George W. Bush raised a few eyebrows during the 2000 presidential campaign when he responded to a question about releasing government files on unidentified flying objects. "It'll be the first thing he (Dick Cheney) will do," Bush said. "He'll get right on it."
By Billy Cox
George W. Bush raised a few eyebrows during the 2000 presidential campaign when he responded to a question about releasing government files on unidentified flying objects. "It'll be the first thing he (Dick Cheney) will do" Bush said. "He'll get right on it"
Immediately upon assuming office, however, the Bush administration exhibited an impulse for even tighter controls on government information, long before the 9/11 security clampdown. From Bush's immediate suspension of the 1978 Presidential Records Act to Cheney's refusal to comply with a General Accounting Office request for the names of the Vice President's Energy Task Force members, patterns of concealment are consistent. Just last month, Bush signed Executive Order 12958, which gave the director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy the unprecedented authority to declare information "Top Secret"
"They didn't explain a rationale for it" says Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' government secrecy project in Washington, D.C. "The only way to know for sure how significant it is, is to come back a year from now and see how many times it's been exercised"
UFO declassification proponents thought they were building momentum for congressional hearings with a forum of witnesses in May 2001 announcing their willingness to testify. Then, the roof fell in. "The Saudi Arabian flying circus came to town, and the U.S. declared an open-ended war against this term, this noun, called terror" recalls lobbyist Stephen Bassett. "All the attention and all the headlines got sucked up by 9/11, and all the political work went into suspended animation"
But UFO reports never stopped. Nor did calls for government accountability. Friday, one of the leading advocates -- Stanton Friedman -- will discuss what he calls the "Cosmic Watergate" at Brevard Community College's Titusville campus.
Author of "Crash at Corona" and "Top Secret/Majic" Friedman was among the first to revisit the 1947 Roswell Incident, in which military authorities initially announced the recovery of a flying saucer, only to reverse themselves amid the ensuing media clamor. But from his home in New Brunswick, Canada, the American-born researcher blames contemporary media passivity for enabling a cover-up.
"The only way we'll make any progress with this issue is when the press gets off its duff and takes a serious look at all the documents that have been in the public domain for years" says Friedman. His background in nuclear physics landed him 14 years' worth of work on nuclear rockets, much of it classified. "I'd like to see them spend just 10 percent of the energy they invested in covering Gary Condit, Elian Gonzales and Monica Lewinsky"
Friedman contends government documents already in the public domain are loaded with smoking guns, not the least of which is the famous Bolender Memo. In 1969, just as the Air Force was terminating its public investigation of UFOs called Project Blue Book based on their negligible impact on national security, Brig. Gen. C.H. Bolender, deputy director of development for the USAF chief of staff, illuminated a backdoor policy: "Reports of unidentified flying objects which could affect national security. . . . are not part of the Blue Book system"
"The media needs a commitment to the truth and to ignore the crap" says Friedman. "There was a conference in Chicago in 1997, on the 50th anniversary of Roswell, and one guy shows up wearing alien antennae on his head. CBS was covering the event and -- wouldn't you know it? -- the guy with the headgear is the one who makes the news that night. This is typical"
Next April, during the presidential primary campaigns, Friedman and a host of investigators will join Bassett, founder of X-PPAC, the Extraterrestrial Phenomenon Political Action Committee, in Washington for yet another effort to forge UFOs into political dialogue. Bassett was on hand in 2001 when an initiative called the Disclosure Project pressed for immunity for whistleblowers whose testimony would violate their security oaths.
Among the most impressive insiders assembled by the Disclosure Project was a retired USAF captain who -- supported by Strategic Air Command documents -- was in a Wyoming ICBM silo in 1967 when a UFO drained the power from launch complexes housing 10 nuclear-tipped warheads. Another was a Federal Aviation Administration accidents division chief who, despite being told by a CIA agent to keep a lid on it, presented a box full of records concerning a harrowing, 30-minute encounter involving a UFO and a Japanese airliner off Alaska in 1986.
Although the Bush presidency apparently has no intention of addressing UFOs, its attitude is part of a bipartisan continuum by chief executives to avoid the issue. Jimmy Carter, for instance, filed a report of his own UFO sighting with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena and promised an open investigation during his 1976 campaign. But as president, Carter never followed through. Bill Clinton, according to the memoirs of former deputy Attorney General Webster Hubbell, directed him to get to the bottom of UFOs. Hubbell failed.
Repeated efforts by Florida Today to interview both Democrats about UFOs have been unsuccessful.
Last year, former Clinton chief of staff John Podesta announced his partnership with the Coalition for Freedom of Information -- funded by the Sci Fi Channel, a client of his PodestaMattoon law firm -- to try to end UFO gridlock. For CFI research advisor Ted Roe, the issue is compelling, but so delicate he refers to the mystery in broader terms: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, or UAEs.
Roe is the executive director of the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena (NARCAP) in Vallejo, Calif. In order to improve flight safety, NARCAP, a private outfit, collects data on everything from ball lightning to plasma disturbances, as reported by pilots, radar operators and air traffic controllers. But getting these sources to cooperate is dicey, due to the exotic nature of many UAEs.
"The really strange ones involve cylinders, discs, spheres, red lights and white lights, V-shaped or boomerang-shaped objects. Some of them are huge" says Roe, whose colleague, Dr. Richard Haines, authored a controversial report in 2000 analyzing more than 100 incidents, entitled "Aviation Safety in America"
"Some of them seem to demonstrate an alteration of magnetic fields, which can cause compasses to turn up to 20 degrees off direction. They can have transient or permanent effects on avionics systems, such as shutting off transmitters"
In early September 2001, NARCAP sent survey questionnaires on UAEs to 300 pilots of a major airline carrier. "We couldn't have picked a worse week" says Roe. "Two days later, the (World Trade Center) towers fell" Still, NARCAP got a 24 percent response, with one of every six subjects reporting having seen something so bizarre they couldn't identify it. "But not a one of them reported it to management" Roe adds.
Roe says retirees are more likely to talk than active pilots, which isn't a surprise. "The airline facilitator who was trying to promote our survey wound up getting two psychiatric evaluations" he says. "There are 500,000 people in our target culture, the aviation community, who are very interested in this subject. But these experiences become toxic when they manifest into (pilots') environment"
Only constant media pressure, says Friedman, will force authorities to respond to public curiosity. After all, 72 percent of Americans responding to a Roper Poll conducted last year believes the government isn't telling everything it knows about UFOs.
"I read that with Watergate, the Washington Post had something like 16 people working that story at one time" says Friedman, who'll also be signing copies of his work at Barnes & Noble Booksellers on Merritt Island on 7 p.m. Thursday. "It's going to require that sort of effort. You can have all the seminars and lectures in the world, but if the press doesn't come and follow it up, then you haven't had much of an impact"