Tuesday, November 16, 2021

The Cover-Up Is as Elusive as the UFOs

Adm. Hillenkoetter

    We previously explored letters exchanged between renowned skeptic Dr. Donald Menzel and Adm. Roscoe Hillenkoetter. The admiral served as Director of Central Intelligence from 1947-1950 and was NICAP Chairman of the Board 1957-1962. The letters, dated 1961-1965, did not support and very much contradicted notions of government orchestrated UFO cover-ups and dubious related conspiracies, particularly the Majestic 12. The ideas nonetheless have long shelf lives among UFO enthusiasts and even some of those who study NICAP. 

Another previous blogpost demonstrated then-DCI Hillenkoetter's correspondence in 1949 with a government agency, the Economic Cooperation Administration, which discreetly acted as an intelligence source for the CIA. The ECA notably contracted Counsel Services, ostensibly a public relations firm. Counsel Services is documented to have worked with NICAP founder T. Townsend Brown since as early as 1951, and assisted him with incorporating NICAP in 1956.

As a matter of fact, two Counsel Services officers acted as NICAP incorporators along with Townsend Brown. One of them, Thomas O'Keefe, was a former State Department Deputy Director whose assignments included sitting on a board which selected officers for foreign service in 1952. Interestingly, and arguably humorously, O'Keefe was identified in a proposed 1956 Counsel Services-NICAP contract as empowered to retain what were termed "consultants and regional directors." The personnel were specified to work under the supervision of O'Keefe and the Counsel Services president. 

NICAP organizer Maj. Donald Keyhoe inherited the director's chair from Brown in early 1957. He embarked upon 13 years of adamantly accusing the CIA and Air Force of covering up their knowledge that flying saucers were spacecraft from other planets. The trouble for Keyhoe was not only did he never prove UFOs were interplanetary, but there is significant circumstantial evidence, as referenced above, suggesting no such cover-up took place - at least not about hiding UFOs. 

CIA Memos

    A now declassified CIA memo, dated January 25, 1965, documents officers of the CIA Contact Division visited NICAP headquarters the previous week. They spoke with NICAP's Richard Hall, who loaned them various samples and reports as requested. The memo, as shown in part below, indicates the material was sought for transmittal to the CIA Office of Scientific Intelligence in preparation for a paper on UFOs:  

A memo, "SUBJECT: Evaluation of UFO's", was soon sent to Director of Central Intelligence John McCone. It was dated January 26, 1965, one day after the above memo. The document was sent from the office of OSI Assistant Director Donald F. Chamberlain, and informed McCone, "Evaluation of these and other reported phenomena reveals no evidence that UFO's are of foreign origin or are a threat to the security of the United States."

The memo further informed McCone that OSI monitored UFO reports, including those investigated by the Air Force, and concurred with Air Force findings, as indicated in the paragraph below. The three-page memo included two pages of relatively mundane sighting statistics the author apparently felt supported the expressed conclusions. 

A 1997 CIA intelligence study further indicated the purpose of the Contact Division visit to NICAP was to obtain material for use in the OSI report on UFOs cited above. The updated UFO evaluation had been requested by McCone, according to the CIA study, "following high-level White House discussions on what to do if an alien intelligence was discovered in space and a new outbreak of UFO reports and sightings." Congressional hearings were also in the wind, all of which should not be difficult for those following the current UFO scene to envision, to say the least.

DCI McCone
f the CIA and Air Force were supposedly conspiring on a massive cover-up as Keyhoe asserted, one would have to wonder why OSI expressed in a memo to DCI McCone that the two agencies concurred on prosaic UFO explanations. Similarly, one would have to question why McCone ever requested an updated assessment from OSI if the Agency, and presumably its director, were already aware of UFO information so substantial it was concealed. 

Specifically, during the very time Keyhoe was adamantly proclaiming a UFO cover-up, the above declassified memos show the highest levels of the accused, the CIA and Air Force, were in actuality concurring there was no national security threat. Moreover, the two agencies basically identified nothing gleaned from UFO reports to be of particular significance, at least not concerning scientific investigation. This simply should not be selectively overlooked in favor of more sensational plotlines. 

It is possible to construct some scenarios that allow for existence of the Agency memos yet still remain open to the possibility the CIA was actively conducting a UFO cover-up. However, the burden of proof lies squarely on the claimant. What's more, those in the business of constructing those scenarios have long shown tendencies to shift carelessly from one narrative to the next as increasingly contorted suppositions are effectively debunked, each falling to the test of time like autumn leaves to gravity. 

Keyhoe and the IC
Maj. Keyhoe
    In Maj. Keyhoe's defense, there were plenty of valid reasons to distrust the CIA. Let's start with Keyhoe had some degree of awareness NICAP was manipulated from the start. Add to that the fact several intelligence agencies would no sooner claim they had no dog in the UFO fight, than Keyhoe would find their personnel in the midst of the fray. The NICAP director's efforts to obtain salient information and relevant documents from the CIA was consistently met with resistance. None of that, however, necessarily proves a UFO cover-up, much less an alien presence.

There are many justifiable reasons information is properly classified. Probably none of them have anything to do with "flying saucers." Classified material resulting from the exploitation of the subject of flying saucers is another story. 

It should be obvious the intelligence community had - and continues to have - no tolerance for outing its classified information and covert operations to overly inquisitive UFO hunters. The stonewalling is often incorrectly assumed to be confirmation of IC possession of significant knowledge pertaining to UFOs. That's just simply not necessarily the case, is not the way facts are established, and is particularly questionable when boosted by intelligence officers, academics, and people who should know better.


  1. I think folks do not fully appreciate the ‘context of the times’ for the CIA action figures who experienced The Wellsian ‘War of the Worlds’ as ‘reality’ in Oct 1938 and were then facing ‘who knows what’ from the new TV generation’s reaction to ‘Invaders from Mars’ as the fuse is ignited by Arnold and the Roswell crash.
    Another well done excellent argument for sanity.

    1. I fully agree people often do not appreciate and understand context from one era to another. In more recent times, we can see how younger UFO audiences minimized the significance of the Cold War, yet in the past three or four years we see wider understandings of the potential relevance of sword rattling between the USA and China over drone technology, and how it relates to reported UAP stories.