Given that the mainstream scientific community can't even agree if the poor orbiting mass called Pluto is a planet, it may seem a strange time to ask people to consider whether or not extraterrestrial life has visited our troubled planet-especially since the mere mention of unidentified flying objects conjures stereotypes, reinforced in the media, that undermine credibility.
It's hard to imagine, however, that even the most hardened of cynics wouldn't be compelled by information published on the subject over the past 10 years. Sometimes raising as many unsettling questions as it answers, this serious research not only deserves notice, it demands consideration. The problem is that, no matter what mainstream science reporters are covering -from stories on nasa to promises of space tourism-they routinely ignore the subject altogether.
Detractors ought to consider the legacy of the late astronomer and physicist J. Allen Hynek, an investigator on government-sponsored studies of UFOs from the late '40s through the '60s, who went from being a skeptic to something of a UFO advocate before he died in 1986. What made him abandon his academic and political prejudices about a subject that usually draws jeers? It was no doubt information like that contained in an unofficial document from the RAND Corporation, a generally conservative think tank, titled 'UFOs: What to Do?'
Written in 1968 and publicly released in 1997, the study tracks sightings from the 1500s to the modern era, including 'the large number' of UFOs spotted near atomic and military installations. While the report recounts how certain government agencies recommended handling such sightings (read: ridicule and denial), there's also speculation that there could be as many as 100 million intergalactic civilizations more advanced than our own.
Hynek eventually concluded that there was an embarrassment of evidence for the existence of UFOs. Given that more substantiation has since accrued, one can't help but wonder how-media neglect notwithstanding-meaningful discussion about the existence of the extraterrestrial has been stifled for so long.
In 1997, retired colonel Philip J. Corso, a member of President Eisenhower's national security team and an Army intelligence officer in Korea, published an explosive book called The Day After Roswell (Pocket Books) that offers an intriguing take on the question. The author claims that materials recovered from a crash site in New Mexico in the late '40s were seeded to corporate interests that patented the technologies-including lasers, integrated circuitry, fiber-optic networks, accelerated particle beam devices, and the Kevlar material in bulletproof vests-ostensibly to hide the original source.
Corso also argues that there are two space programs: the one that we read about and the one that is already using off-planet technology recovered and reverse-engineered for advanced military and commercial purposes-including a Star Wars system he claims has already been deployed to fend off extraterrestrials.
Richard M. Dolan, author of UFOs and the National Security State: An Unclassified History, Volume One 1941-1973 (Keyhole Publishing, 2000), says it's difficult to follow up on claims such as Corso's because, while classified documents created by government agencies can occasionally be ferreted out, proprietary information held by businesses and global corporations is hard to come by. Since the military and the federal government rely on subcontractors to do some of their most sensitive work, using special-access projects (SAPs) and unacknowledged special-access projects (USAPs), secrets are easier to keep. Dolan's next work, scheduled for publication in early 2007, will explore the history of SAPs and USAPs since 1973.
Writing on his website, author and astrophysicist Bernard Haisch points out that a SAP 'is for programs considered to be too sensitive for normal classification measures. . . . They are protected by a security system of great complexity. Many of the SAPs are located within industry funded through special contracts.' Much of his analysis is based on 'In Search of the Pentagon's Billion-Dollar Hidden Budgets,' an article by Bill Sweetman in the highly regarded British publication Jane's International Defence Review.
'Even members of Congress on appropriations committees (the
Senate and House committees that allocate budgets) and intelligence
committees are not allowed
to know anything about these programs,' Haisch writes. 'Moreover, Freedom of Information Act requests cannot penetrate unacknowledged special access programs.'
In Chain of Command: The Road from 9/11 to Abu Ghraib (HarperCollins, 2004), New Yorker contributor Seymour Hersh reports that one SAP, used to recruit operatives, has been linked to military torture in Iraq. The desired effect is the same: to avoid scrutiny and sidestep opposing elements that exist in the CIA and Pentagon.
'The granddaddy of all USAPs is the UFO/ET matter,' writes Steven Greer in his book Extraterrestrial Contact: The Evidence and Implications (Crossing Point, 1999). Greer-who says USAPs are a top-secret, compartmentalized project that not even the commander in chief has the power to access-founded the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence (CSETI). Since the early '90s, working under the assumption that the USAP model exists, Greer and CSETI associates have met often with high-level officials of the U.S. and other governments, including former CIA director James Woolsey.
In May 2001 CSETI held a press conference at the National Press Club at which it produced an impressive list of witnesses from the government, the military, and the private sector-along with a ream of documents and film footage-establishing, as noted in Greer's book Disclosure (Crossing Point, 2001), that 'we are indeed being visited by advanced extraterrestrial civilizations and have been for some time.' Among the witnesses was John Callahan, who, when he was division chief of the Accidents and Investigations Branch of the Federal Aviation Administration, headed a 1986 investigation of a Japanese 747 that was chased for 30 minutes by a UFO (the incident was captured on radar and recorded). Not surprisingly, major media outlets all but ignored the press conference and failed to scrutinize the supplementary material.
There are a number of reasons the media avoid these topics, argues Terry Hansen in The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up (Xlibris, 2001), including historical precedent, national security, and psychological resistance. (Consider, the author writes, that 'for five years, the editors of Scientific American refused to acknowledge the aviation achievements of the Wright brothers because the magazine had been told by trusted authorities that manned, heavier-than-air flight was a scientific impossibility.')
In 2006 one would hope for a better, more enlightened investigative media climate than the one that existed at the dawn of aviation. If the claims by Corso and others are true, and other crash retrievals of and technological transfers from extraterrestrial spacecraft since the '40s have continued, imagine what mind-boggling innovations have yet to be revealed-and who stands to profit.
Martin Keller is a freelance writer and publicist who lives
in Minneapolis. He worked pro bono as a public relations liaison
for the Center for the Study of Extraterrestrial Intelligence from
1992 to 1997.