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Sci-Fi Kecksberg Press Conference Materials

Steven Kaeser, UFO Updates Mailing List

original source |  fair use notice

Summary: Press coverage of the Sci-Fi Channel's National Press Club event was very limited this past Tuesday. At the event a Press Packet given out (as is usually the case), and it contained written versions of the statements made by those who spoke. I thought that some may find this information of interest and wanted to make them a part of the public record.

Now that Sci-Fi's Kecksberg special has been aired, I wanted to
follow it up with information released earlier this week. There
is still a great deal of debate within the UFO community as to
whether there is any real mystery with regard to the Kecksberg
crash, but Press coverage of the Sci-Fi Channel's National Press
Club event was very limited this past Tuesday. At the event a
Press Packet given out (as is usually the case), and it
contained written versions of the statements made by those who
spoke. I thought that some may find this information of
interest and wanted to make them a part of the public record.

I have scanned the documents that were handed out, which are
presented below. I believe the OCR accuracy is very good, but
please understand that some minor errors may have slipped
through. I have also removed contact information for privacy
reasons, but certainly these individuals can be contacted if

There are a couple of items of note that I'd like to point out.

One is a statement from Nicholas L. Johnson, Chief Scientist for
Orbital Debris at the NASA Johnson Space Center, who indicates
that there is no way that the Kecksberg event could be related
to any known man-made debris falling out of orbit.

Another is the lengthy statement from Lee Helfrich, a partner at
the law firm of Lobel, Novins & Lamont, which has been retained
by CFI to handle the legal challenges.

Rather than break this up into small segments, I'm forwarding
all of the statements in this one message. Unfortunately, this
will make it rather long.




On December 9, 1965, an object landed near the small town of
Kecksburg, PA. It was observed as a fireball in the sky across
several U.S. states and Canada.

At the scene, officials told residents a meteor crashed. But the
next day, both local authorities and the U.S. government
declared nothing fell that night and nothing was found.

Four witnesses provided independent, corroborated descriptions
of the object and its location in the Kecksburg woods. Dozens of
others including firefighters, newspaper reporters, and a radio
news director at WHJB (who was on the scene taping interviews)
describe the large military presence at the crash site and the
cordoning off of the area. Some observed the retrieval of an
object that was transported by an army truck. Many witnesses
signed statements for investigator Stan Gordon of Greensburg,
PA, who has been working on the case for over three decades.

Project Blue Book - the official Air Force investigation into
UFOs terminated in 1969 - says that no space debris entered our
atmosphere that day. Data from the U.S. Space Command and the
Russian Space Agency indicates that whatever came down was not a
Russian satellite or space probe.

To this day, no one knows what triggered the interest of the
U.S. military, and the government s non-response has led to
heated speculation. In the ensuing 38 years, members of the once
tightly-knit community have been torn apart by the continuing
questions about what happened some believe that there s more to
this incident than the government let on, and others believe
that nothing happened at all.

For the last year, SCI Fl Channel has supported an unprecedented
initiative to get to the bottom of this mystery. Investigative
journalist Leslie Kean of the Coalition for Freedom of
Information has spearheaded an effort to obtain government
documents through the Freedom of Information Act, in cooperation
with a Washington law firm, a professional archival research
firm, and a seasoned private investigator.

This effort to get our government to open the books about the
Kecksburg incident has won the support of John Podesta,
President Clinton s former Chief of Staff. We ought to do it
because it s right; 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, he said at a press conference launching
the initiative one year ago.


Statement of Robert Gatty
Reporter who covered Kecksburg Incident
October 21, 2003

I was a reporter for the Greensburg Tribune-Review in 1965, and
upon returning from an assignment the evening of December 9,
1965, was sent to Kecksburg, PA to cover the reported sighting
of an unidentified flying object. It was the story of the
century, my editor said.

When I arrived at the scene, I was told by armed Army personnel
and Pennsylvania State troopers that there was nothing there and
to leave. They were extremely defensive, and when I said, If
there is nothing there, what s the problem? I was told, You can
t go down there, indicating the wooded area where the object was
thought to have landed. There were probably a dozen or so Amy
personnel at the scene, most of them sealing off the area and
preventing local people and reporters from walking into the
area. I grew up in an Army family and I can distinguish the
uniforms of the services.

There was a huge traffic jam on the little country road that
bordered the area, and plenty of excitement. Time was short, and
it was tough to find someone right then who had actually seen
the object fall. But a local farmer and fireman, Dale Howard,
told me he felt a vibration and a thump about the time the
object reportedly fell. I reported those comments in the article
that appeared the morning of December 10 in the Tribune-Review.
I filed my report from Howard s home, where I borrowed his

The afternoon edition carried an article that I wrote containing
more details of the incident, including quotes from a nearby
resident, Mrs. Arnold Kalp, of Acme, PA, who said her eight-
year-old son, Kevin, saw the object come down. It looked like a
flaming star, Mrs. Kalp said. It left a trail of flames behind
it and fell in the woods. Mrs. KaIp also told reporters she was
told by military personnel not to tell anyone what her son had
seen until an investigation was launched.

While I was at Howard s home, another eyewitness, Jim Mayes, of
Mammoth, PA, walked in and said he and six other men had seen
three blue flashing lights near the area of the sighting.
Tribune Review photographer Jim Downs and I managed to work our
way into woods where Mayes said he saw the lights. However, we
came up empty. Shortly thereafter, I left the Tribune-Review for
a new job with United Press International in Harrisburg, so was
not involved in further follow-up articles. However, since my
father, at the time of the incident, was stationed at an Army
Nike missile site at nearby Irwin, PA, I suspected that perhaps
there was a mishap with one of those missiles and the Army
wanted to hush it up. It was simply a theory, but I do believe
from what people told me and what has since been reported that
something did land in the woods near Kecksburg that evening.

Certainly, it is high time that the residents of the
Pennsylvania communities affected by this event be told what
happened. The Army appeared to be protecting something that
night. If the government is not willing to release the files on
this case, Congressional representatives from Pennsylvania
should take an interest and demand some answers. At this point
in time, nearly 40 years later, what possibly could be the
reason for continuing this cover-up?

After 4 years with LIPI, Catty worked on Capitol Hill for two
US. Congressmen. He returned to journalism in 1978, and is now
Executive Editor and Publisher of Advantage, a food industry
trade magazine published by the Food Marketing Institute,
Washington, DC.


The Cosmos 96 question is settled once and for all

Chief Scientist for Orbital Debris at the NASA Johnson Space
Center, Nicholas L. Johnson, who is recognized internationally
as an authority on orbital debris and foreign space systems, has
determined that Cosmos 96, the Russian Venera probe that has
been considered a possible explanation for the Kecksburg object
for decades, did not land in Pennsylvania on the afternoon of
December 9, 1965. Furthermore, he states that no other man-made
object from any country came down that day.

Debris from Cosmos 96 has been a leading contender as an
explanation for the Kecksburg object, due to the fact that it
came down early that morning over Canada. Perhaps part ended up
in Pennsylvania later, the theory went. The Air Force stated at
the time that no space debris entered the atmosphere that day,
and that all aircraft and missiles were accounted for.

Johnson examined the orbital data for Cosmos 96 and was able to
calculate when it would have passed over Pennsylvania if it had
been in orbit that day. The time, when it traveled from north to
south, was at approximately 6:20 am. The Kecksburg object came
down at 4:45 p.m. I can tell you categorically, that there is no
way that any debris from Cosmos 96 could have landed in
Pennsylvania anywhere around 4:45 p.m., said Johnson in an
interview on October 10, 2003. That s an absolute. Orbital
mechanics is very strict.

The US Space Command reported in 1991 that Cosmos 96 crashed in
Canada at 3:18 a.m. Johnson does not have information about the
time of demise of Cosmos 96, but he did confirm that it was over
Canada at this time.

One part of Cosmos 96 could not have stayed in orbit until 4:45
p.m. after the object came apart hours earher, as some had

Even more intriguing, Johnson s data shows that no man-made
object from any country entered our atmosphere and landed in
Pennsylvania on the afternoon of December 9. Cosmos 96 was the
only catalogued object that came down at all that day. He says
that anything not catalogued would have been so small that it
would not have survived reentry. I cannot absolutely confirm
that it was not some completely unreported event, but the
chances of that are virtually nil, said Johnson. You can t
launch something without somebody seeing it. By 1965 the US and
Soviets were both reporting their launches.

The possibility of a US reconnaissance satellite dropping a
large film canister on that day has also been ruled out. These
capsules were dropped following secret missions over the Soviet
Union. Data on these flights was recently declassified. By
checking launch and retrieval times, these capsules can also
been eliminated as a possible explanation for what landed in

In 1965, unlike today, the US government did not have the
technical means of detecting natural bodies, such as a meteor,
suddenly coming into the earth s atmosphere. The only record we
would have of such an event would be witness reports.

Previously, both Johnson and another renowned expert, Phillip S.
Clark of London s Molniya Space Consultancy who has studied the
Soviet and Chinese space programs for more than 20 years, had
just about eliminated Cosmos 96 as a possibility, assuming
witness report are accurate. The capsule was only 3 feet in
diameter much smaller than the object reported by Kecksburg
witnesses. Clark also pointed out that the Cosmos capsule could
not have made turns or descended slowly at an angle, as
witnesses reported.

Now, the Cosmos 96 explanation is no longer a question, and we
have fewer options left to explain this mystery. As Dr. Peter
Sturrock, emeritus professor of applied physics at Stanford
University, says in his book The UFO En(gma, In principle, we
can prove a hypothesis not only by finding strong evidence in
its favor, but also by finding strong evidence against every
other possibility.

Leslie Kean

The Coalition for Freedom of Information

October, 2003


Statement of
Bonnie Hammer, President of SCI Fl Channel

October 21, 2003

I just want to take this opportunity to thank the press and the
panelists for coming down this morning. I m Bonnie Hammer,
President of the Sd Fl Channel.

A year ago, I was here to lend SCI Fl Channel s support to an
effort to obtain government records pertaining to a UFO incident
that occurred in 1965 in Kecksburg, Pennsylvania. As John
Podesta, President Clinton s former Chief of Staff and former
member of the Moynihan Commission on Protecting and Reducing
Government Secrecy, said at our press conference last year,
disclosure is the general rule, not the exception.

As I said then, our ongoing objective is to explore the boundary
between science fact and science fiction and to help shed more
light on a mystery that has remained locked away in government

So, we are here today to tell you that after a year of intensive
investigation on the Kecksburg incident, government agencies
have yet to provide any information. And we are here today to
announce a deepening of SCI Fl s commitment to support these
continuing efforts, including but not limited to the filing of
any necessary lawsuits to open up government files.

Attorney Lee Heifrich of the Washington, D.C. firm of Lobel,
Novins and Lamont; investigative journalist Leslie Kean, who
serves as director of investigations for the Coalition for
Freedom of Information; and Amber Moulton-Wiseman, an archival
research expert from History Associates Incorporated, will all
discuss what they have found from their year s worth of
investigative work. In your press packages you will find more
detailed information about the investigation.

As part of our commitment to uncover the truth about the
Kecksburg incident, the SCI Fl Channel will broadcast a two-hour
documentary on October 24, which will reveal new information
about the mystery. We will explore the various explanations for
the incident -- but most importantly, this Friday we will reveal
the breakthrough findings of Dr. Ray R. Hicks, Professor of
Forestry at West Virginia University, whose compelling
conclusions corroborate eyewitness accounts from 1965.

While this evidence proves that something fell from the sky, it
is still incomplete. To fully solve this mystery, the Department
of Defense, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Airforce and NASA need to
disclose what they know. These agencies and only these agencies
have the ability to shed light on what really happened in
Kecksburg on December 9, 1965.


Statement of Leslie Kean

October 21, 2003

My name is Leslie Kean and I m an investigative reporter. I ve
worked for a year with the Coalition for Freedom of Information
on the Kecksburg investigation. Even though we have used the
Freedom of Information Act coupled with a search at federal
records centers, we have not been able to obtain government
records explaining what crashed in Kecksburg in 1965 and why
armed military were on the scene.

We have been fortunate to work closely with Stan Gordon from
Greensburg Pennsylvania, who has researched and documented this
case for over 30 years. He too has been denied government
documents, despite many attempts over the years. Gordon, who is
here today, has collected dozens of witness interviews and
written reports. I have interviewed many of these witnesses
myself in Pennsylvania.

The sheer number of people who witnessed different aspects of
the event makes the notion that nothing happened inconceivable.
Some saw the object moving slowly in the sky; others saw smoke
in the woods when it first crashed. Four witnesses provided
Gordon with independent, corroborated descriptions of the object
on the ground and its location in the Kecksburg woods. Others
provided detailed descriptions of the object being transported
out on a flatbed truck. Many more reported military and state
police in the area; a few reported NASA personnel on the scene.

And now, Dr. Ray Hicks of West Virginia University has
documented tree damage at the crash site, matching earlier
photographs of broken branches at the location. This shows that
something did come down at an angle exactly where witnesses
reported it and that it happened in 1965.

Robert Gatty, a reporter for the G reensburg Thbune Review that
night, wrote the story Unidentified Flying Object Falls Near
Kecksburg...Army Ropes off Area. He told me that he encountered
ten or more Army personnel at the scene, preventing people and
reporters from entering the area where the object was believed
to have landed. Later, a radio report on WHJB also reported an
Army presence. (The State Police fire marshal! told the reporter
to get his information on what crashed from the Army.) And
civilians capable of distinguishing military uniforms and Army
vehicles reported the same. We documented all of this for the
Army, but it has not even acknowledged the incident let alone
given us an explanation.

The Air Force is the only agency that has released files on this
case. These state that a three-man team was dispatched to
investigate and pick up an object that started a fire but that
nothing was found. The Air Force concludes the object was simply
a meteor in the sky that never came down. Again, this is in
direct contradiction to what people and media, who were there,

Thanks to the work of our private investigator, we were able to
locate several key personnel of the 662nd Radar Squadron in
Oakdale, Pennsylvania, including one who went out to search for
the object that night. He said he did not observe any Army
presence in the area, or the large spotlights in the woods
observed by witnesses. Three of them told us that nothing was
found. And, discrepancies among key points of their stories are
puzzling. Is it possible that this small group was taken to a
different location from the one that was cordoned off by the
Army, and that they searched the wrong site? Or, were they
perhaps sworn not to reveal what happened for national security
reasons? We don t know - and we won t know until the government
releases all the records.

A report filed with the Air Force by one of these officers the
next day was not included with the Air Force files. It should
have been. We now have an affidavit from the former officer that
we are sending to the Air Force to request this crucial

Recently, we were able to setUe the question of whether Russian
or US space debris landed in Kecksburg. Nicholas Johnson, Chief
Scientist for Orbital Debris at the NASA Johnson Space Center,
is recognized internationally as an authority on orbital debris
and foreign space systems. He obtained the orbital coordinates
for Cosmos 96, a Russian probe that some have speculated might
be the Kecksburg object, since it came down earlier that day in
Canada. Johnson determined that Cosmos 96 could not possibly
have been what landed in Kecksburg. Even more intriguing,
Johnson s data shows that no man-made object from any country
entered our atmosphere and landed in Pennsylvania on the
afternoon of December 9.

Yet the evidence strongly suggests that something did come down
that night, thirty- eight years ago. What was the importance of
the object that caused the military to rapidly respond to the
Kecksburg area? Who authorized soldiers to brandish weapons at
local citizens approaching the landing site? It is time that the
people of Pennsylvania, and the nation, get the answers. They
have every right to know.


Lee E. Heifrich
Partner, Lobel, Novins and Lamont

Executive Summary

October 21, 2003

My name is Lee Heltrich. I m a partner at the law firm of Lobel,
Novins and Lamont and have been assisting the Coalition for
Freedom of Information (CFi) with its Freedom of Information Act
(FOIA) initiative. I ve been asked to give you a very brief
summary today. No one up here with me seems to appreciate that
as a lawyer I get paid by the word.

When CFi started its FOIA initiative a year ago, it faced two
hurdles. The first is what we ve termed the ridicule factor. The
second was the bureaucratization of the government s FOIA

The Kecksburg incident like many others is viewed as a UFO
story. Today, those three letters are associated in the public s
mind with entertainment and Star Trek conventions. That we are
entertained by the unknown and the prospect for the future is
certainly okay. What is not okay is when the popular culture or
conventional wisdom overwhelms and excludes the search for real
answers. As today s newspapers repeatedly remind us, the line
between official fact and fiction is not all that clear.

What today we call the UFO phenomenon began as a taxpayer
funded, government internal security program administered by the
U.S. Air Force. Any object that entered U.S. air space that
could not be immediately identified was an Unidentified Flying
Object a term coined by the military. Initially, the public was
asked by the government itself to report incidents like

During the time period of Kecksburg, however, the government was
also reorganizing this homeland security program a not uncommon
bureaucratic maneuver. A by-product of the government s
reorganization effort was the re-definition of a UFO
investigation as an inquiry about space aliens. To patronize and
trivialize the honest reports and questions of citizens, whose
lives and communities were impacted by a government program is,
in my opinion, disgraceful.

In today s environment, the public is often reminded that
premature disclosure of government information could harm
legitimate national security and law enforcement efforts. The
FOIA balances the goal of open government with the government s
need for temporary secrecy. At some point in time, however,
secrets become stale, and the government s activities, in the
words of the Supreme Court, should be opened to the sharp eye of
public scrutiny. This is not an effort to revise history, but to
complete it.

As summarized in a 1997 report of a congressional commission,
the reality is that access delayed is access denied. Since its
enactment in 1966 and despite its lofty goals FOIA has become
user unfriendly a bureaucratic maze that can be pursued only by
those with extraordinary patience and pocketbooks. An example of
this is DR s experience with the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration NASA. In response to CF1 s first request letter,
NASA came back relatively quickly with a no records response.
This was one of the many go away responses that CFi expected to
receive from the federal government at the outset of its FOIA
initiative. Most FOIA practitioners steer clear of pursuing no
records responses, because, to prevail, the requester most show
that the agency did not conduct a reasonable, good faith search
a showing that requires the FOIA requester to, in essence,
produce government documents responsive to his/her own FOIA
request. CFi was prepared to do this indeed, as you know, it is
actively pursuing a parallel investigation. As a result, CFi won
its administrative appeal of NASA s no records response. CFi has
now waited patiently for four months for NASA to produce the
results of its promise to conduct an expedited search.

For over forty years, we lived with the Cold War and all the
fear it engendered. The UFO phenomenon whether it coincided with
that War or was a product of it is an important chapter in our
government s operations and our history. As Kecksburg
demonstrates, it still has an impact on real people and real
communities, who have no agenda other than obtaining honest
answers. Aliens may not have invaded Kecksburg in December 1965,
but the U.S. military surely did.

In my opinion, Congress did not intend to force the public to
litigate over its own history. Unfortunately, the government has
created FOIA process in which litigation has become a necessary
evil. Freedom of Information is being held hostage to a
sometimes hostile, and definitely byzantine bureaucracy. For a
democracy, that deserves much more ridicule than legitimate
curiosity about crop circles or extraterrestrial life.


Statement Of Lee E. Heifrich
Lobel, Novins & Lamont
October 21, 2003

My name is Lee Helfrich, and I m a partner at the law firm of
Lobel, Novins & Lamont. I am, of course, the lawyer on Coalition
for Freedom of Information s Kecksburg team and have been
overseeing CFi s Freedom of Information Act initiative, which
was announced nearly a year ago. CFi is currently seeking access
to documents related to the Kecksburg incident from the
Department of Defense, the Army, the Air Force and the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration NASA.

Before rattling my legal saber and announcing a charge into
court, I think its worthwhile to emphasize that neither I nor my
clients had any delusions CFi S FOIA initiative was going to be
anything other than an uphill battle. Many of you have probably
suffered from FOIA frustration. And, thanks to the many dogged
reporters and investigators out there, CFi knew what to expect
in terms of the government s response to its FOIA requests. CFi
was not disappointed for over a year it received various
versions of go away from various different Departments and sub-
agencies. Because of CFi s parallel investigative effort, it
was prepared in advance to play that game.

But before sharing FOIA anecdotes, I think its important to
underscore t at CF s FOIA initiative had another strike against
it at the start the conventional wisdom about UFOs .

When CFi first came to my firm with its proposal, my first
response was to laugh. In my dictionary, those three letters UFO
spelled ridicule. I didn t spend three years in law school, a
year at Harvard doing graduate work on the First Amendment, and
20 years in practice to become known as Er s lawyer. If it weren
t for the credibility, talent and support of the people who were
involved John Podesta, Leslie Kean, Ed Rothschild, History
Associates, the Sci Fi Channel, among others I would not have
given this proposal a second thought. No one I know of has ever
gotten rich off litigating FOIA cases.

There is no doubt that a lot of the stuff out there on the UFO
phenomenon is hard to swallow. For example, to this day, I still
fall within that category of people who think crop circles are
the product of pranksters with way too much time on their hands.
But, let s face it, you can t pick up a newspaper today without
being reminded that the line between official fact and fiction
isn t all that bright. The Freedom of Information Act was
intended to give the public access to all the facts so that they
could draw the line themselves. As summarized in a recent
Washington Post Op-Ed, the government is not entitled to
promulgate an official version of history and to deride as
untrustworthy any challenges to their account.

The conventional wisdom about UFO5 that it concerns small, green
alien creatures is historically inaccurate. For at least 20
years, the United States Air Force from the late 1940s through
the 1960s actively investigated reports of unknown airborne
objects entering U.S. air space this was, at the time, part and
parcel of our homeland security program during the height of the
Cold War. The U.S. military coined the term unidentified flying
object , which like almost everything else in the government,
soon became known by its acronym UFO . Like today, the public
was encouraged to report the unknown. Given the time period, it
should not be surprising that the government s primary focus was
on foreign, not alien, spying, but initially the latter was not
an officially excluded possibility.

Somewhere along the line, the UFO program became politically
disfavored. The official definition of UFO was narrowed to my
favorite martian and the official position was no proof. In
modern terms, UFOs were politically incorrect. Citizens who
reported UFOs thinking they were doing just what the government
had asked of them were patronized, marginalized, and ridiculed.
The Air Force, rest assured, was still tracking and
investigating unknown airborne objects entering U.S. air space.
But in true bureaucratic form, that part of the old UFO project
was spun off in an agency reorganization, and became one of many
classified national security programs.

The Kecksburg incident was selected as CFi s FOIA pilot, in
part, because it occurred during the time of this reorganization
and transformation of the federal government s UFO inquiries.
The old Air Force UFO program called Project Blue Book was still
in operation, but was in the process of being dismantled. The
official and publicly available Blue Book file on Kecksburg is
interesting mostly because of what it does not contain. What the
file does contain are messages between the Blue Book office and
the Pentagon exhibiting a curious preoccupation of what to tell
the media, with the end result being a decision, completely
unsupported at the time, to say it was a meteorite. The paucity
of documentation in the public file is out of sync with the
degree of military interest in the incident as reflected in
contemporaneous radio and newspaper accounts.

And then, on the human sith, there was Kecksburg a sleepy little
Pennsylvania village chock full of witnesses who would riot come
forward at the time because of a sense of patriotism, a fear of
retaliation, or the anxiety of embarrassment. One resident at
CFi s town meeting explained that he never came forward until
recently because of the ridicule factor. At the same time, there
is nearly universal agreement with the comment of a retired
Kecksburg firefighter that the U.S. doesn t send out the
military to check into shooting stars. No where on the
Pennsylvania turnpike will you see a billboard enticing you to
visit the alien museum and theme park of Kecksburg, PA!! After
nearly 40 years, the residents of Kecksburg still don t know
what happened, but also don t want to be dismissed as kooks.

Personally, I believe that citizens deserve more honesty and
respect from their government. Aliens may not have invaded
Kecksburg in December 1965, but the U.S. military surely did.

Coincidentally, shortly after Kecksburg in 1966 Congress enacted
the Freedom of Information Act so that any person could make a
request to review documentation relating to the operation of the
federal government. As the Supreme Court held: [d]isclosure, not
secrecy, is the dominant objective of the Act. mhe FOIA s
central purpose is to ensure that the Government s activities be
opened to the sharp eye of public scrutiny. Put simply, people
have a right to know what their government is up to and why.

Congress recognized that there should be exceptions to immediate
public disclosure. Over the past few months, the news media has
reported on some of the current efforts to delay release of
information that, for example, could harm national security or
law enforcement interests. Congress, however, intended to put
the burden on the government to prove that documents should not
be released for public inspection the presumption of FOIA is
open government. Unfortunately, the government s view of its
obligations to the public under FOIA has never been in sync with
Congress s original intent.

Take for example the FOJA bureaucracy. Not only does each
federal department have a FOIA office; typically each agency
within a Department will have a FOIA office. Each Department
will have its own set of regulations applying the FOIA. The
Defense Department regulations, for example, number over 50
pages; each page contains two columns of rules in small print.

Somewhere in every department s set of regulations will be the
helpful advice that your FOIA request will be processed more
quickly if it is directed to the appropriate subagency. For the
DoD that will not only include its own subagencies, but also the
Departments of the Army, Air Force, etc and each of those
Departments respective subagencies and regulatory tomes. Even
assuming that an agency name explains its function, the
constancy of government reorganization makes even this first
step inordinately difficult. In CFi s case the Headquarters,
U.S. Army Support Detachment, Oakdale, PA fadlity is now called
the Charles E. Kelly Support Facility. In 1965, Oakdale was
under the jurisdiction of a Fort Custer in Michigan, it now
reports to Fort Dix in New Jersey.

To make this maze more user non-friendly, there is typically an
address hidden within the regulations where the public can write
in the event that there is uncertainty about what subagency
might have the record being sought. CFi wrote to one of the DoD
offices for the uncertain , which responded that it did not have
the documents Cfl requested because DoD s FOIA program was
decentralized in other words the burden is on the public to
figure out the agency paper trail. Fortunately, because of CFis
research, FOIA requests were also made to DoD agencies on
various rungs of the bureaucratic ladder.

If you can get beyond the who s on first phase of the FOIA, you
get to move to the name that document phase . The Army, for
example, told CFi that we had not described what we wanted with
sufficient specificity to enable it to even conduct a FOIA
search. Its regulation on specificity advises the public to
provide descriptive information that is event related and
includes the circumstances that resulted in the record being
created or the date and circumstances surrounding the event the
record covers. Apparently, for the Army, CFi s data
establishing, inter a/ia, the participation of the Army, and
military personnel from the U.S. Army Support Detachment in
Oakdale, Pennsylvania in a publicly acknowledged investigation
of an unknown object reported at 4:45 pm and referred to the
military shortly thereafter by the Pennsylvania State Police on
December 9, 1965 didn t give the Army a clue about where to
start looking.

A variation on the same theme was NASA s no records response to
CFi s first request letter. CFi, however, was prepared to show
NASA that documents did exist in its files. This resulted in a
successful administrative appeal on a particularly difficult
FOIA issue. Most FOTA practitioners steer clear of pursuing no
records responses. Since winning the administrative appeal, CFi
has waited patiently for four months for NASA to realize on its
promise for an expedited response.

Responses like these are not atypical and certainly do not
capture the full extent of the FOIA run- a-round. Thus, even if
you know document s title, author and location, bureaucratic
roadblocks still abound and FOIA officers spend an inordinate
amount of time looking for ways to deny the public access to
documents that they concede exist. The Justice Department s
Overview manual on application of FOIA exemptions by federal
agencies is over 980 pages long and two inches thick. A handy
supplement is its 560 page case list.

Through its research, CFi knew that earlier attempts to access
documents related to the UFO phenomenon had been denied based
national security classification; a somewhat odd classification
for material related to a subject which the government formally
declared in 1969 did not pose a threat to national security. In
an exercise of common sense, the Clinton Administration issued
an Executive Order in 1996, which was intended to open for
public review older classified records. The following year, a
congressional commission issued a report finding that not much
declassification had yet occurred, which was at least in part
due to many years of rubber stamping classifications on
documents that posed little if any threat other than
embarrassment. The Bush Administration, of course, has tightened
the classification program still, documents as old as those
relating to Kecksburg remain presumptively open.

But even if you can escape the classification tug of war , there
is still the needle in the haystack . All over the country there
are government warehouses filled with tons of boxes of history,
the volume of which increases every year. What is legitimately
classified today may be lost in the black hole of the federal
records management system. In short, access delayed may very
well be access denied. Indeed, one of the warehoused boxes that
CFi identified as containing UFO material is listed on the
official warehouse index as lost. It was lost after a FOIA
request by Kecksburg resident. This isn t fiction, its fact and
any speculation therefrom is solely the responsibility of
government secrecy, aided and abetted by record management
disarray and bureaucratic inertia.

In short, the government s FOIA process is a game of attrition.
For those with patience and a pocketbook like CFi playing the
litigation card has become a necessary evil. Moreover, more and
more litigation is not aimed at ending the game, but is simply a
strategic phase aimed at putting pressure on a bureaucracy that
views FOIA requesters as the enemy or a nuisance . In my
opinion, this is not what Congress intended in 1966 judicial
review was supposed to be the exception, not the rule. But then
again, Congress also intended public disclosure to be the rule,
not the exception. The public should not have to litigate over
its history.

For forty years, we lived with the Cold War and all the fear it
engendered. Indeed, one of the most noted UFO de-bunkers has
theorized that the Soviet Union had a vested interest in
maintaining the UFO myth in order to cover up military and space
race mistakes of the 1960s. What our institutional incentives
were remain hidden. The UFO phenomenon whether it coincided with
that War or was a product of it is as an important chapter in
our government s operations and our history. It still has impact
on real people and real communities.

In the last few years, a spate of books have been published
about the Cold War, some have been serious, like John Earl
Haynes and Harvey Klehr s In Denial, and some silly, like Ann
Coulter s Treason. It is an interesting that these new
revelations and spins are in large part due to information from
the archives of the Soviet Union, which became available, albeit
temporarily, only after its collapse. The healthy historical
debate continues, but based upon documentary snippets that take
the dialogue to a new level only because of the collapse of a
major power, some of the files of which were opened for a short
time while it was reorganizing its own government. As Marquette
University s Athan Theoharis, a leading Cold War scholar, has
noted, these new books and the new information raise further
questions about the official version of our history, and what
our government was doing and why. These efforts don t revise
history, they complete it.

On our side, unfortunately, Freedom of Information is still
being held hostage to a sometimes hostile, and definitely
byzantine bureaucracy. In a democracy that deserves more
ridicule than legitimate curiosity about crop circles and
extraterrestrial life.


Statement of Amber Mouton-Wiseman
Research Historian, History Associates Inc.
October 21, 2003

[this statement refers to a form that is not included here -

Hello, I am Amber Moulton-Wiseman, a Research Historian for
History Associates Incorporated, a historical research and
consulting firm in Rockville, Maryland. History Associates has
over twenty years of experience specializing in research in
federal records, especially those that must be obtained through
requests pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act. Our
involvement with this project began in April 2003 when CFI and
the Sci Fi Channel asked us to help them locate additional US
government records that might contain information on the
Kecksburg incident.

We began our search at the National Archives where we reviewed
Air Force, NASA, Army, and State Department files for any
information that might pertain to Kecksburg. We cast a wide net,
searching for such things as the records of Pennsylvania
military units that might have investigated the incident, and
Air Force and NASA files from offices responsible for
investigating objects falling to earth. Other than reports in
the Air Force Project Blue Book files, we found no documents
pertaining to what happened at Kecksburg.

In part this was not too surprising because many US government
records from the mid-1960s have not yet been handed over to the
US National Archives. Accordingly, we expanded our research to
include more recent records that are still held in Federal
Records Centers throughout the country. Unlike documents at the
National Archives, collections held by the federal records
centers are not yet open to the public, so we were not able to
examine the documents themselves. However, we were able to
review transmittal forms like these [show SF 135] that provide a
basic description of the files contained in each collection.

One SF 135 form contains a detailed list of folders from a
collection of NASA records held at the Washington National
Records Center in Suitland, Maryland. It is one of several
thousand NASA collections; however, this particular collection
includes a set of Fragology Files from the mid-1960s. These
files relate to NASA investigations of reports on objects
falling to the earth from space. Accordingly, these are
precisely the kind of records that might include informatioh
about the Kecksburg incident.

Our review of the records held at the Washington National
Records Center and other federal records centers around the
country identified many other Army, Air Force, and NASA
collections that might help shed light on the incident. However,
the only way to look at these records is through the FOIA
process. The latest FOM requests that we have sent out for Army,
Air Force, and NASA files include specific information taken
from transmittal forms likes these [indicate Fragology files],
which should help the FOIA offices to locate relevant materials.
We hope that this approach will lead to more favorable FOIA
responses in the near future.

As you can see, these contents lists are usually not detailed,
so we are not at all certain that these files contain documents
relating to Kecksburg. However, the crux of the matter is just
that without access to these files, there is no way to know
exactly what they contain. But the descriptions are compelling
and only by reviewing these materials can we determine if they
will shed new light on the Kecksburg incident.

Thank you.

From: Steven Kaeser
Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 07:19:37 -0400
Fwd Date: Sat, 25 Oct 2003 08:53:17 -0400
Subject: Sci-Fi Kecksberg Press Conference Materials

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