Wednesday, March 11, 2020

Scoles's 'They Are Already Here' a Page-Turner That Works

When journalist Sarah Scoles first contacted me to discuss some things for possible inclusion in her book, I felt the same way as when any media person wants to ask questions about UFO World: I want to answer their questions if I am able, but I fear they are looking for sensational material and ultimately won't want to hear what I have to say anyway. However, by the time I was finished talking by phone with the author, I was pleasantly surprised and optimistic a worthy work might be forthcoming. Turned out it was.

Scoles traveled the countryside, visiting the hallowed grounds of American UFO lore, allowing a wide range of people to explain, in their own words, what it's all about to them. The result is They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers.

The author does not present herself as a UFO expert, but an inquisitive explorer, and the book is a page-turner that works. Scoles clearly separates her opinions from those of the people portrayed on the pages, and she does not casually accept unproven beliefs absent evidence. The writing style is one that more UFO writers, and non-fiction writers in general, would be wise to adopt.

The book includes pertinent history on the topic of the government and UFOs, and viewpoints from UFO investigators, witnesses, skeptics, agnostics and believers. While They Are Already Here definitely appeals to readers with casual interest in what's going on in the UFO genre, it also includes plenty of material for those more experienced with the steeplechase. An intriguing visit to famous Area 51 is likely to interest even the most seasoned UFO research veteran. A road trip to the much discussed Skinwalker Ranch and summaries of current UFO World drama also await readers, among many more topics and destinations.

Other sections of the book I found particularly interesting and enjoyable include a journey to the UFO Watchtower in Colorado. The site, its residents and visitors are fascinating and captivating, whatever may or may not be observed traversing the heavens above.

Scoles takes readers through the posts of UFO forums in an attempt to gain insight into the mystery of Sunspot Observatory, which was locked down by the FBI without immediate explanation in 2018. In what might be among the coolest stunts a writer on a conspiracy beat ever undertook, Scoles camped in the New Mexico desert and hiked into town at sunrise to ask the Bureau what was up. This adventure alone is worth the price of admission.

The author has direct experience in working in a small town that exists because of its observatory, as is the case with Sunspot, and she shares her insights. Scoles periodically allows readers glimpses into her personal history and how it influences her current interpretations of the individual stories and the collective unfolding saga. She manages to do this while keeping the people she meets and topics explored as focal points of the book. In doing so, she indirectly reminds us that we, too, are at the mercy of a shaky reliance on personal conditioning for interpreting our journeys through life and UFO World.

It is refreshing to read an informative and entertaining work on the UFO genre in which the writer is even-handed, while simultaneously revealing a flair for the creative and poetic. I appreciate this book, the work that went into it, and the style portrayed. Scoles demonstrates we don't have to forsake reasonable skepticism in order to develop an appreciation for people and mysteries, nor must we abandon critical thinking to appreciate life's metaphors and ironies that surround us all.

They Are Already Here: UFO Culture and Why We See Saucers is 304 pages from Pegasus Books. It is available on Amazon in Kindle (18.99), hardcover (14.99), and audio CD (34.99).

Thursday, March 5, 2020

FBI Report: NICAP Organizer 'Good Propagandist'

The FBI file on Nicholas de Rochefort referenced in this post may be viewed at Keep&Share and Google Drive.

A file obtained from the FBI on Nicholas de Rochefort, a man credited with being an original organizer of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP), contains a report describing him as "a good propagandist." The description was attributed to de Rochefort's former employer, Theodore Repplier, president of the Advertising Council. In the synopsis of the Nov. 27, 1956, FBI report, an agent explained, "Subject's employment with the Advertising Council, Inc, Washington, D.C., in 1954 and 1955, on a project to counter Communist propaganda verified." 

The 29-page FBI file contains a series of reports and memos pertaining to investigations of de Rochefort. His employment, which included various agencies as an activist, consultant, or interpreter, is listed. He went on to work at Georgetown and American University as a Professor of Political Science. 

The Russian-born de Rochefort was a French citizen. He renounced his citizenship to become an American citizen in 1954. According to the NYT, he was an expert in psychological warfare. He died of cancer in 1964 at the age of 62.

Employment activities of de Rochefort as documented by the FBI
which coincided with the forming of NICAP

The late UFO researcher and NICAP member Richard Hall described de Rochefort as an original organizer of NICAP "with past CIA connections." Hall reported NICAP was formally incorporated Oct. 24, 1956, which would have been about a month before the Nov. 27, 1956, FBI report referenced above was composed. FBI investigations and reports contained in the 29-page file obviously coincided with the forming and incorporation of NICAP. 

A request was submitted to the FBI for further declassification of page 9 of the file, which contains a redacted section of what appears to be information obtained from a confidential informant. The request remains pending as of this writing.

Freedom Day

Photos Credit: The Brown Bulletin
A 1954 edition of The Brown Bulletin provides some insight into de Rochefort's political activism. He and Dr. Charles W. Lowry were credited with spearheading a movement to declare June 17 as Freedom Day in Berlin, New Hampshire, which included plans to erect a monument in support of East Germans and their revolt against Communism. The effort culminated in a crowded ceremony that featured de Rochefort as a speaker and was attended by national media and even the governor.

"The Voice of America beamed the program, in three different languages, to the enslaved people throughout the world, giving them encouragement and support in their constant effort to shake themselves loose from their Red 'hand-cuffs'," the Bulletin reported.

Representative Charles J. Kersten of Wisconsin entered de Rochefort's Freedom Day work into the 1954 Congressional Record. Kersten praised the efforts of de Rochefort and Lowry, and brought the circumstances to the attention of the House. He emphasized the advantageous impact abroad of Freedom Day. Kersten then stated in part to Congress on July 29, 1954:
A lesson can be drawn from this experience.
Two men of small financial means, but armed with imagination, perseverance, and knowledge of methods and techniques of psychological warfare were able to plan and carry out an operation of this nature, in finding assistance and aid from the part of the American people. 
Such projects as this, staged in America, implemented by American citizens and groups of citizens, can better be worked out, prepared and initiated by private initiative than by the Government.
It would therefore be desirable to create a private organization for this very purpose, the members of which could devote all their time and their skill to devising actions of unconventional psychological warfare, inspire and coordinate them. It would not require millions of dollars; relatively modest sums would suffice.

Coincidentally or otherwise, NICAP was incorporated by de Rochefort and others some 27 months later. It seems like a good time to remind readers the 1953 CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel wrote, on the topic of "Unofficial Investigating Groups": 
The Panel took cognizance of the existence of such groups as the "Civilian Flying Saucer Investigators" (Los Angeles) and the "Aerial Phenomena Research Organization" (Wisconsin). It was believed that such organizations should be watched because of their potentially great influence on mass thinking if widespread sightings should occur. The apparent irresponsibility and the possible use of such groups for subversive purposes should be kept in mind.

Joseph Bryan III and Robert A. Winston

Readers may recall that Joseph Bryan III was among the CIA men who led and belonged to NICAP. Bryan directed a CIA political and psychological warfare subdivision during the 1950's and prior to his formal involvement with NICAP. Bryan's history also included a dust up with apparent long-time friend and CIA colleague Robert A. Winston. The altercation beat a path through Congress and the FBI, as indicated in the final pages of a file on Bryan obtained from the Bureau. The conflict involved, at least in part, circumstances surrounding the FBI "Obscenity Room," a reference to a closely guarded Bureau file containing actions and/or language used by subjects of interest and typically considered vulgar and derogatory. Keep that in mind. We'll circle back to it and Winston shortly.

Joseph Bryan III
Athan G. Theoharis wrote a 1983 paper, The CIA and the New York Times: An Unanswered Question. The author explored a pair of mysterious meetings conducted in 1951 by Bryan. The first took place between Bryan and the Times European bureau chief, and the second was a meeting between Bryan and the Times publisher. The publisher, Arthur Hays Sulzburger, was the uncle of the European bureau chief, Cyrus Sulzburger.

Interestingly, Bryan's meetings with Times officials coincided with his request, initiated that same winter of 1951, to gain access to the FBI obscenity file. Author Theoharis aptly questions the relationships between the CIA, Times, and FBI. 

As we explored in a previous post on Bryan, his psychological warfare unit, the Office of Policy Coordination, operated and distributed funds on a "massive" scale throughout Europe. It would be reasonable to surmise his relationship with the Times European bureau chief was at the least indirectly related to his overseeing of these European activities. 

While discussing these events by email with James Carrion, I pointed out how, as mentioned above, the FBI file on Bryan happens to contain references to the "obscenity" material and CIA man Robert A. Winston. Carrion then aptly brought up that Winston was a prominent figure in his book, Anachronism, an exploration of Cold War spy games and deception surrounding the "ghost rockets."

While I did not recall Winston by name, I soon discovered that I indeed well remembered his role in the book. Carrion documented how it was Winston who wrote some of the most comprehensive reports on the so-called ghost rockets. In 1946 he was the Naval Attache to Sweden and Carrion quoted his memos rather heavily. It indeed might be considered intriguing that Robert Winston, recorder and analyst of the ghost rocket reports, found his way into the CIA and this FBI-related saga - and by way of Joseph Bryan, no less.

Backrack v. CIA

Researchers both in and out of the UFO genre called attention to de Rochefort over the years for his presumed affiliation with the CIA. The Agency apparently remained tight lipped about the relationship, as demonstrated in the now declassified Secrecy vs. Disclosure, A Study in Security Classification, composed by the CIA Center for the Study of Intelligence. 

Secrecy vs. Disclosure references Stanley D. Backrack v. CIA, William Colby, a 1976 California lawsuit. Backrack sued for all information on the relations of Nicholas de Rochefort with CIA and its predecessor organizations. 

Judge William P. Gray, presiding over the case, wrote, "While there is a strong public interest in the public disclosure of the functions of government agencies, there is also a strong public interest in the effective functioning of an intelligence service, which could be greatly impaired by irresponsible disclosure."

In the words of the CIA, "Through the decisions of these district courts a series of precedents is emerging which have already greatly enhanced the legal stature of sources and methods as an independent means of protecting intelligence information - at least in the context of FOIA requests for information."

A records request was submitted to U.S. District Court for the Central District of California for the case files on Backrack v. CIA. The Court directed me to submit the request to a specific branch of the National Archives. The Archives referred me to a Los Angeles court for further info that will hopefully help locate the records. The search remains in progress as of this writing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Walsh Pasulka Revises Position on Police Reports

Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka seemingly reversed her position on her claim she reported an alleged Jan. 10 computer hack to police agencies after no corresponding records were located. A Feb. 6 post at The UFO Trail reported public records requests were submitted to three police agencies, including her university police, and no files of the January incident were found. Walsh Pasulka did not respond to an email which posed relevant questions and offered her an opportunity to comment for the blog post. She opted instead to take to Facebook to post about bot attacks, suggest she was targeted by forces attempting to silence her UFO research, and seek character support from ufology associates after the article was published.

Below is a Feb. 8 Facebook post, followed by a Jan. 28 post. Both are by Walsh Pasulka. The first suggests this writer read her statements incorrectly, and that she never claimed to report the January alleged hack to police. She goes on to suggest she intended to report it later but never did so.

The Jan. 28 post, some 18 days after the alleged hack, stated otherwise. She wrote, "Jan 10 2020 my Twitter Account and emails were hacked. I reported the incidents to my university IT Police, and Police (as I did two years ago)."

The UNCW professor and author of American Cosmic was emailed and asked if she cared to comment for this blog post on how she squares the above discrepancy. She did not immediately respond.

See also:

Police: No Records of Walsh Pasulka January Hack

Walsh Pasulka, Nolan Decline Comment on Alleged Security Personnel 

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Police: No Records of Walsh Pasulka January Hack

Three separate North Carolina law enforcement agencies were queried for incident reports stemming from Dr. Diana Walsh Pasulka's claims her email and social media accounts were recently hacked and that she reported it to police. Each of the three agencies responded no such records were located. 

The author of American Cosmic claimed her email and Twitter accounts were "hacked" on Jan. 10. She claimed similar two years ago. Her latest claims of hacked accounts came after a series of tweets which her followers indicated they found concerning and controversial. Walsh Pasulka later explained via social media she reported the hacking incidents to her "university IT Police, and Police (as I did two years ago). They are great and so helpful.":

In an attempt to locate incident reports, a request for corresponding public records was submitted to the University of North Carolina Wilmington Police Department. Walsh Pasulka is a faculty member at the university. 

Det. John W. Seay of the UNCW Police Department responded in a letter dated Jan. 30 that a review of the University Police Database failed to disclose any such reports concerning a Jan. 10 incident. The detective added that a report was filed by Walsh Pasulka regarding "suspicious emails" on Feb. 1, 2018, Case Number 201800112, "Location: Bear Hall," but no recent reports were found. No further information about the 2018 reported incident was included in the detective's response. 

A request was also submitted to the Wilmington Police Department. Copies of all incident reports and records pertaining to Diana Walsh Pasulka were sought, including any related to the January incident.

"[W]e have no such records in our files," Public Affairs Officer Linda Rawley Thompson of the Wilmington PD responded in a Jan. 29 email.

The New Hanover County Sheriff's Office was contacted by phone Feb. 3. Wilmington is located within New Hanover County. 

"I looked everywhere," Sergeant Olinger of the Sheriff's Office explained. It was possible a January incident report, if it existed, could be located if more identifying information was provided, such as a case number, but did not seem probable. The sergeant stated due diligence was given to the request but no records were found after trying several search methods most likely to produce results.

Dr. Walsh Pasulka was emailed and informed the three law enforcement agencies responded that no records were located pertaining to the Jan. 10 incidents. She was asked the names of the agencies to which she reported the circumstances. She was also offered an opportunity to comment for this blog post. Walsh Pasulka did not immediately respond.

A sample of tweets posted shortly prior to the author's most recent claim her email and social media accounts were hacked:

Related reading:

Walsh Pasulka, Nolan Decline Comment on Alleged Security Personnel

Thursday, December 26, 2019

Sincerity Is Not Synonymous with Accuracy

Dr. Christopher Cogswell and Marie Mayhew host the popular and informative The Mad Scientist Podcast. They recently wrapped up a six-episode, well-done series on Robert Bigelow. The series finale addressed salient issues of the Bigelow saga that are all too often omitted from discussion.

The podcast hosts contemplated the extent corruption may play a factor in deals such as Bigelow's corporation securing some $22 million in funds due to his pal, Senator Harry Reid. They also invited listeners to consider the many questions that remain when a band of researchers spend a lifetime failing upward. In spite of never producing anything more than theoretical papers and sensational claims absent evidence, some of those surrounding Bigelow secured funding that seemingly enabled them to spend entire careers pursuing pet - and fantastic - interests without ever substantiating virtually any of it. 

It's more than a little reminiscent of Sharon Weinberger's Imaginary Weapons, where the journalist pursues questions surrounding the credibility of researchers on the receiving end of DARPA funds awarded for a project set on developing a hafnium bomb. Qualified experts suggested the project was a scam, and in at least one instance the architect of the controversial work was outright called a charlatan. Trouble was, nobody keeping watch really understood the details of the arguments, while camps holding polar opposite views slung mud. One thing rang true, however: the camp making the claim and obtaining grant funds bore the burden of producing results, and experiments were often cited in which results could not be duplicated when checked for accuracy. Ultimately, DARPA discontinued the project - with no bomb and taxpayers none the better.

As podcasters Cogswell and Mayhew inspire us to consider, it can become difficult indeed to tell if people are simply blatantly dishonest or whether they, themselves, have become the most deceived of all by their very own rhetoric. How often do researchers continue to argue their position, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, and sincerely come to believe themselves visionaries, hindered by what they convince themselves are the ignorant masses who request proof of their beliefs presented as facts?

Let's consider the story of Andrew and Kalley Heiligenthal, members of a California megachurch who's two-year-old daughter sadly died several days ago. Kalley is a singer and songwriter, and, in her understandable grief, called upon her social media faith fellowship to pray for the girl's resurrection. The initiative got significant attention, including a funding page which raised tens of thousands of dollars and what was reported as a world-wide prayer effort consisting of thousands of social media responses. And Bethel Church, which is the megachurch where the Heiligenthals are members, was on board with the resurrection.

The church released statements to the effect its members believe in such miracles. It was reported that a pastor informed the congregation they were not mourning because "the Spirit" was expected to "wake the child from a sleep." The grieving couple has since decided to go forward with a memorial service for their daughter.  

I once lived in a community where a religious revival was held and the "fire fell." More people descended on the town daily. I heard about the sick being healed and the crippled rising to walk. It went on for days, probably weeks, but I'm not sure. At some point after the revival was moved to a large auditorium, seating thousands, I decided to go take a look since an X-Files episode was happening down the street.

There was a lot of music and emotionalism. There was dancing, singing, prayer... hope. There was hope for the desperate and lost, and I do not find this altogether problematic, not by any means, but where such hope and emotionalism are cultivated and nurtured, so do deceit and exploitation find hosts. 

Before the time the revival finally came to an end, resurrections were claimed. There was really no other way for it to go. It was nearly inevitable. You can't escalate forever without veering from reality. That's my line transitioning us back to ufology. 

I don't see the fire falling and the Bethel Church as entirely different circumstances than Bigelow and the researchers who surround him. Do they believe themselves? Maybe some of them do and some of them just think it's a pretty good gig, like some preachers who stand upon pulpits of emotion and rock n roll with advantageous lyrics. There are no doubt multiple layers of motives and intentions, but in the end, we must ask ourselves at what cost the belief: what cost to our wallets, what cost to our understandings of our universe, and what cost to our emotional well-being.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Vallee Declines to Substantiate Claim of CIA Simulating UFO Abductions

Dr. Jacques Vallee
Dr. Jacques Vallee declined to attempt to fully substantiate the assertion contained in his book, Forbidden Science - Volume Four, that he secured a document confirming the CIA simulated UFO abductions in Brazil and Argentina. "I felt a duty to call attention to the issue," Vallee explained in a Dec. 17 email, but chose not to share the document or address pertinent questions surrounding its circumstances.

"If you talk to serious researchers in Latin America, you will find they are not as naive in this field as US ufologists," he added.

However, it was not researchers in Latin America who made the assertion. The 2019 book authored by Vallee contains the statement, "I have secured a document confirming that the CIA simulated UFO abductions in Latin America (Brazil and Argentina) as psychological warfare experiments."  

The widely renowned UFO researcher was sent an email by The UFO Trail requesting comment, including any context he might provide, or clarify if the statement was, in hindsight, made in error. The email also made it clear a copy of the document was ultimately being sought, or as much identifying information as possible. Vallee chose not to address those questions and issues.

The email inquiry explained, "I hope you can empathize with the potential weight of the statement and why researchers would be quite interested in establishing facts surrounding its circumstances." 

Vallee replied in full:
Dear Jack,
Thanks for your message, I appreciate your interest in the book. As you know, the question of the use of ufology to camouflage various commando or social engineering operations is an old one. It is a subset of PsyOps techniques that have been used for a very long time (projecting images of the Virgin Mary over the battle lines in Verdun in 1917, or religious images over Cuba from a sub in the Bay of Pigs, etc.)
Much more competent historical writers than me have documented all that, and Latin America is only a later-day extension. I am not an expert in any of it, but my computer surveys tend to go TILT! when some relevant cases come up. So I don’t have a dog in the political fight, I’m just trying to avoid polluting my databases with garbage. That’s why I felt a duty to call attention to the issue. If you talk to serious researchers in Latin America, you will find they are not as naive in this field as US ufologists.
With best wishes of the Season,

A follow-up email was sent to Vallee, stating that while it has indeed been established that the intelligence community exploits the subject of UFOs for many potential reasons, it was hoped he could appreciate that actual confirmation of CIA abduction simulations would be extraordinary indeed. He was asked if it would be correct to say there is not a document confirming that to be the case. He did not immediately reply.  

A draft of this blog post was subsequently shared with Dr. Vallee prior to publishing. It was done in an effort to report the circumstances as accurately as possible and offer him a final opportunity to comment further. 

"I don’t have any further comments on the substance of the request or, obviously, about my source which I am obligated to protect," he replied in a Dec. 19 email.

"Most of the documents I have referred to, or used in the compilation of my diaries, have been donated to a University with a 10-year embargo on access — specifically to avoid the kind of spurious quarrels that erupt in ufology on a regular basis. So I expect that historical details like these will see the light of day in due course."

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Two Years After AATIP Story Many Questions Remain

It has now been two years since publication of the much discussed New York Times article, Glowing Auras and 'Black Money': The Pentagon's Mysterious U.F.O. Program. The piece appeared online Dec. 16, 2017, was circulated in print a day later, and was written by Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean. The writers were soon asked to provide supporting evidence for a number of assertions. Researchers and the public continue to await adequate justification for several key points reported in the story which remain unverified 24 months later. Let's explore a few of the issues that neither the writers nor the Times appear inclined to either sufficiently address or retract. 

Reported: "For years, the [Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or AATIP] investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times."

Fact-check: There have indeed been a number of statements pertaining to secret UFO programs attributed to various spokespeople and what we might assume to be informed individuals. However, none of them have provided conclusive evidence such as authenticated documents to verify the claims. Moreover, the current Pentagon stance unequivocally denies that either the AATIP or Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Applications Program (AAWSAP) had anything to do with UFOs.

John Greenewald obtained clarification from the Pentagon. He wrote, "'Neither AATIP nor AAWSAP were UAP related,' said Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough in an e-mail to The Black Vault. 'The purpose of AATIP was to investigate foreign advanced aerospace weapons system applications with future technology projections over the next 40 years, and to create a center of expertise on advanced aerospace technologies.'" 

The AATIP was identified by Sarah Scoles as the Advanced Aviation (not Aerospace) Threat Identification Program.

Luis Elizondo

Reported: "[The AATIP] 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."

Fact-check: The Pentagon has repeatedly clarified its current position that Luis Elizondo had no assigned responsibilities in the AATIP. This was independently reported by Keith Kloor and John Greenewald, among others, via statements obtained from official spokespersons. To date, no authenticated documents or similar such information has been presented that conclusively establishes Elizondo ran the AATIP.

Reported: "Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, [Bigelow Aerospace] modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena." 

Fact-check: Several researchers await final responses on many FOIA requests, but at this time, details of the reported modified buildings in Las Vegas remain unknown. The implied mysterious nature of the alleged "metal alloys and other materials" seems dubious at best.

To The Stars Academy has since shown a substantial interest in "Art's Parts," alleged UFO debris presented to the late Art Bell by an anonymous listener to his popular paranormal-themed radio show. In spite of the public being aware of the story for years, as well as claims of varying outcomes of research conducted on the debris, coherent and transparent explanations of the tests and their results are not readily available.

The material was obtained by Tom DeLonge, and subsequently To The Stars Academy, from Linda Moulton Howe. The transaction, as reported on TTSA financial statements, involved a $35,000 sale from DeLonge to TTSA. The organization entered into a cooperative research agreement with the U.S. Army that many suspect and Moulton Howe claims, essentially, had more than a little to do with Art's Parts.   

MJ Banias obtained comment from Moulton Howe, but some details of the story remain unclear. Perhaps most relevant is that details of the alleged alloys and material as described in the NYT article, particularly as it specifically relates to being in possession of and stored by a government-funded AATIP, were and continue to be inadequately addressed by the Times writers.    

Tom DeLonge

Reported: "Researchers also studied people who said they had experienced physical effects from encounters with the objects and examined them for any physiological changes."

Fact-check: As with much of this story, and has been the case for the previous two years, no authenticated documents have yet been obtained or presented that establish accuracy or details of the above assertion. A statement attributed to an unnamed senior manager at Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies (BAASS) was posted at Channel 8 in Las Vegas, George Knapp's stomping grounds. The statement claimed BAASS used the human body as a readout system to study UFOs, among other items of note, but did not provide adequate information to facilitate follow-up or deeper understandings.

It is not clear with either the apparent BAASS claim or the Times story how the research was proposed, its objectives, how progress was measured, or if any significant outcomes were documented. To date, we are left to wonder if Institutional Review Boards were properly consulted, and what notes or reports, if any, resulted.

Reported: "The program collected video and audio recordings of reported U.F.O. incidents, including footage from a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet showing an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves."

Fact-check: In actuality, it has yet to be verified if the "program," or AATIP, collected video and such material as described at all. Sarah Scoles reported how there is currently no conclusive link between the videos published and the AATIP. This might be considered particularly eyebrow-raising given it was the premise of the entire NYT article. 

Moreover, the Department of Defense told Scoles it did not release the videos, a claim TTSA made and was largely echoed without question by media outlets and TTSA supporters, which, by the way, were often one and the same. The DOD emphasized its position to other writers and researchers, as well. At best, the issue remains unresolved.

The "glowing aura" reported, which made it into the title of the Dec. 16 article, was quite likely an image processing artifact. Robert Sheaffer consulted with John Lester Miller, an infrared imaging expert who previously provided Sheaffer qualified opinion. 

Miller explained he knew exactly what the "aura" was, an artifact resulting from something known as "ringing". It very commonly happens when a hot object (like a jet engine) is filmed over a cold background (like clouds). Sheaffer observed that when UFO proponents talk about a glowing aura on infrared film, they are actually suggesting they don't know anything about the filming process and didn't consult with anyone who does.


Since the story broke, writers and researchers contributed a great deal of interesting material in somewhat of an open source investigation. Contributions offer a variety of potential explanations for at least some of the reports highlighted by the Times and subsequently connected to the AATIP, aptly or otherwise. 

The War Zone published interesting reading, including an article referencing technological advances growing out of Project Palladium, and how related circumstances might account for at least some of the currently discussed UFO reports. We might also consider a 2014 news report that circulated about Iranian nuclear facilities menaced by luminous spheres with advanced flight capabilities. The events happened during the same time frame and were similar to some of the UFO reports highlighted by the Times and TTSA. While several news outlets framed the Iranian incidents in a UFO context, apparently Iranian officials actually suspected the flying objects to be CIA drones. There is a substantial amount of such material worthy of deeper consideration, and perhaps a main point here is that we obviously cannot rely on the authors of the Times article to find and present it.

When outlets we should expect to be trustworthy fail to follow up on or hold their writers accountable for unverified claims, it harms the search for truth much more than moves it forward. There may be some pilots, service personnel and civilians with interesting stories to tell. There are clearly some intriguing potential explanations for some of those stories. Unfortunately, it becomes nearly impossible to sort fact from fiction when, for whatever reasons, unconditional UFO advocacy is thinly disguised as professional journalism and enabled by major media outlets.

Further reading:

Former Skinwalker Personnel Suspect They Were Unwitting Research Subjects

Data Is King

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

DIA Withheld AAWSAP Contract Awarded to BAASS in 2011 FOIA Response