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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 2007 > May > May 7

MoD UFO Files

From: Nick Pope <nick.nul>
Date: Mon, 7 May 2007 20:00:39 +0100
Fwd Date: Mon, 07 May 2007 15:54:37 -0400
Subject: MoD UFO Files


In March 2007 I wrote a post on UFO UpDates concerning the
forthcoming release of some MoD UFO files that had previously
been contaminated with asbestos:

http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2007/mar/m15-009.shtml

Ufologists have known for a long time that some of a large
number of Defence Intelligence Staff files contaminated with
asbestos were UFO files. It started conspiracy theories when it
was originally thought that these files would have to be
destroyed. Many ufologists made FOIA requests relating to these
files and what's happened recently is that the MoD has given
these ufologists a clearer idea of what files are to be
released. The 24 UFO files concerned have now been
decontaminated and it is hoped that they can be released
shortly. They will still have to be examined carefully and
redacted in accordance with the Data Protection Act and the
exemptions in the Freedom of Information Act.

The MoD has long wanted to release not just these 24 DIS files
but _all_ its UFO files, for the same reasons as the French.
Responding to FOIA requests from ufologists is becoming an
increasing burden on MoD manpower - the MoD receives more FOIA
requests on UFOs than any other subject, including the Iraq war.
The Department would love to send all the UFO files to the
National Archives and/or scan them onto the MoD website. That
way the MoD could respond to every UFO-related FOIA request
simply by referring people to the National Archives or the MoD
website. The contamination of certain DIS UFO files with
asbestos was an added complication that has now been resolved.

An often overlooked difficulty in releasing the MoD files is the
Data Protection Act. The Act prohibits the MoD from passing
personal information (names, addresses, etc) to any third party.
This is somewhat akin to the ufological concept of witness
confidentiality. Essentially, if Mr X reports a UFO to the MoD,
he probably doesn't want his personal details passed to Ms Y,
and the law protects his confidentiality accordingly. So, before
any file can be released, it has to be examined page by page,
line by line, word by word, to ensure that no personal
information is inappropriately disclosed. To date, the MoD has
received over 10,000 UFO reports. Case files on major incidents
can run to over 100 pages of documentation - redaction and
disclosure is a massive job.

The Data Protection Act isn't the only complicating factor.
Exemptions to the FOIA quite properly preclude release of
information that might compromise national security (some UFO-
related documents detail the capabilities of military radar),
undermine international relations (some UFO-related documents
give details of other countries that have passed the UK
information in confidence), or compromise methods and sources:

http://www.dca.gov.uk/foi/yourRights/exemptions.htm

I was in Paris in March and met Jacques Patenet from GEIPAN. We
discussed these issues. The British and French situation is very
similar. Both countries are genuinely committed to open
government, but need to respect people's personal privacy and
ensure that information that would genuinely compromise national
security or international relations is not disclosed.

Bottom line: the process of redacting the 24 DIS files should
start shortly but the job may not be complete for months. Full
disclosure of _all_ MoD's UFO files may still be years away. New
releases should be listed on the front page of the FOI section
of the MoD's website, which List members with an interest may
wish to check regularly:

http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/FreedomOfInformation/

Sometimes things don't make the front page, so it's worth
following the links on the front page and accessing the
Publication Scheme page and the Disclosure Log page, checking
their front pages and searching them by keying "UFO" into the
search box.

As an amusing postscript to this story, even my own privacy is
protected under the Data Protection Act. I wrote a number of the
UFO-related documents that have already been released under the
FOIA, but even where they relate to cases I've discussed on the
BBC or elsewhere, my own name is blacked out.


Best wishes,

Nick Pope

http://www.nickpope.net


Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast

See:

http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/sdi/program/


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