Science, Secrecy, and Ufology
December 26, 2000
By Richard M. Dolan
copyright ©2000 by Richard M. Dolan
[Published in February/March issue of UFO Magazine]
Secrecy permeates the UFO field. What does this mean for Ufology as a science? Answer: the field cannot really be handled scientifically within the public domain. The great model is the Manhattan Project. When a project is undertaken at highly classified levels, you will find nothing of value about it within the mainstream. This was true during the development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s; it is true regarding the UFO.
Missing the Obvious
Some thing are so obvious that they are invisible.
Segments of the intelligence community have been intensely interested in UFOs since the problem emerged after World War Two. Moreover, they have monitored and infiltrated the UFO field. Conversely, the “mainstream” (as opposed to “classified”) scientific community has ignored UFOs altogether. Ask yourself a simple question: why this discrepancy?
What passes for Ufology has spun its wheels for fifty years. Not only have even its most important researchers been unable to force recognition of the problem by official powers (not very surprising, after all), but some of these same researchers have not even taken a definite stand on what UFOs might represent. That is, they have been working without a hypothesis (!) and so in many cases have merely piled up sighting after sighting for years and years, and then expected this pile of “evidence” to do the trick. But in any intellectual endeavor, piling up evidence is never enough. The researcher has to organize and analyze the evidence through hypothesis or supposition. Without this effort, there is no research, only what Gore Vidal calls “scholarly squirreling” of data in a hole in a hollow tree. What can we say about such researchers, some of whom having been in the field for decades, or even in some cases, generations? What have they been doing?
A young innocent who wants to learn more about this topic – a subject of the utmost seriousness and importance – can easily become bewildered by the confusion. Should one side with Klass, Shaeffer, and Korff, or Hynek, Ruppelt, and Keyhoe, or Friedman, or Randall? Does one follow the line of the conservative J. Allen Hynek Center of UFO Studies (CUFOS), the paranormal leanings of MUFON, or the coverup themes of UFO Magazine? On the Internet, should one haunt the tepid world of listserves like Project 1947 or UFO Updates, or dive right into John Greenwald’s Black Vault?
Four centuries ago, Rene Descartes established a very simple principle of knowledge: one must create a strong skeleton – that is, a foundation of unquestionable facts – and build an edifice upon it.
So let us be Cartesian, and review the obvious.
Secrecy and the National Security Crowd
In 1946, a year before the great deluge of reports here in the states, Americans monitored “ghost rockets” over Europe. Two prominent American generals conferred with the Swedes, and censorship over the Swedish press followed. The Greek Army also investigated, according to Dr. Paul Santorini, a key scientist in the development of the atomic bomb. The Greeks concluded the objects were not Soviet, nor were they missiles. The American military then pressured them into silence.
In 1947, UFOs appeared over American skies in large numbers. Some incidents were quite serious, such as the repeated violation of air space over the Oak Ridge Nuclear Facility. Oak Ridge housed some of the most sophisticated technology in the world and was highly classified: one did not simply fly over there. Yet Army Intelligence and the FBI monitored dozens of intrusions over Oak Ridge well into the 1950s. Similar violations occurred over sensitive places in Los Alamos, Hanford, and many military bases. All of this was classified, of course. Americans knew nothing about them at the time.
In a classified memo, General Nathan Twining wrote of the possibility – based on the careful evaluation of military personnel – that “some of the objects are controlled.” Controlled by whom was the $64,000 question, and America’s national security establishment set out to answer it, far removed from the prying eyes of the public.
In 1949, an FBI memo stated that: “Army intelligence has recently said that the matter of ‘unidentified aircraft’ or ‘unidentified aerial phenomena’ … is considered top secret by intelligence officers of both the Army and the Air Forces.”
In 1950, Robert Sarbacher, a physicist with the DOD Research & Development Board, privately told Canadian official Wilbert Smith that UFOs were “the most highly classified subject in the U.S. government.”
After an extraordinary UFO encounter near Fort Monmouth, New Jersey in 1951, Air Force officer Edward Ruppelt attended a two-hour meeting chaired by General Charles Cabell, the Director of Air Force Intelligence (and later Deputy CIA Director). The meeting was recorded, but the tape “was so hot that it was later destroyed. . . . to be conservative, it didn’t exactly follow the tone of the official Air Force releases.”
The CIA, meanwhile, had monitored the problem since at least 1948. After the UFO wave of 1952, the Agency sponsored the Robertson Panel, which convened in January 1953 – the final weekend of the Truman presidency. The panel debunked UFOs, and its recommendations resulted in the gutting of Project Blue Book (already a public relations burden) and heightened surveillance of civilian UFO organizations.
Clearly, this was an issue considered to be of the utmost seriousness. As a result, it was not a topic ordinary citizens could simply waltz into and get easy answers. Observe what happened to the most dangerous of all civilian organizations: the National Investigative Committee on Aerial Phenomena (NICAP). Founded in 1956 with the goal of ending UFO secrecy, it was quickly and secretly infiltrated by “ex-CIA” officers involved in CIA psychological warfare operations. The most important of them, Colonel Joseph Bryan, was the key player in the ouster of Director Donald Keyhoe in 1969. A succession of CIA men then ran NICAP into the ground. Needless to say, no one outside the Agency knew of their CIA connections.
One might complain this was all a long time ago. Does the military still take UFOs seriously? Does the intelligence community still infiltrate UFO organizations? After all, if UFOs are still important, then intelligence operatives would presumably still need to monitor and influence the key organizations. Is there any reason to believe this is so?
In a word, yes. The military still encounters UFOs, as many reports continue to prove. Moreover, secrecy orders about UFOs remain in effect. In 1975, the late Senator Barry Goldwater stated that UFOs were still classified “above Top Secret.” As one of my Navy acquaintances recently said to me: “If I were to tell you what I knew about that subject, I would probably go to prison.”
In the mid-1980s, UFO researcher William Moore admitted to working covertly with the intelligence world, to the shock and dismay of his colleagues. But stuff like this is surely the tip of a large iceberg. Ufology is dominated by men and women connected to the world of intelligence, usually through prior experience in the military or CIA. Why is this so? What does it mean to Ufology that this is the case? It is a question I will return to – more than once, I suspect – in future articles.
Throughout history, people have used outdated concepts to think about the world, especially during periods of rapid change. It’s unavoidable. We remain wedded to the concepts we learned in our youth, while reality races ahead. Observe our cultural attitudes toward science. Science, we were taught, is a bastion, indeed the foundation, of intellectual freedom in the world. It is an independent search for truth, and the destroyer of social and religious myths.
How independent is science? In whose interest is it practiced today? This is no idle question, for gone are the days of scientists following their intellectual passions in a search for truth. Earlier this year, James Lovelock, a pioneer in environmental science now in his eighties, had this to say:
Nearly all scientists are employed by some large organization, such as a governmental department, a university, or a multinational company. Only rarely are they free to express their science as a personal view. They may think that they are free, but in reality they are, nearly all of them, employees; they have traded freedom of thought for good working conditions, a steady income, tenure, and a pension.
Science is an expensive business, and you need sponsorship. I laughed out loud when a sincere and interested reader of my book asked me who sponsored my research. But, he is a scientist, for whom such a thing is absolutely necessary.
Reflect on the following:
1. Since the Second World War, the military has been by far the biggest sponsor of scientific work.
2. The military and intelligence community has exhibited extreme levels of interest in the UFO phenomenon, and high levels of classification have enveloped the subject.
3. It would seem logical that the military has sponsored classified – that is, secret – scientific work on this problem for many years.
4. In public, however, mainstream scientists offer nothing more than ridicule or scorn upon the topic of UFOs.
Like any other segment of our civilization, scientists follow the money. If the cash is there, so are they; if not, forget about it. If, as I believe, the vast sponsorship of UFO research is classified, we will not hear positive statements about the subject from the mainstream. Moreover, the extreme specialization of science ensures that mavericks do not stray into the uncharted seas of UFO research. The result is widespread ignorance by scientists of even the basics of the UFO phenomenon. At least, this is so within the non-classified, mainstream areas of research. In the classified world, we can only surmise, but we can do so based on some facts.
We know without question that within the first few years of the appearance of UFOs, many top-flight scientists became involved in some way with this phenomenon – in every case at the classified level. By no means exhaustive, here are some of the more noteworthies: Lloyd Berkner, Edward Teller, Detlev Bronk, Vannevar Bush, David Sarnoff, Thornton Page, H. P. Robertson, Allen Hynek, and Lincoln La Paz. In the case of Bush and Bronk, the connection has not been proven to the satisfaction of some skeptics, but even in their case, the evidence remains strong. For the rest, the case is open-and-shut. These men were some of the elite power scientists in the world, and intimately connected with the American defense establishment. And yet, we find them looking at UFO reports. Of course, let us not forget Harvard astronomer and UFO debunker extraordinaire, Donald Menzel, who, unbeknownst to the world, was deeply involved with the American intelligence community, in particular the super-secret National Security Agency.
One supposes that we shall have to wait another few decades to learn about our contemporaries – in other words, long after the issue becomes moot. Such secrecy, we realize, is not unique to UFOs. It is standard operating procedure. We learn the truth after it becomes irrelevant.
The Great Secrecy Model
As was stated above, when a project is undertaken at highly classified levels, you will find nothing of value about it within the mainstream. The primordial example is the Manhattan Project. Here was an undertaking of such magnitude that secrecy was of paramount importance. How to design and build an atomic bomb without the enemy knowing? It is, of course, a multifarious question. One of the answers, however, was to hide the knowledge from Congress itself – despite the fact that it involved unprecedented outlays of money. Amazingly, the plan succeeded.
In fact, when scientists detonated a nuclear bomb at Los Alamos on July 16, 1945, the most spectacular and ominous event in the history of science, no one outside that small classified circle knew a thing. Consider the implications. The work was done in a secrecy so profound that the mainstream scientific literature had nothing of import to say about nuclear technology. The information was too sensitive to discuss openly.
Significantly, though the Manhattan Project remained secret from the public, it was not secret from the Soviets, who had penetrated the American defense and scientific establishment, and used data from the project to build an atomic bomb years ahead of schedule. This pattern, in fact, recurred throughout the Cold War: more often than not, the American public was kept in the dark about black projects more successfully than were the Soviet authorities. Many times, it was they and not the Soviets who were the true target of secrecy – for instance, in such cases as the U-2 flyovers or mind control experiments.
Thus, the Manhattan Project possesses staggering historical importance for so many reasons, not the least of which is that it has served as a model ever since for conducting expensive and covert operations. Hiding the money, keeping the real talk classified, and steering the public discussion – all of these were successfully tackled by the national security world of the 1940s.
If it’s important, it’s probably secret. This was true during the development of the atomic bomb in the 1940s; it is almost certainly true regarding the UFO.
Those of us without a “need to know” about UFOs can still learn a few things. Enough information exists within the public realm that we can put many of the pieces together. It is, frankly, what I have tried to do in my recent study.
Do the math. For more than fifty years, millions of people have experienced a global phenomenon from agencies unknown, possessing what appears to be fantastic technology. We have on record hundreds of military UFO encounters and reports, with undoubted interest and infiltration by the intelligence world. Compound this with disturbingly strong claims of abduction (and even worse) on the part of these others, and you have powerful reasons for abject silence on the part of our erstwhile leaders.
The math is not higher calculus. No, it is simple addition, and when you add it up the conclusion is forced: this is a fundamentally covert event of awesome magnitude.
But we should not fool ourselves into thinking that we can “get to the bottom” of this. That is, as mere citizens of what some would call an oligarchic empire that masquerades as a democracy, we are unlikely to get official confirmation regarding something as important as an alien presence. And even if we did get such “confirmation,” could we truly depend on the accuracy and completeness of the information? I think you know the answer.
Knowledge may give us an edge in some way. Or, our situation may more closely match the American natives of 500 years ago. Either way, we on the outside are on our own where this phenomenon is concerned, and it behooves us to become as educated about it as we can. Otherwise, we experience our fate – for good or ill – in the dark.