Summary: There is no longer an acceptable justification for the withholding of reports on UFO incidents decades old, whether they are of defense interest or not. Nor is it acceptable for the attorney general unilaterally to refuse to enforce information act. The American people should not have to rely on Spielbergian science fiction for answers.
As Steven Spielberg's TV series "Taken" raises public interest
in government secrecy about unidentified flying objects, the
Washington Post reports that Attorney General John Ashcroft has
tightened the lid on the Freedom of Information Act. Ashcroft
gave federal officers the green light to bend or perhaps break
the information act if they want to withhold records, and he'll
even defend them in court.
Two-thirds of the American people believe their government is
withholding information about UFOs, and 60 percent of adults
want the information declassified if it is not a national
security risk, according to a September Roper Poll commissioned
by the Sci Fi Channel.
So far, declassified records and scientific investigation
clearly show that some UFOs are not science fiction. Unexplained
objects have been well documented by trained observers such as
pilots and military personnel. Some have landed and left ground
traces in England, France and the United States.
"People have been digging through the files and investigating
for years now. The files are quite convincing. The only thing
that's lacking is the official stamp," says Apollo 14 astronaut
As a result, the Sci Fi Channel is publicly calling for the
declassification of government documents on UFO activity.
In October, network President Bonnie Hammer joined President
Clinton's former chief of staff, John Podesta, to support a new
information act initiative requested by me and the Washington
law firm of Lobel, Novins and Lamont.
"I think it's time to open the books on questions that have
remained in the dark, on the question of government
investigations of UFOs," Podesta said at a Washington news
conference. "We ought to do it because... the American people
quite frankly can handle the truth, and we ought to do it
because it's the law."
The request seeks documentation on the crash of an object of
unknown origin in Kecksburg, Pa., in 1965. The U.S. government
denies anything fell from the sky, despite the signed affidavits
of firefighters, radio journalists, dozens of witnesses at the
scene and newspaper reports to the contrary.
In 1969, the U.S. Air Force stated that "no UFO reported,
investigated and evaluated by the Air Force has ever given any
indication of threat to our national security" to justify
closure of its investigation. The government still takes this
position, despite routinely refusing to comply with information
act requests about UFO cases on the basis of national security.
In fact, some UFO incidents have obvious national security
implications, although this would not appear to justify the
withholding of information about them.
According to North American Aerospace Defense Command logs, U.S.
fighter jets attempted to pursue UFOs in 1975. Defense
Department reports state that UFOs were also pursued after
hovering over three supersensitive nuclear missile launch sites
that same year.
And as recently as last July, two F-16s from Andrews Air Force
Base were scrambled in the sky over Washington after radar
detected an unknown aircraft. Military officials said they do
not know what the jets were chasing, because whatever it was
This month, the British Ministry of Defense released files on a
famous multiple-witness case at Bentwaters Air Base in 1980. A
memo by U.S. Deputy Base Commander Lt. Col. Charles Halt and a
tape recording at the scene detail the landing of a glowing
triangular craft that left three circular depressions and
radiation 10 times higher than normal in a nearby forest.
Echoing the U.S. line, the British government also dismisses the
phenomenon by claiming that the event was "of no defense
significance." However, Britain's former Chief of the Defense
Staff, Adm. Lord Hill-Norton, says that whether this represents
the hallucination of men with the responsibility for guarding
nuclear weapons or "the entry of a vehicle from outer space,"
it "cannot fail to be of defense interest."
There is no longer an acceptable justification for the
withholding of reports on UFO incidents decades old, whether
they are of defense interest or not. Nor is it acceptable for
the attorney general unilaterally to refuse to enforce
information act. The American people should not have to rely on
Spielbergian science fiction for answers.
Leslie Kean, an investigative reporter and producer for Pacifica
radio, is research director of the Coalition for Freedom of