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Opening The X-files Inside Britain's UFO Project

From: UFO UpDates - Toronto <ufoupdates.nul>
Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2007 17:18:21 -0400
Archived: Sun, 14 Oct 2007 17:18:21 -0400
Subject: Opening The X-files Inside Britain's UFO Project




Source: The San Francisco Sentinel - California, USA

http://www.sanfranciscosentinel.com/?p=3D5919

11 October 2007


Opening The X-files Inside Britain's UFO Project

By Raf Sanchez

To conspiracy theorists, Nick Pope is the right man with the
wrong answer. The former head of Britain's UFO Project has had
years of unparalleled access and resources to investigate the
significance of unexplained visitors to Britain's airspace.
Since leaving the MoD in 2006 he has taken up a high profile
career as a writer, lecturer and consultant. He seemed to be a
man preparing to impart revelation. If anyone should be able to
confirm that the government knows of the existence of
extraterrestrial life, it should, in theory, be Pope.

Except that he won't. To the rabid frustration of many
Ufologists (the recent term coined to describe those who study
UFO sightings) Pope continues to deny that the government he
served for over 20 years has information confirming the
existence of aliens and just isn't sharing it. Clips of
interviews on the internet show the clean cut former civil
servant interrogated by enthusiasts already sure of the answer
they want and left bitter and accusatory when they don't get it.

Despite his consistent response to questions about a cover-up I
decide to try my luck, just in case he is having a particularly
candid afternoon. His answer is swift and well-rehearsed. "To
the best of my knowledge, there's no cover-up and no conspiracy.
While the MoD has consistently tried to downplay the subject,
they've never lied about it and have no evidence that would
prove the existence of extraterrestrials. Where information is
being withheld, it generally relates to details that if released
would be detrimental to defence or national security." He says
that there are vast case files of incidents and sightings that
his unit was never able to explain away as weather balloons or
airplanes but what there isn't is, as Pope puts it, "a smoking
gun", or more bluntly: "something locked away in a hangar
somewhere."

I find his answer convincing enough, except for the fact that as
a signatory to the Official Secrets Act, it's the only one he
can give without opening himself up to the possibility of
prosecution by his former employer. How can we believe his
denial when it's the only thing he can legally say?

I put this to Pope, who nods resignedly at his dilemma. "I do
appreciate I'm in a very difficult situation. We're back to that
old cliche that you can't prove a negative. I can understand why
I get accused of disinformation and and all sorts of things but
I don't think that there's anything I could say, even if I could
come up with the most eloquent, well reasoned, logical,
substantiated argument. If a die hard conspiracy theorist really
wants to believe something, my denial is not going convince them
otherwise."

For the record, I believe Pope. He seems too interested in the
details of UFO sightings, too energised by the fragmented
information they afford =96 details which would surely be swept
away by the blanket knowledge that aliens definitely exist. More
than that he seems genuinely philosophical about the impact that
such knowledge would have on humanity. "I think that it would
be, aside from proof of the existence of God and an Afterlife,
the next biggest thing that you could ever hope to discover and
the world would obviously be a totally different place the day
after we knew for sure we weren't alone in the universe."

'The world would obviously be a totally different place the day
after we knew for sure that we weren't alone in the universe.'

The interesting thing about Pope is that his career follows an
inverse trajectory to most of those in the UFO business. Rather
than being someone who was convinced from the outset of the
significance of UFOs and went about gathering information, Pope
had the information before the belief. Before taking over the
UFO Project (his brief had no official title but 'UFO Project'
is his preferred term because "it does what it says on the tin")
he served in a number of more traditional roles within the MoD.
During the first Gulf War he assessed the impact of Allied
bombing raids on Iraqi positions and was responsible for
briefing senior government and military figures.

Pope claims he arrived at the job with a "broadly skeptical"
view as to the wisdom of putting resources into investigating
UFOs. His remit could be summed up in a single line: "to
evaluate UFO sightings to see whether or not there is evidence
of anything of defence significance." It is these last two words
that shaped the focus and operating procedures of the unit.
"Defence significance is the key phrase that over the years has
been interpreted in many ways. Skeptics can take it to say
'well, we're only interested in foreign military aircraft.'
Someone a little more open minded can say 'Well no, if UFOs
really are extraterrestrial then that would be of defense
significance in and of itself.'" It seems difficult to argue
that alien craft entering British airspace would not be of
interest to defence intelligence, but apparently it was a line
taken by some of the more traditional members of the military
establishment.

Challenging this view and instilling a sense of the importance
of the "belief that UFO sightings should be properly
investigated in a scientific way" has been one of Pope's
passions both within the MoD and since leaving the government.
In November 2006, shortly after leaving the Ministry, Pope made
headlines (some wryly amused, others alarmist) with his claim
that the UK's air defence was "wide open" to any potential
extraterrestrial visitors, friendly or otherwise. The Daily
Mirror ran with: "Earth: We're Wide Open To Attack".

So what did Pope see during his time at the UFO Project that not
only converted him from a skeptic but has turned him into
something of a campaigner for a scientific approach to Ufology?
The answer lies in a proportion of 5%. Pope found that of the
200-300 reports of UFO sightings that came across his desk every
year, 80% could be explained away as "misidentifications of
something ordinary, such as aircraft lights, satellites,
airships, weather balloons or planets." In a further 15% the
information was too sparse to make any real judgements. Yet, in
the remaining 5% there was enough information, usually in the
form of radar signatures and visual sightings by trained
observers like RAF pilots, yet still no one was able to identify
the object. To Pope these incidents were "very interesting and
by definition 'unexplained'".

The 'Cosford Incident' helped to solidify Pope's belief that
something had to be done to deal with the vulnerability of
Britain's air defence to penetration by UFOs. On the night of
March 30 and the morning of March 31 1993 over a hundred
witnesses, many of them pilots and police officers, reported
seeing fast moving lights in the sky. Some gave more detailed
descriptions of a large triangular shaped craft, "like two
Concordes flying side by side and joined together." Another
sighting was then reported by an officer, at an RAF base in
Shawsbury.

"He saw the UFO fire a narrow beam of light (like a laser) at
the ground and saw the light sweeping backwards and forwards
across the field beyond the perimeter fence, as if it were
looking for something. He heard an unpleasant low frequency
humming sound coming from the craft and said he could feel as
well as hear this - rather like standing in front of a bass
speaker. He estimated the size of the craft to be midway between
a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and a Boeing 747." No
aircraft were scrambled because the object, seen in over a
hundred places, could not be detected by radar.

Pope, who has been sitting forward intensely as he talks,
suddenly smiles and leans back. "My head of division, who was a
huge skeptic of UFOs, briefed the assistant chief of the air
staff [on the incident]. There was this wonderful phrase: 'In
summary, there would seem to be some evidence that on this
occasion an unidentified object (or objects) was operating over
the UK.' That's probably about as close as the MOD will ever get
to saying there are UFOs."

Although he is quick to point out that his background is defence
intelligence and not science, Pope can be coaxed into talking
interestingly on scientific developments in man's search for
other life in the universe. He is quick to draw a distinction
between Ufology, the study of UFOs that enter Earth's
atmosphere, and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence
(SETI). "Ufology," he says "is a broad church. There are some
complete nutcases and charlatans involved in it and there are
also some extremely professional men and women doing some
sterling work." Ufology as it currently stands has no
established scientific method and can come in any number of
forms, from sitting on a hillside with binoculars to the kind of
intelligence analysis that Pope was employed in.

SETI is a much broader search than simply looking out for alien
craft coming to Earth. It relies mainly on the use of enormous
radio telescopes to monitor deep space for signs of intelligent
transmissions. And the already advanced technology is moving
fast. According to Pope, "the sensitivity and power of the radio
telescopes and the associated computing power to analyze and
process the data is going through the roof." In 2014 the next
generation of radio telescopes will come online, massively
expanding humanity's view of the Universe. The technology is so
powerful "there are scientists who believe that if there are
detectable civilizations within a 100 light years of here, which
certainly encompasses several thousand stars, we should be able
to detect them through their signals." The thought that in less
than a decade human technology could push the shadows of space
back so far is both awe-inspiring and terrifying.

'Any civilization that visits us is going to be more
technologically advanced, so chances are that they are going to
be the ones that set the agenda and call the shots.'

Pope puts his faith in SETI to make the first contact with other
intelligent life forms.

"I believe that if contact is made it will come through radio
astronomy, through detecting a signal as opposed to a spaceship
landing in the desert. Proof of contact is never going to be a
photo or a video or something. It has to be something
acknowledged by the mainstream scientific community. Which is
why I think it's far more likely that proof will come through
radio astronomy. SETI will beat Ufology when it comes to proof
positive, simply because society will not accept what Ufologists
regard as proof."

Interestingly, SETI today is "effectively private". The highly
technological operations are carried out by private research
organisations and members of the scientific community rather
than by governments or militaries. NASA briefly engaged in SETI
in the first half of the Clinton administration, before a cost-
cutting Republican Congress pulled the plug on the project in
1996. Since then the search has been carried out almost entirely
outside of government quarters. The UK's largest radio
telescope, Jodrell Bank, is run and maintained by the University
of Manchester. This raises the slightly bizarre situation in
which the first people to make contact, and possibly speaking on
behalf of Earth, may not be one of the world's governments but
instead the employees of a private research company.

This lack of a plan, or even a framework, for dealing with the
discovery of aliens is another of Pope's concerns. "What there
isn't, as far as I've seen, is any contingency plan, any SOP
[standard operating procedure] for a landing, a crash, a
contact. I think in a sense that is a mistake. The military and
the government tend to have a plan for just about everything.
There are some serious issues that would need thought, bio
hazards to name just one. If there is open contact one of the
questions people will ask is 'is there a bio hazard from us to
them, them to us, or indeed both ways, who is going to test for
that, how is it going be tested, what kit is going to be used,
where is that kit, how do you get it to the location, what are
the command control arrangements, what's the media handling
strategy?' All these questions, not any plan. Frankly, we'll
just muddle through."

Although, as Pope admits, in the event of a landing by a race
that can travel at lightspeeds, it is unlikely that humanity is
going to be in the driving seat and the best-laid plans of men
often go awry. "Any civilization that visits us is almost
certainly going to be more technologically advanced than us, so
chances are they are going to be the ones that dictate whether
or not it's kept a secret and on what terms contact is made and
on what terms the news is propagated. If we are visited it might
well be that the visitors set the agenda and call the shots."

Pope may not have seen confirmation that there is other
intelligent life in the universe. But what he has seen, and it
is likely to be far more than most of us ever will, seems to
have convinced him of the need to be prepared that one day there
might be. As I think of the epic bureaucratic, administrative
and logistic battles a plan for a human response to contact
would bring I find myself wondering if somewhere out there
someone has a much simpler plan for us.



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