Thursday, December 26, 2019

Sincerity Is Not Synonymous with Accuracy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Vallee Declines to Substantiate Claim of CIA Simulating UFO Abductions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 14, 2019

Two Years After AATIP Story Many Questions Remain

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




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

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

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

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


Luis Elizondo

Reported: "[The AATIP] was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze."

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

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

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

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

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

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


Tom DeLonge

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

                                                   

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

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

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

Further reading:

Former Skinwalker Personnel Suspect They Were Unwitting Research Subjects

Data Is King

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

DIA Withheld AAWSAP Contract Awarded to BAASS in 2011 FOIA Response

Thursday, December 12, 2019

CIA No Stranger to UFO Disclosure Game

"Flying saucers" were reportedly tracked on radar at speeds up to 3,600 mph. Respected and influential members of the intelligence community joined a private UFO organization and declared the truth should be delivered to the people. Literature was sent to each member of Congress. A plan was proposed to the Air Force Secretary to end public confusion over flying saucers. The press reported ongoing public statements issued. 

If you think this sounds like the recent saga of To The Stars Academy, you're right, but it's also true the year was 1957 and the organization was the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). The CIA online reading room includes four pages of titles of files pertaining to NICAP. Among them is an archived photo of a 1957 newspaper clipping, pictured below, describing UFO advocacy undertaken by IC movers and shakers. 


The article states California control tower operators tracked four flying saucers at speeds up to 3.600 mph. Retired Rear Adm. Herbert B. Knowles "certified" NICAP had seen the radar report. 

In what might be considered part of writing the TTSA playbook, the admiral criticized a veil of secrecy surrounding UFOs, declaring, "There is a real need to break through the official Washington brush-off and get the truth to the people."

The article goes on to name respected members of the IC who joined NICAP, including former DCI Roscoe Hillenkoetter. NICAP leaders also included Joseph Bryan III, a career intelligence officer now known to have been a CIA propaganda specialist and whose activities we explored

The California saucer case was highlighted in the first issue of a NICAP magazine, UFO Investigator, distributed to its membership. "Copies were also sent to all members of Congress," the article added.

In conclusion, it was reported, "The NICAP also proposed to Air Force Secretary James H. Douglas an eight-point plan of cooperation to end controversy and public confusion over flying saucers."

Guess it needed a little more work.

Monday, December 2, 2019

Cold War Embassy Games

As we consider events surrounding Gen. Donald D. Flickinger and await more FOIA responses, let's explore some circumstances that aspects of the story bring to mind. We know, for instance, the FBI documented that the general consulted with international business contacts who, on at least one occasion in 1969, included a group Flickinger apparently gave a ride in his rented car to visit the Soviet Embassy. 

Embassy Tunnel

Embassy of Russia, Washington, D.C.
History shows us a new embassy in Washington was built in the 1970's and 1980's for the Soviets, later referred to as the Russians. The FBI and NSA jointly executed a several hundred million dollar plan to construct a secret tunnel beneath the building for spying purposes. Basically, the tunnel was for eavesdropping.

The news broke in 2001 when Robert Hannsen, a 27-year FBI veteran, was charged with spying on behalf of Russia. His betrayal of revealing the existence of the tunnel was found to be among the losses. Hannsen was believed to have spied for Soviet and Russian intelligence services from 1979-2001. The Department of Defense at the time described the case as possibly the worst intelligence disaster in U.S. history. 

The Moscow Signal

We might also consider that long before American diplomats in Cuba were feared to have been targeted by directed energy weapons, there was the "Moscow Signal" in 1965. As Sharon Weinberger reported, the term arose when the Soviets bombarded the American Embassy in Moscow with low-level microwaves. 

American intelligence officials became aware of the directed pulses, but rather than alert embassy workers, medical personnel were sent to draw blood under the guise of The Moscow Viral Study. It was the cover story of testing embassy staff for a virus while actually a top secret investigation into the effects of microwaves on humans was undertaken. Uncle Sam didn't want his embassy workers to move out of the line of microwave fire so he could document what happened to them. 

Project Pandora

Dr. Gottlieb: As I remember it, there was a current interest, running interest, all the time in what affects people's standing in the field of radio energy have, and it could have easily been that somewhere in many projects, someone was trying to see if you could hypnotize somebody easier if he was standing in a radio beam. That would seem like a reasonable piece of research to do...
Senator Schweiker: We did have some testimony yesterday that radar waves were used to wipe out memory in animal experiments.
Dr. Gottlieb: I can believe that, Senator. 
- CIA Senate Hearings on Human Drug Testing, 1977

The White House called on the State Department, CIA, and the Pentagon to secretly investigate the microwave assault. This directly resulted in DARPA Program Plan 562, now more widely known as Project Pandora, an exploration of the behavioral effects of microwaves.

Pandora included experiments on monkeys. Project personnel considered conducting human experimentation in addition to the shenanigans taking place in Moscow, but concerns were expressed by some of the scientists cleared to assess the project about repeating MKULTRA-like transgressions. Even with some advising caution, research methodologies and claimed results would be called into question for years. This seemed due to a project director, DARPA official Richard Cesaro, who was more interested in proceeding with microwave weapons development than understanding the underlying biology.  

Ironically, by the end of the 1960's, Weinberger explained, the IC concluded the Moscow Signal was not an attempt at behavior modification. The purpose of the pulsed radiation was to activate listening devices in embassy walls. As you might imagine, lawsuits against the U.S. government resulted when in the 1970's embassy staff were notified what had taken place. 

Project Pandora leads to the subject of non-lethal weapons research and offers us a clear overlap into UFO World. Writers such as Anne Keeler and Martin Cannon, among others, explored aspects of such secret research, including the reported symptoms of overexposure to electronic frequencies which should ring bells with those familiar with UFO lore: disorientation, retinal bleeding, sleep disturbances, memory loss, and burnt face (even at night), to name a few. 

Whatever we may think about the likelihood some covert intelligence operations have been misinterpreted as reported UFO and related phenomena, the work of Keeler and Cannon unquestionably represents an influential part of UFO and conspiracy history. We might also consider the powers that be have themselves to blame for fanning the flames of conspiracies when they duped unsuspecting embassy workers into non-consensual research in the first place and were, well, executing a conspiracy.

Page 456 of DOD Pandora file
Then, Nick Redfern blogged about browsing a 469-page Department of Defense file pertaining to Project Pandora. Imagine his surprise when he discovered, there on pages 449-456 of an official Pandora file, some of the infamous MJ-12 documents! 

MJ-12 docs are widely considered to be a hoax about supposed government crashed saucer retrieval. The pages in the file were clearly labeled, "This cannot be authenticated as an official document," and there are of course potential reasons MJ-12 docs may have found their way into a DOD Pandora file, such as possibly being submitted to or investigated by the Department. We still agree with Redfern it's interesting.

Oh, what wicked webs we weave...