“But the secrecy was your undoing, it led to your failure.”
These were the words of computer scientist and UFO researcher Jacques Vallee during a private meeting in New Mexico with several prominent scientists and former members of the military, in 1990(*). Dr. Vallee was directing his frustration at Robert Wood, a physicist and aeronautical engineer who was giving a presentation of a secret UFO study he conducted on behalf of the Douglas Aircraft company in 1967 –so secret, they never even bothered to consult with Vallee and his mentor, Dr. Hynek, who at the time had the only computerized database of global sightings– but that same phrase could have also applied to the AATIP program which was once managed by Luis Elizondo. At least that’s the nagging thought that kept ringing inside my head as I heard the former DoD agent –and still #1 hero to much of the UFO community in social media– talking to skeptic investigator Mick West on his podcast Tales from the Rabbit Hole.
For anyone who was expecting it to be a match of epic proportions, this episode might have been something of a letdown. Rather than Batman vs Superman or Godzilla vs King Kong, the discussion –which always remained civil despite the stark difference of opinions– was the UFOlogical equivalent of an irresistible force facing an unmovable object.
As the creator of the skeptical website Metabunk, West is probably the private citizen who has spent more time analyzing (with the purpose of debunking) the three Navy videos which have hijacked the UFO discussion since the publishing of the December 2017 NYT article. And during the hour-long interview West tried to quickly go over the reasons why he thinks the objects shown in the low-res grayscale videos are not evidence of unidentified aerial anomalies, as concluded by AATIP and confirmed by the Navy last year; but can instead be solved with more mundane explanations (namely, misidentification of visual artifacts caused by the jets’ camera systems).
In each instance Elizondo politely countered back, saying that his team of consultants and scientists at the Pentagon had reached a much different conclusion than West, due to the bigger amount of compelling evidence they had at their disposal when conducting their comprehensive analysis. Just how compelling and what kind of evidence, you might ask? He cannot disclose that, sorry.
Despite its brevity, this podcast perfectly illustrates the type of logic employed by people within the dark aisles of the US government –let’s call it the ‘Iran-Contra mentality’– when keeping the secret of whatever it is they are doing is more important than actually doing the job in the first place: How Senator Harry Reid’s letter to the Deputy Secretary of Defense soliciting the AAWSAP study (precursor to the AATIP program and broader scope) could not possibly contain any mention to UAPs because the letter was not classified and any lowly clerk could read it. How the black-budget nature of the study put them in a catch-22 situation in which they couldn’t be sufficiently specific about the kind of reports they were looking for from military personnel (“what do you mean be on the lookout for ‘something interesting’ in the sky?”) so they wouldn’t alert anyone about the existence of the program.
And finally, the ‘logic’ employed to declassify the Navy UFO videos after Elizondo quit and joined Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy –“actually the videos themselves were never classified” he clarified to West, “they were just residing within a classified system”(!) – in which not only did Elizondo refrained from using the terms ‘UFO’ or ‘UAP’ in the official 1910 form he filled, and referred to the objects depicted in the videos instead as ‘balloons’ and ‘UAVs’ (drones) because, again, the form could be read by anyone looking for information about unidentified flying objects; but also the fact that the text ‘not for publication’ is to be interpreted as not prohibiting Elizondo from releasing the videos through To the Stars because only books and not videos can be ‘published’, according to him(!!) –by that rationale, a form that states ‘not for public consumption’ wouldn’t actually prohibit you from printing it because one does not ‘eat’ information, right? – it all goes to show that Stanley Kubrick’s Doctor Strangelove is more a documentary than a black comedy.
For decades many UFO enthusiasts have assumed the US government knows far more about the phenomenon than they publicly admit, and many insiders (Elizondo included) have hinted that the military and the intelligence community do possess quite a lot more data on UFOs than they have shared to the public. But what few people dare to consider is that by their very unruly and absurd nature, UFOs are the ultimate Achilles heel for the Iran-Contra mentality. The rigidity of the bureaucratic thinking ruling over these Intelligence agents make them totally ill-prepared to tackle what is no doubt the most confounding mystery in all of history.
Just take a look at the structure of AATIP: Designed by Harry Reid to be buried so deeply within the black budget, the program didn’t even have the freedom to openly interview witnesses or request reports of unidentified objects; they just sent out feelers through classified channels hoping one day they might get lucky. Government types are so obsessed with need-to-know rules and protecting their precious budgets from their competitors (i.e. other branches of government), that any official or semi-official attempt to study and understand UFOs is doomed to failure from its inception; because each time they will be forced to reinvent the wheel and start from scratch (just like AAWSAP and AATIP did) not knowing where to look for information within their own classified systems because they don’t even trust themselves. And these are the people UFO buffs are expecting to get any answers from?
And on the other hand, there are the hardcore skeptics like Mick West, so obsessed with debunking conspiracies and hoaxes –let’s call it the ‘Randi mentality’– they nitpick details and poo-pooh the testimony of first-hand witnesses like Commander Fravor in their attempt to terminate any promising close encounter report by a death of a thousand Ockham cuts. The “it can’t be therefore it isn’t” attitude that makes them tacitly accept all the ways in which James ‘the Amazing’ Randi reproduced the feats of psychic and spoon benders as the only possible explanation for claims of psychic abilities, is the same one that makes them think all UFO videos can be explained away as glares or dinner plates hanging from strings.
And yet, Mick West is the one who right now has the upper hand when it comes to the FLIR, Gimbal and Go-Fast videos, because even Elizondo admits that a video, by itself, can only tell us so much. “Are you certain there is no radar data that correlates with the pilot’s testimony?” asked Elizondo when talking about the FLIR video; “that would be great, but unfortunately I have only the video to go by,” countered West. Direct hit.
West also has under his belt the sinking of a previously hyped military case: a video which was promoted by journalist Leslie Kean some years ago, which had been investigated by the Chilean Committee for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena (CEFAA) for two years and judged by them to be a true UFO, but within a week the object was positively identified as a plane by the crowdsourcing power of Metabunk. What guarantees are there that Elizondo and his team of fine scientists and engineers (were they even told what exactly they were analyzing, or was that above their need-to-know?) did not make similar mistakes when studying their UFO videos? You’ll just have to take Big Lue’s word for it, I guess…
We are all, believers or skeptics alike, on the same boat: fighting over three crappy mpg files that were promoted as *the* best evidence for UFOs following someone else’s agenda (videos that seemed to have been edited in such a way as to make them deliberately inconclusive) while at the same time waiting to see if the promises of the former spokespersons of TTSA will materialize in the not-distant future; when the Pentagon releases whatever classified information on UFOs they may find hidden within their file drawers, under deceiving acronyms and mountains of red tape, that is judged to be less important than the national security of the United States.
But if you really think that will fully satisfy the curiosity of all who have ever wondered if we are alone in the Universe then you, my friend, may need to check the integrity of your precious bodily fluids.