Due to professional circumstances beyond my control, I have been reassigned to a new job here at the Herald-Tribune, a beat which involves a steep learning curve and my undivided attention. As you know, newspapers are undergoing a radical downsizing transition, and no one is immune to these pressures. So at least for now, and for the foreseeable future, I will step away from De Void, which I started writing in April 2007. Excuse me, hello? Did you hear what I just said? Is this microphone working? I said I’m stepping away from – ahh whatever, never mind.
Anyway, by serving up a combination of reporting, analysis, industry criticism and a few other quirks in between, I had hoped I might be able to make a difference in the way my colleagues in traditional media cover UFOs. And in fact, the last nine years have provided some remarkable opportunities for the MSM to rethink its strategy in the way it approaches The Great Taboo. But that was the flaw – assuming there might actually be a strategy in play. Beyond resorting to requisite clichés (e.g., “This next story is out of this world” and “Is the truth really out there?”), chasing balloons (“Mystery shiny objects floating over Manhattan, spark UFO frenzy” – NY Daily News), and hyping common lens flares for ratings (“UFO or Lens Flare in Google Street View? You Decide” – ABC’s “Good Morning America”), big media falls apart when approaching the gorilla in the room. Even CNN’s Anderson Cooper, maybe the most qualified interviewer on corporate television – even his brains roll around in suntan oil and head for the beach whenever he gets near UFOs. And that’s what’s making the blown opportunity of 2016 so dispiriting.
Contrast where we are today with the 2007 Democratic primary debates. That’s when NBC’s Tim Russert asked longshot pacifist Dennis Kucinich to confirm a report that he was eyewitness to a UFO event. Russert, of course, had no interest in the material, and simply wanted to muscle the fading Ohio congressman off the stage and back to the fringe where he belonged. Remember that? Looking like he didn’t know whether to wet his pants or vomit, Kucinich fell back into the shopworn stance of trying to joke it off. And it didn’t help him a lick. Now fast-forward to 2016 and a scenario that would’ve been unthinkable nine years ago – a presidential frontrunner has not only publicly and repeatedly discussed her curiosity about UFOs, she has even advocated releasing related government documents.
Put aside, as if that’s possible, your emotions, pro or con, about Hillary Clinton. Because this is not about her. Nor is it about veteran Beltway operator John Podesta, whose gamble to encourage the former First Lady to speak rationally and fearlessly about The Great Taboo has provoked negligible media blowback. Think about that for a moment. Whenever a public figure in this country utters something stupid or outrageous, the peanut-gallery microphones are always there to rain torrents of snark and reality-based facts and figures on the offender (not that facts make much difference in this day and age). And yet, although the echo chamber has dutifully regurgitated the quotes Clinton has made on three separate occasions about reassessing UFOs, no significant major news platform has bothered to follow up or ask what the hell she means by that. No debate moderator has raised the subject. Not even Clinton’s myriad foes have chosen to weaponize or even make an issue of her remarks concerning undoubtedly the most unconventional topic ever raised on a campaign trail. They’d rather talk about pneumonia.
Folks, this is flat-out freaky. And it begs the question of just how far watchdog journalism has strayed from the public interest. Even badly worded polls show nearly half of Americans believe UFOs are all about ET activity in our own atmosphere. Into this vacuum of empty space comes Hollywood, advertisers, cable television, tabloids, etc., all of whom are far more astute about engaging sustainable numbers than the press. The entertainment industry has also enabled conspiracy paranoia, stoked delusional hopes and unreasonable fears, and made loads of cash off a growth market that shows no signs of dissipating. And for reasons likely best summarized in a groundbreaking 2008 essay appearing in the journal Political Theory, America’s most influential institutions have proven incapable of leading us out of the woods. They remain stubbornly, willfully, perhaps even aggressively, uninformed.
For more than nine years, De Void attempted to bridge that gap, at least on the journalism frontier. With the discoveries of extrasolar Earth-like planets becoming so common they rarely make headlines anymore, with millions of research dollars being dumped into radioscope dishes trolling for alien signals, and given innovations in portable technology designed to track anomalies in our skies, there would appear to be no better moment for the media to snatch the permission slips extended by Clinton/Podesta this year and start asking truly skeptical questions. But that hasn’t happened. Maybe it can’t. Denial and avoidance are not sinister containment strategies concocted by invisible corporate hands. They are the results of a faltering attention span, national and global. We don’t read anymore. We want shortcuts. We think in bumper stickers. Glossy campaign pamphlets are called literature. We want our Cliff Notes rationed in 30-second video bites. We want our favorite colors back, black and white.
Despite the gloom, however, De Void has actually been a lot of fun. It’s forced me to become more discerning and (hopefully) a more careful thinker. It’s given me a deeper appreciation for those who’ve chosen the thankless tasks of attempting to rescue history buried in forgotten archives, for those who pressure bureaucracies for radar records, and for the researchers giving voice to veterans whose stories have been disregarded, mocked or repressed for half a century or more.
Most of all, in this era of anonymity and internet cowardice, I have appreciated the civil, thoughtful and provocative tones that often characterize these comment threads. We don’t always agree – in fact, we may rarely agree – but I appreciate the level of sophistication you guys have been bringing to the table. And who knows, we may, in fact, have future discussions here on De Void. If, for instance, Stephen Hawking’s projected ET conquistadors do something as callous and disrespectful as zapping the Kremlin or the newly refurbished Capitol Dome, I’ll probably make time to weigh in as soon as I get through cheering. And I’ll remain keenly interested in whatever comes next.
(Won’t you ever shut up?) Yes. Thanks for reading, thanks for participating. And, with a nod to one of my favorite films, ’til we meet again …:
That fine line between mere curiosity and bona fide security-grade puzzle will be up for debate when the Florida MUFON chapter hosts a symposium in Orlando on Aug. 26-28. More specifically, expect an update on the status of an ongoing investigation into the Aguadilla UFO incident over coastal Puerto Rico in 2013.
For newcomers, Aguadilla is fascinating – and bewildering – on a number of levels: First, the mystery left behind beaucoup metadata embedded in the margin frames of a high-tech infrared Wescam camera. And it was visually captured by Customs and Border Patrol agents on nighttime lookout for airborne drug runners. For nearly four minutes, they tracked this flying object as it skirted an airport, dropped to deck, entered the sea at speeds calculated at more than 80 mph, and apparently split in two as it re-emerged from the water.
The Customs agents took the encounter up the chain of command. After superiors blew it off, one of the agents forwarded the video to the Mutual UFO Network. MUFON Florida state director Morgan Beall put together a team to analyze the footage; last year, his ad hoc Scientific Coalition for Ufology posted the results online. In order to establish the provenance of the footage – as well as to check for discrepancies between the government video and the one analyzed by SCU – De Void filed a FOIA with Customs. Customs confirmed the Aguadilla footage was, indeed, theirs. But they declined to release it because doing so risked exposing the agency’s methodologies, with results that could be, in its official-reply word, “catastrophic.” Nevermind that SCU team member Robert Powell posted similar publicly-circulated Customs videos showcasing surveillance operations that tracked known targets containing the same sort of metadata as Aguadilla. And nevermind that the “catastrophic” footage was posted on YouTube in 2014, is wreaking havoc with more than 388,000 views, and has yet to be yanked by authorities.
What gives? SCU team member and symposium speaker Rich Hoffman has a foot on each side of the security conundrum. A longtime MUFON member, he works for By Light, an IT defense contractor for Air Materiel Command headquarters at Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Ala. He also belongs to the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena, which initially passed on examining the Aguadilla footage due to the uncertainty surrounding its classification status. But so far as he knows, there has been no pushback against the unnamed sources who leaked the Aguadilla sequence.
“To me,” he states in an email to De Void, “the real issue here lies in dealing with a reluctant and hesitant witness who requires an NDA [nondisclosure agreement] and limited sharing and then getting a team assembled with the best experts you can get … My presentation is seeking to address the question of how we go about handling future video clips or leaks like this as a UFO community at large.”
The “disclosure” crowd will likely be disappointed in Hoffman’s take on how hard to press for information on UFOs/UAP. “Defense industry partners protect the government as well as our citizens through contracts,” he writes. “They have limitless funds to do research and more flexibility than most bureaucrats experience in the government. As such, they are more capable of hiding information from the public. They are protected from FOIA requests. They can shield prying eyes …” And when it comes to tech, he says, leaks have real-world consequences. “As it is right now, the Chinese UAVs look amazing[ly] alike to ours. Gee, I wonder how that happened.” Furthermore, Hoffman notes the Aguadilla footage belonged to the feds, not the flight crew, whose names he doesn’t know.
That said, there’s this: “We were told that this [footage] had been shared with Air Force Intelligence who stated that they were not in the UFO business and suggested that they contact a UFO organization.”
Talk about your Catch-22. When the source did, in fact, seek outside analysis, “I think that the video leak caught CBP off guard,” Hoffman reasons. “I also think that they have not had an incident like this before and that it is not common for a government clip from their aircraft to be openly shared. While they would not investigate the object or care much about what it was, as they stated in the FOIA, the concern is that other videos should not be distributed regardless of whether it had a mothership hanging above the base. There are usually policies or protocols in government that address video release. I think the crew was likely ignorant of this and focused on the nature of the object being proof of UFOs.”
So if the properly concerned CBP crew had just shut up about seeing and filming something they couldn’t identify, would the country have been better served? Where does science and basic human curiosity fit in? Are we smart enough to think our way out of this jam?
Not that we need additional examples of journalism’s failure to apply minimum standards to UFO coverage, but the latest update on the woes of alleged alien abductee Stan Romanek is an especially bitter pill, considering how much mileage this guy clocked at the expense of a far more important story.
De Void rarely ventures into the abduction realm because of its inherent subjectivity. Some accounts can be interesting, perhaps even valuable, but the bottom line is, there are no substitutes for multiple simultaneous eyewitness reports fortified with radar tracks. Which is what MUFON’s well-documented report on the Stephenville UFO incident delivered in the summer of 2008. Not to mention how its FOIA requests forced the military to retract its original spin on related events.
MUFON released its Stephenville analysis – complete with the UFO’s dead-on approach toward the no-fly zone around President Bush’s “western White House” in Crawford, Tex., on Jan. 8, 2008– to little fanfare on July 11 of that year. Considering how F-16s had forced down accidental private-pilot intrusions on at least three separate earlier occasions during Bush’s presidency, and also considering how the bogey had no transponder, and that radar pingbacks showed there were no jet fighters anywhere to challenge the target as it bore down on restricted air space, one might think this constituted what we in the news business like to call news. Instead, Romanek’s abduction scenario had sucked all the oxygen out of the room by time the report came out. Why? Well, Romanek supposedly had footage of a space alien.
Pictures are to the media gaggle what Twizzlers are to ants. And that’s what Romanek’s confidante, Denver resident Jeff Peckman, dangled before the press on May 30, 2008 – a single teaser frame lifted off an extended sequence purporting to show a lightbulb-headed space alien doing a peeping-Tom number on Romanek’s bedroom window. Although the footage would eventually go public, the rest was withheld at the time on account of documentary contract negotiations. But it didn’t matter. That single rather cheesy image was enough to swivel all the right heads and, a week or so later, it catapulted Peckman onto David Letterman’s national stage, where he went on to claim Uncle Sam has confirmed 57 species of space aliens have visited Earth. Peckman would continue to draw media attention by lobbying the city council to form an E.T. welcoming committee.
Meanwhile, a few weeks later, back in the Denver suburb of Littleton, MUFON/Stephenville report co-author and radar expert Glen Schulze couldn’t get the press to give him the time of day. “Neither the Denver Post nor the Rocky Mountain News has shown any curiosity about this (Stephenville) story,” Schulze complained at the time, “and I’m in their backyard. There was one article about a guy who wants to form an E.T. welcoming committee …”
This happened so long ago, the Rocky Mountain News has been dead for seven years. The reason “we” choose to rehash this incident is that Denver media is now reporting how “UFO conspiracy theorist Stan Romanek” will soon stand trial on child-porn charges. Although the alien video – also called the “boo tape” – and his claims surrounding it have fallen apart, Romanek has been charging government harassment ever since. On Sunday, Romanek-watcher Jack Brewer issued a blistering takedown of the accused’s sometimes freakish efforts to defend the boo tape, which is well worth reading. And because Romanek was once celebrated in certain circles as The Man With The Proof, Brewer poses a challenge of his own:
“Should the UFO community not suffer the public relations consequences of celebrating what to more moderate members of society clearly appear to be disturbed individuals? If not the ufology event organizers and consumers, who, exactly, is responsible for putting people at podiums who fail to demonstrate abilities to follow and present rational lines of reasoning?
“… No matter how the Romanek trial unfolds, the social issues will be on full display, and their relevance will remain regardless of the verdict. It will be completely apparent … that the UFO community, in its current incarnation, offers acceptance and normalcy to people intent on avoiding accountability for their statements and actions while averting from critical thinking.”
Whether you agree or not, this much is true: those damning Stephenville radar records – the data that so clearly embarrassed the USAF eight years ago – have been relegated to the fringe while the man who enthralled large audiences with an endlessly tangled web is news. Again. So if we’re going to point fingers, let’s not let the media off the hook, either.
Last month, Canadian researcher Grant Cameron, arguably the leading authority on the Clinton administration’s dalliance with UFOs in the Nineties, condensed his research into an ebook called The Clinton UFO Storybook: ET Politics in The White House. It’s gotten a little buzz here and there, The Washington Times, Coast to Coast AM, nothing major, despite the fact that big-media outfits like The New York Times and The Washington Post weren’t shy about rehashing the two-decade old story earlier this year.
“In the end nothing much changed,” states Cameron in an email to De Void, reflecting on the tepid critical feedback. “People are still busy chasing stories about the latest light in the sky. I thought it might take off but not too surprised it didn’t.”
As Hillary Clinton prepares to accept the Democratic nomination for POTUS tonight, however, Cameron looks back on his long investigation – an investigation that ultimately provided the backdrop for informed queries into HRC’s curiosity about UFOs – with at least a measure of satisfaction. “The biggest thrill of the whole thing was the incident that got me to do the book,” he notes. “That was the statement that Hillary made to (New Hampshire newspaper reporter Daymond) Steer in 2007 telling him that the most requested FOIA item at the Clinton Library was UFOs. At that point I had actually given all my Clinton documents away thinking that waiting for a break from the White House was a big waste of time. When she referenced my FOIAs I thought, ‘Wow they are actually paying attention.’”
Anyhow, given the imminent history-making occasion in Philadelphia, De Void can’t help but flash back to a weird and futile email exchange, beginning in 2012, with the man President Clinton dispatched to prowl around for UFO records 20 years ago. Like some Kung Fu zenmaster, former associate Attorney General Webb Hubbell resisted De Void’s email quest for details with an enigmatic reply: “The answers to all your questions will be revealed.” (???) He batted back all subsequent questions with indifference.
Well, a few weeks ago, looking to promote his latest murder-mystery thriller, Hubbell discharged yet another email blast to media outlets. And with all the enthusiasm of his Confederate ancestors’ assault on Cemetery Ridge, De Void decided to make one more last-gasp pass at the sphinx.
To Webb Hubbell, 7/28/16, 10:29 a.m.: OK, just for the sake of due diligence, I’ll be happy to promote your book if you’ll tell me about your attempts to learn more about UFOs under the Clinton administration. Thanks (again) for your consideration. Regards, bcox
To Billy Cox, 7/28/16, 10:52 a.m.: When Hillary is elected she says she will reveal all I discovered. Your answers are near. W.
To Webb Hubbell, 7/28/16, 11:01 a.m.: I’m not entirely certain she actually said that. Is this something you know for a fact, or just something you believe to be true?
To Billy Cox, 7/28/2016, 11:07 a.m.: Only what I have read. W.
To Webb Hubbell, 7/28/16, 11:11 a.m.: No desire to go on record to see if it will square with what she ultimately delivers? It would make a great yardstick.
To Billy Cox, 7/28/16, 11:13 a.m.: They have the right to decide first. I’ll decide what to do after the election. W.
To Webb Hubbell, 7/28/16, 11:15 a.m.: Well, OK, appreciate the feedback. Keep me in mind when/if you decide to go into detail. Thanks.
To Billy Cox, 7/28/16, 11:19 a.m.: Will do. W.
And the check’s in the mail, the only TV I watch is PBS, I can get another 20 miles on empty, we’ll get right on it, he’s never bitten anyone before, it’s supposed to make that noise, we can still be good friends, etc. etc.
Since 1983, scientists and journalists from across the world have been converging on Norway’s Hessdalen Valley to document nocturnal displays of mystery lights whose erratic behaviors and anecdotal origins trace back to the 1930s. Using cameras and an eclectic range of instrumentation, researchers have discussed their findings in peer-reviewed journals and the popular press alike. In fact, the puzzle is so universally acknowledged, students joining “science camps” have taken week-long treks into the remote region to gather data in hopes of solving this thing.
So far, the evidence seems to suggest the Hessdalen lights, which technically qualify as UFOs, or UAP, embody a terrestrial phenomenon, maybe some weird convergence of geological and meteorological forces, who knows? Next month, Erling Strand – a computer sciences professor at Norway’s Ostland University College and a Project Hessdalen leader since 1993 – will bring the latest news to the Florida MUFON symposium in Orlando. And he’ll be joining a 15-speaker lineup over which co-organizer Morgan Beall has already taken considerable grief.
A little background first. The Mutual UFO Network, founded in 1969 by volunteers to conduct field investigations, has a following so diverse, it’s almost like a major-party convention. At one end is the alien-abduction crowd engaging all manner of interpretation and speculation; on the other are wonks panning for gold amid the thankless tedium of government archives. Beginning in 2014, MUFON and executive director Jan Harzan attempted to broaden the spectrum with two seasons of a critically panned History Channel spinoff called “Hangar 1.” Scrambled with hyper-caffeinated special effects, sensationalized out the wazoo, “Hangar 1” served up a case study on what happens when an organization surrenders creative control to TV producers chasing Fruit Loops and Count Chocula with a 5-Hour Energy bottle.
But here’s what’s a little weird. Harzan says the formula worked like a charm.
“We got a large jump in membership from the show,” he states in an email. “Approximately 60% growth from the 2500 members to 4000 members … We have also seen a large increase in case leads and people reporting what they’ve seen in the past, as well as current sightings. We generally average between 500-1000 UFO reports a month. At the peak of the show we were getting as many as 1200-1400 reports a month, almost double our usual numbers.”
Go figure. Anyhow, Beall tries to be circumspect in describing the fine line he had to walk in order to appease MUFON’s big tent. To recap, Beall is the investigator who cobbled together the team that published an exhaustive analysis of a UFO videotaped in Puerto Rico by federal Customs agents; in fact, two of those fellow researchers will speak at the symposium on Aug. 26-28. And perhaps fittingly, considering how big media refuses to press Hillary Clinton on how she hopes to reconcile her announced interest in declassifying UFO records with her equally provocative disclaimer about backing off “if there’s some huge national security thing,” MUFON’s keynote speaker will be UFOs and Nukes author Robert Hastings. Over four decades, Hastings has built a powerful case for the national-security angle by getting more than 150 military veterans to share information about UFO incursions over America’s nuclear weapons facilities. Earlier this year, he released a significant but overlooked documentary based on those veterans’ eyewitness testimonies.
No doubt hardcore UFO buffs checking out the symposium roster will notice the slightly mixed bag of speakers. Beall is declining to enter that debate. What he doesn’t mind airing out is his exasperation over the feedback he’s heard over the inclusion of folks like Erling Strand.
“People have said, well, Hessdalen, that’s not alien, but I’m like, so? It’s still UAP. Is that what it’s all about? To exclusively investigate what we think are aliens? No,” says Beall. “What I’m trying to show is, there’s a lot of things we can learn about our own planet through this type of research, which is what Erling Strand is doing, looking at something that we have zero explanation for in our own known field of physics. And they’re finding some very intriguing things.”
But will anyone show up to hear what’s new with frontier science, ET or otherwise? Beall’s media invitations went out at around the same time a crazy man shot up more than a hundred people at an Orlando night club. Between that and a Disney World alligator devouring a 2-year-old kid and a contestant from “The Voice” getting mowed down moments after finishing a concert at a stage downtown, Central Florida media has been a tad distracted.
“So we’re up against a tragic event,” Beall says. “That’s a real challenge.” As for figuring out exactly what the public wants to hear about UFOs, that’s a challenge, too, and he’s totally stumped. “I know I’ve become a lot more cynical about people and what they respond to. Because so much of what they respond to is garbage.”
It’s been three months now since anybody has directly asked Hillary Clinton about her plans to release classified UFO records should she become president. That distinction belongs to the “Breakfast Club” crew at 105.1 FM in New York. In March, it was late-night talk show host/comic Jimmy Kimmel doing the asking. The first to drop the U-bomb was Conway (N.H.) Daily Sun reporter Daymond Steer, in late December. Each time Clinton spoke up, her remarks exploded across the internet and were dutifully acknowledged by the major-leaguers. And yet, seven months into her signaling the nation it’s OK to talk UFOs, not a single big-media player has had the guts to call her on it.
Maybe that’s because the mainstream press doesn’t know what to ask, or how to ask it. Given the horrific sequence of events that have rattled this most extraordinary election year, no doubt the corporate boss hogs view UFOs as frivolous or inconsequential in context. Maybe they’re afraid of being peer-scorned by risking a fresh informed look at what they’ve been conditioned to disregard as fairy tales, especially after last week’s bloody convulsions. And we all know there’s a genetic predisposition at work there.
De Void recalls a classic editorial response from seven years ago, courtesy of the Christian Science Monitor, that seemed to encapsulate the entire newspaper industry, back when it exercised a tad more clout than it does today. Cato Institute scholar and University of Hartford libertarian economics professor emeritus Dom Armentano wanted to know why the CSM wouldn’t publish his letter rebutting an op-ed piece with a skeptical spin on UFOs. It wasn’t as if the Monitor had reservations about his writing abilities; after all, it had printed one of Armentano’s letters knocking Obamacare a few months earlier.
Armentano was notified that “UFOs are simply not on the public-policy radar screen, not at a time when we’re debating healthcare reform, cap and trade, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, N. Korea, Iran, the recession, etc.” Etc. Always etc. And in a follow-up response to De Void, the Monitor made it even clearer. Armentano’s letter, it declared, “simply didn’t rise to a sufficient level of public salience and/or newsworthiness.” Nope, and it likely never will, not with this mindset, even with the leading contender for the White House pushing for a dialogue.
So here we are, blowing off a presidential candidate’s invitation to forge new ground amid maybe the most overheated political environment since 1968. The media is gearing up to cover the reruns, bullhorn rhetoric, angry crowds and tear gas, a formula long mastered, certainly with no room for proactive and innovative journalism. And that’s all the more reason for those who advocate transparency in the UFO field to stay focused, because no other issue comes close to packing the potentially transformative wallop of an adult conversation on the Great Taboo. This will happen, inevitably, as media institutions and their outmoded gimmicks for chasing audiences with whom they are no longer relevant continue to dissolve.
Between now and then, however, researchers who’ve done so much to advance that conversation would be better served by resisting the emotions of incendiary images and rumor that can create unforced errors. Or, failing that, at least install a wall between their work and their political biases, of which we are all guilty. Last week, a longtime investigator with an exemplary track record got caught up in the heat of the violence. He posted a link to a website that attempted to frame police shooting victim Philandro Castile as a guilty armed-robbery suspect. That report was quickly refuted, and said researcher yanked the post. But not before attracting scads of vitriol, much of which lambasted his rush to judgement as typical of the “cesspool” characterizing UFO research.
Why give ammo to the critics so easily?
Of course UFOs are political. What topic isn’t political in this febrile climate? But the Great Taboo also transcends politics. There is no right- or left-wing position on high strangeness. “Skeptics” on both sides of the aisle heap routine ridicule upon “believers,” a dynamic that reinforces and hard-wires big-media prejudices. Yet, that lockout continues to insult and offend a broad blurred spectrum of political persuasions – libertarians, conservatives, liberals, whatevers, taxpayers united in their curiosity over an external specter that is unique, persistent and enormous.
Let’s recognize so much of the rancor for what it is, an outrageously financed collision of self-interests designed to divide and distract over deeply serious but transient flashpoints. Let’s also remember that no matter whose signs we plant in our yards, we have mutual investments in a more profound agenda. We need each other on this one, and we need to hang together. Venting politics on social media may be cathartic but it’s an ultimately meaningless display of exhibitionism. The Great Taboo, on the other hand, has created a bloc that can’t be monetized. And maybe that’s as close to redemption as it gets these days.
A lightning storm? You idiots actually went joyriding in a lightning storm? In the middle of a desert? And now you want us to bail you out?
It’s Fourth of July weekend, which means at least this much: Tens of thousands of Americans have descended upon Roswell, N.M., for the little green men costume parties and outer space freak parade to commemorate the 69-year-old controversy that begat the annual UFO Festival. Bear in mind, it’s been nearly three months now since the press has bothered to ask Hillary Clinton — who’s abandoned all campaign instincts in her willingness to discuss The Great Taboo — about her stated plans for declassifying UFO records if she becomes president. But never fear, the media will do its best to keep us updated on breaking news from the streets of Roswell. The only real question here is who will earn the Jessica Flores Disembodied Head Award for UFO Journalism. De Void is betting the winner will have a) invoked the “Independence Day” sequel, b) described the Roswell scene as “out of this world,” or maybe a combination of both.
What’s a little bit different this year is how an unnamed benefactor has stepped up to offer a $10,000 reward to anyone who can decipher, without ambiguity, the so-called Ramey Memo. You can find the details at Kevin Randle’s “A Different Perspective” blog, but here’s the deal in a nutshell:
In July 1947, after Roswell Army Air Field issued a press release about having recovered flying saucer debris, military authorities went into spin mode within hours and said, naahh, its field investigators had screwed up, what they really found was a ruined weather balloon, sorry, buzz off. Brig. Gen. Roger Ramey, commander of the U.S. Eighth Air Force, went so far as to hold a press conference at headquarters in Fort Worth, Tex. That’s where he trotted out the crumpled remains of what he said was the exact same balloon that faked out his people back in New Mexico. Endless threads of fruitless debate and vitriol have dogged that assertion for decades.
More to the point, a photo of that hastily arranged press conference shows Ramey clutching a scrap of paper as he takes a knee next to the stage-prop debris. For 15 years, UFO researchers have attempted to interpret the blurred typeface on that note. Some have even called it the smoking-gun memo, on account of what they contend are the words quote “and the victims of the wreck” and quote “in the ‘disc’ they will ship.” Naturally that rendering has irked the living &*$! out of wet blankets who say there’s no way you can tease anything legible from that smeared image. But as indicated in the lead, De Void has done just that. Here’s how the rest of the Ramey Memo reads:
If you’re that stupid, we hope you’re dead by time you get this transmission. What were you thinking? Were you drunk? Earth? Really?
Actually, this probably needs a little more context. I’m friends with closet anarchists working defense contracts, OK, and they really love subversive off-the-clock projects, particularly in the field of image resolution. Using classified technology, they were able to clarify the Ramey Memo within seven or eight minutes of applying their algorithms. Thus, 69 years later, it looks like the general was holding the transcript of a decoded message to the UFO crew from a source whose identity can only be inferred. Exactly what happened to that note is anyone’s guess. All we have to work with today is a single photo enlargement. It raises more questions than answers — some of the letters and words are obscured by creases in the paper — but the script is pristine. Here’s the rest, in toto:
ssholes. Just because you wanted to see them to chase you? And you thought … retards … or wind up on display in a zoo.
And that’s it. No mas. Disappointing? Sure. But at least now we have confirmation the Roswell crash was a meteorological accident and not some weird sacrificial kamikaze gift to benefit humanity.
P.S.: Keep the 10K. This is a public service.
Created by Congress during the Bush II administration, the Office of Government Information Services was designed to placate legions of whiny malcontents frustrated with bureaucratic resistance to releasing records under the Freedom of Information Act. Theoretically, the new OGIS would serve as a referee to mediate squabbles between federal agencies and taxpayers; theoretically, upon opening for business in 2009, it would expedite response-waiting times and unclog the FOIA pipeline.
Well, we all know how well that worked out. De Void’s sole encounter with OGIS this year turned out to be par for the course. A few months ago, an Associated Press analysis revealed that America’s FOIA law had degenerated into parody, in no small measure because of accelerating volume and underfunded FOIA offices. The AP reported that the Obama administration set a record for futility in the transparency department. One of every six FOIA requests came back empty, and 77 percent of appeals for government files were returned with no information at all or with records that were at least partially redacted.
But hey, look what happened last week. Lost amid the body counts from America’s latest massacre fetish came news that Congress had actually gotten off its ass and produced a piece of bipartisan legislation called the Freedom of Information Improvement Act of 2016. Sent to Obama’s desk a mere 7.5 years after the new president, on Inauguration Day, signed two executive orders directing federal agencies to handle FOIA requests with “a presumption of openness,” the reform bill now technically codifies those presidential directives. Open-government advocates like the Sunlight Foundation are lauding the bill because it strengthens “the proactive disclosure of information in digital formats and the Office of Government Services, directs the White House to create software for creating requests, and requires all federal agencies to update their regulations.” It also prohibits the next president from countermanding the imminent new law with an executive order.
This should be a good thing, right? Especially if, as per her stated intention, Hillary Clinton gets into the Oval Office with designs on declassifying government UFO records. So why are UFO researchers rolling their eyes?
“Sorry to be so cynical,” emails UFO historian Jan Aldrich, whose quest for some of those sequestered, long lost or hopelessly misplaced records spans decades. “But I foresee the same side stepping, cutesy evasions, non answers, ignoring requests and foot dragging for years, even a decade as before.”
Maybe that’s because Congress – which also made sure to exempt its own members from letting taxpayers snoop into their own business under the new reinvigorated FOIA 2.0 dragnet – decided not to include additional funding for personnel, training or other resources to accommodate growing public demand. Moreover, FOIA 2.0’s call for the “presumption of openness” gets checked when federal agencies argue that declassification of contested records would produce “foreseeable harm.” When it comes to one of the most valuable tools for UFO sleuths – raw radar records – Uncle Sam slammed that door several years ago.
MUFON research director Robert Powell, co-author of the landmark radar analysis of the UFO that bore down on President Bush’s Texas estate in 2008, doubts FOIA 2.0 will have any effect on this niche. Following the Stephenville incident, which also involved F-16s whose presence was initially denied by military sources, Powell and colleague Glen Schulze filed FOIAs and received radar confirmation of the UFO – and the jet fighters – from the Federal Aviation Administration and the National Weather Service. However, requests for military radar data from multiple entities provoked a robo-reply: “We have found no records responsive to your request.”
Since then, federal agencies, civilian and military, have tightened the screws on access to all unfiltered radar returns. Most notably, the 84th Radar Evaluation Squadron, which had at least been forwarding said FAA data to FOIA researchers, was ordered to cease and desist a couple of years ago.
“It was always ironic to me that 84 RADES gave us the FAA data we were looking for after the FAA said those records had been destroyed,” says Powell. He remembers a conversation with a civilian radar operator, a year or so after release of the MUFON Stephenville report. The radar guy told Powell the standard line about records being routinely destroyed within several weeks of recording simply wasn’t true. “He said, ‘Every six months I get a performance review, and they’ll go over all that data to see if I did my job right.’
“I suspect they keep radar data on a local server,” Powell adds, “and probably because of the size of the file they delete the local server and ship those records off to some remote bigger file. You can protest to headquarters all you want, but I think their policy will still be ‘we don’t have anything.’ And there’s not much you can do with that.”
On July 4, 1966, President Johnson signed the original FOIA into law. Maybe Obama will do the same with 2.0 in a couple of weeks. At least it’ll make a good photo op.
With polls showing a razor-thin margin separating Hillary and Bernie less than a week before primary voting in California, the unruffled John Podesta was at it again, making the case for transparency with government UFO records and oblivious to any potential political blowback. Relaxed and conversational, conceding how UFO chatter traditionally “is not a career enhancer,” HRC’s campaign director didn’t shrink from the controversy during a Code Conference forum in Rancho Palos Verdes.
Now if only the panelists knew where to go with it …
Podesta was recalling how, shortly after leaving the Clinton White House, he had assisted UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record author Leslie Kean in her hunt for recovery/analysis reports on the 1965 Kecksburg crash. Before he could finish, Silicon Valley tech columnist Kara Swisher couldn’t contain herself, dispensed with the foreplay, and blurted it out: “Is this an alien?”
Jeez, lady, really? Already? We barely know each other …
But Podesta didn’t even blink. “Well, nobody knew what it was,” Podesta replied. “All of a sudden, when the FOIA case was filed, it turned out most of the files had disappeared. It was clear there was an investigation by the Air Force.”
“That seems convenient,” interjected political pundit Ezra Klein.
“That seemed convenient,” Podesta concurred with a smile. And then he sent out another signal, about how “I meet a lot of politicians, people in Washington, and others who say ‘I’m with you, but I can’t say so,’ right?”
Psst, Ezra: That’s your cue to ask who these closet cheerleaders are, exactly how many is ‘a lot,’ their names, or at least their positions, how far up the chain they go, how widespread is the sentiment, military sources too? etc. etc.
Nothing? Nada? Don’t do scoops anymore?
Ah well, Podesta’s remarks about the futile search for UFO records went to the real heart of the gridlock. Truth is, you can’t really blame Swisher or Klein or anyone else for avoiding specifics, because deciphering the mindset responsible for all those missing documents might be more difficult than answering the Is this an alien? question. Push it too hard and, who knows, we could be talking spontaneous human combustion. Seriously. I’m serious.
Unrelenting FOIA-slinging Paul Dean is the latest poor soul to attempt the hopeless pursuit of untangling the gnarly tumor of bureaucratic opacity – metastasizing since World War II – created by the arbitrary military rules and regs blocking access to UFO data. At his UFOs – Documenting The Evidence blog, the Australian researcher has been posting the sort of dense documentation that will no doubt scare off virtually every corporate journalist and editor in the U.S. And that’s why, considering the time and resources it would take for policy-makers as well as journalists to catch up with guys like Paul Dean, longtime American investigators are pessimistic about Podesta/Clinton’s well-publicized aspirations for ending UFO secrecy. Consider this riff on just one of Dean’s many threads:
The Communications Instructions for Vital Intelligence Sightings (CIRVIS) – the military guidelines for logging potential security threats, from missile launches to UFOS – was first published in 1954, as part of the Joint Army Navy Air Force Protocol manual, or JANAP 146. Although the Air Force announced it was getting out of the UFO business in 1970 after determining The Great Taboo embodied neither superior technology nor a national security threat, JANAP 146 tacitly acknowledged the recklessness of that public gesture by keeping UFOs on its mandatory monitoring list of usual suspects. Then, in 1996, JANAP 146 morphed into Air Force Manual 10-206, or AFM 10-206 — and its CIRVIS instructions continued to itemize UFOs as a separate category of interest. In 2008, AFM 10-206 evolved into Air Force Instruction 10-206, or AFI 10-206. Curiously, three years later, just as they were being pressed for details by Lee Speigel at Huffington Post, authorities revised the manual again and dropped the UFO reference altogether. No reason given, they just did it.
What made AFI 10-206 so noteworthy was its reference to OPREP, or Operational Reporting. This system was prioritized into numbered categories, with the bell-clanging number 3 “used by military units at any level of command to report significant events and incidents to the highest levels of command,” according to the language. Dean found UFO-related OPREP-3 links in now declassified telexes from the 1970s, most notably associated with the autumn 1975 UFO wave in which air space above military installations near the Canadian border was repeatedly challenged by elusive intruders euphemistically referred to as “helicopters.”
Equally intriguing was a document from 2002, called Defense Department’s Decision Logic Table Instructions for Recording and Handling Visual Information Material, aka DoD 5040.6-M-1. This one instructed military personnel on how to file “imagery that records UFOs and other aerial phenomena not obviously identifiable as conventional aircraft or missiles.” Gun-cam pix? Oh yeah, don’t throw those away. But that wasn’t news to John Greenewald, whose Black Vault website has been posting declassified government documents for 20 years. Greenewald actually used DoD 5040.6-M-1 as an exhibit in his lectures until, by 2005, it was swapped out for DoD 5040.6-M-2 which, again for reasons unknown, eliminated the UFO section altogether. Go figure.
For Barry Greenwood, who’s been on this thankless trail for some 50 years, Dean’s blogging tenacity is impressive. “Paul is doing a good job. He’s very careful, and his writing about the past is very encouraging. And I find the OPREP-3 material fascinating.”
Co-author of the seminal Clear Intent, which in 1984 detailed the ongoing cover-up from reams of UFO records unclogged by FOIA, Greenwood holds out little hope for a Podesta/Clinton-style openness. For one thing, the declassified material from the early 1950s and ‘60s – vital to understanding how today’s policies were shaped – is voluminous, decentralized, and cost-prohibitive when it comes to digitalization. These are the records we do know about, and they’ve been collecting dust in the public arena for decades. For another, Greenwood says neither he nor his networking colleagues who’ve been immersed in reassembling the fragmented historical context of The Great Taboo have been approached by Podesta.
“He keeps talking about wanting to open the books on UFOs, but we’re not sure where he’s getting his information from or which records he’s talking about,” Greenwood says. “If he’s advising Hillary Clinton on this, he needs to get information that isn’t tainted, that’s historically accurate. If she gets bad information and starts using it, the Trump campaign is going to absolutely annihilate her.”
De Void can’t wait for Trump to start talking UFOs.
Sure didn’t take long for the dust to settle after the New York Times’ May 10 feature about Hillary Clinton’s gusto for UFOs. The ensuing media blowup – which culminated two weeks ago in the previously unthinkable scenario of the White House press corps actually putting questions to a presidential mouthpiece in the West Wing – was intense but short-lived. Negating the conspiracy crowd’s contention than a sinister unseen hand imposes a gag order on the Fourth Estate when it comes to The Great Taboo, last month’s events tell us a couple of other things too: 1) When it comes to the gorilla in the room, the media still looks to the Times for cover, and 2) beyond that, newsies have no idea how to follow up.
“The truth is out there, and now The X-Files are a campaign issue,” began an ABC World News Tonight report, introduced with the hit show’s classic melody/montage but shedding no light on the real controversy. Hey, remember those presidential debate watch-parties where you take a shot of something heinous every time a candidate mentioned “Goldman Sachs” or “terrorism”? Imagine how wasted you’d get if we applied the same rules whenever the MSM includes “the truth is out there” or “out of this world” to its UFO reporting. You’d get smashed to smithereens reading Pulitzer Prize-winning Chicago Tribune columnist Clarence Page bloviations: “If ‘the truth is out there,’ as they say on ‘The X-Files’ TV show, Hillary Clinton says she’s eager to expose it.” Taking his cue from equally uninformed White House press secretary Josh Earnest’s non-answers to vague questions, Page went on to conclude that humans would probably invent space aliens if they couldn’t be confirmed because we humans are afraid of being alone in the universe: “As we have seen with various other conspiracy theories, people will believe what they want to believe, especially when the truth is far enough ‘out there.’”
Nevertheless, to his credit, the day after the Times produced its reheated “scoop” about HRC and UFOs, veteran CBS reporter Mark Knoller at least felt compelled to bring it up during the daily briefing with Earnest.
With cameras rolling, Knoller “wondered if the President would like to beat (Clinton) to the punch by showing his degree of transparency on this issue, which is of concern to a lot of Americans.” It was an awkward question because it also conflated UFOs with Area 51, and Earnest did his awkward best to laugh it off:
“Well,” Earnest managed, “I know that he has joked publicly before about one of the benefits of the presidency is having access to that information. I don’t know whether or not he has availed himself of that opportunity. But if we have more on this, we’ll let you know.”
Right. Definitely. Five days later, even less focused than Knoller was, April Ryan of American Urban Radio Networks tried it again. “There’s this increased interest in Roswell. You’re doing your dance at the podium about it,” she began, apparently noting Earnest’s dyspeptic body language. “Is there such a thing? Are you – look at you, you’re drinking so you’re trying to think.” Nervous laughter in the gallery. “Is there such a thing – are you keeping quiet because of security concerns? I mean, are we to think that there might be life beyond here? I mean – seriously. I mean, you need to answer this.”
I mean seriously, dude, I mean, how is anybody supposed to totally answer this? Security concerns? Over what, specifically? What was the question again? “I’ll just say, April, there are some questions that even the White House Press Secretary doesn’t have answers to, and this is one of them.” Ryan tells Earnest he’s not going to get off that easy. “Okay, well,” Earnest replies, “you keep trying.
Great to see the press finally growing just a tad more inquisitive. But getting tongue-tied and incoherent is a direct consequence of turning your brains over to the NY Times and not doing your own prep.
Will the media wait for the Times to investigate scores of USAF veterans eyewitness accounts of UFOs breaching security over America’s nuclear weapons sites? Will they sit on their hands until the Times gives them permission to ask why U.S. Customs and Border Protection won’t release a three-year-old UFO video that’s already been viewed 381,000 times on YouTube? Will they wait for The Times to start asking why the FAA began censoring radar records nearly 10 years after 9/11 only after researchers began making FOIAs to reconstruct the flight path of a bogey that buzzed President Bush’s “western White House” in Texas eight years ago?
And even if one or several corporate media outlets bucked the trend and conducted original reporting? Would anyone notice if the Times didn’t get there first?