Thursday, December 26, 2013

The Year Along 'The UFO Trail'

The UFO Trail published over three dozen posts in 2013. Topics included the intelligence community, drones, ethics of exploring the fringe, questionable actions of people and organizations in ufology and more. Let's review the year along The UFO Trail.

Drones, Drones, Drones

More varieties than ever of flying objects went airborne in 2013, and the trend shows no signs of slowing down. The increasingly crowded skies have the attention of human rights groups, and the longer-than-you-might-think history of unmanned aerial vehicles was explored in Thought Drones Were New to the Skies? Think Again.

Designer Adam Harvey's counter-
surveillance hoodie, alleged to make its
wearer undetectable to drones
The related issues will no doubt continue to heat up, as considered in a post addressing legislation on drones from one state to the next, and another post included the anti-drone hoodie as previously written about by Gabrielle Pickard of Top Secret Writers. As a matter of fact, drone news escalated so rapidly in 2013 and became so prevalent I virtually dropped it for a while, as an entire blog could easily be devoted to that topic alone. I opted instead for a December summary of the situation in One Nation Under Drones, which addressed circumstances ranging from drone-related electronic warfare purposes, UFO hoaxes and toys to anti-drone demonstrations conducted abroad.

Speaking of quite man-made flying objects, the work and observations of Dr. Michael Heiser at UFO Religions inspired my July post, Those Mysterious Men and Their Flying Machines. Dr. Heiser cited circumstances indicating all relevant information is not considered equal when the topic is triangle craft.

Enabling Ignorance or Conducting Deception?

Among the year's most viewed posts at The UFO Trail was the first of a two-parter, MUFON, Science and Deception, which called into question the integrity of the Mutual UFO Network and particularly the accuracy of its claims of dedication to a science-based mission statement. The piece contained qualified commentary from skeptic Robert Sheaffer, scientist Frank Purcell and UFO investigator Antonio Paris. Statements were also obtained from Southern California UFO enthusiasts Steve Murillo and Georgeanne Cifarelli.

Part two of the post included comments from microbiologist Dr. Tyler Kokjohn. Circumstances were cited in which MUFON activities could clearly be accurately described as unscientific, if not deceptive.

ECM + CIA = UFO, at Least Sometimes

Career CIA man and
former DCI Richard Helms 
Alarming Cold War circumstances and declassified spy games were considered in John Marks and 'The Search for the Manchurian Candidate'. The saga of the CIA, its infamous family jewels and its 25-year venture into mind control were further explored in the two-part post, The CIA and the Search for the Manchurian Candidate. Church Committee Reports were considered that quoted the 1963 statements of then-Deputy Director for Plans and eventual Director of Central Intelligence Richard Helms. He asserted that developing means to advantageously and significantly influence human behavior, or mind control techniques, necessarily involved tests conducted on involuntary research subjects. 

"If one grants the validity of the mission of maintaining this unusual capability and the necessity for unwitting testing," Helms added, "there is only then the question of how best to do it."

Retired military intelligence expert
and raging conspiracy theorist
General Bert Stubblebine
One of Those Posts About Validated Conspiracy Theories was published in September, exploring the long and well documented history of the intelligence community not only manipulating the news media, political arena and nonprofit industry, but public perception of UFOs as well. Declassified documents were cited establishing that the CIA, NSA and DoD conspired to create false flag UFO events as early as the mid 20th century. Such signs of the times led Dr. Leon Davidson to publish a 1959 article, ECM + CIA = UFO, in which he suggested electronic countermeasures were among the tools used by the CIA to create the modern day UFO phenomenon.

Whether or not there may have been a paranormal signal among the CIA noise, such circumstances were further considered in Influence of the Intelligence Community in Ufology. There are a lot of members of the IC claiming to be willing and able to provide us inside information. A close look, however, reveals the demographic accounts for as many unsupported fantastic claims and unsubstantiated conspiracy theories as virtually any other segment of the UFO community.

Alleged Alien Abduction and Implications

Research of Alleged Alien Abduction: A Critical Perspective put some researchers and their methods under the microscope, and the circumstances were further considered in another post covering motivated reasoning. Once again we found that self-proclaimed experts and insiders were not necessarily worthy of either our attention or financial support. 

The inherently flawed use of an ill advised yet popular investigative tool was considered in You're Getting Sleepy... and Misled: Regression Hypnosis in Ufology. The work of the British UFO Research Association, studies conducted by renowned psychologist Dr. Elizabeth Loftus and facts presented by such members of the UFO community as Jeremy Vaeni, Jeff Ritzmann, Carol Rainey and Kevin Randle were considered in support of what the scientific research community already knows: hypnosis is not an effective memory retrieval tool. If there is anything of interest about the continuing hypnosis-related debate in ufology at this point, it would be that it continues to exist. Is it all about ignorance and motivated reasoning, or are some researchers and individuals blatantly trying to deceive us?

MUFON founding member John Schuessler,
who was a member of both the MUFON BoD
and NIDS advisory board during the Carpenter Affair 
It's been over two years now since my first of a series of posts on the experiences of Leah Haley. Her journey through the 1990's ufology gauntlet included seeking information and support from the Mutual UFO Network and its then-director of abduction research, John Carpenter. Among her eventual discoveries was that Carpenter sold copies of information contained in the case files and hypnosis sessions of some 140 clients, including herself, to Robert Bigelow and his now dissolved National Institute for Discovery Science. The series of posts resulted in a visit to the blog from the principle reporter of the circumstances at the time, who provided comments in Gary Hart on the Carpenter Affair.  

Hart then helpfully collaborated at my request on the post, The Carpenter Affair: For the Record, which contained a timeline of the saga, as well as copies of relevant documents as provided by both Hart and Haley. It is crystal clear at this point that not only did MUFON and its leadership indeed fail to adequately inform research subjects of the full extents of their participation, but ignored its own code of ethics while covering up and minimizing significance of the Carpenter Affair.

Ethics in ufology were further considered in a two-part post, Ethics of Exploring the Fringe. The first part included statements generously provided by writer/researchers Sharon Weinberger and Nigel Watson. It's not always easy dealing with situations surrounding those who report extreme circumstances, and offering some respect while refraining from treating the witness like a ball in the game of ufology would be highly recommended. Such circumstances can hardly be considered without once again finding ourselves contemplating matters of the intelligence community, and part two included comments obtained from Mark Pilkington on UFO-themed operations, belief systems, hypnosis and more.

The UFO Trail gratefully thanks readers, participants and supporters for their interest throughout the year. If you haven't browsed my other blog, Orlando Paranormal Examiner, please give it a look, and subscribe if you find it of interest, as doing so is both helpful and highly appreciated.

Thank you for your interest and support. It is appreciated.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ethics of Exploring the Fringe, Part Two: Mark Pilkington on Deception Operations, Witness Claims and More

The activities of Mark Pilkington have remained of interest to those following fringe culture since his days of making crop circles right up to his more recent venture of delving into the actions of spooks in ufology. He is a writer, publisher, curator and musician. Pilkington has written articles for The Anomalist and Fortean Times, among other publications. He is the author of two books, Far Out: 101 Strange Tales from Science's Outer Edge and Mirage Men, the latter of which was adapted to film. Pilkington's comments provided to The UFO Trail follow the questions below.

What kinds of challenges might writer/researchers expect to encounter when delving into the intelligence community and its relations to UFOs, manipulating public opinion about UFOs and similar subject matter?

The most immediately pressing is that of national security. Researchers should ask themselves whether they might be probing an area considered sensitive by the agency/organisation that they are engaging with. 

In the case of UFO research/investigation, it's evident that some UFO sightings, encounters and stories have arisen from misidentifications of government projects, operations or technologies. If your research or investigation has led you to government/military installations, your presence, for obvious reasons, may not be welcome there, especially with cameras or other recording equipment.

"While these UFO-themed operations are probably quite rare, the UFO community has to take on board the fact that they have happened, and that their purpose, and their methods, 
are necessarily obscure."
In an extreme situation, you may, unwittingly, stumble into a disinformation/deception operation of the sort that snared Paul Bennewitz, Linda Moulton Howe and others back in the early 1980s (and, it looks likely, other investigators before and after that period). While these UFO-themed operations are probably quite rare, the UFO community has to take on board the fact that they have happened, and that their purpose, and their methods, are necessarily obscure.

Should you engage with the military or intelligence communities on the subject of UFOs, you may be courted as an asset or exploited as a 'useful idiot'; you may also find yourself under investigation on suspicion of being a subversive or even an enemy operative. I would imagine that the latter is unlikely once you have been 'checked out' and your interests in UFOs have been shown to be genuine, as John Keel in the 1960's and Lee Graham in the 1980's appear to have experienced.

The exploitation of UFO lore in deception operations raises a number of further questions. How many people are privy to these operations? Are records and reports about their intentions, methods and results made and kept? Who is deceiving who, and why? Are you being caught up in a counter-intelligence operation in which you can only be a minor player at best, or at worst a victim? Or are you just falling foul of one agency or department's practical joke on another?

"Another important point: when engaging with military or intelligence community members on the UFO subject, you must always remember that UFOs represent a belief system like any other."
Another important point: when engaging with military or intelligence community members on the UFO subject, you must always remember that UFOs represent a belief system like any other. UFO experiences can be extremely powerful for those who witness or engage with them, but interpretations of these phenomena remain a matter of choice, belief, and ultimately faith, because, quite frankly, nobody really knows what's going on.

You are going to find people who subscribe to aspects of the UFO mythology in every walk in life, from the White House to White Castle. Military or intelligence 'insiders' are often just repeating hearsay from colleagues in their line of work, hearsay based on more rumour and speculation.

While somebody's status within the military or intelligence community may give them access to specialist or need-to-know information, for the most part, the 'insiders' are reading the same UFO material you are. Information regarding the UFO subject is nebulous at best, and even the most dedicated, UFO-positive 'insiders', like Colonel John Alexander, have not been able to get to the bottom of the USG's knowledge, or more probably, lack of knowledge, on the subject.

How might researchers most responsibly and ethically deal with members of controversial demographics, such as alleged alien abductees and self-described mind control victims, while writing about the reported circumstances?

A broad range of experiences have been grouped together under the alien abduction/contact umbrella, and some of these go on to be identified as mind control scenarios. Some of these experiences might well represent anomalous phenomena outside of our current understanding. My approach would be to document a subject's experiences as faithfully as possible, without editing, colouring or discounting any aspects of their memories, or their interpretations of the events.

Mark Pilkington
Alongside this, it is entirely reasonable, and responsible, to draw upon known natural phenomena, psychological, physiological and neurological states and conditions that might produce analogous experiences. One must also consider the folkloric (UFO/ET/conspiracy, etc.) or popular culture tropes that are reflected in your subject's experience, how and when your subject may have been exposed to them and what kind of impact they may have made.

In some instances it might be best to admit that your subject's condition requires the involvement of a mental health or medical professional. This is obviously a delicate issue requiring a lot of tact, but it is also something that you should certainly suggest if you believe it to be necessary, even at risk of upsetting or distressing your subject. 

One cannot ignore the fact that some self-identifying abductees or mind control victims might be suffering from mental health issues, though this should never be assumed. That said, if your subject *wants* to be an alien abductee or a mind control victim, and this role, and their association with others in their respective communities isn't harming them or their dependents, then it's probably best to let them get on with it – who are we to contradict or intervene in somebody's chosen belief system, even if we don't agree with it?

How prone to exploitation and manipulation (by self-described ufologists and writers suffering from research bias) are alleged abductees and mind control victims?

For some people, being part of the alien abduction/contact or mind control community can be a fulfilling, if unsettling, experience –  it can provide both meaning and purpose to their lives. While the role of the mind control subject is, necessarily, that of a victim, with the negative associations inherent to that role, being an alien abductee or contactee also has the potential to be a powerfully positive experience for some people.

"One important thing I think that the history of these subjects has shown us is that hypnosis is too powerful and unruly a tool to be used responsibly by alien abduction or mind control researchers who are not already highly trained and experienced clinical psychologists or therapists."
One important thing I think that the history of these subjects has shown us is that hypnosis is too powerful and unruly a tool to be used responsibly by alien abduction or mind control researchers who are not already highly trained and experienced clinical psychologists or therapists. As with any clinicians or therapists, it depends on who you go to see. If, as a suspected abductee or contactee in America in the late 1980's or early 1990's, you had been to see the late John Mack, you would be considerably more likely to regard your anomalous experiences as a positive force in your life, one in which the 'aliens' were here to help you and our planet. Whereas if you had taken a similar set of experiences to David Jacobs, you might more likely cast yourself as a victim of a malevolent ET presence here to plunder our genetic materials. I know which story I would prefer to be a part of.

Write It

The participation at The UFO Trail by Sharon Weinberger, Nigel Watson and Mark Pilkington is most appreciated. The value of the time and attention offered is acknowledged, and the previous and future contributions of the three to the fringe culture genre are respected and recommended for further exploration.   

We have certain obligations to conduct ourselves in responsible manners as researchers and reasonable members of society. Best practices should be conducive to revealing truth while encouraging the pursuit of good mental and physical health.

The nature of fringe culture and, specifically, the UFO community, with its inherent conspiracy theories and promotion of paranormal-related beliefs, is riddled with challenges. Effectively and healthily navigating its cliques, organizations and personalities while pursuing accurate information – and then sharing that information in responsible manners – can be difficult, but it is not entirely impossible. Moreover, circumstances surrounding the conspiracies and various events are indeed worthy of interest and research.

Similarly, it is certainly reasonable to inquire into the methodologies and goals of self-described investigators of alleged alien abduction. It is also reasonable to expect transparency and cooperation from those investigators, as well as nonprofit public charities and similar organizations involved. Managing to execute and write about such inquiries, often met with resistance, without offending self-described experiencers and without damaging any number of relationships in the process, however, are other matters entirely.

There are many individuals readily accessible who believe themselves to have experienced interactions with a non-human intelligence, involuntary involvement in state-sponsored covert research programs and wide varieties of phenomena they do not understand. People and events on the fringe can be intriguing, as can their stories, but there is much of which to be cautious for many reasons.

Erika Hayasaki wrote a recommended article, How Many of Your Memories Are Fake?, recently published by The AtlanticShe quoted journalist Richard E. Meyer, a two-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, who suggested faulty memory is among the reasons to be cautious. It is not, however, justification to altogether fail to research and write. There is no guarantee of truth in a nonfiction narrative, Meyer explained, but added that writers have an obligation to get as close to the truth as they possibly can - “and the only way to do that is to report the living hell out of it.”


Ethics of Exploring the Fringe, Part One: Sharon Weinberger and Nigel Watson on Responsible Reporting

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ethics of Exploring the Fringe, Part One: Sharon Weinberger and Nigel Watson on Responsible Reporting

Delving into controversial topics and related demographics has challenges that come with the territory. If one is inclined to research and write on matters and controversies typically receiving attention within ufology circles, various questions of ethics and integrity are destined to arise.

What responsibilities do writer/researchers have to individuals who become the subjects of their articles and blog posts? How might we assess if writers are dealing responsibly with their chosen subject matter? What challenges should writers expect to encounter when addressing such topics as the intelligence community, alleged alien abduction and claims of mind control?

I emailed writer/researchers Sharon Weinberger, Nigel Watson and Mark Pilkington, requesting permission to pose such questions. Each graciously agreed to share some experience and insight, and their time and attention is greatly appreciated. Comments provided by Sharon Weinberger and Nigel Watson are offered below, and statements from Mark Pilkington will be published in part two of this post.

Sharon Weinberger

Sharon Weinberger is an award-winning journalist and a former defense analyst. Her impressive resume includes an M.A. in Russian and East European Studies from Yale University. Her writing on such topics as national security and military technology has been published in Wired, Slate, Discover and Aviation Week & Space Technology, among other outlets. She authored Imaginary Weapons: A Journey Through the Pentagon's Scientific Underworld, a 2006 book documenting how a fringe weapons project bordering on charlatanism was repeatedly funded while producing no independently verifiable data. Weinberger took on the controversial subject of mind control in her 2007 Washington Post Magazine article, Mind Games, which provided readers insight into the lives of self-described targeted individuals and contained an intriguing interview with non-lethal weapons expert Colonel John Alexander. She is currently composing a history of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, referred to in some circles as the mad science division.

"I think writers and researchers have the same responsibilities as anyone in society: to treat all people 
with honesty and respect."
Obviously, I do think there is something useful in exploring controversial or extreme beliefs,” Weinberger recently told The UFO Trail, “not just for the people who hold them, but for the people who don't share those beliefs. But how can this exploration be done responsibly? I think writers and researchers have the same responsibilities as anyone in society: to treat all people with honesty and respect. The real question is how does this translate down to journalists or researchers interviewing people making claims that some may regard as delusional, or perhaps even indicative of mental illness. Journalists are generally not doctors, or scientists, or mental health professionals. It is not up to them to diagnose someone as mentally ill.

I can't speak for everyone, but the questions I ask myself are: Does this person understand the implications of speaking to a journalist/researcher? Does this person understand that by publicizing their claims, they could be mocked or ridiculed, or simply not believed? Do they understand the journalist/researcher is not an advocate or a believer in their claims? If I do not think someone understands the implications of those questions, I do not use them as a source (or subject) of an article. This is an imperfect standard, perhaps, but it is how I approach these topics.”

Weinberger explained that she has given a lot of thought to the ethics of dealing with people who make claims of mind control. Ever since her Washington Post Magazine article on the topic, she continues to receive what she termed daily emails from people all over the world describing their alleged experiences, now some seven years after the piece was published.

Nigel Watson

Researcher Nigel Watson is a long time self-employed writer. His interest in ufology inspired him to obtain degrees in psychology, as well as film and literature. Watson's research and resulting work has been published in such magazines as Wired, Fortean Times and Magonia. His several books and ebooks include The Flying Saucer Cinema, Portraits of Alien Encounters and his latest publication from Haynes, UFO Investigations Manual: UFO Investigations from 1892 to the Present Day. Below are questions posed to Watson followed by his responses.

What kinds of challenges might writer/researchers expect to encounter when delving into the intelligence community and its relations to UFOs, manipulating public opinion about UFOs and similar subject matter?

Dr. Leo Sprinkle
The problem with this area is knowing who to believe and what to believe. There is the famous case of Paul Bennewitz. This began in 1980 when Bennewitz attended hypnotic regression sessions with abductee Ms. Myra Hansen, conducted by Dr. Leo Sprinkle. During these sessions Hansen and her son claimed they saw aliens mutilating animals. Furthermore, she recalled being flown by a spacecraft to New Mexico, where she was taken inside an underground base. Here she saw human body parts floating in huge tanks.

It was Bennewitz’s contention that Hansen had been fitted with an alien implant that they might use to control her thoughts and actions. Using his skills as an electronics expert he attempted to intercept and block the signals he believed were being transmitted to the woman’s implant.

At one stage he used metal foil to block the signals, and then he decided to intercept electronic low frequency (ELF) transmissions. He was successful in finding ELF signals but they seem to have been transmitted by the nearby Kirtland Air Force Base in the process of conducting secret experiments as part of the SDI [Strategic Defense Initiative] ‘Star Wars’ project.

When the USAF warned him not to continue his work he was all the more convinced that he had intercepted alien signals. Indeed, he contacted anyone who would listen about the UFO threat and he created a computer program to decode the signals. In response the USAF department of Air Force Office of Special Intelligence (AFOSI) bombarded him with as much disinformation as possible to make him look like a fully certified UFO nut.

Under these pressures Bennewitz suffered a mental breakdown. Even worse was the revelation that UFO researcher William Moore confessed that he had unwittingly aided the AFOSI by passing on disinformation to Bennewitz.

The disinformation material about alien bases, cattle mutilations, implants and abductions done with the aid and knowledge of the US government also became the subject of Linda Moulton Howe’s book, Alien Harvest. Howe alleged that documents shown to her later became the evidence used to prove the existence of a secret government project called Majestic 12 (MJ-12).

This highlights how information gets transferred and transfigured, which goes beyond a single source into the mainstream of ufology and popular culture.

How might researchers most responsibly and ethically deal with members of controversial demographics, such as alleged alien abductees and self-described mind control victims, while writing about the reported circumstances?

When I started investigating high strangeness cases in northern England during the 1970's, I came across several ethical issues. One solution was to keep witness names anonymous so that they would not suffer any public humiliation or distress. That was not always easy as some witnesses made their story public before I interviewed them or had put information in the public domain. I wrote up several of the cases in my book, Portraits of Alien Encounters (VALIS, 1990), and looked at them from a psychological point-of-view. Looking back on it I feel I could have been more restrained and careful about the witnesses’ feelings. The book carries correspondence between Norman Harrison (pseudonym) and myself about our varying views. One witness infamously disliked a chapter I wrote about her alien encounters, even though her story had already been published as a book and been publicised in the media.

You can and should consult with the witness, but this can lead to the suppression of essential information. It also depends on the audience you are presenting the case to - ufologists, local media, websites. I would certainly spend more time discussing such things and their implications to witnesses.

Other circumstances worthy of consideration might include the challenges related to critiquing the work of researchers of alien abduction. Specifically, when we are critical of the actions and methodologies undertaken by researchers, we risk bringing public embarrassment and criticism to their research subjects, or alleged alien abductees. For instance, it is difficult to critically review the work of the researcher without indirectly calling the judgment of the abductee into question. Any comments on that? Any remarks on how we might most effectively address the work and ethics of the researcher of alien abduction without causing the self-described abductee undue stress and harm?

"Ufologists go from being highly sceptical to highly gullible, and discussions become personal rather than being based on the evidence."
This is a very tricky area too! Ufologists go from being highly sceptical to highly gullible, and discussions become personal rather than being based on the evidence. The abductee then becomes a ball in the game of ufology, who is kicked around to prove or disprove the reality of abductions or some finer point of ufological lore. Discussion when based on facts, not politics, should be encouraged, as there are many ways of looking at a case and new insights can be gained by sharing information.


Part two will include comments and insights from Mark Pilkington, author of Mirage Men, among other works.

Ethics of Exploring the Fringe, Part Two: Mark Pilkington on Deception Operations, Witness Claims and More

Friday, December 6, 2013

One Nation Under Drones

The continuing escalation of newsworthy drone-related stories recently included Amazon's announcement that it is considering employing unmanned aerial vehicles for delivery purposes. While the revelation curiously aired on the eve of Cyber Monday, an occurrence causing some to suspect it a clever ploy by the retail giant to create itself valuable and timely shopping season attention, the concept of commercial drones nonetheless deserves consideration.

The same could be said for a number of aspects of what might reasonably be termed the runaway circumstances. When we consider drones first took to the air nearly 100 years ago, it might almost make one wonder what took so long for them to catch on to their current extent. One way or another, we might as well accept the skies are (once again) forever changed.

This WASP Can Sting

Mike Tassey and the hacking, eavesdropping WASP
In 2011, seeming now to have been ages ago on the fast paced drone time line of late, a couple of crafty security experts created the Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform, or WASP. Even with all the talk going around of fascinating technology and questionable surveillance, the point might well be argued that the average individual often does not understand deeper ramifications of electronic warfare. Suffice it to say that was not the case with WASP inventors Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins.

They put together a 14-pound, six-foot long UAV that could locate WiFi signals, crack passwords and, basically, hack electronically transmitted data while it hovered in the vicinity. It was equipped with a Linux computer about the size of a pack of smokes. The drone's flight path could be programmed, the vehicle carried a camera and, for a finale, it could imitate cell phone towers. That means the WASP could “fool” cell phones into transmitting through it, instead of normal service providers, enabling its operators to intercept and fully eavesdrop on calls.

Pirates and Parrots

If we are going to talk commercial delivery drones, we might as well consider hijackers. You didn't think all those retail goods were just going to fly around up there without attracting attention, did you? Security researcher Samy Kamkar created somewhat of a pirate drone. His masterpiece can monitor and inject packets into other wireless networks – such as those on board other drones. That allows one to remotely identify and seize control of another aerial vehicle. Once the original operator is disconnected from their drone, it's all over but the replacement of inventory.

A $4 million MQ-9 Reaper
Such technology might cause one to wonder a bit about the circumstances surrounding the story of the drone lost in Lake Ontario. The New York Air National Guard apparently lost track of a $4 million MQ-9 Reaper when it reportedly crashed suddenly about three hours into a practice mission. The Coast Guard couldn't find it and the Air Force was called in to investigate. No kidding.

A trip to a local mall recently revealed a drone for sale at a toy store. I'm not sure how much good can come out of a kid having a Parrot quadricopter with a camera that allows remote filming. Auto record activates at take off. The Parrot can be controlled via standard mobile devices and the operator can view the flight through the camera lens as compared to having to be within visual range. Actually, I'm not sure how much good can come out of any consumer having something like that.

A Parrot will set you back about 300 bucks. What do you suppose $4 million worth of drone can do?

While Amazon might be among the higher profile corporations to get in on the drone act, they are by no means among the first. The H.R. MacMillan Space Centre of Vancouver flew a drone in the vicinity of a minor league baseball game in an apparent attempt to drum up attention and support. The craft was intentionally designed to look a whole lot like a flying saucer of UFO lore. That resulted in the anticipated flood of UFO reports, but when the corporation admitted it had essentially executed a hoax in pursuit of gaining attention, numerous people expressed significant disappointment with MacMillan.

Escalating Circumstances

Despite the seeming blitz of drone stories, ever watchful Steven Aftergood reported a decline in Department of Defense budget requests for drone projects. The 2014 budget included $2.3 billion for work related to unmanned aerial systems, compared to $3.4 billion in 2013. It should be noted, however, that black budgets are of course classified, and reported figures might not entirely represent the amount of funds and subsequent attention allocated to drones.

Wired carried a story in November suggesting future military drones will be able to transform themselves. Sandia National Laboratories is working on a craft that can fly, swim, drive and even hop its way through its mission.

The Sandia drone concept as reported by Wired

Business Insider reported in November that Iranian aircraft consistently engage American drones. The article stated the drones had abilities to fly outside the atmosphere, cruise at ten times the speed of sound and render controls on Iranian F-14 aircraft inoperative. In at least one circumstance an Iranian fighter jet reportedly exploded in flight resulting in two casualties while engaging an apparent drone.

The drone situation is now progressing at such a rapid pace that in just the two days it took me to compose this post, more significant news broke. Drawing the attention of intelligence analysts far and wide, a December 6 Aviation Week exclusive shed more light on some previously classified circumstances of dronedom. The piece explained how officials have been directing their resources and attention, apparently culminating in projected additions to the current drone fleet that include stealth capabilities, among other news of note to the Beltway crowd.

Lethal Strikes

Protesters block NATO supply route in Pakistan
No post on the topic would be complete without directly addressing infamous lethal drone strikes. Alarming numbers of global civilian casualties are consistently reported. In a show of protest, thousands of Pakistani citizens temporarily blocked a road used as a NATO supply line to troops in Afghanistan.

In what veteran journalist Abby Martin called the most important interview she ever did, Martin spoke with the Rehman family of Pakistan. They explained circumstances surrounding the death of the family grandmother due to an American drone strike. One of the younger family members observed his grandmother killed while the woman stood in their yard.

The drone saga clearly winds through the Pentagon, corporate North America, UFO Land, toy stores and even ball parks. It is sadly and critically winding through other parts of the world as well. Drones and their policy makers are destined to continue their influence on our lives and interests and, in all likelihood, a great deal more so than is currently the case.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Influence of the Intelligence Community in Ufology

Bill Moore
Scheduled speaker William L. “Bill” Moore strode to the front of the conference room at the 1989 MUFON Symposium in Las Vegas and proceeded to deliver a speech in which he explained he was involved with the U.S. government in a disinformation game directed at Paul Bennewitz and the UFO community. Moore, a co-author of The Philadelphia Experiment and The Roswell Incident, told the stunned audience his role included relaying false information. His activities, he claimed, involved working with the Condor and the Falcon of the infamous Aviary, intentionally misleading Bennewitz, and contributing to having the man involuntarily committed to the New Mexico State Mental Hospital three times.

The very next year the annual MUFON bash was held in Gulf Breeze, Florida. A group of a half dozen National Security Agency intelligence analysts reportedly deserted their posts amid claims of believing themselves in contact with aliens and religious icons, and were eventually taken into custody in Gulf Breeze – within two days of the MUFON Symposium wrapping up. The group of five men and one woman, dubbed the Gulf Breeze Six, abandoned their posts in West Germany several days earlier for reasons they stated included saving the world from the antichrist as explained to them by ET and Mother Mary. The Chicago Tribune reported the six told acquaintances along their international AWOL journey that they were on their way to Gulf Breeze to greet an alien spacecraft. It was “Rapture time”.

Vance Davis, one of the Gulf Breeze Six
It would of course be reasonable to ask what the hell. Moreover, I invite consideration that the very members of the intelligence community (IC) who claim to debunk and stand in opposition to conspiracy theories are at times among the most active cultivators of same. While telling you they do not support conspiracies and outlandish tales, in actuality they sometimes perpetuate them. Please consider the following:

Retired Navy Commander C.B. Scott Jones enjoyed a long career in intelligence that spanned from investigating paranormal circumstances for Rhode Island Senator Claiborne Pell to lobbying for a Constitutional amendment about alleged extraterrestrial visitors. The legislation would designate the U.S. President as the nation's primary peacemaker while enacting the “institutionalization of peace”, protocol apparently designed to counter what Jones anticipates would be the certain chaos of officially announcing and accepting our space brothers.

The commander collaborated with Colonel John Alexander, General Bert Stubblebine and their associates in apparent search of the strange. Jones clearly stated on multiple occasions that he believes the U.S. government has intentionally blocked and complicated the efforts of UFO researchers to uncover truth and educate the public, a perspective in direct opposition to those commonly expressed by Alexander. Jones told The UFO Trail in 2012 that he thinks the UFO/ET subject has been used to cloak a number of classified U.S. programs, that “certainly includes mind control”.

Career intelligence officer and ufology's favorite colonel, John Alexander, stated during an interview published in 2007 that while some abuses took place during Project MKULTRA, he would argue “we threw the baby out with the bathwater” by discontinuing the operation. When not asserting himself as an anti-conspiracy theorist, Alexander says things like mind control is “coming back”. He went on to say in the interview that maybe people could be fixed or electronically neutered so that it would be safe to release them into society and they wouldn't come back and kill him.

We're now getting to where we can do that,” Colonel Alexander declared six years ago.

Rauni-Leena Luukanen Kilde
The colonel's wife, Victoria Lacas Alexander, published a blog post at The Devil's Hammer in June, 2012, in which she described a 1991 venture to Russia with General Stubblebine, his wife, Dr. Rima Laibow, and associates including Finnish physician and ufologist Dr. Rauni-Leena Luukanen Kilde. Ms. Lacas Alexander informed readers that Rauni-Leena was a leading expert in researching covert mind control programs and offered a YouTube link in which the doctor explained her perspectives that included allegations of ongoing experiments conducted on involuntary human research subjects.

Those are some statements from individuals who are most certainly not the apparently mentally ill, unreasonably paranoid types who anti-conspiracy theorists would have us think most commonly cultivate such beliefs. Moreover, Colonel Alexander regularly suggests himself to be opposed to the very conspiracies he at other times describes. Some more situations to please mull over:

These days, retired General Bert Stubblebine and Dr. Laibow operate Natural Solutions Foundation. The general's impressive career included being credited with redesigning the intelligence structure of the entire U.S. Army. This was apparently somehow accomplished without the man ever becoming aware of a 25-year CIA mind control effort that exploited thousands of enlisted personnel at locations including the Army's Edgewood Arsenal (Stubblebine claims he was never read into the mind control operations). He further states, however, that he and Laibow now believe mind control projects continued after Congress ordered them halted in the 1970's.

Bert Stubblebine
As a matter of fact, Stubblebine and Laibow claim they are revealing such profoundly damaging information that the powers that be made an unsuccessful attempt to kill her. Such alleged information includes turning children into Autistic worker drones and what the couple termed the “big plan”, a scheme involving the termination of roughly 90 percent of the population by the global elite via chemtrails, radiation and extremely low frequency (ELF) radio waves of non-lethal weapon infamy.

By the way, Dr. Laibow was a researcher of alleged alien abduction and a presenter back in the day at the 1990 MUFON Symposium when the Gulf Breeze Six came to town. Another piece of trivia: The following year, the deserted unit of the six, the 701st Military Intelligence Brigade, received the Director of the National Security Agency's Travis Trophy. The prestigious award was granted in recognition of the 701st making the most significant contribution in signals intelligence in the entire nation.

Gary Bekkum of STARstream Research has long reported on areas in which ufology overlaps with the IC. He published a 2007 piece by Gus Russo documenting how CIA and DIA men Ron Pandolfi, Paul Murad and Kit Green regularly manipulated and interacted with the UFO community, both live and online.

What has been confounding UFO buffs for years,” Mr. Russo wrote, “is the regular presence of these well-informed 'spooks' (and others less active) in both the physical UFO world and the world of cyberspace saucers.”

Mr. Bekkum is the author of the book, Spies, Lies and Polygraph Tape. Additional articles on his site include documentation of the manners members of the intelligence community directly seeded the venues of ufology with unsubstantiated statements and, by any other name, fantastic rumors. Such circumstances have permeated UFO conventions, online discussion forums and virtually every aspect of the UFO community.

Now, back where we started to some extent. Richard “Sarge” Doty claimed he was in on the state-sponsored demise of Paul Bennewitz. Writer/researcher Mark Pilkington covered the circumstances and a whole lot more related information in his book, Mirage Men. Mr. Pilkington explained some of his resulting suspicions the U.S. intelligence community propagated and spread inaccurate belief in alien visitation in his 2010 article, Weapons of Mass Deception. Below is a trailer for the film adaptation of Mirage Men.

Please allow me to emphasize I am not arguing the validity of claims and circumstances described above, but that their existence is relevant in and of itself. Some writer/researchers argue conspiracy theories are the exclusive domain of the mentally disturbed or, at best, the irrational. An inherent challenge to such an argument is that it obviously does not take into account the extents the intelligence community initiates conspiracies in the first place.

Clearly, the IC itself, and, specifically, elements of it in which its members moonlight as ufologists, are among the most active sources of conspiracy theories and their continued cultivation. Such circumstances are relevant and deserve to be taken into account, whatever the ultimate explanations and purposes for their existence may prove to be from one specific case to the next.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Carpenter Affair: For the Record

A review of circumstances, people and documents related to the Carpenter Affair.

Two years ago I began publishing a series of posts on the Leah Haley case. I found a number of aspects of the woman's story of interest. Researching and writing about her experiences led to many intriguing and relevant aspects of ufology. Among them was something that came to be known as the Carpenter Affair, a chain of events in which hypnotist John Carpenter accepted approximately $14,000 for delivering copies of the case files of 140 clients – people suspecting themselves to be alien abductees – to Robert Bigelow and his now dissolved National Institute for Discovery Science. The 140, which included Haley, were not informed by Carpenter that he made such arrangements.

John Carpenter
Carpenter was the director of abduction research for the Mutual UFO Network at the time, the 1990's. He was also a Missouri Licensed Clinical Social Worker. Several posts here at The UFO Trail addressed the Carpenter Affair, including The Leah Haley Case: John Carpenter, which contained statements obtained from the man during January, 2012. While Carpenter acknowledged he was provided cash from Bigelow on multiple occasions and that he delivered abductee information to Bigelow, Carpenter denied that any of his former clients were hurt in any way. Additional remarks of potential interest from Carpenter included stating that other researchers of alien abduction were approached with the same proposal as he and that some of them may have also shared data.

News of the Carpenter Affair first began to reach the public in early 2000, and Gary Hart became a principle reporter of the circumstances. He therefore viewed the related posts at The UFO Trail with interest. In August Mr. Hart chose to submit comments to the blog, addressing some key points that he stated Mr. Carpenter repeatedly ignored or twisted to a brighter point of view.

Mr. Hart and I then began a series of interactions. At my request, Hart explained how he came to provide MUFON in 2000 - and then the State of Missouri in 2001 - with information related to the Carpenter Affair.

UFO and Ethics Investigation

Long interested in ufology, Hart informed me he was investigating a UFO case in 1999 when he met with some abductees who confirmed rumors of the file sale. In addition to telling Hart about events surrounding the Carpenter Affair, they also told him MUFON was doing nothing about it. Hart took interest, and recently described the chain of events.

I supplied MUFON with raw evidence so they could do their own investigation, talk to the witnesses and make a time line, etc.,” he informed The UFO Trail, “since at that time I felt it was their job to investigate the case and not mine. They were in a position to uphold their own ethics policy.”

Robert Bigelow
However, Hart was disappointed to confirm MUFON leadership was already aware of the situation. The organization took no corrective actions, left Carpenter in a position of authority and continued to encourage people to participate in his hypnosis sessions.

Hart explained, “Immediately after filing my MUFON complaint I was told in no uncertain terms that MUFON had no intention of taking the complaint seriously and actually doing an investigation, so I investigated the case further and made a proper report/complaint to the state licensing board.”

A portion of Hart's formal complaint filed to MUFON was contained in a July, 2000, email published at UFO UpDates. Hart specified at the time that some of the information and documentation might well need to be on public display, emphasizing that the best interests of the organization and the public were not served by keeping the circumstances secret or out of public view. Such documentation, Hart wrote, included letters written by Carpenter to Bigelow, as well as a letter written by Carpenter's attorney. Some of those documents and their significance will be explored shortly.

The information contained in Hart's reports and formal complaints was originally obtained from a variety of sources, he told The UFO Trail, including Carpenter's ex-wife, Elizabeth. “I found Elizabeth to be truthful in my many talks with her,” Hart explained, adding that the same could not be said for Carpenter.

Another source of information was Leah Haley. She supplied Hart with evidence during his original investigation and much more recently provided The UFO Trail with copies of a document she gave Hart for inclusion in his 2001 report to the State of Missouri.

Perhaps the most important point in all of this is that MUFON's ethics code was all for show,” Hart reflected. “They had and apparently still have no intention of holding anyone, even a board member, to their code of ethics.”

Selling Case Files

John Carpenter told The UFO Trail in January of 2012 that his “data sharing” with Bigelow “was spread over three years around 1995” and that “reimbursements trickled in over the period.”

Carpenter additionally stated, “Despite rumors on the Internet, I NEVER SOLD my cases!!” (emphasis his)

Copies of letters written by Carpenter to Bigelow and included by Hart in his submissions of evidence to MUFON and the State of Missouri were provided to The UFO Trail. One such letter (see the two images to the right) dated June 29, 1996, primarily dealt with advising Bigelow that Carpenter and fellow hypnotist Yvonne Smith agreed to conduct work for Bigelow and receive financial compensation in return. Additional statements written by Carpenter, however, further suggested that his January, 2012, assertions to The UFO Trail were not entirely accurate, and that he had for all intents and purposes sold abductee case files, whatever terminology one might choose to describe it.

Personally, I want to thank you, Bob, for your assistance regarding the 140 cases I mailed to you,” Carpenter wrote Bigelow in 1996. “That helped pay some bills. The remainder has been what we have been living on since last December at the rate of $600-$800 per month... What has really hurt this year – after I began copying and sending files – was the elimination of my bonus/incentive pay program at work.” (emphasis his)

Carpenter was recently offered an opportunity to comment. He was supplied a copy of the 1996 letter and specifically asked about the discrepancy between his statements of January, 2012, in which he emphasized he never sold his cases, and his above statements contained in the letter.

I am now and always have been in complete possession of all original case files, approximately 140 in number,” Carpenter replied in an October 15 email. “Mr. Bigelow paid me for my time, expense, and labor in making some copies that his elite science panel could review in order to understand the abduction phenomenon more fully.”

While Mr. Carpenter may describe his activities as he chooses, it is not difficult for this writer to understand why some interpreted that case files were sold. One might also empathize with those who feel that to suggest otherwise is misrepresenting the circumstances, or, at the least, evading the relevant issues.

Carpenter added that measures were taken to protect confidentiality of the witnesses, including changing or blacking out names, an issue that has at times been disputed, as well as had its practicality called into question. Some argued that Leah Haley's name, for example, would not necessarily have to be on her case file for an even somewhat well informed individual to recognize the file as pertaining to her. Much more importantly, competent arguments have been made that whether or not the client names were included is completely beside the point.

Context and Capacity

By 1997, Carpenter's former hypnosis subject and then-wife Elizabeth, a self-described abductee, had privately informed some other abductees their files had been sold. Responses would eventually range from absolute rage to complete denial that Carpenter would have done such a thing.

A group of abductees who felt betrayed decided to explore legal action and retained lawyers. In a series of events that spanned three years and continue to be unclear, no charges or civil action were brought against Carpenter and the case was dropped. Some were under the impression a statute of limitations expired, some thought lawyers representing the abductees would have had a great deal of difficulty quantifying damages, while yet others suspected more devious causes.

Whether or not it had anything to do with the case being dropped, a recurring dynamic within such circumstances involves defining exactly what is taking place between a hypnotist and their subject, particularly in the context of investigation of alien abduction. Hypnotists continue to often avert from formally defining the role of hypnosis subjects who might be considered research subjects or therapy clients, but are much more frequently simply referred to as abductees or witnesses.

1997 letter from the law office
 of William E. Stoner
Further clouding the issue is failure to define the specific role and obligations of the hypnotist/investigator. A licensed social worker, for instance, could be interpreted to be administering professional services to some type of clients, while the hypnosis subjects of an artist or historian might tend to be interpreted differently, and whether or not they should be. Such are the specifics that abduction researchers and organizations that support them perpetually omit from clarifying in their methodology and in practical manners.

A 1997 letter from the law office of William E. Stoner, Carpenter's attorney, was mailed to legal counsel for Carpenter's former clients and in response to allegations of wrongdoing. The letter suggested Carpenter was not acting in a professional capacity when working with the individuals, making it a moot point whether or not he sold information contained in their files without their knowledge or consent.

The letter stated, “His [Carpenter's] collection of data is for his own personal pleasure as a hobby and as an interesting study. He does not do it for compensation.”

However, copies of additional documents provided by Hart clearly show that was not completely correct. A 1994 MUFON regional newsletter (see images to the left), crediting Carpenter as the editor and published some three years prior to the letter from Mr. Stoner's office, informed readers they could use credit cards, bill insurance companies and set up payment plans for Carpenter's hypnosis sessions. The newsletter also announced Carpenter's move to a new office at the Center for Neuropsychiatry where he would be conducting hypnosis sessions.

Carpenter's professional business card, stating his credentials as a social worker, was displayed at the top of a page. The announcement stated that his hypnosis practice and research of anomalous phenomena, and specifically “UFO abductions”, would be openly and professionally supported at the Center for Neuropsychiatry.

The bad news,” the announcement stated, “is that there can be no more free hypnosis sessions. However there is good news: payment plans are possible and medical insurance may indeed cover your sessions. Even VISA and Master Card charges are allowed! Cost is $65 for the session – even if the session lasts 3–4 hours. (That is still a bargain!)”

Obviously, Carpenter prospected for self-described abductees, accepted financial compensation for conducting hypnosis sessions and did so from a professional medical facility while billing insurance companies. Clients had no reason to suppose they were dealing with a financially uncompensated man “collecting data for his own personal pleasure”, as Mr. Stoner's office framed it, as compared to a mental health professional conducting paid services bound by applicable laws and codes of ethics.

A 2001 two-page document prepared by Leah Haley (below, right) for inclusion in Gary Hart's complaint to the Missouri Division of Professional Registration further called into question the portrayal of the situation as described by Mr. Stoner's office and Mr. Carpenter. Ms. Haley explained how John Carpenter originally presented himself as a mental health professional, repeatedly assured her that all information discussed would be kept confidential and provided her with an assessment of her mental condition. Such circumstances would of course not lead one to interpret Carpenter was acting in a recreational capacity. Moreover, Haley paid Carpenter.

The total amount I paid John for the 15 sessions was $825,” Haley wrote in 2001. “I have canceled checks for these payments.”

She concluded, “Had I known that John would sell my case files or disclose information he did not have permission to disclose, I would never have gone to him.”

Haley greatly revised her opinions of her experiences, the validity of regression hypnosis used as a memory retrieval tool and, unfortunately but understandably, the integrity of some members of the mental health industry.

The Story Broke

In 2000, after legal options dissolved, Elizabeth created a website and published details of the Carpenter Affair. If her intentions were to inform the public and force discussion, she was successful.

UFO Updates provided access to an abundance of comments on the topic. In a July 20, 2000, email, John Velez challenged Budd Hopkins and his position of downplaying the significance of the Carpenter Affair. Selling files for cash, Mr. Velez emphasized, with no notice to the witness, was unacceptable under any circumstances. One of the few ways to insure it didn't happen again, he explained, was to shine a lot of light on it.

Velez continued, “This nasty business has now been confirmed by Bigelow himself, Walt Andrus, Dr. [John] Alexander of NIDS, and about seven of the abductees whose files were sold.”

Up to that point, long standing MUFON Director Walt Andrus had privately rationalized Carpenter's actions, seemingly attempting to deflect responsibility from MUFON. He stood on such platforms as suggesting the abductee files were Carpenter's personal property, making it a non-MUFON issue.

If that was the case, critics countered, then exactly what did Carpenter do in his capacity as MUFON director of abduction research? And was that to suggest MUFON supported such conduct from its board of directors?

Hart's Formal Complaint

Hart's investigation and resulting 2000 formal complaint to MUFON cited specific violations of the MUFON code of ethics, some of which about witness care was ironically composed by Carpenter. Hart charged that Carpenter had engaged in “unprofessional conduct, unethical conduct, conduct unbecoming a MUFON official and negligent misrepresentation of himself as a health care professional during activities that involve 'abduction research', hypnosis, contact with witnesses and the general public.”

The charges, the complaint added, were substantive and represented an abuse of power and position occurring over many years. Hart's complaint suggested that Carpenter's unprofessional activities rendered his entire body of research worthless, as one could not determine truth from fiction within abductee accounts or Carpenter's conclusions. That was particularly the case, it was stated within the complaint, “given the exceptionally dysfunctional behavior this report documents as having occurred between John and his abductee contacts.”

Hart's complaint to MUFON cited how Carpenter had stated his title as a MUFON official, presented his professional business card and used his licensed medical position to establish trust with witnesses. In many cases, it was stated, Carpenter then obtained personal medical records, combined them with taped hypnosis sessions and sold the personal case files, among other indiscretions and unauthorized entrepreneurial ventures detailed and demonstrated within the complaint.

Internal Affairs

John Schuessler
About the time the Affair went public, Director Andrus handed off the job to MUFON board member John Schuessler. Critics feared Schuessler was biased towards minimizing the Carpenter circumstances and would not offer the situation objective concern, as he was a member of a science adivisory board for NIDS and Bigelow. Some argued it likely he knew about the situation and failed to take action for years.

Jim Moseley's September, 2000, Saucer Smear contained a piece on the saga. Mr. Moseley cited long and rambling Internet posts made by both Carpenter and his former hypnosis subject and new wife, Debra, that attempted to explain and justify Carpenter's actions. Moseley quoted the MUFON director of governmental affairs, Larry Bryant, who expressed concern about activities and intentions of fellow board members. Mr. Bryant stated:
"Since a cloud of alleged impropriety now hangs over the Executive Committee (of MUFON) for its having taken so long to act upon its months-long knowledge of the 'Carpenter Affair', I hereby call upon all members of the Executive Committee to resign forthwith from their Committee positions, from their membership on the MUFON Board of Directors, and from their MUFON general membership - all in the interest of helping restore the public's confidence in the purpose, operation, management, and integrity of this organization...
"In addition, you Executive Committee members owe all of us in the entire field of UFO research not only a full, written explanation as to who on the MUFON Board originally knew of the 'Carpenter Affair' (and when they knew it) but also a published apology for their having embargoed or otherwise downplayed that knowledge at the expense of the rest of the Board. If we have a lesson to be learned from this debacle, how about this one: Enforced silence never can be the ally of truth!"
Moseley followed up on the story two months later in his November, 2000, Saucer Smear, in which he described the MUFON continuing lack of action or explanation:
Our readers will recall that in our Sept. 5th issue, we told you of the internal scandal in MUFON regarding the fact that John Carpenter, their Director of Abduction Research, sold one hundred and forty (140) abduction case histories to wealthy [Robert] Bigelow of NIDS (National Institute of Discovery Science). John Schuessler, the new czar of MUFON, has promised an investigation by an Ethics Committee consisting of four unnamed members of their Board of Directors, and he has stated that the results of this internal investigation will be published in the MUFON Journal.

“However, we have recently received the October issue of the Journal, and there is not a word therein about the John Carpenter affair! On the contrary, the lead article is authored by Carpenter, who uses the letters 'MSW' and 'LCSW' after his name. We have no idea what these letters mean, but we do know that the article in question is an absurd defense of the ludicrous 'abduction video' which was the topic of Carpenter's presentation at this year's MUFON symposium in St. Louis. It thus appears that Mr. Carpenter is still riding high in the MUFON hierarchy!”
That may very well have remained the case indefinitely had Gary Hart not filed a complaint to the Missouri Division of Professional Registration, apparently spurring further action. In the April, 2001, MUFON Journal, then-Director John Schuessler informed the MUFON nation, “John Carpenter has vacated the post of MUFON Director of Abduction Research, citing personal reasons and the need to spend more time with his career activities.”

Schuessler thanked Carpenter for his work and generosity. “We will miss this important source of information,” he wrote.

To the best of my knowledge, MUFON never directly informed its membership or even the 140 former clients of Carpenter of the circumstances. It is a strong possibility that a large majority of the 140 still do not know about the Carpenter Affair.

The Missouri licensing board investigated Hart's complaint and handed down a five-year probation period on Carpenter's license as a clinical social worker. The period was completed in 2006 and the license is currently under no disciplinary status.


John Carpenter was offered an opportunity to provide comments for this post, and subsequently wrote in an October 15 email, “Mr. Bigelow funded all of the major researchers in some fashion with equipment, various projects, conferences, documentaries, research trips, etc. Receiving help from him for a scientific and serious research endeavor was not unusual. Researchers presented many proposals to him. His elite science panel included two astronauts who had walked on the moon. We should be proud that that level of science and expertise was involved.”

Carpenter was also offered an opportunity to comment on some specific previous remarks in addition to those addressed earlier in this post. In January of 2012, Carpenter stated to The UFO Trail that additional researchers were approached with similar offers as he, and that some of them may have also shared data. Encouraged to directly address details of such circumstances and expand on those remarks, Carpenter chose not to do so.

Controversy would continue to surround the MUFON activities of both Mr. Bigelow and Mr. Schuessler. In more recent years a failed collaboration between the nonprofit UFO research organization and Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies included some major funding, initially reported to be provided by Bigelow. The deal went south amid many complications that included dismissals and resignations of MUFON personnel. In January, 2011, former international director for MUFON, James Carrion, wrote at his blog, Follow the Magic Thread, "Mr. Bigelow did not fund MUFON’s work for BAASS, instead 'sponsors' that Bigelow revealed to John Schuessler but not to the other MUFON Board Members put up the money."

Multiple attempts were unsuccessful to obtain comment from Robert Bigelow for this post. His statements continue to be invited should he ever be inclined to provide them.

John Schuessler was sent emails requesting permission to ask a few questions related to the Carpenter Affair. No responses were received. 

John Alexander
Colonel John Alexander, a former NIDS staff member and among those originally confirming the Carpenter Affair, was asked earlier this year to please comment on related issues, such as any interest he may have had in the 140 case files. He was also asked, in his opinion, why Mr. Bigelow obtained copies of the files and financed Carpenter's activities. The colonel was additionally requested to please comment on whether other researchers supplied Bigelow with files, as Carpenter suggested.

Lastly,” I wrote Alexander, “former MUFON Director James Carrion alleged that Bigelow moved funds on behalf of an undisclosed financial sponsor during collaborations with MUFON. Can you offer any comment on that? Is there anything you might be at liberty to discuss concerning relationships between Bigelow corporations and intelligence agencies?”

In an August email, Colonel Alexander replied briefly, “You should ask Bigelow if you are interested in old affairs.”

Relevance: Was 'Everyone' Doing It?

In order to understand the culture of the UFO community of the 1990's, one should be aware that a great deal of attention was given to alleged alien abduction. This subsequently included wide tolerance of the use of regression hypnosis as a memory retrieval tool and related concepts. Researchers such as Budd Hopkins, Dr. John Mack, Dr. Karla Turner and others were giving the masses much to consider.

Our English counterparts at the British UFO Research Association enacted a moratorium on the use of hypnosis in 1988 which continues today, but little could have been further from the procedures conducted by American abduction researchers. Much more is publicly known today about the challenges inherent to using hypnosis as a memory retrieval tool than was the case 20 years ago, and that should be taken into consideration when reviewing certain circumstances. In all fairness to Carpenter and abduction researchers of the 1990's, it bears mention that rarely can one push edges of the envelope and avoid controversy at the same time. It is also of course much easier to assess past circumstances than it is to accurately gauge the bearing today's choices will have upon tomorrow.

Whatever one may choose to personally think about John Carpenter, the facts of the matter are his actions were reviewed by applicable bodies, consequences resulted and Mr. Carpenter served his debt as ruled. That is the case whether or not any given party may feel consequences were either excessively strict or negligently soft.

The Carpenter Affair nonetheless continues to be relevant for a number of reasons. The investigation conducted by Gary Hart demonstrated, among other things, an extremely detrimental lack of clarified boundaries between hypnotist and client. Expectations of acceptable behavior were not clearly defined and were virtually nonexistent. Attempting to use information obtained during regression hypnosis as evidence of alien abduction stands on an extremely slippery slope under the best of conditions, but given the circumstances of Carpenter's activities, The UFO Trail tends to agree the work was rendered worthless as Hart previously observed.

One particular relevance of such circumstances is that the work continues to be periodically cited, while completely omitting mention of the environment and conditions in which hypnotic narrations were obtained. At this point and in actuality, some of Carpenter's former hypnosis subjects have revised their opinions of the validity of the information induced during their sessions.

Even more importantly, the circumstances were not isolated incidents. Other hypnotists have been demonstrated to similarly and detrimentally blur the lines between hypnotist and friend, investigator and therapist, entrepreneur and truth seeker, authority figure and lover. There is much material available on extreme errors in research methodology and resulting flawed conclusions associated with the work produced by ufology hypnotists. In spite of that being the case, their work continues to be selectively cited as justification for fantastic and unsupported assertions. Their work is also counter productively cited as reason to continue the futile use of regression hypnosis while their activities actually included many of the same emotionally unsafe and dysfunctional dynamics as did Carpenter's. 

As Hart documented in his formal complaint to MUFON, one well known researcher informed him "everyone does it," referring to researchers commonly both selling case files and having sexual relations with alleged abductees they investigated and hypnotized. Further complicating the circumstances were and continue to be tendencies to intermittently refer to such individuals as abductees, hypnosis subjects, witnesses, clients of some type, including therapy clients (and sometimes whether or not the hypnotist was actually qualified to conduct therapeutic activities), and similar such titles. It has become apparent enough during the past 20 years that a detrimental byproduct of the circumstances, if not an outright intention, is the creation of opportunities for hypnotists and organizations who support them to vacillate on the nature of the relationships. Ambiguity is maximized and accountability is minimized.

The well of regression hypnosis was tainted at the emotional and financial expense of, by any other name, research subjects, and to the benefit of some hypnotists. It was done while details of the activity and its minimal efficiency were and continue today to often be misrepresented.

All of that stated, the Carpenter Affair remains relevant for yet another reason: The circumstances involved many more people than just John Carpenter. While he receives the majority of the attention for obvious reasons, the chain of events directly involved and were enabled by significant members and organizations of the UFO community. The involved parties influenced trends and public opinion before, during and long after the Carpenter Affair.

Gary Hart emphasized during our interactions and while entertaining my questions that he felt a most relevant aspect of the Carpenter saga was the MUFON lip service given its code of ethics and official procedures. Some of the policies that were consistently violated, Hart pointed out, included failing to properly inform and obtain consent from research subjects of the terms and conditions of their participation, a policy that Carpenter himself suggested be implemented yet obviously neglected to practice. MUFON leadership not only failed to correct the circumstances, but supported their continuation for whatever combinations of reasons.

We can only do the best we can to help prevent this from happening again,” Hart concluded.

Contact Jack Brewer, writer of The UFO Trail, through his blogger profile.

Time Line of the Carpenter Affair

An abbreviated chronological order of relevant events, 
composed with the assistance of Gary Hart:

Late 1980's: Springfield social worker John Carpenter was conducting regression hypnosis sessions with Missouri and Arkansas abductees.

Early 1990's: Carpenter began working with Robert Bigelow on various projects. He soon began intermittently requesting and receiving financial gifts from Bigelow.

1991: Leah Haley became a hypnosis subject of Carpenter's and would eventually pay him a total of $825 for the sessions. Carpenter was appointed MUFON director of abduction research.

1994: Carpenter wrote in a regional MUFON newsletter that his professional office would be used for hypnosis sessions. Price and payment options were listed, which included billing medical insurance companies.

1996: Carpenter reached terms with Robert Bigelow to exchange copies of abductee case files for cash.

1997: Carpenter's former hypnosis subject and then-wife Elizabeth told abductees that Carpenter sold their files. Abductees were livid. Elizabeth secured evidence of the file sale, and divorce proceedings followed amid accusations of various forms of professional misconduct (Carpenter would later marry another of his former clients). Carpenter and abductees sought legal counsel. Carpenter's attorney claimed in a letter that Carpenter collected abductee data for personal pleasure and was not compensated.

1999: Hart heard rumors of the circumstances and was given details when he met with some of Carpenter's clients while investigating a UFO case in the vicinity of Springfield. They told Hart about the file sale and that MUFON was doing nothing.

2000: Attorneys representing the abductees dropped the case. Elizabeth temporarily launched a website describing the Carpenter Affair, likely out of frustration and to inform the public of MUFON inaction. Hart saw the site, contacted Elizabeth and investigated the circumstances, including interacting with several of Carpenter's disgruntled former clients. John Velez reported on UFO Updates that Bigelow, Colonel Alexander and others confirmed the reality of the Carpenter Affair. After investigating the circumstances, Hart submitted verified details in a formal complaint to MUFON, which continued to drag its feet and enabled Carpenter to retain his MUFON position and activities.

2001: Hart submitted a report and formal complaint to the State of Missouri Division of Professional Registration. John Schuessler wrote in the MUFON Journal that Carpenter vacated his MUFON position. Carpenter's license as a clinical social worker was put on a five-year probation period.