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The NSA Has a Long History of Smearing Leakers as 'Sexual Deviates'

When the last major defection hit the NSA, the government smeared the leakers as gay. New documents show they lied

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But according to NSA investigative files I obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, Martin and Mitchell were straight. The declassified NSA documents, along with others I obtained from the Pentagon, FBI, CIA and State Department, detail the background investigation into the historic spy-agency saga and clear Martin and Mitchell of the “deviancy” charges that rocked the country 53 years ago this summer.

After interviewing more than 450 individuals about the twosome’s character, habits and sex lives — right down to the skin rash on Martin’s stomach — the NSA determined a year after the defections it could find no conclusive evidence the two were lovers or gay. “Martin and Mitchell were known to be close friends and somewhat anti-social, but no one had any knowledge of a homosexual relationship between them,” investigators reported. Both, in fact, had American girlfriends, and “Both married Soviet citizens,” says one government report, “but Martin divorced his wife [Inessa] in about July 1963 after moving to Moscow.” Mitchell married a woman named Galina, dean of the piano faculty at Leningrad Conservatory. Neither apparently fathered any children.

“Personal associates also deny any knowledge of homosexuality on the part of Martin and Mitchell and state that both men engaged in social and sexual activity with women,” NSA investigators found. “One [U.S.] female associate of Mitchell acknowledges frequent and normal sexual activity with him during the entire period of their acquaintance.”

Some American friends and neighbors thought they were “odd young men who kept to themselves.” But they apparently had personal secrets to protect. One of Martin’s  companions was a Baltimore stripper known as Lady Zorro. She claimed to have as many as 40 “dates” with Martin, who paid in cash. Another source said Martin was “totally devoted to his all-controlling sadomasochism,” and an Ellensburg man claimed Martin had “perverted sexual relations with Japanese females [while in the Navy] and with women in the State of Washington.” The acts reportedly involved watching, or joining in with, two women having sex.

Still unknown are the secrets Martin and Mitchell evidently provided the Russians. However, their public statements — describing reconnaissance flights both countries likely knew about, and giving general details of NSA communication intercepts — weren’t especially damaging, some observers noted. The NSA argued that neither man handled high-value secrets, describing them as “junior mathematicians” and “clerks.”

“The most plausible explanations for the defection attributed it to personal abnormalities,” the agency’s somewhat self-serving documents state in summation. The probe “revealed that the two were egotistical, arrogant and insecure young men whose place in society was much lower than they believed they deserved. Both had greatly inflated opinions concerning their intellectual attainments and talents, and both reportedly expressed bitter resentment that they had not yet received the recognition they were sure they deserved as up-and-coming young scientists.” The NSA concluded that “the accumulated evidence indicated that the defection was an impulsive, self-generated act, conceived and initiated without outside prompting or assistance.”

Ed Snowden recently said something similar. While he admits to stealing classified secrets, and his extended search for asylum has become a distraction from his revelations, “My sole motive,” he said initially, “is to inform the public as to that which is done in their name and that which is done against them.” He didn’t need prompting, or anyone’s assistance other than the media, to escape, he said, a “world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.” The question now, like the one Martin and Mitchell faced, is whether a world without such recording exists. If so, does it have extradition?

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