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The NSA can neither confirm nor deny. The Glomar Response

NSA, FOIA, and Freedom and other things also....

How a sunken nuclear submarine, a crazy billionaire, and a mechanical claw gave birth to a phrase that has hounded journalists and lawyers for 40 years and embodies the tension between the public’s desire for transparency and the government’s need to keep secrets.

Radiolab Blogland
What Lies Beneath
Thursday, February 13, 2014 - 10:51 AM

By Julia Barton

In “Neither Confirm Nor Deny,” we spend a fair amount of time on the remarkable cover story that disguised a CIA mission to lift the Soviet submarine K-129 from the bottom of the Pacific. That cover story puts the movie-cover-story of “Argo” to shame: from about 1970-74, the CIA managed to convince the world that billionaire Howard Hughes had decided to invest millions of dollars to scoop up “manganese nodules,” balls of heavy metals that lie on the ocean floor. And the agency had to fool not just the world, but a diverse range of special interests: ship-building unions, stockholders, environmental watchdogs, and the media. Via fake press releases, events, technical specs and front companies, the CIA really had us for a while there. The prospect of an ocean mining rush prompted huge consternation among delegates at the ongoing United Nations Conference on the Law of the Sea.

In the end, the commercial cover story was only a wobbly success—investigative reporter Seymour Hersh saw through it early on, but was persuaded to keep it under wraps.

But Project Azorian’s real cover might just have been its technical daring. It was just too crazy to be believed. Former Soviet Navy captain and historian Nikolai Cherkashin told me that once Soviet officers saw the gigantic “mining” vessel hovering over the area of the K-129’s demise, they tried to warn higher ups that something suspicious was happening. But Soviet intelligence dismissed the notion that the US would be insane enough to try to lift an object of 2000 tons from three miles below the surface, where water pressures were enormous. It would have been almost easier, given the technology of the time, to bring a Soviet object back from the Moon.

David Sharp, who was director of recovery missions on the Hughes Glomar Explorer, says his crew of CIA engineers simply didn’t know it couldn’t be done. “I think given a better background in marine engineering, we likely would not have tried” what they did, Sharp said. But the CIA also brought in skilled contractors like the deepwater drilling experts Global Marine, whose name in truncated form adorns the Hughes Glomar Explorer (HGE)....continue...

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The Glomar Explorer...

was later converted into a drillship that drilled for oil in the Gulf of Mexico about 10 years ago. I worked as a paleontologist on the ship for a well or two, drilled by a major oil company. It was an old rust bucket, one of the worst rigs I've ever worked on, but cool knowing that I was working on such an historical ship.

'Cause there's a monster on the loose

Very cool!

Who owned her then?

Still Global Marine at that

Still Global Marine at that time, though seems like they were bought by or merged to become Global Sante Fe around that period. Conoco was the operator of the project, but the oil companies don't own the rigs they drill with.... little known fact.

'Cause there's a monster on the loose


...and beyond smaller outfits holding title to such vessels, big banks hold liens against most of them. Am I right? JPMorgue and the like virtually own the ships, farmland, infrastructure, sports teams, etc...

jrd3820's picture

Oh hey...this did better than I thought it would...

Cool, because I was actually trying to be relevant this time.


It's a great post, jrd3820,

and one of my favorites of the week, maybe even the month.

When other posts are long forgotten, I will remember this.

I can't confirm or deny if that's true, but I'll remember.


jrd3820's picture

lol, thanks John Robb...

I am going to watch your youtube on this later when my internet doesn't keep kicking me off. Hey, just so as to not overwhelm you with responses all over the place, I saw your post in the jam session about My Morning Jacket. I saw the same tour this summer in Detroit. It was my 1st time seeing Dylan live. It was a great show.

As far as this post, I never know what will hit or miss here. I never thought the jam session would be over a year and 10,000 comments strong. I was pleasantly surprised to see some upvotes and comments here in this thread.

Like I said though....I'll watch your youtube on it later this eve, until then...do you have a spiderjohn tune for the thread?

overkill [...nervous self-deprecation ;D ]...

I hit the Dylan show last summer with a friend who didn't really remember the openers as she was too excited to see Dylan her first time. I'd seen him with Tom Petty [and the Dead] in the 90s and then with Paul Simon immediately upon moving to Duluth, as such I was more patiently suited to dig my ears into My Morning Jacket which I had not yet seen. I'd seen Thompson and Wilco before too, and as much as I like them they were both relative yawn fests that evening.

I never did get back to you [yet ;) ] to honor your request. I'm pretty slow at times until there's something specific to spur me to dig through my pile of questionable lo-fi recordings for something relevant. This is the first song I thought of here...


Oh hey, I found a version played screamed at a bar with some drunk friends...

http://spiderjohn.com/demolicious/ezpieces/17%20Track%2017.wma :D

jrd3820's picture

Do you wanna hear a story?

Do you want to hear a story?

I’ve always really loved Bob Dylan, but I always preferred his album versions of things. Then when I saw him live, I liked it….but wasn’t quite convinced of his live stuff over his album stuff.

But I knew this guy once from the internet. This was a long time ago…. Back in the early days of the world wide webs. He was a friend and he used to play a lot of Dylan. And he sent me a record set for The Concert for Bangladesh.

You know The Concert for Bangladesh right? August 1971, Madison Square Garden. Ringo, Dylan, Harrison, Clapton and Ravi Shankar… All the cool kids were there.

I loved the albums in general, but I really loved that live version of Just Like a Woman.

Just a week or so prior I was looking for Nettie Moore on the youtubes and I found this which is pretty much perfect if you ask me (I know you didn't ask me, I'm pretending you did, it helps with the story telling process).

Then that same guy I was telling you about from the internets, he played this one

Have you read the lyrics for that one?

Clearly it’s about me.

WAIT! Come back! I know that sounds vain, but I don’t make the rules. That’s what the guy on the internet said, I just play by the rules. I try not to argue with that guy. Especially when he has had a whiskey sour or two.

I miss that guy….I haven’t talked to him in years….(Ok, that part is fiction, I just talked to him yesterday and will probably talk to him again soon, I just like theatrics).

On to the Spider John Tunes. I think you should make a bandcamp page so I can buy your music, and when you hit it big I can say….hey….I know that from the internet.

Oh and nervousness? Not so much. This crowd hasn’t made me nervous in a while. They confuse me sometimes, but nervous….well, if I was nervous I wouldn’t talk as much as I do.

Is there a punchline?

Wow, playing with Knopfler really gives Nettie Moore that early Dire Straits feel, like "Wild West End" and "Once Upon a Time in the West". I kinda want to hear Dylan sing those now. OMG, how about old raspy Bob singing "Six Blade Knife"? :D

Bangladesh is one of the first LPs I ever bought. Leon Russell really made it a party. The one guy I would like to have heard added into that mix was...

jrd3820's picture

Let's get down to business here John Robb

There was no punch line. I think the point of the insomnia fueled story was that I now think I might like Dylan live better, but I’m not sure what exactly I was getting at. Sometimes I just like talking to people and you have done a dangerous thing by listening so now I am going to tell you stories. Michael listened to me once or twice and now I tell him stories all the time.

My first lp was Judy Garland. I didn't buy it, I found it in a box somewhere. I actually grew up in the era of cassette tapes. But even then, I was pretty young for those. I spent more time dabbling in CDs.

I still burn CDs for people. I think it's better than just sending someone a link to a song if you are able to burn them a CD and get it to them somehow.

That being said, I like your links to your songs.....

This is what I propose. First, you and your band take your show on the road. Then you take the music world by storm. Meanwhile you will need someone to cover your meteoric rise to fame ala Almost Famous style. That’s where I come in.

I don’t have much experience….Ok, I’m going be honest here; I have no experience. But I am fun to hang out with, I am low maintenance and I can string some words together every now and then. I don’t like commas though, but that’s ok because this is low fi music which needs low fi writing. I can do low fi.

Then we all hit it big, they make a move about us called We Are Famous where I am played by Wynona Ryder or Kate Winslet. I’ll let you chose who plays you. Then I can retire on an island in the South
Pacific where I have a little hut and a hammock.

What do you say? You only live once. Are ya in?

And while we are playing Dylan fantasy covers, I think Fade to Black from Dire Straits would be a great raspy Dylan cover.

Oh and this has to happen once in the story of The Spider John Band and their claim to fame. If it doesn’t happen I’ll write it into the story anyways.

Oh and one more thing...did you see the wind in my signature? Isn't that cool?


TwelveOhOne's picture

Pardon my butting in: Judy Garland's record company

was "Sandy Hook Records".


This article is about the NSA, and I'm sure their fingerprints are in there somewhere (likely why they want the building destroyed?).

I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
http://fija.org - Fully Informed Jury Association
http://jsjinc.net - Jin Shin Jyutsu (energy healing)

jrd3820's picture

No need to pardon yourself

That is an interesting tidbit of info about Judy Garland.

Yeah, the NSA's fingerprints are everywhere. They just don't have to confirm or deny it.

TwelveOhOne's picture

The day my father and I changed the face of the Earth

Noticed a reference to your signature in the comment I initially responded to, and clicked it; really neat visualization. My subject, and the below, was triggered from the last sentence of your signature, "And you can move the earth also."

Years ago, my Dad's back yard had a rock in it. Two, actually, near each other; one, the lawnmower would go over, the other it would not -- but they were both almost the same, so sometimes we would dull the blade.

One day we decided to do something about it. First we got some iron bars, and tried to break it up; that didn't work. So we got some shovels and dug down one side of it; fortunately, that was the side the was the "outcropping" of the rock (it was standing up, about 2' tall, 2' wide, and 1' long, and was angled slightly so as we dug down, we were also pulling dirt from "under" it).

Once we had dug down a foot or so, we decided to see if it would rotate in place, "rolling" so it was more horizontal than vertical. It did, and then we put the dirt back.

From that day forth, we never hit the rock with the lawnmower again. And a day or so after we did that, my brain presented to me that "we changed the face of the Earth." :) Cheers!

I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you.
http://fija.org - Fully Informed Jury Association
http://jsjinc.net - Jin Shin Jyutsu (energy healing)


Michael adores you. He gets busy, and once he even sent me as proxy to make sure someone was awake to absorb your insomnia fueled story as he reached for his nightly fade to black.

I've always wanted a personal journalist and/or manager, someone to help me beat back the incessant commas now and then, someone with the patience for lo-fi. I've never consciously intended to embrace or propagate lo-fi, but that's just what I do, live lo-fi. When I catch folks listening intently [to what at times might be otherwise unlistenable], then I know that they are tuned in to the same excited human wavelength that I hear. I can find that joyfully humbling but sometimes rather egotistical. Such a diverse dynamic of perspective is crazier yet more pleasant than cocaine to me.

I've yet to see Almost Famous from under my rock. In the past decade I've reverted back into playing an imaginary lawyer. That is me and my sister back then for the most part. My 70s were a cross between that and Ordinary People [the author of which was from my hometown]. The clip featuring [a] Hairway to Steven was delightfully intense, but I admit to having forgotten the youtube clip's title and guessed that he was going to play Ramble On [perhaps that song was featured later on as he eventually left home].

Until a sequel is made I must remember that you're the journalist and I'm just a player. Oh wait, We Are Famous is the sequel. Now you're a playwright and I'm, well, whatever you write me as. :D

No punch line, you are evidently eternal. Nice. Count me in, but I have one condition, although Spider John is a friend of mine, my band/project shall be referred to as Terminal Entrance [or now I'm thinking The Glomar Response].

"I don’t have much experience….Ok, I’m going be honest here; I have no experience."

---That is an often highly underrated qualification
and can be one's greatest asset moving forward...

weddings, funerals, whatever...

I get confused. They look about the same. Same story anyway...

data recovery

jrd3820's picture

Whoa...that was eerie

Great find. I suppose any footage that old would have a bit of creepiness to it.

Spiderjohn has the best tunes. I loved neckrein. It's a song for everyone.

Thanks for your musical additions along with the youtube and other such embellishments to this thread.

Oh the deep dark secrets of a rogue Government

Have got to be pandoras box.

Great, and true story Glomar Explorer........


Drew, by the very grace of GOD through the blood of Christ Jesus.
"there shall come after us men whom shall garner great wealth using our system, and having done so shall seek to slam the door of prosperity behind them." George Washington

Michael Nystrom's picture

I love Radio Lab!

Bump for later listening. I've got to get downtown for a thing. I think I'm going to bring my good camera, and take some pictures in downtown Boston. Like I'm a tourist.

But this looks interesting!