Personnel Records of Counsel Services Founder Further Confirm Affiliation with CIA Asset
Official personnel records of Leo H. McCormick compiled during his civil service career were recently obtained from the National Archives and Records Administration. The material was provided in response to a 2021 FOIA request prompted by a 1949 FBI report obtained through the FOIA which referenced McCormick's records maintained at the National Archives (see p15). The records revealed further verification of McCormick's employment and affiliations with Counsel Services, a Baltimore-based public relations firm he co-founded, and the Economic Cooperation Administration, a government agency which acted as a CIA asset. During the mid-20th century, Counsel Services represented career intelligence officers and coordinated the incorporation of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, as documented in Wayward Sons: NICAP and the IC.
Leo McCormick was born in Baltimore in 1908. Previously obtained FBI files indicate he submitted an application for employment to the Bureau in 1935 (see p30). FBI files also reflect extensive background checks conducted for McCormick's work with the U.S. government.
McCormick's recently obtained personnel records establish he was employed in the Office of Emergency Management in the early 1940s. He was assigned to its Office of Price Administration in 1941, where he became the Director for the State of Maryland and would remain until 1946. His office employed Mary Vaughan King, who became a key figure with Counsel Services in 1947 and would prove instrumental in the early operation of NICAP in 1956.
McCormick, Vaughan King, and L.G. Shreve co-founded Counsel Services in 1947. According to statements Vaughan King gave the FBI in 1949 (see pp23-24), McCormick sold his interest in Counsel Services to his fellow founders in 1948 to pursue what turned out to be an unsuccessful candidacy for a Democratic seat in Congress. McCormick was well-connected in the community, listing such figures as a Maryland governor and sitting judges as personal references.
Page 180 of the above linked McCormick personnel file confirms that in October 1949 he was appointed as an Administrative Officer and a Project Manager at the Economic Cooperation Administration, or ECA. Page 178 indicates he remained employed with the ECA with no break in service until assigned to the Economic Stabilization Agency in late 1950.
A May 1949 letter declassified in 2003 and obtained from the CIA establishes an ongoing relationship between the CIA and Economic Cooperation Administration in which the latter provided “current economic intelligence information” to the Agency. The letter sought to increase the security classification from SECRET to TOP SECRET of the information supplied to the CIA and was authored from then-DCI and future NICAP Chairman of the Board Roscoe Hillenkoetter to an ECA administrator.
Archived newspaper clippings indicate Mary Vaughan King took leadership of Counsel Services, which was contracted by the Economic Cooperation Administration in 1949 and 1950 to undertake work in Europe and China. The firm's L.G. Shreve traveled to China with what were reportedly described by Vaughan King as men on special temporary assignment. The reader will note this took place, coincidentally or otherwise, during McCormick's service as an Administrative Officer and a Project Manager with the Economic Cooperation Administration.
Mary Vaughan King and Counsel Services worked with a colorful cast of characters. They included, among others, career CIA officer Col. Ulius Amoss and his wife Mary Veronica "Ron" Grogan, who was also employed in the intelligence community; the enigmatic Nicholas de Rochefort, who went on to be the subject of a 1970s lawsuit, Stanley D. Bachrack v. CIA, William Colby, in which investigative journalist Bachrack tried unsuccessfully to obtain potentially responsive records on de Rochefort from the Agency; and Thomas D. O'Keefe, a State Department man who cited serving on the Selection Board for Foreign Service Officers among his previous employment assignments.
Vaughan King and Counsel Services apparently also had a working relationship with initial NICAP frontman T. Townsend Brown prior to what would prove to be their collaboration on the UFO organization. The relationship was reportedly due to Brown's dabbling in anti-gravity technology and his 1950s efforts to secure Department of Defense funding for his pursuits (see Brown's 1971 letter to Stuart Nixon, pp22-24).
In a contract undertaken with NICAP and Brown in 1956, Mary Vaughan King acted as Counsel Services president and described former State Department employee Thomas O'Keefe as a senior officer of the firm, designating him to retain NICAP consultants and regional directors (see p7). Vaughan King, O'Keefe, and Brown incorporated the UFO investigation organization in October 1956 (see p3). By January 1957, the group was on its third treasurer and Maj. Donald Keyhoe, who attended initial planning sessions with a small group including Brown, was appointed director. He would remain in the position for some 13 years and was credited with persuading former DCI Hillenkoetter to take the position as board chairman.
Leo McCormick's 204-page personnel file comes to a close with his September 1952 resignation, for "personal reasons," from the Economic Stabilization Agency. He was reprimanded earlier that year for what his employer described in a May 1952 letter, shown in part below, as going to the office of a Mr. Vance during business hours and committing assault and battery on him. The details of the circumstances are not clear.
The Economic Stabilization Agency was authorized through the actions of President Harry S. Truman in 1950. It was responsible for price ceilings and wage controls in response to the Korean War. Truman subsequently abolished the office in April 1953, a few months after McCormick resigned.
The Economic Cooperation Administration, which employed McCormick and DCI Hillenkoetter tapped for intelligence, was established in 1948. It was succeeded in 1951 by the Mutual Security Agency, a predecessor to the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID.