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UFO Congressional Hearings

Blue Book 2.0? Some Personal Musings on the UFO Congressional Hearing

“It’s none of our business if a Martian shakes hands with a baker in Brittany. Our responsibility is limited to reports from U.S. citizens. What we are looking for? Enemy prototypes, spy craft, anything unusual that we can understand in terms of technology.”

The above statement was made by Captain Hector Quintanilla, head of project Blue Book, in January of 1964 during his first meeting with Jacques Vallee –then still an associate with Dr. J. Allen Hynek who was working as scientific advisor for Blue Book– when he was asked by the young French scientist whether the Air Force program in charge of ‘investigating’ UFO reports (in the end it turned out to be little more than a PR stunt to assuage public fears) were interested at all in the evident global nature of the phenomenon.

As I was rewatching the US Congressional hearings which took place last Tuesday, to enquire about the status of the new Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group (AOIMSG) – which is being chartered by the US Department of Defense to look into the thorny mystery of UFO incursions around military training grounds and sensitive installations – I was reminded of Quintanilla’s words as they were gathered in Vallee’s memoir Forbidden Science Vol. 1. Sadly, nothing much seems to have changed in the mentality and procedures of the men and women being asked on an official basis –more than fifty years after Blue Book was terminated– to explain to the best of their abilities those objects reported by pilots and other military personnel which defy conventional explanations.

J. Allen Hynek
J. Allen Hynek

Ironically, it was because of public hearings such as the one which Congressman André Carson spearheaded yesterday, in light of the recent notoriety taken by the topic in the last 5 years and the insistence of vocal activists online, that the United States turned its back on those pesky flying saucers for half a century: in 1966, after Blue Book sent Hynek to investigate a wave of sightings in Michigan the poor astronomer –understaffed, unequipped, and pressured by Quintanilla and his Air Force superiors at Wright Patterson to come up with an explanation fast– made a laughingstock of himself with the suggestion that some of the sightings could be attributed to decomposing flammable matter (Dun dun dunn! ‘Swamp gas’ made its debut in the UFOlogical lexicon); as a result of the media circus that ensued, an irritated Gerald Ford –then Minority Leader at the House of Representatives– showed his discontent at the military for trying to ridicule his constituents by demanding open hearings to look into how the Air Force was performing its UFO duties, since they had been doing it for years and had failed to reach a satisfactory answer:

“In the light of these new sightings and incidents,” Ford said, “it would be a very wholesome thing for a committee of the Congress to conduct a number of hearings and to call responsible witnesses from the executive branch (of the government) and witnesses who said they have sighted these objects.

“I think the American people would feel better if there was a full-blown investigation of these incidents, which some persons allege have taken place.”

Condon posing with his report

The end result of the hearings was that an independent scientific commission would be appointed to look into the matter. Almost every university in the United States turned their back on the offer – even Hynek’s own colleagues at Northwestern University in Chicago wanted nothing to do with a subject which was already stigmatized by pop culture, on top of the continuous assurance by government representatives that all UFO cases could be eventually explained with enough data as misidentifications or hoaxes – until Edward Condon from Colorado University (a nuclear physicist whose reputation had suffered greatly during the McCarthy era) said yes. Two years later, the infamous Condon report concluded that UFOs were not worthy of any serious scientific study, giving the Air Force the carte blanche they had dreamed of for so long to leave the flying saucer business for good and close the chapter on Blue Book.

After that, no self-respecting scientist would dare approach the topic with a ten-foot pole (at least not publicly) and the playing field was left all to itself on the one side to well-intentioned albeit inexpert amateurs with a bias toward an extraterrestrial explanation of the phenomenon, and on the other side equally inexpert debunkers for which any prosaic explanation –no matter how improbable or unlikely– was better than being forced to entertain unconventional possibilities; thus, turning the field into fertile ground for ever wilder conspiracy theories involving alien infiltration, secret experimentation with human victims, super-secret reverse engineering programs of UFO technology, and even clandestine alliances between human cabals and ET civilizations for the purpose of enslaving the populace and establishing a new world order –sound familiar?

Congressional hearings were a pie-in-the-sky dream UFO groups like NICAP had been asking for since their very beginning. Shortly after the Condon report was released, NICAP disappeared. Be careful what you wish for, am I right?

But now the pendulum is finally beginning to swing in the opposite direction, which brings us back to yesterday’s hearing in which two representatives of the Pentagon – Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence & Security Ronald S. Moultrie, the man in charge of overseeing the creation of the new AOIMSG UFO office (yes, they know the acronym sucks), and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott W. Bray, the man who was in charge of the Navy ‘UFO Task Force’ after Luis Elizondo’s resignation from the former Pentagon UFO program (AATIP) in 2017 (even though Elizondo claims he left AATIP in the charge of someone else) – were asked to answer the questions of members from the US Congress’s Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence.

Yes, a lot has changed since Blue Book assured the American public UFOs did not represent any danger. Now with the rise of drones and other forms of novel technological advances entering our skies, the US government can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to the sightings of unidentified aerial phenomena, which military personnel would have been hesitant to report until very recently due to fear of being ridiculed and/or ruining their careers. What were then considered harmless misidentifications or hallucinations are now being seen as potential threats to national security, or at the very least a flight hazard to both military personnel and civilian aviation (the new Pentagon office is building relationships with the FAA and even NASA). As such, the new identification group – which has recently picked a new director – has the primary goal of bringing UFO sightings up from anecdotal data to rigorous science by standardizing reporting systems across all government departments and continuing to reduce the stigma such reports still carry.

Bray on forefront, Moultrie on the back

If you think you missed the part in which the possibility of finding out UFOs represent evidence of a non-human presence in our world was seriously entertained by these G-men, it’s because they clearly aren’t considering it: Listening to Moultrie and Bray take turns to give their preliminary expositions it is evident that, just like Quintanilla and their predecessors, these Pentagon officials fully believe any ambiguous object in the sky can likely be identified with enough data as either ‘air clutter’ (drones, balloons, etc), adversarial platforms, or other natural phenomena. Lacking the sufficient information to close the book on a particular report, they toss those “unresolved” cases in a convenient ‘Other’ bin where they will probably keep everything from a party balloon passing by someone’s cockpit in the wink of an eye (more on that later) to even the notorious Tic-Tac sightings of the USS Nimitz in 2004 which captured the imagination of the entire world due to the testimony of the pilots who came forward and the peculiar morphology and maneuvers of the object they claimed to have observed.

As for the database they are carefully constructing with the cases they are gathering, they were clear in their lack of interest to include in it whatever information has been gathered by civilian UFO groups like MUFON. Which is in a way understandable due to legitimate concerns of ‘garbage in/garbage out’ results when improper standard data gathering procedures are taken; but remains nonetheless frustrating because –just like Blue Book before them– it furthers the bias displayed by these government groups into focusing exclusively on only certain type of reports (in the 1960s, only those filed by American citizens, and in the 2020s, only those filed by trained personnel and in secured/restricted zones). When asked expressly about it, Bray and Moultrie revealed the Pentagon is seeking cooperation from ally nations who have independent studies of UFOs abroad –and they are even aware of a similar program to the UAP task force being carried out in China – but it is clear the exchange of information is very limited, and neither the Americans nor other nations are eager to share what they may or may not have learned about the phenomenon, for risk or revealing too much.

The aura of secrecy is indeed something that has permeated the UFO narrative since the very beginning, and has spawned levels of speculation and mistrust toward government institutions to such degree that nowadays we all feel the whole edifice of modern democracy is about to tumble down. But Bray and Moultrie were emphatic during their public testimony that, despite their full commitment to public openness and transparency, if there is still a lot of secrecy regarding the cases investigated by previous programs or by themselves, it has nothing to do – so they stated before the Committee – with covering up the existence of alien life from the public.

Instead, they showed far more concern with safeguarding the vanguard military systems and modern multisensory arrays which are now permitting US vessels to detect and track the presence of UFOs within restricted airspace. “We do not want our adversaries to know what we potentially can see or understand, or why we came to the conclusions we make,” Bray said during the public part of the hearing; which would be followed by a closed session in which the most sensitive aspects of those sensor systems were probably revealed in more detail.

This is hardly the ‘Disclosure’ UFO enthusiasts are hoping for, to say the least.

Adding insult to injury, Bray also showed to the audience a video of a UFO taken by an aviator on board a Navy plane, perhaps as a way to demonstrate the reduced and fragmentary level of information they had to work with when piecing together the reports of most of the cases they are including in their database. The video (taken with a regular cell phone) showed what appeared to be a metallic looking spherical object for a fraction of a second (a mylar balloon, perhaps?) as the Navy plane passed beneath it at great speed (the UFO, Bray explained, was flying at a very low speed in contrast). The fact that the task force representatives didn’t even bother to make a low-speed version of the video, enlarge the object or even highlight its position on the screen for the benefit of the audience was peculiar, and may have been intended to counter the mounting speculation fueled by Elizondo’s public comments that the US government is in possession of indisputable high quality footage of UFOs in close proximity which he was privy to before he quit –or maybe it’s just a sign that video editing skills are not part of the requirements needed to land a job in the Pentagon.

And speaking of videos, the biggest winner in this official exercise in transparency and accountability (without even being present!) was skeptic and Metabunk founder Mick West: the second and last video presented during the open audience was taken on board a Navy ship using an IR camera, which was originally leaked by filmmaker Jeremy Corbell, and promoted by him during every TV appearance he was a guest on, as ‘the best evidence’ the US government had on UFOs. Unfortunately for George Knapp’s protégé and director of Bob Lazar: Area 51 & Flying Saucers, Bray confirmed to the Congressional Committee what Mick West had been saying all along, much to the chagrin of UFO Twitter –the UFOs are nothing but drones, and their ‘pyramidal’ shape is the result of a distortion caused by the lens of the camera, commonly known as bokeh.

Unsurprisingly, Corbell has not backed down from his original claim and continues to maintain his anonymous informants were telling him the truth –perhaps because he never cared to entertain the possibility he turned himself into an expendable pawn in a match between secret factions in the UFO camp. Given the forgetful and forgiving nature of the UFO field, I wouldn’t be surprised if Corbell continues to have a fruitful and profitable career in the obscure subculture of UFO conventions (Roswell mummy anyone?) yet outside sporadic appearances on Fox News I suspect his mainstream career is pretty much weaponized into oblivion by now.

But perhaps that should be the least of his worries, given how Congressman Darin LaHood asked Moultrie and Bray about possible legal and penal consequences for disseminating ‘self-serving’ misinformation to the public with regards to UFOs. This rather Orwellian mentality should probably not concern average citizens sharing wild UFO stories on the Internet – imagine the hornet nest you would create if you punished people for believing in weird shit – but maybe  Moultrie was talking out of concern for the leaking of sensitive UFO-related material withheld by the DoD; especially if it is material unauthorizedly leaked to the mainstream for promotional or commercial purposes.

The Q&A session with the two Pentagon bureaucrats felt disappointing when I watched it live. But on a second viewing I’ve got to admit I was in hindsight pleasantly surprised with the line of questioning taken by the Representatives present in the session –after all, this is the first time in five decades the subject of unidentified flying objects has been brought back to the US House of Representatives.

Congressman Adam Schiff, for example, who seemed to have been the only one who brought a copy of the UAP Task Force preliminary report which was released last year, was sure to take Bray to task by forcing him and his auxiliary staff to try and pause their first crappy iPhone UFO video so they could appropriately explain what anyone was supposed to see in it (kudos!). He also was curious about the terminology used by the report in which it was stated that some of the objects reported were capable of ‘stationary flight’ and some also didn’t show any ‘discernible means of propulsion’. Bray was forced to concede that they are not aware of any US adversaries (read Russia or China) capable of doing that but speculated on how the apparent lack of visible propulsion systems could very well be the result of sensory artifacts (lack of resolution) or signature management (deliberate jamming interference). Quintanilla would have been proud.

Congressman Jim Himes was even bolder in asking if Bray’s team was in possession of any materials, organic or inorganic, that couldn’t be explained. Here Bray conceded his team has apparently recovered physical material from UFOs, but was adamant none of these artifacts or any other ‘emanations’ detected by their sensory arrays suggest a non-terrestrial origin. This bucket of cold water will certainly not deter those who were already promoting these initial hearings as full confirmation of the alien nature of UFOs *cough Maussan cough*

I particularly liked Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi’s questions, which forced Bray to reveal there have been at least eleven near-collisions with UFOs that his task force is aware of. Bray also confirmed there has been no attempt to discharge weapons against these objects (smart move) and (curious enough) not even any attempt to establish any communications with them. Bray tried to deflect the question by alluding to the small size of most of the objects reported in the sightings –which suggests these are unmanned objects, even though the literature is ripe with cases of miniature UFOs– and yet the Tic-Tac encountered by the Nimitz aviator was the size of a jet fighter. Why not trying to ‘hail’ the object instead of just chasing it down?

But perhaps the boldest of the questions came from Congressman Mike Gallagher, who has instantly become a new hero of the UFO community due to his apparent knowledge of the modern mythos. Not only did he exposed Moultrie and Bray’s ignorance about previous official attempts to investigate UFOs prior to Blue Book –project Sign and Grudge (so what else don’t they know?)– but his inquiry seemed carefully targeted into expressly shedding light into any possible ‘black projects’ withing the government which have allegedly looked into the UFO problem behind the curtain. He directly requested Moultrie and Bray to look into the famous Malmstrom AFB UFO incident of 1967, in which an unidentified object allegedly interfered with the nuclear weapons stored within that installation, and he even successfully submitted the controversial Wilson memo to be included into the hearing’s records.

For those of you not wasting you time in the murky UFO subculture (lucky bastards) the Wilson memo is considered by some activists –especially the younger members in the field– to be convincing evidence of ultra-secret programs within the government with zero oversight seeking to harness the secrets of recovered UFO technology. Many pundits have already criticized Gallagher for giving unwarranted importance to such an improbable piece of UFO lore –after all, if the Wilson memo is true and Bob Lazar is also telling the truth, then Elizondo and all of his successors were just wasting their time and the answer to the UFO mystery has already been found. Why keep analyzing blurry videos when you have a bunch of crashed saucers stored in Area 51, yo?– but on the other hand perhaps it is high time the people running the US government turned around and recognized how the rampant lack of oversight in special access programs (SAPs) is one of the reasons why conspiracies like these gain such a strong acceptance among the public.

The fact a large number of US citizens actively believe their own President (the person freely elected by the people to run the country) would NOT be necessarily briefed on whatever secrets the military-industrial complex may or may not have on UFOs, is in many ways a bigger societal problem than the supposed UFO cover-up itself. Perhaps Gallagher’s little stint might at least help kickstart a movement to correct that, even if the memo turns out to be bogus.

There is a lot more that could be said about these ‘historic’ hearings – for instance, why were Christopher Mellon or Elizondo, the two most visible leaders of the modern Disclosure movement, not even mentioned during the procedures? – but in the end I feel the most important thing which could be extracted from the exercise is how the public should stop looking for answers to the UFO question from the US government. Yes, they have more resources; but even those are limited and the ones in charge are not interested in losing their jobs and pensions by pursuing any possible obscure lead they might find on the pages of a civilian UFO journal. Their purpose is clear: to keep their citizens safe, and EVERYTHING else is secondary –that, mind you, doesn’t make them ‘the baddies.’ They’re just doing their job with what they’ve got.

As such, we should instead encourage that independent scientific organizations such as SCU, the Galileo Project or many others, gain as much access to the data guarded by AOIMSG as they can possibly get; already Moultrie showed a concern to ensure their info doesn’t become so wrapped up in red tape as to become inaccessible to people who might be in a better position to exploit it. Otherwise, those “unresolved cases” might linger in the ‘Other’ bin indefinitely… just like it happened to Blue Book.

Are there any private groups with privileged access to UFO information (even possible recovered materials) that remain impervious to US Congressional oversight? Maybe, but who the hell cares?? The US government doesn’t have a complete dominion on the atmosphere last time I checked.

And yes, there are many other things that have to be addressed aside from adding more cameras and sensors like Avi Loeb wants. A new scientific revolution needs to happen before we can begin to ask better questions –and it is already happening, if you know where to look.

A careful study of history shows that most of the time once the cultural breakthrough happens, political oversight slowly drags on trying to catch up with the new paradigm. Why do we think UFOs would be any different?

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