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Aliens in silhouette, screencap from The X-Files

UFO DISINFO: Four times the US military hoaxed alien contact through the decades

In June 2021, if you were to new to ‘UFO Twitter’ or other social media and websites discussing the UFO topic, you might quite reasonably conclude that this is the year of upper-case D ‘Disclosure’ – finally, the long-awaited revelation from the U.S. government about the existence of alien craft visiting the Earth. From the last four years of revelations in major newspaper and television features regarding military pilots sighting UFOs, through the regular release in recent months of new UFO videos ‘leaked’ from military sources, to this month’s upcoming official report from the Pentagon on what they know about UAPs/UFOs, there has been an accumulation of new information that has led to a growing anticipation of ‘something big’ around the corner.

Many older heads in the UFO scene, though, have been more circumspect. While they have been dismissed by the ‘noobs’ in the scene as being bitter, overly cynical, living in the past and/or not being able to keep up with the recent deluge of information, there is a reason for their skepticism: they know that, for many decades now, certain elements of the U.S. military have worked to seed fake UFO and alien contact information into the public consciousness for their own purposes.

Whatsmore, as Adam Gorightly points out in his book Saucers, Spooks and Kooks: UFO disinformation in the Age of Aquarius, a number of these cases involved supposedly rogue US military and intelligence employees revealing secret UFO/alien information to ambitious film-makers and researchers covering UFO and paranormal topics. Sound familiar?

Get yourself some history, new-fologists:

1. Robert Emenegger and the Holloman Air Force Base UFO footage

In 1975, an Air Force official contacted producers Robert Emenegger and Alan Sandler (who were then working on a documentary entitled UFOs: Past, Present and Future) with a promise of 16mm footage of a UFO and ETs supposedly filmed at Holloman Air Force Base in 1971.

Emenegger recalled that “in 1973 when I was vice president of Grey Advertising I took time out and went to Norton Air Force Base to explore subjects for television specials related to the defense department. While discussing several of the subjects, UFOs came up and [Air Force official Paul Shartle] told us about a film about the landing of alien craft at Holloman Air Force Base.” Shartle described the film as…

…footage of three disc shaped crafts. One of the craft landed…it appeared to be in trouble because it oscillated all the way down to the ground. However, it did land on three pods. A sliding door opened, a ramp was extended and out came three aliens…they were human sized, they had odd gray complexions and a pronounced nose. They wore tight-fitting jump suits and head dresses that appeared to be communication devices and in their hands they held a translator, I was told. The Holloman base commander and other Air Force officers went out to meet them.

According to Emenegger, the film footage “sounded very, very special and we wanted to use it as the ending of our television special…although the Pentagon had been very cooperative all the way, at the last minute the film was confiscated and we lost the whole finale of our show, but what I saw and heard was enough to convince me that the phenomenon of UFOs is real.”

2. Linda Moulton Howe and the EBEs

In early 1983, Linda Howe — hot off the success of her regional Emmy Award-winning documentary on cattle mutilations, A Strange Harvest — had been tapped to produce an HBO special with the proposed title of UFOs: The E.T. Factor. On April 9, 1983, Howe met with AFOSI counter-intelligence agent Richard Doty at Kirtland Air Force Base, an incident that seems lifted straight out of a spy novel. As Howe recounted in An Alien Harvest:

I sat down with my back to the windows. [Doty] sat behind the desk.

“You know you upset some people in Washington with your film ‘A Strange Harvest’. It came too close to something we don’t want the public to know about.”

That began a brief discussion about my documentary. I asked him why extraterrestrials were mutilating animals. Richard Doty said that subject was classified beyond his need to know. He told me I had been monitored while I was making the film…

…[Doty] reached with his left hand to a drawer on the left side of the desk and opened it. He pulled from the drawer a brown envelope. He opened it and took out several standard letter sized sheets of white paper.

“My superiors have asked me to show this to you,“ he said, handing me the pages. “You can read these and you can ask me questions, but you can’t take any notes.”

I took the papers and I read the top page. It was entitled “Briefing Paper for the President of the United States of America” on the subject of unidentified and identified aerial craft or vehicles…
Richard Doty then stood up and said, “I want you to move from there.” He motioned me toward the large chair in the middle of the room. “Eyes can see through windows.”

I got up and moved to the big chair, confused. I didn’t know what was happening. As I looked at the pages in my lap a second time, I wondered why he was showing them to me?

I was very uncomfortable, but I wanted to read and remember every word…

The documents given to Howe described four separate saucer crashes that occurred in Aztec, Roswell, Kingman (Arizona), and Mexico. The lone survivor of the Roswell crash was identified as “EBE” (Extraterrestrial Biological Entity). EBE was held in captivity at Los Alamos Laboratories until his death in 1952, and was described as four-feet-tall, gray-skinned and hairless, with a large head and big eyes, “like a child with the mind of a thousand men.” One of the documents stated: “Two thousand years ago extraterrestrials had created a being” who had been placed on Earth to teach peace and love, and it seemed obvious that this was a reference to Jesus Christ.

After EBE died – so the story went – a couple of other ETs (EBE-2 and EBE-3) visited Earth as part of an exchange program. Doty informed Linda Howe that EBE-3 was still alive and that she might get an opportunity to interview him. In addition, Doty told Howe that high-level government intelligence officers had in their possession film footage of a UFO landing at a military base, as well as other photos and classified materials she could use for her documentary. Doty said he’d contact her at a later date using the code name “Falcon.”

Richard Doty
Richard Doty

After several months of stringing Howe along, Doty informed her that he’d been removed from the case, and passed her on to other intelligence contacts that likewise strung Howe along for a period of several months, but never produced the promised UFO footage. This delay eventually caused HBO to opt out of the project, leaving Howe high and dry. To this day, Howe stands by the “amazing” material Doty presented to her as authentic evidence of ETs — although she must obviously be aware now of all the erroneous information and documents that Doty has disseminated over the years (e.g. see the Paul Bennewitz story below).

3. Majestic-12

In 1982, UFO researcher and writer Bill Moore approached film producer Jaime Shandera with a pitch to develop a documentary based on his Roswell research. Although this project never got off the ground, Shandera instead became Moore’s research partner, an arrangement that continued through the course of the decade.

On December 11, 1984, Shandera received a delivery at his home in Burbank, California, that had been sent anonymously with no return address, postmarked December 9 from Albuquerque. The envelope contained a roll of 35mm film that when developed revealed photos of what became known as the MJ-12 papers. This included the Eisenhower Briefing Document or “EBD.” Dated November 18, 1952, this eyes-only document had been allegedly prepared for President Elect Eisenhower to brief him on “Operation Majestic-12…a Top Secret Research and Development/Intelligence operation responsible directly and only to the President of the United States.”

After receiving the MJ-12 papers, Moore and Shandera were reluctant to release the materials until fully vetting them. By 1986, whoever was actually orchestrating the release of the MJ-12 papers had become impatient with Moore and Shandera’s slow roll, and to speed up the release approached British ufologist Jenny Randles to serve as a conduit for the release of the materials. The intermediary in this instance was a young man named Robert, who claimed that he had previously served in the British Army. Robert offered Randles over six hundred pages of material that had been allegedly obtained from U.S. military intelligence sources, the content of which sounded remarkably similar to the MJ-12 papers. Randles suspected something was amiss and decided to steer clear of entering into an agreement she might later regret.

Afterwards, the same anonymous source who approached Randles apparently found another British ufologist willing to bite, in this case Timothy Good, who agreed to publish the MJ-12 papers in his forthcoming book Above Top Secret: The Worldwide U.F.O. Cover-Up. This arrangement was made with the caveat that Bill Moore would have the first shot to publicly announce the release of the documents in mid-June 1987. Using this two-pronged approach, Above Top Secret would provide independent corroboration as a follow up to Moore’s forthcoming announcement. These best-laid plans were derailed when Good’s publisher announced a hastily arranged press conference for May 29, 1987, that would include an MJ-12 sneak peek. When Bill Moore caught wind of these developments, he decided to beat Good to the punch and officially release the MJ-12 papers on May 28 at the annual National UFO Conference (NUFOC) in Burbank, California.

Researchers began scouring the MJ-12 papers and soon keyed in on a number of peculiarities. For example, the typeset on the documents corresponded with a Smith-Corona model that was manufactured after 1952, the year that the Eisenhower Briefing Document was supposedly authored. Arch debunker Phil Klass noted that the dating system on the MJ-12 papers didn’t correspond with the standard system he’d seen on other government documents. The MJ-12 papers used the following format: “18 November, 1952,” whereas the formats Klass had seen most commonly used was “November 18, 1952” or “18 Nov. 1952.” Furthermore, Klass claimed to have seen the MJ-12 dating system used on documents and correspondence produced by Bill Moore prior to 1984.

In June 1987, Klass contacted William Baker, then Assistant Director in the Office of Congressional and Public Affairs for the FBI: “I am enclosing what purport to be Top Secret/Eyes Only documents, which have not been properly declassified, now being circulated by William L. Moore, Burbank, California, 91505…”

At Klass’ urging, the FBI opened an investigation to determine if the MJ-12 papers were either a hoax or classified documents that had been illegally leaked. On November 30, 1988, a meeting took place in Washington D.C. between FBI and AFOSI agents. At that time, “…[t]he Office of Special Investigations, US Air Force, advised…that the document was fabricated. Copies of that document have been distributed to various parts of the United States…” What remains a mystery is how the Air Force determined that the MJ-12 papers had been faked, and by whom.

In 1998, UFO researcher Nick Redfern was contacted by a former FBI agent who had been worked on the MJ-12 papers. One area of inquiry—according to this former agent—included the theory that the MJ-12 papers had been fabricated by Soviet agents to be used as “bait” to reel in civilians working in the defense sector who were involved in UFO research. Conversely, ‘Falcon’ once remarked to Bill Moore that the AFOSI counterintelligence operation had been designed to flush “a few moles out of their holes” — the moles, in this case, being Soviet spies.

4. Psy-ops on Paul Bennewitz

The 1989 MUFON Symposium, held on July 1st at the Aladdin Hotel in Las Vegas, has gone down in ufological history due to the speech given by researcher and writer Bill Moore.

In the run-up to the event, rumors ran wild that he had turned coat and was now a well-paid government agent spreading UFO disinfo, allegations fueled by an article by Robert Hastings published in the June 1989 MUFON UFO Journal. To address all the rumors swirling around him, Moore delivered a historic and equally incendiary speech called “The Status of the UFO Situation in 1989” that in short order set ufology on fire.

Moore’s speech began by laying to rest rumors that he’d fabricated the MJ-12 documents, or had profited from being a paid government agent, stressing that he was as poor as a “church house mouse.” However, Moore openly admitted his role as an AFOSI informant, who at the government’s behest had monitored ufology, reporting back to his handlers on the activities of UFO researchers and organizations. At first, this arrangement was simply an exchange of information, but over time, according to Moore, the spectre of disinformation reared its troublesome head, in the form of a disinfo campaign against an individual named Paul Bennewitz.

Paul Bennewitz was an electrical physicist who in 1969 launched Thunder Scientific Corporation, a company specializing in “Humidity Generation, Calibration and Measurement Instruments.” Its headquarters were based out of Bennewitz’s home, which was located adjacent to Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico. During the 1970s, Bennewitz became a card-carrying member of the Aerial Phenomenon Research Association (APRO), a civilian UFO research organization.

In December 1979, Bennewitz — equipped with an eight-millimeter movie camera — began filming UFOs over the Manzano Weapons Storage Area at Kirtland Base, which at the time housed the largest cache of nuclear weapons components in the U.S. He installed an arsenal of tracking antennae on his roof to record signals apparently emanating from these UFOs, which Bennewitz claimed he could “D.F.” (direction-find) at distances of up to 60 miles. Alarmed that these craft posed a national security threat, Bennewitz alerted Kirtland Base officials of his findings.

In October 1980, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) alerted Bennewitz of their security efforts against this perceived ET threat — or at least that’s the line AFOSI allegedly fed Bennewitz. Official documents later surfaced to the contrary, indicating that the Air Force denied any involvement in UFO investigations or attempts to come up with any sort of defense strategy against this perceived alien threat. Whatever the actual truth, AFOSI — and in particular, Special Agent Richard Doty — made no attempt to dissuade Bennewitz of the notion that what he’d observed were genuine ET craft. Around this time AFOSI launched a counter-intelligence investigation into Bennewitz’s activities.

As it turns out, it wasn’t alien beams or underground bases that aroused the AFOSI’s interest in Paul Bennewitz. AFOSI’s concerns stemmed from the fact that Bennewitz had intercepted secret transmissions from a laser-based tracking system located at Kirtland. According to Greg Bishop, author of Project Beta: The story of Paul Bennewitz, national security and the creation of a modern UFO myth: “The satellite messages were supposedly sent by laser light. The radio bursts were most likely a way to communicate with weapons or battlefield operations.”

Bishop noted that these encrypted messages sounded like sped up gibberish — until they were decoded and slowed down — which was the process Bennewitz was trying to figure out. It was these activities that specifically concerned AFOSI, and so part of their investigation was to determine how far along Bennewitz was in this decoding process, and to identify anyone else who may have been privy to his activities.

At some point, the NSA (who maintained a presence at Kirtland base) launched a separate counter-intelligence investigation and set up surveillance in an empty townhouse across the street from Bennewitz. This operation included beaming electromagnetic signals at Bennewitz’s antenna set-up with the intent of scrambling whatever transmissions he had been intercepting from Kirtland. According to Greg Bishop: “The NSA had become a major player in the Bennewitz drama, especially since a signal intercept from the Soviet bloc had referred to him as a possible source of information, even if he was unaware of his role….”

In the Summer of 1981, former Project Blue Book scientific advisor and Air Force consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek is alleged to have confided to Bill Moore (over an adult beverage or two) that he had gifted a computer to Bennewitz to “aid” him in his UFO research. However, Hynek neglected to inform Bennewitz that this computer had been provided at the behest of the U.S. Air Force, and embedded in the software was a code that generated an “alien language.” With the aid of the Air Force computer, Bennewitz claimed he “Established constant direct communications with the Alien using…a form of Hex Decimal Code with Graphics and print-out.” According to Richard Doty:

Bennewitz had [the computer] rigged up to antennas on his roof that included a small microwave dish…and he would look at the screen, and there would be images on the screen that certainly wasn’t an alien, but he was convinced that it was…I would actually tell him, ‘I don’t see anything.’ And he said, ‘I see it, and I can hear them,’ and he had these earphones that he would put on, and he said, ‘I can hear them talking.’ And I asked Paul: ‘What language are they speaking?’ He said, ‘They’re speaking their language’…And he wrote a hundred page document about the alien language…When he went out to Kirtland to give his presentation, to all these generals, he presented them with that information.

In Dulce Base: The Truth and Evidence from the Case Files of Gabe Valdez, author Greg Valdez (Gabe’s son) recalled visiting Bennewitz and receiving a demonstration of how he used this computer to communicate with the ETs:

He would type a question into the computer in a very complex for the time period form of a computer program, much like a current e-mail. Much to everyone’s surprise, he would get an answer to the questions he was asking. Sometimes he would get an immediate response, and sometimes it would take several minutes. He would even receive very crude and basic pictures or graphics on his computer of these ‘aliens.’ Some of these pictures resembled birds with reptile features, and some resembled reptiles with bird features. During this question and answer session, Gabe instructed Paul to ask the simple question, ‘Where are you from?’ Paul already knew the answer to the question because he had already asked the question and he answered it verbally when a response came back on the computer. It simply said the Zeta Reticuli Star System.

Due to these alarming computer messages and images, Bennewitz came to believe that the U.S. government had signed on to a secret treaty with treacherous ETs who had double-crossed their earthly counterparts and overtaken Dulce Base. To address this dire situation, Bennewitz composed a report titled “Project Beta” detailing his UFO investigations and outlining a strategy to combat the alien intruders. Bennewitz shipped off his Project Beta report to Senators Pete Domenici and Harrison Schmitt, hoping they would assist him in his efforts. In his report, Bennewitz described a “beam weapon” he was developing, all part of his plan to neutralize the ETs and ultimately save the human race.

Special Agent Doty further encouraged Bennewitz’s belief that ETs were not only responsible for the peculiar goings-on at Kirtland, but that he was also on the right track with his Dulce underground alien base theory. The ultimate intent of stringing Bennewitz along (according to researchers like Greg Bishop and Christian Lambright) was to shift Bennewitz’s attention away from Kirtland to a remote area like Archuleta Mesa (near Dulce) where AFOSI could ramp up their disinformation operation and more easily stage “UFO events.”

In his 1989 MUFON conference speech Bill Moore asserted that he began his involvement in the disinfo campaign against Bennewitz with the best intentions:

When I first ran into the disinformation operation being run on Paul Bennewitz, it seemed to me I was in a rather unique position. There I was with my foot in the door of a secret counterintelligence game that gave every appearance of being somehow directly connected to a high-level government UFO project. And, judging by the positions of the people I knew to be directly involved with it, definitely had something to do with national security! There was no way I was going to allow the opportunity to pass me by without learning at least something about what was going on. I would play the disinformation game, get my hands dirty just often enough to lead those directing the process into believing that I was doing exactly what they wanted me to do, and all the while continue to burrow my way into the matrix so as to learn as much as possible about who was directing it and why…

However, over time the catastrophic effect of the disinformation campaign on Paul Bennewitz became evident:

I watched Paul become systematically more paranoid and more emotionally unstable as he tried to assimilate what was happening to him. He had guns and knives all over his house, had installed extra locks on his doors, and he worried that “they” — meaning the aliens — were coming through his walls at night and injecting him with hideous chemicals which would knock him out for long periods of time. He told me he had no idea what “they” were doing with him while he was knocked out. He began to suffer increasing bouts of insomnia. Others took over the day-to-day operation of his business as he went through this. One day I watched him eat not a bite of his lunch while he chain-smoked 28 cigarettes in 45 minutes. I knew at that time that he was not far from a nervous collapse. His health had deteriorated, he had lost considerable weight, his hands shook as if from palsy, and he looked terrible. I tried to counsel him to drop the entire UFO thing before his health was completely destroyed. He said he knew things were getting bad and he was trying to cope with it. Not long afterward I heard he had been hospitalized and was under psychiatric care.

I do know from first-hand experience that there was a tremendous amount of government disinformation involved, and that a large proportion of what we are hearing today about malevolent aliens, underground bases and secret treaties with the U.S. government has its roots firmly planted in the Bennewitz affair…

Paul Bennewitz eventually suffered a mental breakdown and in 1988 was checked into a psychiatric facility by his family. He died in 2003.

Though Moore’s speech was given in 1989, his thoughts still resonate more than 40 years later, as we find ourselves living in a society increasingly threatened by online disinformation, as well as a new wave of excitement about UFOs:

The current crop of disinformation is really nothing new; it’s just that a different crop of people are spreading it this time around. I expect that those responsible, not the rumor mongers themselves, but the ones that are feeding them, thought it would work just as well this time as it did last…

…Disinformation is a strange and bizarre game. Those who play it are completely aware that an operation’s success is dependent upon dropping information upon a target, or ‘mark,’ in such a way that the person will accept it as truth and will repeat, and even defend it to others as if it were true…Once this has been accomplished, the work of the counterintelligence specialist is complete. They can simply withdraw in the confidence that the dirty work of spreading their poisonous seeds will be done by others. Those of you who want proof of how well the process works need only look around you. Every time one of you repeats an unverified or unsubstantiated bit of information, without qualifying it as such, you are contributing to that process; and every time you do it, somebody in a need-to-know position sits back and has a horse laugh at your expense.

That is not to say the current ufological situation is necessarily just another disinformation campaign, or that those involved have nefarious aims. But the historical examples listed above should give anybody interested in the current UFO hype pause enough to make sure they remain critical, and suspicious, of all information that is released by the US military or intelligence agencies about the phenomenon. And any of those in the military or government who are involved in the release of this information should understand that skepticism and suspicion are completely understandable reactions to their efforts – even praiseworthy – given this past history, even if their motives are completely pure this time around.

To learn more about these aspects of UFO history, be sure to grab a copy of Adam Gorightly’s Saucers, Spooks and Kooks: UFO disinformation in the Age of Aquarius. It’s necessary knowledge for anybody who is interested in the topic of UFOs.

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