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In personal terms, the handling of this case is very much the story of the Energy Department intelligence official who first raised questions about the Los Alamos case, Notra Trulock. -New York Times March 6, 1999
I always get asked about two things: how I got into intelligence work and how I got my first name. Answering the second question first, I am the third Trulock to carry the name Notra, although none of us is certain of its origin. My dad thinks some great-great-aunt stuck it on my grandfather, but no one seems to know what it means or how she came up with it. My dad hated it, but still inflicted it on me. When it came time for me to name my son, he was disappointed that I broke the streak. I have gotten some laughs out of it, especially with regard to its presumed "ethnic" origin; people have guessed, wildly, that it's Romanian of Hungarian.
Actually, I had a pretty conventional midwestern upbringing, and I always seemed-at least to myself-an unlikely candidate to be attacked as a racist of xenophobe by the Washington Post or the New York Times. My dad was a city fireman in Indianapolis, as was my grandfather. I also have a cousin who was an Indianapolis city fireman. As I look back, I am struck by the manner in which they all approached their job. After the tragedy of September 11, 2001, people now understand that a fireman's job is one of the most dangerous in the land. Dad went about his work with little fanfare, however; he rarely mentioned it and never regaled us with tales of his own bravery or that of his father. Occasionally, as a small boy running errands with him, I would hear snatches of conversation about some fireman's deeds. I understand that my cousin is a bonafide hero and has saved a number of lives in the course of duty, but I sure didn't hear this from him. These men don't brag about their work or their exploits; it's all just part of doing their job.
Mom stayed at home with us until around the time I was in the sixth grade, when she went back to work as a secretary. She is very intelligent, the brains of the family and an avid reader. I was always impressed at how quickly she could become knowledgeable about the Civil War or the history of doll making. After my brother and I left home, she finally started her own doll-making business along with her sister. My dad later became a gunsmith, and both flourished as entrepreneurs.
I grew up on the far outskirts of Indianapolis across the street from a soybean field. My first love as a boy was baseball. In contrast to the organized leagues my kids compete in today, we played every day in a big field down the street. We had Little League, but the weekly games hardly satisfied my appetite for the sport. I spent hours knocking rocks into that soybean field pretending that I was hitting home runs off Whitey Ford of the Yankees or Billy Pierce of the White Sox. Since we were Hoosiers, we also played an awful lot of basketball. But baseball was my first love.
I also read constantly: adventure stories, sports stories, biographies of sports heroes. Television was hardly the major presence in our lives that it typically is today, so I filled my time with stories of the heroics of Babe Ruth, Stan Musial, Chip Hilton and the Hardy Boys. Gradually, however, my tastes shifted to history and historical biographies. William Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich made a lasting impression on me, as did Bruce Catton's series on the Civil War. Books about the Kennedy administration sparked my interest in politics and especially foreign policy.
What is today called a "slacker" was then just an "underachiever." Whichever term you use, I was a mediocre student. My parents tried hard to motivate me, but my head was always somewhere else. Still, I was the first Trulock, and certainly the first one named Notra, to attend college. I ended up at Indiana University majoring in political science and history during the late 1960s, when the "cultural revolution" that had hit elsewhere years earlier finally rolled into Bloomington. I was a fraternity boy and in the fall of 1967 we were wearing blue blazers with fraternity patches to class; by the following spring, the blazers were gone, replaced by the standard-issue radical outfit-Levis and boots. IU experienced every type of campus radicalism: antiwar protests, black student uprisings, and so on. My favorite was the educational reform movement. Grades were "bad" by definition, and by my senior year, many professors allowed students to grade their own efforts. Not surprisingly, these courses, mostly in the sociology and English departments, were very popular.
The backdrop for all this energy on campus, of course, was the war in Vietnam. Although I had been a Goldwater Republican in high school, I too gradually came to oppose the war-for sound geopolitical reasons, or so I thought. I believed that the war, especially by 1968-69, was ruining our chances for better relations with Russia and hurting our standing in NATO and elsewhere. The truth was that my college buddies and I didn't want to get killed for nothing, but at least I had constructed a high-minded reason for opposing the war. I also learned to parrot the standard antiwar critique about this being a civil war waged by idealistic peasant nationalists. When I joined the National Security Agency in May 1975, just as Saigon was falling, I was shocked to learn how naïve and just plain wrong I had been.
Some of my professors at IU thought I might have a career as a college professor. How they expected I could ever get through graduate school with my mediocre grades and poor study habits is beyond me. I had some vague notions of becoming a lawyer, but for the most part I just drifted.
One episode did shape my outlook later in life. As I said, I was a member of a fraternity, the oldest and one of the most prestigious on campus. Of course, the fraternity was lily-white, but by the time I was a junior and an officer of the fraternity, a number of us decided we should integrate the house. More and more African-Americans were coming through during the "open rush" periods and we identified a number of excellent candidates for membership. We finally settled on one individual who had it all: good grades, good personality, and a jock to boot.
Every candidate for membership had to be unanimously approved. Word spread that we were trying to "integrate" the fraternity, and resistance became fierce. At the final meeting to approve "bids" for prospective members, one of the seniors blackballed our nominee. His reason: color, pure and simple. I was outraged; I had never encountered such blind, stupid prejudice, although I was to see it many more times in the future. I promptly resigned my post and moved out of the house.
I was subject to the first draft lottery and hit the jackpot with a low number-52, as I recall. When I finally got around to checking with my draft board to see when I might be called up, I learned that I could expect to be in basic training by the end of the summer of 1970, the year I graduated. I briefly considered the National Guard, but Mom told me that Dad, who had enlisted in the Navy in World War II, didn't think it would be honorable duty. It bothered me to think that I might somehow dishonor him. Then I remembered that when I had taken my draft physical earlier in the fall 1969, I had been notified that I had qualified for an outfit called the Army Security Agency. I had never heard of this agency, but my first visit to an ASA recruiter in early summer, 1970, was definitely a turning point in my life.
During that meeting, I took still more tests. One of them measured language aptitude. Frankly, I didn't think I had any, so I was surprised when the ASA recruiter told me I had "maxed" the test. He said that I could "write my own ticket" and asked what I wanted to do in the way of language training. I asked the recruiter without hesitation which language would keep me out of Vietnam. Russian, he said, and I replied that Russian sounded good to me. I had to submit to my first background investigation in order to gain the needed security clearances to be admitted to ASA. Over the next few months, I heard from several of my college buddies that FBI agents were asking questions about my activities and friends and so on. Most of them thought it was pretty cool and assumed I was going off to be a spy.
It was far more mundane than that. After basic training at scenic Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, the Army shipped me out to Monterey, California, for a year's worth of Russian language training. I started off the school year with my usual half-ass study habits, but soon got the shock of my life. The flunkout rate at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) was high, and those who didn't make it went to Advanced Infantry Training and then straight to Vietnam. I started burning the midnight oil and, for the first time since grade school, studied as if my life depended on it. I managed to bring my grade average high enough to stay in school and get a duty tour in Germany.
I did about eighteen months at an isolated post in the Bavarian Alps. I traveled quite a bit and got to see some of Europe. I had planned to go to Munich for the 1972 Olympics, but I had to work, so was not there when the tragic massacre of the Israeli athletes took place. The local scenery was breathtaking. I will always remember coming home from a midnight shift one winter Sunday morning. The snow was blowing hard and there was no traffic whatsoever. I stopped the car and got out to take in the sight. Just then a fox stepped out from the woods into the road about 150 yards ahead. The wind blew my scent away from him, although he was very alert. Then a smaller fox, probably a female, and some "kits" stepped out onto the road. I will never forget that picture. Soon the wind shifted, the male sensed me and they were gone in a flash.
Vietnam was winding down and some of the units were rotated straight from the jungles to Germany. I saw the beginnings of the "hollow Army," as it came to be known later in the seventies. In addition to the racial problems, drug use was rampant among the troops. We were sure to see stoned troopers during any trip to the big PXs at Nuremberg or Frankfurt. The Army's efforts to stamp out drugs always seemed to produce more users than ever before. At least once in my seventeen months, the Army ran an exercise to "rescue" us in the event of a Warsaw Pact invasion. An armored unit, I don't remember what size, was supposed to coordinate such an operation early one morning when I was on duty. The helicopter troop carriers and helicopter gun ships arrived bright and early. The gun ships were buzzing around the site, which got our counterparts over in Czechoslovakia very stirred up. The armored elements were supposed to arrive about the same time, but didn't show up until about four that afternoon. I talked to the unit commander, a captain about my age, and he told me they got "lost" on the way up, which explained why they were about six hours late. Needless to say, that didn't give us a warm feeling about our prospects in the event of an invasion.
The Army was downsizing after Vietnam and offered us four-year enlistees a year off for good behavior. They didn't have to ask me twice. Back home, I briefly considered law school again, but there seemed to be a glut of lawyers, all of them at least four years ahead of me in both their education and establishing their careers. I really had only three objectives when I got out: quit smoking, never play cards again, and never go near the Army or anything that even smacked of the military.
I ended up in Chicago in a sales training program. I made a lot of friends, but the work was just not stimulating enough. The long-term money prospects were good, but I wasn't sure I could hold out. I began to recall fondly the Russian language course in Monterey and even some of the work in Germany. Pretty soon, I was hauling out my textbooks and trying to read Russian language newspapers and books. After a year or so, I applied to the CIA and also to the Defense Intelligence Agency. I never heard back from DIA, but I did get a tape in the mail from CIA. I was supposed to transcribe what I heard on the tape and send it back. Too weird, I thought, so I threw the tape in the trash. Then I remembered the National Security Agency, the Defense Department agency that controlled ASA. It had always been a mystery to us. From time to time, NSA civilians would show up at our site in Germany, nose around for a while and then disappear again. NSA was still a supersecret organization at this time, in the mid-1970s. (It was commonly referred to as "No Such Agency" around Washington.) I applied, and to my surprise not only got a response but was invited to fly out to Maryland for an interview. I redoubled my efforts to brush up on my Russian and visited Fort Meade, the home of NSA, in the early fall of 1974. I did well enough on the Russian test to be offered a job.
I reported for duty at the National Security Agency in May 1975, when the agency was starting to publish a series of retrospective articles about its involvement in Vietnam going back to the beginning of the war. Every one of them gave the lie to the antiwar teach-ins and even the formal course work I had digested at Indiana in the late 1960s. This had been no "civil war," but a war controlled from the north since the very beginning. But I also wondered at the terrible job the Johnson administration did at telling the real story behind our involvement. I guess the necessity of protecting intelligence "sources and methods" overrode the need of the American people to know what was really going on in Vietnam.
At NSA I began as a transcriber. Surely I must have been one of the worst transcribers in the entire recorded history of the agency. My knowledge of Russian was fairly good; I could read it and even speak it pretty well. I could converse with my Russian language instructors, but I could not hear it on those tapes at all. I was just plain awful. I was desperate to find another job at NSA. But just like the Army, NSA had some very strange bureaucratic rules. Someone in the NSA hierarchy had decided to hold the line and not allow anyone to transfer out of the transcription career field. This meant that no matter how inept I was at it, I was doomed to be a transcriber.
I was close to quitting when I got my first big break. A man named Joe Nogal, since deceased, gave me an opportunity to become a watch officer in the National SIGINT Operations Center (NSOC). My exact duties there are probably still classified, but I can say that I loved the work. I did analysis and assessments, wrote reports and did lots of collection "coordination" and tasking.
Excerpted from CODE NAME KINDRED SPIRIT by NOTRA TRULOCK Copyright © 2003 by Notra Trulock. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
|Cast of Main Characters|
|Nuclear Weapons Terminology|
|Map and Figures|
|1||The Making of an Intelligence Officer||13|
|2||Setting the Stage||39|
|3||To Build a Better Bomb||69|
|4||Who Done It?||99|
|5||The Horse Has Left the Barn||159|
|6||The Truth Comes Out||201|
Posted April 28, 2009
Wen Ho Lee has to be the worst spy in American history, caught or uncaught. A smear campaign was truly brutalized on our intelligence agencies, using the old true and tried method of the race card which left this Chinese agent go. It was the FBI's worst moment and that there has been many moments recently in that once venerable institution. The FBI was never a truly good counterintelligence organization, as its charter clearly makes it out. Due to the terrorist threat of recent years, a systematic reorganization has made that law enforcement/intelligence body much more mobile to counterespionage work with counterintelligence skill, but as the distinguished Notra Trulock truly shows in this book that the less-than-forthcoming Clinton Administration cared about threats abroad to American interests or domestic threats, especially to our impressive nuclear infrastructure. As Trulock makes efficiently clear, the Chinese intelligence agencies of the Second Department of the PLA and the Ministry of State Security were amongst the most aggressive, best and determined spy organizations searching our nuclear facilities besides our "allies" like Israel and Pakistan. It is clear that nobody has allies, they only have common interests and many powers cited as allies, even Western powers, were interested in those facilities such as the French and Germans. With the Chinese smear campaign launched against Trulock, and the full support of the gutless Clintons, they clearly wanted to make China a more strategic partner while ignoring the much darker side of this "partner." They dangerous spying of the Ministry of State Security afforded that there was probably more than just one spy in Los Alamos and there might have been numerous spies. As is the business of intelligence, it is a discriminating business while that of politics and particularly liberal politics is that of public relations politics. It was very interesting that just to show his stuff, Clinton and Richardson decided to arrest Wen Ho Lee when the investigation was nearly five years over. It was the FBI's lowest moment, what a surprise with Louis Freeh.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.