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Plan 9 From Outer Space

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Sun, 04 Nov 2007 17:36:57 -0500
Archived: Sun, 04 Nov 2007 17:36:57 -0500
Subject: Plan 9 From Outer Space

Source: The Sydney Morning Herald


November 3, 2007

Plan 9 From Outer Space

Fears of an alien invasion created greater alarm in the US than
the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack, writes Philippe Mora.

In January 1979, The New York Times reported that despite
repeated, feverish denials, the CIA had indeed investigated the
UFO phenomenon: "CIA Papers Detail UFO Surveillance" screamed
the headline. The report is said to have so upset the then CIA
director, Stansfield Turner, that he reportedly asked his staff:
"Are we in UFOs?"

The answer was yes - since the late 1940s, apparently. But
exactly how, what, when, why and who remained layered in
mystery, leaving grist for the conspiracy mill.

But this year a raft of newly unclassified CIA documents
revealed that the remote possibility of alien invasion elicited
greater fear than the threat of a Soviet nuclear attack.

More interesting still, the CIA documents show that despite
decades of repeated public denials, behind the scenes there
raged a series of inter-agency feuds that involved the highest
levels of the US government.

The subject of UFOs - and dabbling in psychological warfare
techniques - not only focused the attention of the US government
elite for 50 years, but of some of the greatest scientific and
military minds of the era.

Throughout the 1950s CIA files clearly document an explosion of
activity by US intelligence and military bodies concerned with
studying every possible implication for the US, and other
Western democracies, of UFOs. The phenomenon, so adored by the
cinematic world, was reflected in the CIA's fixations. Indeed,
while highly educated CIA employees experimented by giving each
other surprise LSD trips in 1953, there were others, in other
parts of the agency, dealing with a flood of UFO reports.

But significantly, after a burst of intense scrutiny in the
early '50s, the available documents effectively go cold. Why?
The Kafkaesque explanation provided is that few files were kept
because these would only confirm that the CIA was investigating
UFOs. A 1995 CIA review stated: "There was no formal or official
UFO project within the agency in the '80s, and agency officials
purposely kept files on UFOs to a minimum to avoid creating
records that might mislead the public if released."

But the wildly eclectic UFO files cover everything from "flying
saucers over Belgian Congo uranium mines" to Nazi "flying

A 1953 memo shows that the physicist John Wheeler, while
critically involved with Edward Teller in the creation of the
hydrogen bomb, was available to the "CIA attack on the flying
saucer" problem. The urgency of the H-bomb race was his
priority, but he "would be pleased at any time to discuss the
issue briefly", the memo said.

Wheeler recommended two "foreign nationals" who could help with
the "problem", including the "mysterious problems of ion paths
and magnetic focusing" and "cosmological electrodynamics".

A secret 1995 report was titled: CIA's role in the study of UFOs
1947-90: a diehard issue. Collated and written by Gerald Haines,
the CIA's National Reconnaissance Office historian, its detailed
summary of CIA involvement inadvertently undermined its "UFOs-
don't-exist" conclusion. The document begins with a June 24,
1947, report from the pilot Kenneth Arnold, who spotted nine
unidentified objects near Mount Rainier, Washington state,
travelling at an estimated 1600 kmh. Haines did not mention that
days later, on July 8, 1947, the Roswell Daily Record reported a
US Army press release below the headline "RAAF captures flying
saucer on ranch in Roswell region".

The report noted that that controversy, coloured with Byzantine
denials, dogged the CIA and its UFO investigations for decades.
Using operational names like Project Blue Book, Story, Grudge,
Sign, Saucer, Moon Dust and Twinkle, the US Air Force and other
entities always looked into UFO sightings with the CIA peering
over their shoulders.

The US Army, of course, promptly retracted the Roswell story but
it and the "flying saucers" spotted by Arnold triggered a flurry
of sightings and conspiracy theories that continue to this day.

The US Air Force finally admitted in 1994 that there had been a
cover-up at Roswell - of a secret project known as Mogul,
created to monitor Soviet nuclear tests using high-flying
balloons - and that the "aliens" were crash-test dummies.

"Ufologists", naturally, were sceptical of this belated
explanation. For 50 years now, right across the globe, people
have been reporting sightings of giant, luminous flying saucers,
cigars, globes, triangles and doughnuts. Aliens have allegedly
abducted, probed and impregnated scores of hapless earthlings.
Some believe that a top-secret entity, called Majestic-12, was
formed in 1947 by the then president, Harry Truman, in an
attempt to deal with the Roswell event. It was supposedly
established to aid interaction with aliens. The FBI labelled the
Majestic-12 documents a hoax, but the story persists to this

Intriguingly, the unclassified documents show that within the
CIA, there was an uber-intelligence group called ONE, created by
a CIA director, General William Bedell Smith. His tenure spanned
the period between October 1950 and January 1953. These
documents confirm that ONE was concerned with UFOs.

In 1978 the CIA came under strong pressure from a series of
freedom of information requests about UFOs and reluctantly
released about 800 documents. The reasonable claim by The New
York Times at the time was that the files confirmed intensive
government concern about UFOs.

This was branded by the CIA as the press being sensationalist.
According to the CIA's self-critique on the issue, bureaucratic
clumsiness, charges that witnesses were being asked to keep
sightings secret, and CIA officers talking to civilians about
UFOs while wearing air force uniforms, had added "fuel to the
growing mystery surrounding UFOs and the CIA's role in their
investigation". The 1995 Haines report concluded: "The belief
that we are not alone in the universe is too emotionally
appealing and the distrust of our government is too pervasive to
make the issue amenable to traditional scientific studies of
rational explanation and evidence."

My painstaking review of hundreds of unclassified documents
reveals that the CIA at the highest level, far from being
incompetent, displayed good faith in its efforts to examine the
mystery of UFOs over a period of decades. These investigations
covered a gamut of inquiries: scientific, political, cultural
and military.

And although the air force was the agency given the task of
investigating UFOs from 1948 onwards, the CIA remained deeply
involved. This is best reflected in a memo to the agency's
deputy director for scientific intelligence, titled Flying
Saucers and dated August 3, 1952: "It is recommended that CIA
surveillance of subject matter (flying saucers), in co-
ordination with proper authorities of primary operational
concern at the Air Technical Intelligence Centre (ATIC), be
continued. It is strongly urged, however, that that no
indication of CIA interest or concern reach the press or public,
in view of their probable alarmist tendencies to accept such
interest as 'confirmatory' of the soundness of 'unpublished
facts' in the hands of the US government."

Although most reports were "phoney" or explainable, it said,
"caution requires that intelligence continue coverage of the

On July 28, 1952, Winston Churchill wrote to his secretary of
state for air: "What does all this stuff about flying saucers
amount to? What can it mean? What is the truth?" The minister's
response on August 9, 1952, provided the ground rules for most
official responses that continue until today. These were that a
1951 study had found that all reports could be explained by
astronomical or meteorological phenomena, mistaken
identification of aircraft, balloons, birds, optical illusions
and psychological delusions, or were deliberate hoaxes.

But in the CIA at the time, two other responses were
countenanced: the need for vigilance and caution because
extraterrestrial life could exist, and the potential for
"psychological warfare", including fears that popular hysteria
could be exploited by an enemy.

The sceptics are best represented in a memo in March 1949 from a
Dr Stone in the CIA Office of Scientific Intelligence to a Dr
Machle that states: "A rapid perusal of your [flying saucer]
documents leaves one confused and inclined to supineness."

Yet with a deluge of UFO reports over the next four years, the
matter suddenly assumed a modicum of gravitas, reflected in many
top-secret documents. General Smith said: "There was one chance
in 10,000 that the phenomenon posed a threat to the security of
the country, but even that chance could not be taken." On July
1, 1952, there was an about-turn: General Smith wrote to the
director of the Psychological Strategy Board established by
Truman the previous year: "I am today transmitting to the
National Security Council a proposal in which it is concluded
that the problems associated with unidentified flying objects
appear to have implications for psychological warfare as well as
for intelligence and operations. I suggest that we discuss at an
early board meeting the possible offensive and defensive
utilisation of these phenomena for psychological warfare

Searching for this "proposal", I found versions addressed also
to the secretary of defence. Some of their highlights, quoting
directly from the documents, include: "[Since] 1947 there have
been about 1500 official reports of sightings and [of these] the
air force carries 20 per cent as unexplained." And: "Operational
problems are of primary importance and should be attacked at
once [including] determination of what [use could] be made of
these phenomena by US psychological warfare planners and what =85
defences should be planned in anticipation of Soviet attempts to
utilise them."

This memo suggested a plot that transcends Stanley Kubrick's Dr
Strangelove: the CIA, in the face of unknown phenomena - or even
an attack from outer space - was seemingly more concerned about
what the Russians might do with UFOs than with the objects
themselves. The CIA's interest in the Soviet and Chinese study
of UFOs continued for decades. But on October 2, 1952, General
Smith received this ominous note from his Office of Scientific
Intelligence: "Flying saucers pose two elements of danger which
have national security implications. The first involves mass
psychological considerations and the second concerns the
vulnerability of the US to air attack." In January 1953 the
Office of Scientific Intelligence convened a committee to review
the UFO "problem". Its members reviewed "75 case histories of
sightings", taking intense interest in a Tremonton, Utah,
sighting that included a Kodachrome movie of "1600 frames".

At the air force's request, the US Photo Interpretation
Laboratory spent 1000 hours making "graph plots" of the film
frames, concluding that the objects were not birds, balloons,
aircraft or reflections and that they were "self-luminous". In a
tone of reasonable scepticism, it suggested that the public be
educated to avoid hysteria.

But the Office of Scientific Intelligence panel dismissed the
military conclusions, suggesting instead that the mysterious
objects were seagulls reflecting sunlight.

On January 21, 1953, another memo concluded that the panel had
found no evidence of "physical threat to the security of the
US". The convoluted memo stated: "The subject UFO is not of
direct intelligence interest. It is of indirect intelligence
interest only insofar as any knowledge about innumerable
unsolved mysteries of the universe are of intelligence
interest." But it also noted the potential for "interference
with air defence by intentional enemy jazzing", the possibility
of interference by "overloading communication lines", or the
possibility of "psychological offensive by the enemy timed with
respect to an actual attack".

This report and the original Tremonton "seagull" film were then
made part of an Office of Scientific Investigation briefing on
January 29, 1953, to the entity known as ONE. The air force
briefed ONE on UFOs the next day and its 11 members included "Dr
Edgar Hoover [sic], William Bundy, General H. Pull and Admiral
B. Bieri [Eisenhower's chief of staff]".

These documents reveal that ONE was an elite think tank within
the CIA and that General Smith created the Office of National
Estimates on the issue.

But it was said its "ultimate approval should rest on the
collective judgment of the highest officials in various
intelligence agencies". This was to give it the prestige of the
best available and most authoritative advice from the

General Smith created the Office of National Estimates under the
auspices of the National Security Act of 1947. His opinion was
that ONE would form the "heart of the CIA and of the national
intelligence machinery".

William Langer, a Harvard historian, was its chairman, and while
there is no record of whether ONE thought the Tremonton film
showed seagulls or UFOs - or of what the air force told them the
next morning - ONE is as close as we get to a documented version
of the rumoured Majestic-12 group.

With the Cold War in full swing, the CIA was also watching for
UFO activity behind the Iron Curtain. Field stations were to be
alerted to any mention of flying saucers by Iron Curtain
countries and the CIA discovered that the Soviet establishment
mirrored its own ambiguity about UFOs.

The files spotlight Soviet articles in 1968 that show some
scientists thought they were real, while others ridiculed the
sightings as US propaganda.

One Soviet sceptic noted, with tongue firmly in cheek: "The
number of saucers always grows sharply on the eve of
presidential elections. This is difficult to explain.

"Maybe people on other planets lay bets on who will win in the
next elections - the Republicans or the Democrats."

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