Thursday, December 24, 2020

Schrodinger's Disclosure

Another year over, and as John Lennon once asked, "And what have you done?" The question might particularly be submitted to UFO Disclosure activists. 

To be fair, that's really no more the case than any other time, but nonetheless remains applicable. Each generation of Disclosure bell-ringers ignore the futility of their predecessors while expressing dismay about a public with the audacity to doubt their proclamations of pending Big News.

As I write this, Disclosure powers that be (or at least seem to like to consider themselves so) are realigning. Missions both accomplished and unfulfilled, depending on who you ask. They claim to have accomplished unprecedented levels of... something... while simultaneously emphasizing the importance of continued fights for UFO transparency. The battlespace is not static, I hear. If that doesn't seem particularly practical to you, don't think twice. Most people don't give it the first thought.

The film is both real and not,
as is a government program it came to represent

Many Disclosure activists defend their alarmist tactics and empty predictions by claiming Disclosure is happening. It's a process, not an event, they tell us.

But it somehow never reaches completion, or even a particular tipping point. How can that be, if it is constantly in gradual expansion? How can there simultaneously be both Disclosure and a need for Disclosure? How can there have been both a 70-year effort to acclimate the public to Disclosure and an oblivious and disinterested public? Disclosure seems to be both dead and thriving.

Many would say therein lies the problem, a cottage industry of self-interested showmen, supported by successive generations of people sincerely intrigued by UFOs yet unaware of the past. Some aptly point out the logical fallacies and poor research practices inherent to the tactics employed by those who shape the trends. Others might question the motives that drive such cultural occurrences.

Ain't no use to sit and wonder why, babe, if you don't know by now. Unless you just find the social dynamics interesting, you're probably better off taking in a ballgame or a good movie. 

Happy Holidays, everybody.

Friday, December 4, 2020

NICAP, Nicholas de Rochefort & Matters of Perspective

Nicholas de Rochefort was an original organizer of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. He was a Frenchman born in Russia and educated in France, a World War II veteran, and an expert in psychological warfare.

Rochefort was part of the NICAP 1956-1957 team first formed by T. Townsend Brown, the organization's inaugural front man. Brown was destined to be abruptly replaced by Maj. Donald Keyhoe. Rumors swirled that Brown, an inventor with an eye for anti-gravity, redirected NICAP funds towards his personal research, or, at best, mishandled the till. After leaving NICAP, Brown took off for a remote part of Florida, where, somewhat interestingly and according to the Brown family website, he spent time doing "intelligence work." This soon reportedly led to Brown being drawn into an "intelligence organization" in 1958.

Nicholas de Rochefort speaks at Freedom Day, 1954

Rochefort, before helping organize NICAP, three years earlier in 1953 launched The Committee of One Million Against the Admission of Red China to the United Nations. It was recognized as the most high profile part of the China lobby, which was considered the most wealthy and influential lobby in Washington at that point in time. Investigative journalist Robert Sherrill wrote about the circumstances and the work of researcher Stanley Bachrack in his 1977 New York Times article, Buying American foreign policy:  

Who dreamed up the committee? Bachrack suspects that one of The Committee's founders, Nicholas de Rochefort, a former French military man (expert in psychological warfare), was working for the Central Intelligence Agency and The Committee might have been the C.I.A.'s idea.

Sherrill continued:

Another founder, and perhaps The Committee's most ardent executive, was Congressman Walter Judd, a former medical missionary who sincerely viewed the Democratic Party of F.D.R.-Truman as a Satanic host. Bachrack suspects that Judd may have secretly used a House subcommittee in a dubious, if not illegal, way to launch the lobby. But again, his efforts to get at the subcommittee's secret records have been frustrated by Federal rules.

Stanley Bachrack's research took him all the way to a 1970's lawsuit against the CIA. The researcher sued for records pertaining to Agency relationships with the then-deceased Rochefort. The judge dismissed the suit, commenting that effective functioning of intelligence agencies could be significantly impaired by irresponsible disclosure. The CIA viewed the ruling as greatly enhancing the legal structure of sources and methods as a means to protect intelligence information in the context of FOIA requests, according to a now released Agency study in security classification (see pages 61 and 99). 

Records obtained from the FBI include 1956 investigative reports which describe Rochefort as a good propagandist and a convincing speaker. FBI obtained an investigation conducted on Rochefort by the Civil Service Commission, or CSC. Information indicates The Committee of One Million and its successful lobbying activities were indeed widely credited to Rochefort, or as Bachrack suggested, perhaps his CIA employer:   

FBI records further indicate Rochefort was investigated for a security clearance during the summer of 1956, circumstances apparently related to his employment, ostensibly or otherwise, with the Department of Commerce as a Trade Fair Manager. Rochefort was also employed by the State Department as a translator during the time we now know he helped organize and operate NICAP, however briefly it may indeed have been, approximately October 1956 to January 1957. Interestingly, FBI reports on Rochefort were composed during the same months.

NICAP records helpfully provided by researcher Barry Greenwood indicate Rochefort worked for the upstart UFO organization on fundraising and bolstering membership. A 1956 letter:

Nicholas de Rochefort has long been considered a CIA man by UFO researchers Richard Hall and Todd Zechel, among many more. An intriguing aspect of the NICAP story is there are several different takes on the likelihood the group was infiltrated (if not launched) by the CIA, even among those who were directly involved and have researched it thoroughly.

One perspective is it doesn't really matter, not to those who are most interested in UFOs. Some feel the intelligence community was not involved in day-to-day operations of the Keyhoe-led NICAP, so it didn't greatly affect UFO investigations and resulting research published.

Others feel it was ultimately the CIA who facilitated the demise of NICAP. This, they suggest, was done to destabilize NICAP and Keyhoe's efforts to reveal a UFO cover-up perpetrated by the CIA and Air Force. 

Yet others suspect the CIA and its associates may have had interests in identifying leaks of properly classified information. This would also involve monitoring - for national security reasons - specific individuals and adversaries which showed an inordinate amount of interest in such information and its sources. The info would not have to be related to actual UFOs to be potentially quite significant to global intelligence agencies. It really wouldn't matter what the carriers of such info believed, and might even be intentionally deceived at times about its purported relation to UFOs in order to persuade them to leak it. The espionage and counterespionage possibilities are many.

Another consideration, given Rochefort's experience with The Committee of One Million, is the CIA saw an opportunity to bolster public support for defense budgets in similar ways as it apparently did with the China lobby and what came to be known as the Red Scare. Perhaps the public was not intended to be frightened by Martians as much as Communists in flying saucers. 

It might depend on what interests a person holds most dearly as to what they think about Nicholas de Rochefort. For instance, those who value UFO research tend to reference him and CIA interest in NICAP in negative ways. There is certainly something about the deceptive nature inherent to such apparent undercover work that causes people to react with contempt. 

That stated, one who reads the linked FBI material can't help but notice the manner Rochefort is held in high regard for his anti-Communist service and propaganda talents. Such praise includes statements from a member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obviously, this would weigh heavily with Special Agents employed by J. Edgar Hoover.  

Should it be considered unsavory for an intelligence agency to want to plug leaks? Is it wrong if such an agency wants to know more about who is interested in the leaks?

We might similarly ask if Maj. Keyhoe was out of bounds in criticizing intelligence services for not being promptly forthcoming with related information. Such are the questions that do not seem to have absolute answers. Opinions, passionate at times, seem dependent on perspective.

The reality of the situation, as well, is the overlapping of NICAP and the intelligence community involved multiple reasons spanning some 30 years. The objectives likely changed from one era, CIA division, and individual asset to the next. Keep watching this space for more on the NICAP saga.


Further reading:

NARA Tentatively Confirms 200-Page FBI File on NICAP Organizer

FBI Report: NICAP Organizer 'Good Propagandist'

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Myrick on Target with 'Skyman'

Skyman is the fictional story of Carl Merryweather, a California man who believes he experienced an alien encounter when he was 10-years-old. The 2020 film is written and directed by Daniel Myrick, known for the popular and successful movie, The Blair Witch Project. His latest undertaking has a similar format, as the saga unfolds from behind the camera of a filmmaker shooting a documentary about Carl. Other shots are also used strategically, and Myrick is on target with the effect I suspect he was aiming to achieve. I appreciate the perspectives and metaphors.

The primary value of Skyman to me is its accurate portrayal of behavioral dynamics found throughout the UFO genre. It is a solid representation of some self-described experiencers. It is an equally accurate portrayal of how friends, family, acquaintances, and even the UFO community itself often act in response. Skyman is likely to inspire reflection among those familiar with these dynamics. 

The first half or so of the film acquaints us with Carl and his story. We follow along as television news clips, newspaper articles, and personal interviews inform us of a black triangle UFO sighting from 30 years ago. Many people reportedly saw the craft. A young Carl told reporters he encountered "Skyman." 

Adult Carl now believes he is to be at the spot of the encounter, which is in the California desert, for his approaching 40th birthday. He thinks the aliens will return to the location at that time.

The dysfunction of Carl's family of origin becomes increasingly apparent as the film progresses, as do Carl's tendencies to obsess. He is what we might term a functioning neurotic, which is to say he gets along pretty par for the course in the world but a closer look reveals he harbors some disjointed ideas and schemes, causing him substantial anxiety.

Skyman, and the persuasive performance delivered by Michael Selle as Carl, very much remind this viewer of the subjective nature of the human mind itself. In this instance, it is illustrated through a hall of mirrors-like metaphor of a camera recording the recordings of other cameras periodically throughout the film, all done with the enchanting desert for a backdrop.

The second half of the film finds Carl waiting in the desert for the Skyman's return, accompanied by his sister Gina and lifelong friend Marcus. I appreciate the performances given by Nicolette Sweeney and Faleolo Alailima in those roles. The characters were developed well and this movie worked. Gina and Marcus care about Carl, and maybe even want to believe him at times, but are ultimately more worried about his well-being than an alien encounter. The work of Selle, Sweeney, and Alailima should be commended for successfully carrying the latter part of the film.

Those familiar with UFO lore will recognize several references in Skyman. Carl considers himself a researcher, though his lines of reasoning and methods might be justly challenged at times, and he subsequently collected loads of material. Along these lines, the supposed documentary takes us with Carl to the McMinnville UFO Festival, where more references arise.

In yet another later scene, about an hour and nine minutes into the film, Carl tells Marcus about the role he believes owls play in screen memories. "Mike Clelland wrote a whole book on it!" Carl exclaims.

The pacing of the film enhances and, in itself, offers yet another metaphor for the story. It picks up speed as it goes, culminating in somewhat of a runaway chain of events. Viewers might find themselves feeling emotions ranging from compassion to anxiety for the trio as things seem to be happening too fast for them to process effectively. I found myself wishing, for their sake, they could take a deep breath, slow down a moment, and think. This is not to suggest a flaw in the film, but that its acting is effective. Among the emotions viewers experience might also be pain in the form of empathy for the characters. 

Many viewers will identify with dilemmas portrayed. A prominent theme presented is the difficulty sometimes experienced in accurately distinguishing between coincidences and meaningful events, and what, if anything, should be the takeaway.

Skyman works because it is clever, artistic, and its characters are accurate portrayals. It has an intriguing plotline with dark undertones. The film gives viewers a lot to chew on, and I appreciate that.

I viewed Skyman at Redbox. It is also available at YouTube and other venues. 

Friday, October 23, 2020

Keyhoe and Wallace Video: Lessons from the Past

I recently viewed the above 1958 Mike Wallace interview of Maj. Donald Keyhoe, then-director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. I initially thought I would only watch a couple minutes of the video but ended up sticking around for the entire half hour show. 

Several points stand out to me. To appreciate these points, one should understand some things about the 1958 UFO scene and Maj. Keyhoe. He was a former Marine Corps pilot and author. He wrote about aviation and flying saucers, and he managed publicity tours for aviation pioneers like Charles Lindbergh. In 1958 Keyhoe was in his second year of thirteen that he spent representing NICAP. He was convinced UFOs were alien spacecraft, proof of which he was optimistic he would soon pry from the United States Air Force. 

Maj. Donald Keyhoe
NICAP was a civilian UFO research organization that went on to be 7,500 members strong, with chapters in every state and several nations. Its leadership became vested (preoccupied, some argued) with proving the U.S. government was conducting a cover-up of an extraterrestrial presence.   

Keyhoe did not seem to grasp that the thousands of reported UFO sightings NICAP was compiling may both involve sincere, credible people and those people may simply be mistaken. In most circumstances it is not being challenged that a citizen, pilot, police officer, military officer, etc., encountered some type of event outside their normal range of experience. The question is whether they interpreted it correctly. This was a primary barrier during the discussion between Keyhoe and Wallace, who took a skeptical, investigative approach. The same fundamental challenge would go on to embed itself in the heart of the UFO genre and arguably come to define it.   

While doubtful about flying saucers, Wallace was supportive of statements and reports issued by the military, the likes of which contradicted Keyhoe. It should be considered that trusting Uncle Sam was a rather popular position to take in 1958. The show host pressed Keyhoe on why he thought the Air Force would lie to the American people.

Keyhoe had answers for Wallace, consisting of what became the usual talking points of public panic about aliens and such. I think a more interesting aspect of the discussion was how neither of the men addressed national security issues as a potential reason for a cover-up. I'd add that the culture at large tended to overlook the situation as well. 

My research into NICAP suggests minimal consideration was given to the likelihood the military and intelligence agencies might avert from transparency pertaining to UFOs for what, in 2020, seems like the most obvious possibility: some sightings involve sensitive natsec implications for reasons that have nothing whatsoever to do with alleged ET spacecraft. 

It just doesn't seem to be something most UFO researchers give much thought, for what are surely a variety of reasons. Even today the more 'down to earth' natsec issues seem to be neither understood nor received well among the general public. We tend to prefer suspicions of crashed saucers and interplanetary exchange programs. In fairness, those same intelligence agencies may very well have led the public in that direction. The media certainly did.   

I found one of the more striking moments of the interview to occur in the 24th minute of the video. As Keyhoe offers evermore info from UFO reports, Wallace interjects, "Major Keyhoe, what would you like to see done about flying saucers that is not currently being done?"

I think that is an important and practical line of reasoning. I also think it often still applies today, perhaps at times more rhetorically than literally.

Mike Wallace
Last but not least, the video contains three commercial segments for the show's sponsor, Parliament cigarettes. The dubious claims put forth, combined with proclamations that professional research proves the claims, are sights to see. Some of it might be considered humorous if it weren't for the associated health risk. 

Perhaps most notable of the commercial breaks is Mike Wallace giving his Parliament pitch, in which he repeatedly describes it as the "best" smoke going. He explains and supposedly demonstrates how the filters are designed for maximum effectiveness and tobacco flavor. Then, after meeting his obligation to praise the sponsor's cigarette, he sets the lung dart down, turns toward Keyhoe, and ironically puts his investigative journalist cap on and proceeds to critically question Keyhoe and the saucer story.

The video serves as a time capsule of 1958. It is also about as effective example as one could find of American culture, complete with implications to its evolution. The saucer stories, belief systems, and contradictions are "apple pie" without the wholesomeness. The video is a telling glimpse, we just might not like some of what it has to say.

Monday, October 19, 2020

UFOs and Politics

Tom DeLonge has been expressing his political views on Twitter. After writing a line like that about DeLonge, reporters and bloggers typically give readers an obligatory few sentences about how he is the unlikely front man of an organization consisting of former defense officials and contractors who purport to research UFOs. We'll skip the intro since you probably already know about TTSA if you're reading my blog in the first place, but we could add that very little in the way of compelling evidence has actually been produced by those former officials and contractors. After decades of spooky stories and promises of forthcoming UFO Disclosure, we continue to have little more than hearsay to show for it.

While plenty of the burden falls on the shoulders of self-described scientists who plundered around Skinwalker Ranch, it's not all their fault. It's been three years now since Kean and company broke the AATIP story in the Times, and there are a whole lot of relevant assertions made in that article that still haven't been verified. The Times, its writers, and TTSA bear responsibility for that.

As we have explored on this blog and elsewhere, the Disclosure movement is a chronic staple of the UFO genre. It has endured some 70 years of public hearings, Congressional panels, and forecasts of big things to come. Nonetheless, many UFO advocates continue to suggest a Congressional hearing will, this time, reveal the secrets that are surely withheld.

Deeply withheld secrets, we might add, that allegedly seem to be rather puzzlingly made available to men like Luis Elizondo. These men, secrets purportedly in hand, apparently decided to launch a corporation with a stock securities strategy for fundraising rather than seek counsel from attorneys with expertise in national security and whistleblower law. It might indeed be considered reasonable to tap some brakes on the validity and objectivity of their insider knowledge that rests so heavily on taking them at their word.   

As DeLonge weighs in on the upcoming election, we could consider a prevailing point that towers above the support and criticism he receives: The UFO topic is married to the political arena. 

In order to realistically discuss possible Congressional hearings and initiatives (like the Rubio-backed effort to obtain a DoD appraisal of the UAP situation), we must consider political allegiances and related dynamics. Moreover, while some high profile characters state they support a nonpartisan approach and that politics should stay out of the UFO fray, their actions suggest somewhat otherwise.

As suggested in the above tweet, TTSA personnel and its friends of the program are fond of guest spots on the right wing, highly dubious FOX News. The "highly dubious" description I opted to use is not just my personal observation, but is in line with court filings by FOX itself. Attorneys argued on behalf of FOX that reasonable viewers do not take Carlson seriously and understand his segments to be hyperbole, as suggested in the screenshot below.

The seemingly ever present Nick Pope is also among those who frequent Carlson's show and discuss issues which many would argue he is not the least bit qualified to address, much less explain. The political leanings of Pope, who generally supports TTSA or most anything that keeps people talking about UFOs, may be explored at his Twitter account

UFO enthusiasts and TTSA fans, whether they like it or not, are somewhat forced to accept that Congressional support for the UAP topic is enmeshed with political issues. Acknowledging the political factor in the UFO arena is a sensitive undertaking for the talking heads because it lays bare the topic's often overlooked social complexity. It is often overlooked, both mistakenly and as an insincere matter of convenience, in lieu of promoting an overly simplistic and unrealistic model. UFO buffs might also consider why their preferred spokespeople, if they sincerely want to keep the topic as apolitical and nonpartisan as possible, congregate to talk about it on the defacto state media channel. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

A Story May Be Accurate, but Is It True?

Spooky hallway in the Crescent Hotel and Spa
of Eureka Springs, AR. The Crescent is dubbed
America's most haunted hotel.
Sometimes we hear a story about paranormal subject matter that sounds really compelling. Some reports of unusual experiences might indeed represent odd occurrences, but it should be a given that many do not. How the storyteller frames the circumstances - what they leave in, what they leave out, etc. - can make a huge difference. 

The use of language is very important. We can either inadvertently or intentionally mislead others, as well as ourselves, depending on how we describe things, repeat and embellish them over time, and so on.

People often do not accurately interpret descriptions of things we try to transfer through words. We can't even transmit a thoroughly accurate signal, and they can't receive it if we could. To complicate matters, they often think they understand fully. They are then subject to taking on their own inaccurate mental vision of a story as if it is a correct representation of actuality, and then later describing that evolving and shifting mental vision as what someone else told them took place. The process then repeats as the story is passed along. 

Paranormal stories rarely have resolution. We often just don't know what happened, but understanding points an author may omit or fail to pursue has the potential to significantly help us with listing and ranking possible explanations. Let's consider an example.

The Ghost Story

Several years ago I resided in a house about 100 years old. I taught music lessons and sold instruments, often in the house.

One night I had just arrived home from the grocery store. I carried some bags up the front steps. As I reached an elevated wooden front porch, out of the corner of my eye I thought I caught a glimpse of an old woman standing in the yard to my right. 

She seemed to be standing in a line of trees. I initially interpreted her to be wearing outdated clothes, or, we might say, garments from another era. I thought she perhaps had on an apron or long skirt, and maybe a bonnet or something on her head.

I had the impression she was lost or distressed, which is to say it would be pretty strange to be standing around in someone's yard at night. I set the bags of groceries down before turning to address the woman because I suspected this interaction might require more care than a typical exchange with a neighbor. I was prepared to ask her if she was okay, and take some responsibility for the situation if she was not. I turned to face her and she was gone.

A few weeks later I was working at a musical instrument display I set up in a local store. I was playing an electronic keyboard. This one man, about 65 years old, took my business card. Momentarily he returned with excitement.

"Hey," he told me, alternately looking at me and my card, "I grew up at this address."

"Is that right?" I asked.

"Yeah, I sure did," he continued, telling me how the now paved road used to be dirt, and a few other things of note.

"You know," he eventually said, "that house is haunted..."


"Yes, it's my mom. She loved that place, and people saw her for years after she died. She played piano, and people who lived in the house would say they heard her playing a few notes now and then."

I encouraged him to stop by the house if the mood ever struck. One Sunday he took me up on it.

He came up the steps, onto the porch, and I welcomed him into the house. Far and away the most prominent thing one would first notice would be the musical instruments all over the place. This was no regular living area I kept. Electronic keyboards, music books, an old upright piano. He enthusiastically explained how his mom (the piano player) would have loved this. 

I gave him some space and allowed him to browse the home, just him and his memories. We chatted a bit afterward, about his mother and old stories about the house, and I bid him farewell.   

It seemed I had quite a ghost story on my hands, complete with my own sighting!

More of the Story

I would not try to validate or devalue the man's beliefs, as of course I wasn't there and have no idea what all may or may not have taken place. I really can't speak to his experiences and interpretations, but I can speak to mine.

There are some things that should be considered before we assume my experience necessarily has any relevance at all to his story, much less validates spirits walk the earth as apparitions after physical death. The following offers an example of how an author might omit potentially important info, leading readers to make a lot of assumptions about the above ghost story.

At the time in question, my music students were primarily senior citizens. Overwhelmingly so, as a matter of fact. I spent a great deal of time around aged people. I taught recreational music making on keyboards. I had been doing this in one capacity or other, from Florida to Maryland, for years.

We often conducted social events in the house to increase morale and create traffic. These might include keyboard concerts consisting of Big Band music, and costumes were encouraged. We'd do Western Day, 1950's Day, salutes to veterans, and so on, depending on things like holidays and time of year. Suffice it to say I spent significant amounts of time not only with seniors, but with us all dressed in outfits from yesteryear, and on that very property. I think it's reasonable to suppose that if my 'ghost' was a momentary optical illusion, it would seem pretty likely that what I might think I saw would be an older person in outdated clothing. I had, in fact, frequently seen and greeted just such actual people from the porch on which I stood. 

As first mentioned, the ghost woman seemed to be standing in a dark tree line. I was standing on an elevated porch, illuminated by a porch light. It doesn't seem like much of a stretch to suspect I may have momentarily mistaken a tree or shadows in the outlying dark for a person. A storyteller could, hypothetically, leave out the part about it being night, omit the fact they were standing in an illuminated area while glancing into the darkness, fail to mention the perception was simply a fleeting glimpse, etc. 

Also, and I came to think this might be pretty relevant, I had just arrived home from the grocery store. As the story suggests, it was nearing the end of the day. It was a work day, I was tired, and I went grocery shopping on top of that. So not only do those points seem potentially relevant to me, but particularly the part about being in a store just before it happened.

I had just left a place where lots of people were milling around. It wouldn't seem all that odd to mistakenly think I saw a person when I looked into the dark, or, in a manner of speaking, looked at an ink blot. This might be considered similar to spending a day at an amusement park riding a roller coaster, then continue to have the dizzying sensations when closing our eyes at night to go to sleep. When veterinarians get home after a long day, do they 'see' dogs in the shadows? And particularly if they saw a few more on their way home from the office? 

The musical aspect of the story might be considered an intriguing coincidence. While that is indeed the case, it's also true that it was extremely common for women of the relevant age group to play piano. It was once considered a pretty standard part of a well rounded education and cultural upbringing. We might also consider it's extremely unlikely the other residents of the home who apparently reported ghost sightings, as mentioned by the man, were using the property as a music store. It's a pretty shaky connection, albeit a potentially fun and entertaining story to tell.   

We'll never know for sure about the vast majority of these kinds of situations. However, the discriminating reader realizes all possibilities are not equal. A great deal more hypothetical circumstances must be taken into evidence to assume a ghost sighting than, for instance, a trick on tired eyes. Whether a writer chooses to research optical illusions or spend their time learning about seances may make all the difference as to how they frame a story. Similar may of course be said about a UFO writer allocating some attention to exotic aircraft as compared to spending inordinate amounts of time absorbing and relaying sensational stories.


Recommended related reading:

UFO Critical Thinking 101

Eye of the Beholder

Tuesday, September 1, 2020

CIA Serves Assist to Researchers Seeking Previously Processed UFO Docs

The CIA FOIA response referenced in this post and containing a CIA list of UFO documents may be viewed in its entirety and downloaded at either Keep&Share or Google Drive

The Central Intelligence Agency recently provided The UFO Trail a list of UFO-related documents generated from an internal "Requester Report" database. The list contains identifying information of 713 previously processed documents totaling 2,780 pages. The Agency explained the documents may be requested individually or the entire package may be purchased on CDROM for $10.

"Please be advised," the CIA wrote, "the Agency has released to previous requesters numerous pages of UFO-related documents under the FOIA. Most of this material was located as a result of previous searches for records conducted on behalf of earlier requesters for information regarding UFOs. Any releasable material as a result of these earlier, thorough searches is included in this package."   

The 33-page list was supplied in conjunction with a July 28 CIA response to an FOIA request pertaining to Stuart Nixon, a former executive director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. The request sought records referencing Nixon in addition to two documents already located on the CIA website. 

The CIA provided one additional item in response, a 1973 newspaper clipping featuring Nixon. He commented in the article on a rise in the number of UFO reports in the wake of the now legendary Pascagoula alleged alien abduction case. Reports apparently increased tenfold, and Nixon stated NICAP was "literally swamped with calls" after the event in Mississippi.

The July 28 CIA response emphasized in bold font there is no current organized CIA effort to conduct research in connection with UFO phenomena, nor has there been an organized effort to collect intelligence on UFOs since the 1960's. The CIA indicated many of the documents on the list relate to the Scientific Advisory Panel, or Robertson Panel, and to sightings as reported in the foreign news media.

For those interested in requesting some or all of the records, the response stated:

View the full CIA response

If you want to obtain some of the listed records, it might be a good idea to first search for the document by title at the CIA online reading room. It may already be posted online. 

If you don't find the doc on the website, submit an FOIA request to CIA. Reference the document title along with its "CadreRefID" number and publication date. You'll find them on the list. Ask to be notified prior to filling the request if charges are applicable, or if costs are estimated to exceed a specific amount you state you are willing to pay. They'll often just mail you a free hard copy of the doc if it's only a few pages. The Agency will otherwise inform you how to proceed. Here is what the list format looks like:

To obtain the full set of records on disc, submit an FOIA request for the entire package of UFO documents on CDROM as referenced in FOIA response F-2020-01742. Be sure to clarify you want the CDROM (not hard copies with printing and postage fees for 2,780 pages). Specify to notify you of charges and the Agency will instruct you how to complete the transaction from there. 

Thursday, August 27, 2020

UFO Critical Thinking 101

We're often just not all on the same page when it comes to discussing UFOs. It might help if some of us interested in the subject read a little more material (or any material) on topics such as standards of evidence. It can get really tough to keep rational perspective if front loaded with tales of Core Stories and secret sources. This writer highly encourages integration of healthy skepticism into attempts to form opinions and beliefs, such as perhaps reading an article on critical thinking at least once out of every dozen or so clicks on a sensational UFO story link. So I wrote one! Please read on.

There are some widely recognized critical thinking questions to ask when we consider a person's point as presented in an article or during a social media discussion. A few of them:

What are the issue and conclusion?

What reasons are offered?

What are the assumptions?

Are there logical fallacies in the reasoning?

The answers to such questions should help us form reliable assessments of how much weight we should give the story. For instance, if a writer does not seem to state a pretty clear issue and conclusion, we're off to a really bad start! I jest, but there are actually a concerning number of articles on UFOs and paranormal topics that seem to meander and wind much more than they state particular purposes.  

If they seem to be fairly clear and systematic about their point, it is reasonable to question how they arrived at it. The more direct the route, the better. It's generally agreed that conclusions based on the least number of hypothetical scenarios have the strongest foundations. Another way to look at that is to say if their argument is based on hypotheticals, then it's an opinion, and you're entitled to hold an opposing one. Burden of proof is always on the claimant.

Sometimes we make assumptions when we don't even realize it. Assumptions are often mistaken as facts, but a few easy fact-checking techniques can quickly clarify. Sources should be provided for assertions, and they should be verifiable. Chains of custody of documents and similar such evidence should be readily available. If statements of assertions are attributed to other sources, then those sources should have verification of their claims and chains of custody for their evidence. While someone may thoroughly believe fragmented memories are indicative of alien abduction, it is, of course, an assumption based on many hypotheticals (as mentioned above).

Logical fallacies are patterns of reasoning rendered invalid due to flaws in their logical structure. These are bad. You don't want to find your latest book purchase full of 'em! A common logical fallacy is Ad Hominem, which is attacking the personal character of an individual rather than directly countering specific points of their work or argument. 

Another is Appeal to Authority, which is the other side of the coin from Ad Hominem. That's when a point is submitted based solely on the reputation of the source, with no regard given to verifying its authenticity. Just because the FDA said it, that does not exempt the statement from reasonable fact-checking. Same with PhDs about a vortex on a ranch in Utah (see above about lines of reasoning and number of hypotheticals required).

All of this leads us to the significance of standards of evidence. It's no wonder we can't agree on conclusions if we can't agree on the relevance of the information used to form them! 

Whether or not we agree to respect standards of evidence universally recognized by the professional research community, it is important to understand them. While we may be willing to entertain some of the more maverick and creative ways of exploring subjects of interest, we should know how far we might be veering from the established template. This allows us deeper understanding of why our ideas and research may be dismissed. It is also important to realize that if UFO researchers want to be embraced by mainstream science, which has been a battle cry for 70 years, they have responsibilities to at the least understand, if not conform to, scientific protocols and standards. Otherwise, don't complain your Pentagon boss isn't interested in your project.     

Like many people, I was interested in UFOs and related topics in part because I considered myself open minded. I thought there were things I might be willing to entertain that more rigid and dogmatic people would not. In hindsight, I think many of my beliefs about UFOs were formed in error, largely based upon incorrect information presented by those who package and traffic it. 

When exploring and discussing such material, nobody likes to be minimized and called stupid. We are all at different points in our UFO awakenings, and those of us who are sincere should be allowed the necessary room to grow. Mistakes happen. Misinformed opinions happen. Personal experiences are open to interpretation.

However, we should remain aware we can learn from both sides of the desk. If we want people to be tolerant of our beliefs and better understand why we embrace them, then we too can better inform ourselves why such people reject certain sources of evidence or hold it in low regard. It works both ways. 

It is through the process of effectively dissecting the collective UFO body of material in which we come to more stable terms with our beliefs, our hopes, and our fears. We learn about the world we inhabit and, ultimately, ourselves. I sincerely hope you find this blog a useful tool.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

UFO Debris, Disclosure, and Congressional Investigations

Hey, did you hear the news? UFO debris is a hot topic, the veil of government secrecy will soon be lifted, and Congressional UFO investigations are ongoing. No, not that debris or those investigations. I'm talking about the UFO Disclosure of the 1950's!

Maj. Donald Keyhoe,
largely considered
the face of NICAP
My continuing interest in NICAP led me to the inbox of Barry Greenwood, a longtime researcher and archivist of a wide variety of original source documents. He helpfully shared some NICAP files with me which I have been reading ever since.

Among the clear takeaways is that perceptions of imminent UFO Disclosure are perpetual. Interestingly, many of the dynamics remain in tact to a rather fascinating extent.

Take, for instance, this sample from a NICAP bulletin. "Falls" from UFOs were a thing, as some readers may recall about the dubious 1947 Maury Island case and a 1950's incident in Brazil investigated by Dr. Olavo Fontes. 

More material distributed by NICAP in the late 1950's indicates its assessment of a forthcoming "break in official secrecy in 1959." Note the analysis (at the bottom of the image) indicating suspicions UFO bases were located on Mars and Venus. The speculation was due to interpretations of increases in UFO sightings while the planets were closer to Earth.

Further research indicated an ambitious NICAP member wrote Congressman William Ayres, asking if Congress investigates UFOs. Why, yes, Ayres suggested, we're on it, as reported in a 1958 edition of the Akron Beacon Journal:

The item made news when NICAP front man Maj. Donald Keyhoe cited the statement during a 1958 talk in DC. 

"A constituent made an inquiry and I had it checked into," Congressman Ayres explained further. "As I recall, a subcommittee of the House Armed Services Committee had held hearings," he added, a possible reference to the 1953 Robertson Panel or something similar.

It's more understandable that UFO investigators in the 1950's perceived such events to be greatly significant than it is when they express shock and awe today. The 1950's researchers and reporters didn't have the saturation level of unresolved hype and mountains of material that we, their successors, have available while currently forming our assessments. 

Whether or not we use it, and whether or not it is omitted by supposed experts and journalists due to ulterior motives or incompetence, are questions the UFO genre appears destined to struggle with. 

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Whoa Cart, Let's Wait for the Horse

Research suggests people who subscribe to unproven conspiratorial theories often believe many such theories, even when they contradict one another. Live Science reported how one research project found those who suspected Princess Diana was murdered also tended to believe she faked her death. Similarly, those surveyed who believed Osama bin Laden was already dead when his compound was raided by U.S. Special Forces were also most willing to believe he is still alive. The common denominator seems to be a mistrust of authority, something in pretty strong supply.

It's easy to find the dynamic in UFO circles. It seems a lot of people believe the U.S. government was in possession of an extraterrestrial spacecraft examined by Bob Lazar at Area 51. It seems the same demographic likes to believe that same government is shelling out millions by way of AAWSAP and AATIP to learn about just such craft - of which they apparently don't provide access to the contractors awarded the grant funds. 

Robert Bigelow
Similarly, one of those apparent contracted scientists, Dr. Eric Davis, is believed by some to have been told about such secret information by an in-the-know insider, see the Wilson Leak, circa 2002 or so. We are apparently to also believe Davis, and in effect Team Bigelow and the eventual AATIP crew, failed to mention or substantially act on that knowledge while searching the globe far and wide for evidence of such craft and ET beings... that Uncle Sam is believed to already have in his possession. 

We could argue the logic - and lack thereof - indefinitely. We're always going to come back around to the importance of evidence available for public review. People either understand the significance or they don't.

An ongoing challenge with the TTSA saga is that some of it may indeed prove interesting from a number of perspectives, yet, at the same time, a lot of it is sensationalized by writers who supply a demand for Disclosure fury, if not create it. With a shout out to UAP written into a recent legislative bill, there are indeed points to ponder and social dynamics to keep an eye on. However, history shows us such dynamics are not new, yet to point this out may be viewed as wet blanketing the UFO blogosphere. Regardless, it might be wise to see how things play out and prioritize evidence available for public review before taking Disclosure victory laps.

As we see in an FBI file compiled on the 20th century National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, statements very similar to those we read now were issued. Such statements, as is currently the case, were released by esteemed members of the intelligence community. 

We might also consider a 1958 letter, contained in the same FBI file, written by NICAP Director Donald Keyhoe to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. It indicates the respected members of the NICAP crew and the prior experience with government UFO research of one in particular, Major Fournet.

The similarities to current day events are striking. Time will tell if the outcomes are much different.   

Monday, June 15, 2020

UFO Research Integrity

Logic suggests explanations requiring the least number of hypothetical scenarios are often most feasible. Smart money goes with the most likely, least complex models when ranking possibilities.

In UFO circles we frequently lose sight of most likely explanations. Part of the reason may be because so much time is devoted to imagining the extraordinary. We tend to gravitate towards believing what we hear the most, no matter how often it may be properly framed as supposition. It's difficult to keep things in perspective when a 15-second disclaimer is followed by an hour of podcast speculation. Squeaky wheels get oil, even when delivered through sources such as fictional movies and television shows.

We often suspect the existence of hidden agendas - conspiracies, if you will - within the UFO genre because it can be so difficult to accept select researchers and organizations are as incompetent and credulous as they appear. Did the Roswell Slides promoters truly think that mummified Native American was a crash-landed visitor from the stars? Did Dr. Steven Greer really think that Atacama skeleton was an alien and did he and Dr. Garry Nolan honestly not understand the ethical concerns that would arise over their handling of itDid Robert Bigelow and a team of consultants think there was scientific merit in hiring "security guards" to reportedly play with alleged voice phenomena and conduct similar occult practices? (That last scenario was apparently funded by your tax dollars.) 

Could they have all sincerely had such poor judgement? Such reasonable questions abound.

The infamous Roswell Slides telltale placard

We might consider that, from a perspective of assessing research integrity, answers to the above questions don't really make that much difference. The integrity of research is weakened when investigators fail to respect and adhere to universally recognized protocols and codes of ethics. No matter what their agendas, their research is not reliable if they must incorporate numerous hypothetical scenarios into forming their arguments. We really don't need to know what personally motivated David Jacobs and if he is as obliviously incompetent as he seems in order to accurately identify his ethics failings and resulting poor quality of research. This means we don't learn anything of value, at least not about alleged paranormal experiences, from such material, and we are at high risk of absorbing and exposing others to incorrect information. Meanwhile, people are harmed and justifiably offended in the process of such examples as named thus far.

Paul Carr is a spacecraft systems engineer who facilitates several science-friendly podcasts. In response to request for comment on research integrity, Carr replied that he considers virtues of UFO research to include patience, humility, integrity and skepticism. Carr directs Aerial Phenomena Investigations (API), a UFO research group with a track record of commitments to evidence-based investigation and ethical treatment of UFO witnesses. He says the two go hand in hand.

"UFO research primarily deals with human memories," Carr stated, "and it has become clear to us at API that while the ethical treatment of witnesses and an open, honest, and careful approach to collecting and analyzing data are not the same thing, they are both members of a healthy body of research practice. Whatever threatens to corrupt one also threatens the other. Willful abuse of facts and fallacious reasoning readily metastasizes into abuses of innocent persons. This isn't something that just happens to organizations. It is a choice they make.

"It's not that we won't make mistakes - we will. It's what you do and how you change after a mistake is made that is the best marker of integrity."

Perhaps Robert Bigelow and his various teams assembled over the years have been unjustly saddled with conspiracy theories. It is possible they are simply as credulous as they seem to want us to believe. 

Substantial resources were poured into a Utah ranch. Claims of extraordinary creatures, portals to other dimensions, and various sensational happenings, the vast majority of which purportedly defied any kind of significant documentation, became the stuff of legends. Maybe the involved credentialed researchers sincerely do not understand the inherent problems in expecting others to embrace their unverified claims. Maybe they are truly that blinded by belief.

The Typhoid Mary-like innocence of claimed ignorance meets large problems when issues of fully informed consent arise. This was not only the case at the Skinwalker Ranch, as former security guards expressed concerns over their apparent unwitting involvement in state-funded research, but was a key component of the infamous Carpenter Affair as well.

Maybe John Carpenter, Robert Bigelow, John Alexander, John Schuessler and others were truly oblivious to the ethical minefield of covertly supplying Bigelow's National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) with information discussed between therapist and clients. Data and recordings of hypnosis sessions from some 140 case files were obtained for about 100 bucks apiece. Maybe some of the people involved in facilitating and concealing the transaction just didn't see publicly addressing the circumstances and voicing objections as feasible options. Obviously not, given their stances of mostly silence and aversion to questions. 

Perhaps some of them honestly believed the potential research gains outweighed the liabilities and betrayals. Maybe they honestly misunderstood and vastly overestimated the minimal scientific value of a collection of hypnosis-induced accounts of alien abduction. Such missteps are magnified when the parties claim to be conducting scientific study, as was the case.

Such scenarios, regardless of motive and intent, border dangerously on mad scientist territory. Codes of ethics are designed, in part, to deter researchers afflicted with delusions of self-importance from sacrificing human welfare during an incorrectly perceived pursuit of historic breakthroughs. This widely eludes much of the UFO genre and particularly its pro-hypnosis segment. Virtually anything appears deemed worth the cost of chasing an alien abduction carrot which has consistently remained out of reach.

"The importance of ethics in research integrity is that it creates the ground level from which all of your work is built," explained Dr. Christopher Cogswell, who holds a PhD in Chemical Engineering and co-hosts a popular podcast which explores fringe topics from reasoned perspectives. "If the ground isn't stable, then everything else you generate or say becomes built on a shaky foundation, which can easily be toppled by the first critical look at your methods and history. It is OK to be wrong or make a mistake, we are all human. But to continue despite evidence of mismanagement, error, or unethical practice makes your entire body of work suspect and tinged with that lens."  

We could carry our line of considerations to its chronological next steps, the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) and the resulting To The Stars Academy (TTSA). Maybe intelligence professionals such as Luis Elizondo and Christopher Mellon are simply overly enthusiastic about the UFO topic and don't understand the problematic nature of trying to turn film clips into proof of the extraordinary. Perhaps Elizondo was simply too inexperienced at UFO investigation to adequately assess an extremely questionable case he and the seemingly ultra credulous Tom DeLonge highlighted on cable television. Maybe there's just an overwhelming amount of UFO history for Elizondo to learn, and maybe it simply never occurred to him to secure receipts that could answer questions about his background before he went to TTSA and started making claims he was apparently unprepared to adequately address if questioned. 

Maybe shelling out 35 grand for Art's Parts will prove brilliant. Perhaps the group's collection of alleged metal alloys, UAP fragments, or whatever the current going designation is will lead to paradigm-shifting discoveries. And, if not, maybe it all happened for no other reasons than none of the TTSA personnel knew any better. 

An obvious problem with AATIP is it consisted of Robert Bigelow and some of his perpetual cast members. This is not necessarily a negative thing in itself, but from a perspective of integrity of research, it is only prudent to question the effectiveness of the work of investigators who spent decades apparently more dedicated to belief than time-tested protocols. That's the case, anyway, if we are to believe their past indiscretions, as already described, resulted entirely from simple error. Again, it doesn't matter from an integrity of research standpoint whether they are incompetent or have ulterior motives when the outcome chronically produces nothing of significant scientific value.

As may have been the case with issues surrounding the security personnel at Skinwalker and the exploited hypnosis subjects of John Carpenter, perhaps it was poor understandings and lack of foresight that contributed to the Bigelow-facilitated covert funneling of DIA funds into MUFON. Maybe Bigelow, Schuessler, and none of the involved parties realized the problematic nature of an intelligence agency funding a 501(c)(3) UFO organization while concealing the fact from the rest of its governing board members and the public at large.  

Some of the boys in the Remote Viewing band. And NIDS.
And Skinwalker. And BAASS. And AATIP. And TTSA.

This isn't about people who may possibly be influenced by false memories or misidentify an exotic aircraft. We're not discussing individuals who experience some kind of event(s) they don't understand and go in search of answers. We're talking about credentialed scientists and professional intelligence personnel who in some cases subscribe to irresponsibly unsupported beliefs and flawed research methodologies, sometimes while under the commission of United States government grant funds.

It seems more than clear to this writer that, if we give all these people the benefit of the doubt and take them at their implied word, we should fully expect to scrutinize their opinions at length and have their research claims painstakingly verified before fully accepting them. Such investigators apparently, at best, suffer from recurring episodes of rather astoundingly poor judgement. 

The good news is we don't have to rely on personalities and popularity as tools for assessing research. Its merit or lack thereof should be self-evident.  

The fact will always remain that should some yet to be proven assertions turn out to be correct, they're indeed not established yet. Just because the future may show something to be accurate, that does not in any way mean you should currently exempt it from reasonable fact-checking. That's how we find out if it's true.

It is important we know the difference between facts and claims asserted by investigators, hold them accountable, and commit ourselves to respecting ethical standards and best practices as recognized by the professional research community. Integrity of UFO research, and ultimately what people believe is flying around up there, depend on it.