yet in the very next paragraph recites the effects of a Soviet nuclear strike as if addressing a general newspaper audience. I could go on, but really -- this thing is a mess.

    Douglas D. Johnson
    @ddeanjohnson on Twitter

  4. The document had been on the internet for many years before Joe Murgia made an issue of it. The paper looks like it has been cut and pasted.


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