Sunday, October 13, 2019

Former Skinwalker Personnel Suspect They Were Unwitting Research Subjects

Robert Bigelow
Two men who state they formerly worked on Robert Bigelow's Skinwalker Ranch are expressing concerns they were unwitting research subjects during their employment. Chris Marx and Chris Bartel took to social media and podcasts to voice claims they experienced paranormal-like events at the ranch and that they underwent medical tests they now suspect involved research lacking their knowledge and fully informed consent. 

Marx suggested legal action may be forthcoming:

Bartel on Twitter:

Each of the two men were interviewed by Erica Lukes. More about their claims may also be found at the blog of Keith Basterfield, who is following this developing story. It is yet to be seen how much documentation will be presented to support the statements and allegations made by Marx and Bartel, but the circumstances have the potential to prove interesting.

Concerns about adherence to human research subject protocols arose when a statement attributed to a BAASS senior manager was posted May 4, 2018, by Channel 8 in Las Vegas, the host of controversial reporter George Knapp. The statement asserted BAASS adopted "a novel approach of utilizing the human body as a readout system for dissecting interactions with the UFO phenomenon." It was further asserted that several medical technologies and related tools were used "for in depth study of the effects of UFOs on humans." 

Such circumstances were previously suggested in the now well known NYT article published in December of 2017 that broke the AATIP story. The article stated, "Researchers also studied people who said they had experienced physical effects from encounters with the objects and examined them for any physiological changes," but no details or substantiation were provided.

Information pertaining to the review, approval, and oversight of research involving human subjects is thus far sorely lacking from the vague and anonymous reports. To date there has been no clarification of specifics surrounding the medical exams or whether the work was approved by an institutional review board, or IRB, which ensures adherence to legal and ethical standards. Several FOIA requests are pending which researchers hope will shed light on the methodologies and means of measuring progress of such claimed studies, among many other questions which remain unanswered, and, in many instances, unasked around the UFO circuit.

Non-lethal weapons expert,
former NIDS spokesperson,
CIA consultant, and ufology
influencer, John Alexander
Long before the 2017 article at the Times, select researchers expressed concerns the Skinwalker saga was misrepresented for what might be a number of different reasons and motives from one person to the next. Among the suspected reasons was the possible existence of some type of classified research and development project. 

The suppositions seem bolstered by a 1996 AP article (pictured below) in which non-lethal weapons expert Col. John Alexander, acting as a spokesperson for Robert Bigelow's now dissolved National Institute for Discovery Science, made vague and contradicting statements. Alexander told the AP a mission of NIDS was to make information widely available yet simultaneously declined to provide details of how or why research was being conducted at Skinwalker Ranch.   

"You know, the Skinwalker Ranch to me is interesting for a couple reasons," writer, researcher, and former MUFON International Director James Carrion explained in 2014.

"There's a mythology that was being built up. Why was it being built up? I think it had somewhat to do with the mythology surrounding Area 51. Somebody wants to continue that mythology."

Summing up his thoughts on Bigelow and the Skinwalker Ranch, Carrion added, "All I know is somebody is obfuscating what is really going on, and I don't think it has to do with protecting people's lives [concerning the lack of access and lack of transparency]. I think it's something else."

The funding sources for research conducted at Skinwalker are as unclear as the objectives and outcomes. The Defense Intelligence Agency, which funded the AAWSAP, responded to an FOIA request it has no records pertaining to contracts undertaken with or funding provided to NIDS. 

It may be noteworthy that the FOIA does not require agencies to disclose the existence of properly classified records. It is somewhat feasible such records exist and are classified. 

The National Security Agency, rumored to have been involved at Skinwalker, fully denied an FOIA request for documents pertaining to NIDS and BAASS. "Please be advised that due to security concerns, this is our standard response to all requests where we reasonably believe acquisition records are being sought on a contract or contract related activity," the NSA explained.

Many FOIA requests to the DIA remain pending on BAASS. One FOIA request which was completed, however, substantiates that BAASS was indeed awarded an AAWSAP contract in 2008. Details of what was ultimately delivered are yet to be fully disclosed. The project may eventually prove to have taken place in either part or whole at Skinwalker Ranch, but, as of this writing, that is yet to be established, as is a great deal about activities surrounding NIDS, BAASS, and intelligence agencies. 

Part of an FOIA response from DIA establishing BAASS
was awarded an AAWSAP contract

Recommended further reading:

The Carpenter Affair: For the Record 

UFO-Pentagon Story Reflects Fundamental Problems

Monday, September 23, 2019

NSA Denies FOIA Request Pertaining to BAASS and NIDS

National Security Agency, Fort Meade, MD
The National Security Agency fully denied an FOIA request for records pertaining to Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies and the National Institute for Discovery Science. The Agency advised it is "our standard response to all requests where we reasonably believe acquisition records are being sought on a contract or contract related activity." In a letter dated Sep. 14, 2019, the NSA Initial Denial Authority wrote in part:
This responds to your Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of 10 September 2019... for "...copies of all contracts undertaken with and funding provided to Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) and/or the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS). Requested are all reports resulting from contracts granted, project objectives, project budgets, and all related files and information pertaining to relationships between NSA and either BAASS or NIDS. Date range: For NIDS docs would be 1995 to 2004. For BAASS docs would be 1999 to present."... 
Your request has been reviewed by this Agency as required by the FOIA, and is being fully denied in accordance with Executive Order 13526, as set forth in Subparagraphs (e) and (g) of Section 1.4. This request is denied because disclosure could reasonably be expected to cause damage (at minimum) to the national security, per Executive Order 13526, Section 1.2. Any responsive material that may exist would be deemed currently and properly protected; therefore, exempt from disclosure pursuant to the first exemption of the FOIA (5 U.S.C. Section 552(b)(1)).
In addition, this Agency is authorized by various statutes to protect certain information concerning its activities. Accordingly, your request is also denied pursuant to the third exemption of the FOIA, which provides for the withholding of information specifically protected from disclosure by statute. The specific statute applicable in this case is Section 6, Public Law 86-36 (50 U.S. Code 3605). No portion of any responsive material is reasonably segregable. 
Please be advised that due to security concerns, this is our standard response to all requests where we reasonably believe acquisition records are being sought on a contract or contract related activity.

Rumors have long circulated about the relationships between controversial philanthropist Robert Bigelow and intelligence agencies. The revelations of his involvement in the AATIP, and BAASS acting as a conduit to secretly provide funds from the Defense Intelligence Agency to the Mutual UFO Network, certainly added fuel to the fire.

Robert Bigelow
Relationships between Bigelow and figures such as non-lethal weapons expert and former NIDS employee Col. John Alexander, and veils of secrecy surrounding work conducted at the now fabled Skinwalker Ranch, have been questioned. Various incidents added to the speculation, including a 2012 interview with "Chip," a man who claimed to be formerly employed at the ranch and stated he saw a copy of a contract between Bigelow interests and the NSA.

Perhaps no circumstances have called the motives of Bigelow and his colorful staff into question, however, as much as their perpetual lack of either willingness or ability to follow through on claims. Bigelow's band of scientists and researchers are notorious for making huge statements and insinuations while failing to provide adequate supporting evidence. 

Just days ago, a Twitter account for Bigelow Aerospace posted a video clip of what appears to be dust or debris commonly mistaken for "orbs", implying the footage had some type of significance. To the best of my knowledge, the company has yet to clarify any details of the situation or film. 

Writers and filmmakers have added to the confusion, frequently representing Bigelow-related research as indicative of the paranormal, but, as is the case with his personnel, tend to be short on substance when asked for citations. Jeremy Corbell particularly claimed a DIA involvement at Skinwalker Ranch, but did not respond to a request for clarification. An FOIA request submitted to the DIA resulted in a response that the Agency had no documents pertaining to contracts with or funding provided to NIDS, the Bigelow corporation attributed with conducting research at Skinwalker.

Several FOIA requests remain pending with the DIA and other agencies pertaining to the AATIP.


Related and recommended:

DIA Withheld AAWSAP Contract Awarded to BAASS in 2011 FOIA Response

DIA: No Docs on NIDS

UFO-Pentagon Story Reflects Fundamental Problems

The Carpenter Affair: For the Record

Monday, September 16, 2019

FBI Had Interest in Flickinger Contacts

FBI files linked below at keepandshare may also be viewed at Google Drive here and here

Gen. Donald D. Flickinger
One of two files recently received from the FBI indicate the late Gen. Donald D. Flickinger landed on the Bureau's radar in 1964, when he was interviewed about his knowledge of a European-born woman employed as a hostess at an exclusive D.C. restaurant. The second file pertains to a rental car parked near the Soviet Embassy in 1969 which became of interest to the FBI and was subsequently established to be rented by Flickinger. The files were obtained in response to an FOIA request seeking records on Donald Davis Flickinger. 

The FOIA request was submitted following a blog post by Keith Basterfield in which he explored the possibility Flickinger acted as a mentor to Dr. Kit Green on information related to UFOs. The controversial Dr. Green is a long term ufology staple with a CV that includes the Central Intelligence Agency and Robert Bigelow's now dissolved National Institute for Discovery Science. Asked for comment on Basterfield's blog post and Flickinger serving as a mentor, Green responded in a Sep. 16 email:
I am very willing to tell you, and for you to pass on to Keith that in my judgement he is the finest Forensic technically sophisticated HUMINT researcher & analyst I have ever seen in this field. At or even slightly over 95% of his conclusions about me have been correct. I am unable legally or ethically to confirm any correct or occasionally, rarely incorrect inclusions. 
I respectfully will not confirm or deny any sources to whom I have pledged privacy. 

Donald Flickinger was an Air Force general and a surgeon. According to a CIA report, he acted as the medical adviser for Project AQUATONE for over a decade. 

In his blog post, Basterfield recapped how Green stated during a recent interview that an individual, acting as a mentor, repeatedly alluded to Green about crashed UFOs and such. The individual also, according to Green, committed to obtain security clearance for Green to access the information but never actually did. Basterfield conducted research which led him to believe it likely the person in question is the late Gen. Flickinger.

One file obtained contains an FBI report from 1964 surrounding activities of Jeannine Cusson, a woman the Bureau described as born in Poland. She entered the States as the result of marrying an American soldier and was later divorced. The FBI noted Cusson's "employment provides an ideal position for her to meet and spot highly placed individuals connected with U.S. and foreign intelligence services."

Flickinger told the Bureau he had known Cusson since 1957, and that he and his wife became quite friendly with her. The report continues:

Flickinger is documented as describing a relationship between Cusson and Dr. W. Randolph Lovelace, a longtime friend of the Flickingers who, like Flickinger, was involved in aerospace medicine and related industries. Flickinger apparently acknowledged Cusson was in an ideal position to assist Soviet representatives but clarified he did not believe this to be the case.

In the past we explored situations in which it seemed likely the topic of UFOs was used as a tool to deceptively gain the trust of people issued employment-related security clearances. Through the decades, there have been rich opportunities for such exploitation. Specific instances that seemed intriguing enough to attract concern of the intelligence community include such cases as Boyd Bushman and Vincente DePaula

We also blogged about a memo composed by an NSA assignee who advised his supervisors of inquiries posed to him and questionable behavior of researchers at a 1978 MUFON Symposium. Circumstances become complex, but the larger, global context of intelligence operations should be taken into consideration when the topics of UFOs and the intelligence community converge. That's practically any UFO conference, as well as inherent to many of the issues of interest around the UFO blogosphere.

A second file obtained from the Bureau describes intelligence gathered on unidentified subjects visiting the Soviet Embassy located in Washington, D.C. Subsequent investigation by the FBI revealed the vehicle used was rented by Flickinger. 

The Special Agent in Charge who composed the 1969 report described Flickinger as having contact with "Soviet and Satellite representatives" regarding technical conferences. Flickinger was known to the Washington Field Office in such capacities, it was explained, making it seem likely Flickinger was the driver of the unknown subjects to the embassy for business connected purposes.

The Special Agent concluded, "It appears from the composite description provided by lookout personnel it is doubtful that Flickinger entered the Embassy. Since no photos of Unsubs [unidentified subjects] exist, the only possibility of identifying Unsubs is through interview of Flickinger.

"WFO [Washington Field Office] will do so UACB [Unless Advised to the Contrary by the Bureau] under the pretext of an automobile accident in the vicinity... involving a government vehicle."

Follow-up FOIA requests were submitted pertaining to Cusson, Lovelace, and possible further investigations.

Researchers who explore the ways the topic of UFOs has been exploited by espionage and counterespionage operations may not have all the details right, but they don't have them all wrong, either.

Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Data Is King

All kidding aside, we have spy satellites that can see a pimple developing on my forehead. I'm kinda guessing the Navy already knows what these so-called UAP's are.
- Keith Kloor, Twitter

The admirable and persistent work of John Greenewald recently added a couple more shades of intrigue to the TTSA kaleidoscope. The U.S. Navy denied the three videos touted by TTSA were cleared for public release, backing up the previous statements from the Pentagon, while labeling the objects depicted in the film clips as unidentified aerial phenomena, or UAP.

Greenewald reported Joseph Gradisher, official spokesperson for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, explained, "The 'Unidentified Aerial Phenomena' terminology is used because it provides the basic descriptor for the sightings/observations of unauthorized/unidentified aircraft/objects that have been observed entering/operating in the airspace of various military-controlled training ranges." 

A lot seems to have been read into that statement, much of which, in my opinion, is based on what the reader chooses to see. Interpretations such as "they're admitting they're not ours" and "they finally acknowledged they're UAP" are making the social media rounds. 

I understand why UFO enthusiasts are excited. The DoD and the Navy are talking about UFOs - a lot - but the concepts being wishfully attributed to the Navy spokesperson are not what he said, not exactly. In this post let's consider a few things about this never ending story. 

After all, if you can't trust the Information Warfare Center to catapult us into UFO Disclosure, who can ya trust?


A lot of spooks emerged out of the IC and waded into the UFO pond over the years. Some particular notables include Adm. Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter, who directed the CIA prior to serving on the Board of Governors for the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena from 1957 to 1962. A fellow NICAP board member was Col. Joseph Bryan III, who, interestingly, was "later discovered to be a former naval officer and CIA employee, psychological warfare specialist," according to researcher Richard Hall.
DCI Hillenkoetter led to what would be a long line of current and former intelligence professionals moonlighting in ufology. The list includes Gen. Bert Stubblebine, credited with redesigning the intelligence structure of the entire U.S. Army, Col. John "Mr. Non-Lethal" Alexander, Comdr. C.B. "Scott" Jones, who claimed he believed his friend was targeted with a mind control weapon by the FBI, the enigmatic and UFO forum-present Ron Pandolfi, infamous Richard Doty, and many more, including, of course, Luis Elizondo and a number of intriguingly successful members of the IC prior to boarding the TTSA train.

Long before current Information Warfare spokespeople indirectly implied reasons the Navy revised its UFO reporting procedures - somewhat contradicting a DoD explanation the AATIP was axed due to higher priorities more deserving of funds, no less - intel analysts sometimes used the levels of concern of their commanding officers as indicators of how much attention they should give potential threats. That included matters of what, today, we might call UFOs or UAP.

James Carrion documented per declassified memos and reports how the 1946-47 Ghost Rocket flap involved professional analysis in which it was suspected senior officers were, in reasonable likelihood, well aware of the origins of the reported rockets. Numerous reasons were given to that effect by intelligence analysts, as well as an FBI Special Agent in Charge, which included a lack of concern for the rocket reports from the brass. Also observed was a lack of calling personnel back from leave during intense portions of the supposed threat. This curiously happened while the press was simultaneously offered official statements of concern and provided stories pertaining to the rocket sightings.

We might consider the circumstances somewhat comparable to a so-called Pentagon UFO program which was reportedly discontinued, yet select personnel persist in publicly warning us - and an accommodating media - of airspace incursions. At the least, I'd argue it should be taken into consideration.

Data Talks  

Most importantly, there is no substitute for verifiable data. Evidence available for public review: that's the name of the game. Unfortunately, those claiming to be leading Disclosure are much more often than not obstructing the purported evidence. They are long on claims and short on data.

There have been vague and anonymous news reports about taxpayer-funded examinations of UFO witnesses, modified buildings for storage of UFO debris, reports of UFO research projects existing both before and after the AAWSAP and AATIP, and too many more fantastic claims to list, little to none of which has been substantiated. There are discrepancies about who ran the projects, what the projects were empowered to do, if anything of value was learned, if the research was properly approved and overseen by official boards, and it's not clear how much, if any of it, is even classified or not. Several FOIA requests are pending.

Maybe Disclosure of extraordinary things are on the horizon. I guess ya never know for sure. If not, hey, there's always that statement about UAP from the Naval Operations for Information Warfare.

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Wicked Webs: Media Portrayal of Tall Tales, TTSA and Luis Elizondo

Leslie Kean
In the much celebrated Dec. 16, 2017 story at the New York Times, authors Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean wrote about the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or what was later identified as the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Many of the assertions published in the article remain unconfirmed. "It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze," they reported.

Frank Warren attempted to learn more about what led Kean and Blumenthal to report Elizondo ran the AATIP. In an Aug. 5 post at The UFO Chronicles, Warren explored the AATIP saga and explained how he specifically asked the two if they would at the least describe the nature of the evidence and how it was authenticated. They did not. 

"So after a couple of weeks and 5 attempts I received a five-word, one-sentence reply, sending me back to the article whose omissions precipitated my query to begin with," Warren wrote.

After several emails, Kean told Frank Warren to ask Blumenthal. Blumenthal eventually stated the two stand by their reporting. Neither remotely addressed Warren's original questions pertaining to what evidence was reviewed that indicated Elizondo ran the AATIP.

Warren concluded:
Above I asked the proverbial question, "does any of this matter?" The short answer is yes, of course it does. This is research 101; thorough investigation and due diligence performed by sober researchers should be commended, not criticized. Facts don’t lie. Moreover, and particularly in this instance, when contradictory information to this degree, i.e., divergent statements from the Pentagon re Elizondo’s claimed credentials are uncovered, then this must be resolved.
All the same, I can’t for the life of me understand why Luis Elizondo has not got in front of this. If everything is as he says, then certainly he can provide evidence to put this controversy to bed once and for all, unless…. 

Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean were each offered an opportunity to comment for this blog post. None responded.

Nearly two years now since the initial Times article, many important details remain unverified. Not only have the initial assertions received little to no follow up, but more articles were published about TTSA while ignoring mounting discrepancies.

Tom DeLonge
In a June 4 piece at Rolling Stone, Tom DeLonge was asked how it felt to see the latest story on TTSA in the Times. He replied, "This is the third New York Times article that we organized and put together at To the Stars." 

It's entirely reasonable to ask, exactly, what that means. Public trust in media objectivity surrounding TTSA continues to plummet while concerns of false narratives seem more justified with each successive question. In addition to a credulous (if not blatantly deceptive) network of reporters, a small army of self-described journalists and so-called persons of knowledge emerged on blogs, podcasts, and social media to uncritically - painfully so, at times - promote TTSA. Many would argue the organization and its high profile supporters have not earned such unconditional loyalty. 

Credulous or Complicit?

Leslie Kean and Ralph Blumenthal's work has previously been called into question, and Kean has a rather well documented history of jumping the shark. It is yet to be understood why the New York Times does not take this into account and more carefully require evidence for assertions prior to publication. 

In 2012 Kean and Blumenthal co-authored a quite sensational piece on a now infamous 2010 Chilean airshow in which they reported jets were stalked by a UFO - that no one actually saw until viewing film later. The article included suggesting this was the UFO case skeptics had been dreading. Before long the hyped case fell apart under circumstances which called motives and competency into question. 

Researchers pointed out many areas of concern, such as Kean's claims the UFO was captured on some seven different videos from differing angles, yet she failed to produce the alleged corroborating videos. Additional film footage was indeed located by an independent researcher, which significantly contradicted Kean's stance, rather than supported it. The footage showed what were obviously insects and birds to be prevalent throughout the newly located film, circumstances which could not be seen in the arguably misleading and much more limited film samples previously released. Many in the UFO community eventually questioned how Kean, Blumenthal and Chilean authorities could have been oblivious to the likely explanation of insects, while rather inexplicably silent about additional and extended footage that so clearly established an abundant presence of airborne wildlife throughout the event. 

Prior to going overboard on the airshow, it was documented in 2011 how Kean rejected and completely ignored evidence contradicting her preferred narrative of an alleged cover-up of the JAL 1628 UFO case. Kean was provided witness testimony of two people, both who attended a meeting in which the cover-up was supposedly discussed, yet each person indicated no such statements were made. As a matter of fact, one of them stated they were provided information for publication during the meeting. Kean completely omitted the circumstances from her description of the events while opting to continue to promote the cover-up version of the story, among other reported questionable actions.

Amateur hypnotist and alien abduction
investigator Budd Hopkins conducting
regressive hypnosis
Going back even further, as documented by Carol Rainey and later explored in The Greys Have Been Framed: Exploitation in the UFO Community, Kean endorsed Budd Hopkins in his promotion of alleged alien abductee James S. Mortellaro, Jr. The sensational case was destined to be identified as a hoax. 

The absurd and unverified claims of Mortellaro - in addition to his baseless stories of being celebrated for heroic action as a police officer - included his assertions he was examined by medical doctors who substantiated his tales of alien abduction. He also claimed witnesses could verify his abductions. The evidence was perpetually promised to be forthcoming but chronically never produced, as seems to be a recurring theme.

Without personally interviewing or ever even speaking with any of the alleged witnesses or medical staff who could purportedly substantiate the case, Kean and Hopkins were on board with Mortellaro's story. It unraveled in whole when Rainey, a writer, filmmaker, and then-wife of Hopkins, along with members of an advisory committee of the Hopkins-founded Intruders Foundation, refused to entertain the empty claims of medical documentation any further until substantiated. 

An alleged medical document handed over by Mortellaro, along with other supposed evidence, was identified as fraudulent. A statement was subsequently published on the Intruders Foundation website which clarified the case was not worthy of further investigation. The statement established the purported credible evidence long promised to be forthcoming was never produced and that alleged official medical documentation was fabricated.

It could be argued if select UFO researchers can hold credulous investigators and those with mile-high tales responsible for providing evidence to support their assertions, then we should expect the same from other researchers. We might particularly require such standards from journalists and, certainly, the "Paper of Record."

How We Got Here

Luis Elizondo
Bryan Bender of Politico also reported Luis Elizondo formerly ran the AATIP in an article published virtually simultaneously with the piece by Cooper, Blumenthal and Kean. Bender wrote that Pentagon spokesperson Dana White confirmed the program existed and was run by Elizondo. White could not say how long Elizondo was in charge, Bender added, and that she declined to answer detailed questions. 

Journalist Keith Kloor raised substantial doubts about Elizondo, AATIP leadership, and those promoting the story in his June 1 article published at The Intercept. Kloor pointed out Bender's source, Dana White, was a Trump administration political appointee who resigned amid an internal probe into charges of misconduct.

Moreover, Kloor quoted a current Pentagon spokesperson, Christopher Sherwood, as stating, "Mr. Elizondo had no responsibilities with regard to the AATIP program while he worked in OUSDI (the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence) up until the time he resigned effective 10/4/2017." 

The relevance of Elizondo's lack of AATIP responsibilities while specifically working in OUSDI is significant because Sherwood's statement directly contradicts information provided on the record by TTSA spokesperson and Tom Delonge sister Kari DeLonge. She stated it was out of that office that Elizondo ran the program starting in 2010.

Christopher Sherwood further clarified his statement for Kloor, explaining how he arrived at his conclusion. Sherwood spoke with OUSDI leadership, Kloor reported, which included individuals who are still there from the time Elizondo started working in the office.

Kloor covered statements made during a podcast by Helene Cooper, the Pentagon correspondent for the Times and co-author of Kean and Blumenthal. Kloor wrote, "Later on, after she left [a meeting with Elizondo], Cooper acknowledged that doubts crept in. In the end, though, she decided that what mattered most was whether the Pentagon’s UFO program was real. That, she said, was the focus of the story."

Politico defense editor
Bryan Bender
Sherwood's statement and the current DoD position on Elizondo's employment history obviously came in contradiction to the narrative held by Bryan Bender. He asserted on Twitter he could provide documents to support Elizondo's claims of running the AATIP. However, when encouraged to do so, Bender presented no such documents and later deleted the tweet.

Bender deleted another tweet, as reported by John Greenewald at The Black Vault, in which he assured Twitter the Pentagon would soon revise its position on Elizondo's lack of AATIP involvement. However, the opposite proved true when the Pentagon actually reiterated its stance that Elizondo did not, in fact, have any assigned responsibilities for the AATIP while working in the OUSDI.

In an interview published July 9 with TTSA loyalist Alejandro Rojas, Bender stated Elizondo's role in the AATIP has been difficult to confirm because "you can't really do that." The Politico editor once again spoke of unspecified documents and knowledgeable staffers but provided listeners with no answers to lingering and valid questions. Bender explained that he suspected a substantial amount of Elizondo's UFO investigations were in unofficial capacities and subsequently cannot be verified. 

"[T]here really wasn't an AATIP, officially," Bender added, which does not seem entirely accurate, according to Pentagon statements and a great deal of research conducted by various bloggers. 

"I mean, that's just not how the intelligence business works," Bender stated about difficulty following paper trails and identifying project personnel.

Part of letter DIA issued to BAASS
concerning the AAWSAP
Many would challenge Bender's portrayal of Pentagon programs. As part of a recent FOIA response, the DIA provided The UFO Trail a letter it issued to Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS). The letter further established what many researchers already knew: Pentagon programs contracted to private corporations are not exempt from either paper trails or the FOIA process. 

The FOIA request was pertaining to a 2008 contract awarded for the Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Application Program, or AAWSAP. The letter demonstrated BAASS was notified of an FOIA request concerning its contract, as is required by executive order, and offered a standard opportunity to suggest portions of the contract be withheld, pending justifications.

Early in the interview with Rojas, Bender suggested he perceived a lot of early statements from TTSA panned out so he began giving its personnel benefit of the doubt. It could be considered interesting that many came to form the exact opposite assessment.

It is reasonable to question why the initial stories at the NYT and Politico reported Elizondo ran the AATIP. Bender's rationalizing about the difficulty of confirming Elizondo's claims does not justify publishing his and TTSA statements as fact. It arguably makes it all the more apparent not to report the statements as facts.

Adding to the controversy was a May 22 article written by Steven Greenstreet for the New York Post. We previously explored the piece and that it was Greenstreet who initially received Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood's statement about Elizondo having no AATIP responsibilities, and Greenstreet opted to omit it from his article. Instead, he framed the piece as a pro-UFO read while later declining to reveal the contents of Sherwood's full statement when requested to do so. The irony of such actions by journalists advocating government disclosure of UFO information should be self evident.

The Videos

Sherwood's full statement, when obtained independently and able to be viewed in its entirety, further called into question the already controversial chain of custody of the videos published by TTSA. The videos became the cornerstone of TTSA claims of being a leading and significant group. Also omitted from Greenstreet's article, along with the comment about Elizondo, was Sherwood's statement, "The video[s] you reference in the NY Times article was made releasable for research and analysis purposes by U.S. government agencies and industry partners, and not for general public release." The remark is significant to the DD1910 issue and deteriorating credibility of TTSA, which long claimed to have "chain of custody documentation" but has yet to produce it. 

George Knapp, a longtime prominent UFO reporter who uncritically promotes the Skinwalker Ranch legend and holds steadfast to the legitimacy of claims surrounding Robert Bigelow and Bob Lazar, "obtained" and published the DD1910 on April 29. A DD Form 1910 is used to request review and clearance of material, in this case the videos later framed as evidence of UFOs by TTSA. Knapp proclaimed the DD1910 established provenance of the film clips. It actually did not, which is particularly ironic, given the fact Knapp had no provenance for the form itself.

DD1910 posted by Knapp
While the Pentagon later confirmed to John Greenewald the DD1910 in question was authentic, spokesperson Sue Gough further explained the videos were never authorized for public release. It remains unclear how the film footage came to be published.

Additional areas of concern surrounding the DD1910 published by Knapp included redacted sections, apparently done by parties other than the DoD, which obstructed the name of the requester. It was also questioned why the subject of the videos were listed on the form as UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), balloons, and UAS (Unmanned Aircraft System). In other words, the DoD labeled the objects filmed as drones and balloons.

It was reported by Sarah Scoles at Wired on Feb. 17, 2018 (and known by people familiar with UFO forums), that some of the TTSA footage was posted online years earlier. Scoles raised several interesting questions about the original purposes of the videos, such as the doubt they were ever classified.

"It looks very strongly like these weren’t released through any proper DOD declassification channels that I’ve ever seen," Nate Jones, director of the Freedom of Information Act Project at the National Security Archive, told Scoles. "I’ve seen a lot of DOD declassification in response to FOIA, in response to mandatory declassification review, in response to proactive disclosure. And it doesn’t look like this."

Scoles went on to aptly observe there is no definitive connection between the video footage showcased by TTSA and the AATIP. It indeed might be competently argued that the unconditionally loyal UFO reporters are the lone reason the TTSA videos - and Luis Elizondo - were ever associated with the project at all. 

Knapp soon posted a screen shot of another document lacking provenance when he offered it in support of Elizondo following Kloor's June 1 article at The Intercept. Knapp's document seemed to raise more questions than it answered and, once again, actually resolved nothing. As a matter of fact, it remains unresolved as of this writing as to whether or not Luis Elizondo ran the AATIP or ever had any official responsibilities in it. 

While evidence may eventually be presented that indeed establishes the specific relevance of the videos to the AATIP and Elizondo's involvement in the project, the fact of the matter is that is not currently the case, and two Pentagon spokespersons definitively stated he had no responsibilities in it at all, much less ran it. To claim otherwise at this point is simply wrong.

Elizondo, TTSA, History Channel (which aired a TTSA series), and affiliates have largely remained quiet about his unverified credentials, a silence of particular concern among many researchers and journalists. If the videos were released through proper channels and if Elizondo ran the AATIP as repeatedly asserted, why wouldn't he and those who reported it just provide documentation? Wouldn't they have such documentation in hand before ever making the assertions? One might be inclined to think so, but, to state the obvious, it is becoming increasingly doubtful. That might particularly be considered the case the more time that passes without TTSA and its fraternity of writers resolving what have become many issues of baseless claims.

In a June 7 interview with Martin Willis, the first public statement Elizondo offered on his credentials since Kloor's article at The Intercept, Elizondo told Willis, "Everyone's entitled to their own opinion." It is just such ambiguity that draws criticism to TTSA and deeply alarms researchers who respect standards of evidence. In order to give Elizondo the benefit of the doubt for such a statement, he would have to genuinely fail to identify a significant difference between substantiating a claim of directing a Pentagon UFO program and choosing a flavor of ice cream.

Bottom Line

It is reasonable for people to be interested in reports of UFOs and related phenomena. They are entitled to believe as they want and loyally follow researchers as they choose. It is understandable they are excited about their topic of interest receiving increased coverage.

Similarly, those who prioritize accuracy are entitled to respect professionally recognized standards of evidence when forming their beliefs. They are free to reject or suspend judgement on claims which fall short of such standards, pending further, more conclusive information. That might particularly be considered justified when such claims are prematurely and falsely published as facts.

It should go without saying, but seems to constantly need reiterating, that extra skepticism is warranted towards reporters who have documented histories of sensationalizing UFO stories and being shown to be wrong upon further investigation. If this stuff is worth following, it's worth getting right, or perhaps it's not worth following at all.  

Thursday, August 1, 2019

DIA Withheld AAWSAP Contract Awarded to BAASS in 2011 FOIA Response

An FOIA request filed in 2009 did not obtain significant details that sought documents pertaining to a 2008 Defense Intelligence Agency Advanced Aerospace Weapons System Application Program contract, according to a more recent DIA FOIA response. However, enough information was released to further clarify the contract was awarded to Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies. The recent DIA response also established that such projects awarded to private contractors are not outside the scope of the FOIA as has been incorrectly suggested on numerous occasions about Pentagon UFO programs.

A DIA response to the 2009 request obtained by The UFO Trail via a much more recent FOIA request indicates all substantive portions of a ten-page document were withheld in full. Reasons cited for withholding the information included standard exemptions the DIA cited as protecting "the identity of DIA employees and organizational structure of the agency," as well as an exemption applying to "trade secrets and commercial or financial information obtained from a person on a privileged or confidential basis."

Researcher Keith Basterfield identified the decade-old FOIA request in a May 17, 2018 blog post. He found it while searching the 2010 DIA FOIA log. The request was submitted by Quincy Wilkins, pertaining to a contract number Basterfield knew to be related to the AAWSAP and strongly suspected to have been awarded to Bigelow.  

An FOIA request was subsequently filed seeking copies of the DIA response and all materials issued to Wilkins. In a letter dated July 19, 2019, the DIA replied that some responsive documents would be withheld in part and some would be withheld in full. Enough information was released to further confirm the contract was awarded to BAASS, while indicating all substantive parts were initially withheld from Wilkins.

A portion of the 2019 DIA response to the request for all materials issued in response to the 2009 FOIA request:

From the partially withheld DIA response, apparently to Wilkins, for information concerning the AAWSAP contract number in question:

Below is a letter issued from DIA to BAASS, informing BAASS an FOIA request was received pertaining to its contract award. The letter was an effort to coordinate proper classification of the contract, and was apparently reviewed for release in 2011. 

Researchers continue to await responses to multiple pending FOIA requests pertaining to the AAWSAP, the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program and related material.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

Arrest of Florida Hypnotherapist Signals Need for Caution

In a grim reminder to exercise caution choosing emotional support systems and mental health services, a Florida man was arrested and charged with being a psychotherapist engaging in sex with a client or former client. Robert Andrew Nichols, who advertises himself as a hypnotherapist who offers psychospiritual therapy, was charged by Gainesville police. 

The specific nature of the hypnotherapy sessions is not yet clear, but a woman who initially met Nichols while she was a student in adult education classes he taught at Santa Fe College reported he asked her intimate questions about her sex life. Nichols unexpectedly kissed her on the lips and invited her to his house to continue the appointment. The couple reportedly ended their professional relationship and continued to engage in what was termed sexual therapy and ritual magic.

The Gainesville Sun reported:
Florida statutes state that "Any psychotherapist who commits sexual misconduct with a client, or former client when the professional relationship was terminated primarily for the purpose of engaging in sexual contact, commits a felony of the third degree..."
The state defines a therapist as a person licensed under various statutes "or any other person who provides or purports to provide treatment, diagnosis, assessment, evaluation, or counseling of mental or emotional illness, symptom, or condition."

The story is reminiscent of extremely questionable and unethical applications of hypnosis conducted by so-called investigators of alien abduction. In the 1990's a series of actions by John Carpenter, a Missouri Licensed Mental Health Counselor and hypnosis advocate, became known as the Carpenter Affair.

John Carpenter
By his own admission, Carpenter provided copies of some 140 case files of alleged alien abductees to controversial philanthropist Robert Bigelow. In at least some instances recordings of hypnosis sessions were included. The hypnosis subjects, or alleged alien abductees, were not informed their files and data were shared. Carpenter, who served as the MUFON Director of Abduction Research at the time, was provided $14,000 in compensation from Bigelow for what Carpenter described as the discrete arrangement.

Carpenter married two of his former clients, one of whom was among the 140 whose files were released without consent to Bigelow. An administrative hearing followed a complaint filed to the Missouri Board of Professional Registration. Carpenter's actions in "dual" and "multiple" roles with his clients were examined, along with the inherent dysfunction. 

The result was a five-year probation period enforced upon Carpenter's license in 2001. Stipulations included submitting to a psychosocial evaluation for an impaired professional and adhering to the subsequent treatment plan.

David Jacobs
Other abusive and unethical actions were committed by amateur hypnotist and self-styled alien abduction researcher David Jacobs. He conducted dozens of hypnosis sessions by telephone with Emma Woods. She ended the relationship in 2007 and published audio clips from their sessions showing his remarkably unscrupulous behavior. Among the most infamous occurrences were his request for her undergarments and an offer to send her a chastity belt, each done during phone hypnosis sessions. Also remarkable were the widespread rationalizing and lack of condemnation within a UFO genre bent on maintaining a narrative at seemingly all costs. 

Such documented instances of misconduct veer alarmingly close to the case of Michael W. Fine. In 2016 the former Ohio attorney was sentenced to twelve years in prison stemming from hypnotizing several female clients with neither their knowledge nor consent, then sexually accosting the women. 

Fine's is an unusually well documented and established case of such allegations. Police received similar complaints from multiple female clients, conducted surveillance, and obtained specific details of his abusive actions. His techniques reportedly included directing the women during hypnosis to not recall what had taken place.

While exchanging emails with Emma Woods and obtaining what would become material included in The Greys Have Been Framed, Woods informed me Jacobs administered something she termed "amnesia blocks." These were instructions to not recall information discussed during their sessions, Woods explained, and she supplied me an audio file of an example. 

From pages 54-55:
I downloaded and played the file, in which Jacobs instructed, "I want you to become very, very relaxed. Now this is a session that I want you to be able to just put into a corner of your mind - in sort of a, a vault-like structure nobody can get into - behind a brick wall that is totally inaccessible to anyone. The vault is shut tight. Your memories are in there. You can access them a little bit when you want in the future, but the point right now is nobody will know that you remembered this. Nobody can get to that part of your mind that is sealed. This is your private part of your mind. No one can access it. If someone tries, even if they try hard, even if they're powerful, it will not matter because the harder they try, the more they will not be able to access it, the dimmer it gets, the smaller it gets, the tighter it gets. They will not know that you have remembered this. They will not know. You will not allow it. This is your mind. They will not be able to access it. It is too far out of reach for them – locked in that vault, behind that brick wall. No matter what they do, they will not be able to get to it. You are strong. You will be able to keep it from them.
"Now I'll bring you out of this again. Five, coming out of this..."

It is difficult to overemphasize the importance of prioritizing caution while seeking support, particularly within the UFO subculture. Hypnosis as a memory enhancer is conclusively unreliable and is extremely ill advised as an investigative tool. 

If seeking other kinds of emotional support or investigative services, you are empowered and entitled to request clear explanations of methods, objectives, and projected outcomes. If service providers are hesitant to commit to you or if you feel apprehensive about the relationship, be extremely cautious. There are many instances of individuals who sought assistance who were only provided more damage to heal.