Monday, October 21, 2019

On the Trail of a $7k FBI File

It all started with an FOIA request for records on Joseph Bryan III. The FBI responded by providing one file of about 37 pages and informing me there were two more files, making a total of three potential files. Both of the other two files, the Bureau explained, were transferred to the National Archives and Records Administration, or NARA, and suggested I pursue the files there. 

"Great!" I thought, "I'll just shoot an FOIA request over to NARA and I'll get the other two files!"

NARA soon replied that one of the files was actually still in FBI custody, in contradiction to the FBI statement. The other file was 8,500 pages(!). 

My request would be entered into a third tier review queue since the requested file consists of more than 3,000 pages. To give me an indication of the existing backlog, NARA stated it is currently processing requests received in December 2014. If I want a copy of the file whenever it finally gets made available for release, the estimated fee at this time is $6,800(!!).

"You may order a reproduction copy at the cost of $0.80 per page by contacting our office to place an order," NARA wrote in an Oct. 10 email. "We estimate that the total cost for a reproduction of 8500 pages will be $6800."

I'll explain all that more shortly. First let's consider Mr. Bryan.

Joseph Bryan III
For those unaware, the late Joseph Bryan III was a member of the Board of Governors of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, a UFO research org back in the day. Bryan was also a military officer, serving in both the Navy and Air Force, and was recruited by the CIA as a psychological warfare specialist, according to many sources. Those sources include numerous obituaries and military sites, as well as the Encyclopedia Virginia which states Bryan worked for the CIA from the late 1940's until 1953. At least one historian wrote Bryan worked for the CIA "as head of its psychological warfare division." Bryan was from a wealthy family who owned a newspaper, and he wrote quite a bit on several topics. 

Bryan sat on the NICAP board from 1957-1969, and again in 1971. It is noteworthy his fellow board members included former Director of Central Intelligence Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter. 

The file on Bryan initially provided by the FBI is an interesting read. It offers significant insight into FBI mentalities and methods during the late 1940's. 

The majority of the file concerns a forthcoming article about the FBI that was going to be published by the Saturday Evening Post. The Bureau was concerned about making sure the article portrayed it in a positive way, and pulled what strings it could to influence who would be assigned to write the piece. Reporters initially thought to be working on it were not acceptable to the FBI, as can easily be discerned from memos in the file. Bryan's name eventually came up as a possible writer for the story, and it is at that point we can read along as FBI agents evaluate Bryan, interviewing numerous sources and compiling reports.

Bryan is invited to tour the FBI headquarters and meet with Director Hoover, which he does. Subsequent notes and memos are included in the file, and the Bureau seems to believe it "should have no difficulty with Bryan" as the author of the Post article, and certainly prefers him to the previous candidates.

Interestingly, Bryan never writes the piece, informing the FBI he became too busy working on other writing projects. We can only speculate about this, but, for whatever reasons, Bryan chose not to write the story after spending time touring the FBI, talking to Hoover, being provided names of sources recommended for statements, and being provided some "material". 

"Should I return the documents you were kind enough to lend me, or should I give them to the Post for loan to their new assignee?" Bryan asks in a letter to the Bureau dated Feb. 25, 1948 (page 19 of the file).

The file concludes with some 1950's memos and letters, in which conflicts arise between Bryan and some other members of the intelligence community. Loyalties and friendships are questioned surrounding the nature of on the record statements, and more research might prove interesting.

Contents of a June 9, 1955, letter from Robert A. Winston to Bryan and obtained by the FBI (pp34-35 of the file):



NARA and the FBI

Okay, so those other two FBI files on Joseph Bryan III... When I first heard from NARA that one of the files, 100-HQ-93216, was 8,500 pages and it would take years and seven grand to obtain, I shared the NARA email with some people. One of them was the resourceful James Carrion, who soon provided me a screenshot indicating John Greenewald previously requested the file. It appeared to pertain to bacteriological warfare.

I contacted Greenewald, who told me he indeed obtained the file in part in 2005, and supplied me with a link to the approximately 360 pages he was provided. John explained the process of transferring files from the FBI to NARA is, unfortunately, not always as reliable as we would hope, in the event it turned out the bacteriological warfare file had nothing to do with the subject of my request.

I emailed NARA again and told them what I'd learned; it seemed very likely that little, if any at all, of the 8,500-pager had anything to do with Bryan. I asked if it could conclusively be determined if the file pertained whatsoever to my request, and, if so, could those pages exclusively be reviewed and provided, rather than the entire file. It was my hope, I added, all parties involved could be saved time and expense.

NARA responded that two pages of the 8,500 specifically pertain to Joseph Bryan III. The Administration offered to provide a redacted copy of the two pages at no cost if I agreed to close the request, which I did. The alternative would be to wait virtually indefinitely for the entire file of which I wasn't going to purchase a copy anyway, but probably would have traveled to DC to view if I was under the impression a substantial portion of it pertained to Bryan, which it doesn't. I will of course publish the two pages when I receive them. 

Sure glad I asked! That would have been an expensive couple pages to read, about $3,400 each, if I got the whole file, but a steal, I guess, compared to metamaterials. 

And the third file, the other one the FBI told me was transferred to NARA, but NARA said was still at the FBI? It was 62-HQ-116607, for the record. I informed the FBI that NARA replied the file was in FBI custody, and the FBI now tells me it was destroyed. 

Okay... I empathize with FOIA officers, I really do. I understand it's a difficult and often thankless job that is never-ending. After working all day, there is more work to do than when they started.

That stated, there is some merit to criticisms. There are inherent flaws to the system and the culture. I'm not going to expand on that right now, but suffice it to say the effort to obtain files should not morph into an Abbott and Costello bit that threatens to become more of the story than the contents of the files.

Last but not least, those 360+ pages Greenewald got on FBI interest in bacteriological warfare make some interesting reading. Page 72 is a 1945 FBI teletype addressing a Japanese balloon apparently found in Montana. Concerns included livestock poisoning. 

Page 75 is a 1945 memo pertaining to information apparently obtained by a Special Agent in Charge who attended an intelligence conference. Investigations were reportedly conducted concerning Japanese balloons landing in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska. The memo quotes the pertinent information relayed by the SAC:

The implications to cattle mutilation reports and some theories pertaining to the Roswell saga should be apparent to those familiar with UFO lore. These are circumstances many readers will have previously heard about, but I find it interesting to be able to identify relatively original sources. This type of material has been cited before, but it never hurts to make it a little more widely available for people to consider and access.

Friday, October 18, 2019

TTSA, LMH Silent on $35k 'Metamaterials'

Linda Moulton Howe
To The Stars Academy and Linda Moulton Howe each failed to respond to multiple requests for comment pertaining to TTSA acquisition of "metamaterials" reportedly carrying a $35k price tag. Comments were sought several times over a two week period. No replies were received.

Keith Basterfield first wrote about an SEC filing submitted by TTSA, linked above, reporting material was purchased by TTSA from Tom DeLonge for $35k. It was further reported DeLonge acquired the material from Moulton Howe. It is unclear if she was compensated. Details are also lacking as to origin and history of the material, which many confidently suspect to be related to "Art's Parts," material showcased under dubious circumstances many years ago by the late paranormal radio host Art Bell.

In related news, TTSA announced a joint venture with the U.S. Army. Objectives of the project are not entirely clear, and reportedly involve advancing "TTSA's materiel and technology innovations in order to develop enhanced capabilities for Army ground vehicles."

Joseph Trevithick at The Drive reported what we know at this point about the project, which involves no money changing hands. There is also no articulated deliverable, writes Trevithick, and if a product comes out of the venture it will probably be a written study or similar type of report.

Robert Sheaffer shared his perspectives on the developing chain of events. He notes it doesn't appear TTSA is actually going to build anything, although he interprets its announcement nonetheless encourages people to believe that is the case, complete with an "invest now" button.

The skeptical takes are understandable at this point, and it's completely reasonable to ask for clarification of mounting questionable issues. Such issues involve Luis Elizondo's challenged claims of running the AATIP; Linda Moulton Howe's involvement in providing extremely questionable material; DeLonge's reported compensation for said material; substantiation of yet to be confirmed assertions put forth by outlets such as the New York Times and Politico; unfulfilled claims by TTSA of having chains of custody in hand for videos published; whether or not said videos have anything whatsoever to do with the AATIP as reported, and many more.

It might seem as if many Disclosure activists rally for transparency as long as it's someone else's activities being disclosed.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Former Skinwalker Personnel Suspect They Were Unwitting Research Subjects

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

Marx suggested legal action may be forthcoming:

Bartel on Twitter:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Recommended further reading:

The Carpenter Affair: For the Record 

UFO-Pentagon Story Reflects Fundamental Problems