Wednesday, August 04, 2010


Review of Leslie Kean's new book: UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record

A Kean Eye for UFOs

Book review:
UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record
Harmony Books: NY. 2010. 335 pages.

The new book by Leslie Kean about UFOs is a problem. It’s quite unlike most other books about UFOs that have been published in recent memory, and it’s very good. It’s a problem because either every contributor to her edited collection of official testimonies and UFO case histories is a liar or completely misguided, or else she’s on to something important. Something about which scientists and the general public should pay attention.

UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record is a collection of essays, some penned by Kean herself, about officially-documented and investigated UFO cases that were considered unexplained by government and military investigators. And just as the longish title infers, testimony by well-placed individuals who are and were in positions to know the facts and details about significant UFO incidents show that there is something truly perplexing going on in the skies overhead.

This isn’t a book about UFO crashes or Roswell (although it’s mentioned in passing on a few pages) nor is it about abductions by aliens and implants surgically removed from toes and noses. Nor is it about messages imparted by aliens to selected individuals or psychic vectoring of lights by self-declared Terran emissaries.

Kean’s book is about facts. She details what really happened in specific and noteworthy UFO cases that in some instances made worldwide headlines and others were never made public. She cites official documents (not disputed documents) and interviews the military or government officials involved.

Kean’s capability as an investigative journalist is clearly evident throughout the book, and she has no interest in arm-waving exercises to dismiss witnesses’ observations simply on the basis that flying saucers cannot be real. At the same time, she effectively and deliberately distances herself from “undiscriminating UFO groups” and “extremists” who “market themselves as scholars or activists” and who “compound the public relations nightmare that UFOs already face within public discourse.”

In short, Kean’s work is one of the most important works in ufology published in decades. Her background in journalism and her passionate search for the truth has allowed her to seek out respected and staid individuals to tell the story behind what seems to be a most remarkable suppression of events and information.

She starts by introducing Major General Wilfrid de Brouwer, who was in charge of the military investigation of the Belgian UFO wave of 1989 and 1990. He effectively shoots down debunkers’ suggestions that the wave was caused by mass hysteria, helicopters or secret military maneuvers. Then, Captain Julio Miguel Guerra of the Portuguese Air Force describes a UFO which flew circles around his plane in 1982. A team of scientists and military investigators could not explain his experience. Later, Captain Roy Bowyer gives testament to the cigar-shaped UFOs which flew past his commercial aircraft over the English Channel in 2007, and the associated puzzling radar returns.

And so on. Retired military personnel and advisors come forward with statements and new testimony that UFO reports have been filed and investigated by various world governments, long after Project Blue Book declared UFO research as without any merit. Brazil, Britain, Chile, France and other countries have all been relatively transparent when it comes to release of UFO files, and yet, as Kean notes, the United States seems not to have any interest in the matter. Why?

Kean and her contributors all argue that the prevailing attitude of debunking UFO reports, accelerated during the Condon fiasco, should come to an end. They dare scientists who believe the “party line” that there are no credible and well-investigated unexplained UFO cases to wake up and take a real look at the collection of factual reports described in detail in Kean’s book.

If UFOs have no bearing on national security, Kean reasons, then why are military jets scrambled to chase seemingly solid radar returns? If there is no danger to aviation, why are pilots confounded by UFOs on routine flights across the country? Why does the FAA refer pilots to Peter Davenport’s UFO Center? Why wouldn’t the FAA prefer to thoroughly investigate their own pilots’ sightings? In one chapter, new evidence provided by the head of accident investigation within the FAA even suggests that the oft-noted 1986 JAL incident over Alaska was not as easily dismissed as some writers insist. And that “punch-hole cloud formation” over O’Hare? Kean wonders why the FAA didn’t investigate the incident in the name of transportation safety, and why won’t a single witness go on record about it?

Beyond documentation of official military and government UFO case investigation, Kean seeks the root cause of cynicism and debunking of UFOs among journalists and academia. Detailed statements by the French COMETA investigators, for example, all scientists in their own right, are diametrically opposite to those made by debunkers. Official conclusions by military and government investigators in several countries collectively call for more serious and objective studies of UFO reports, especially in the light of a lack of explanations for some peculiar cases.

The simple way to debunk Kean’s work is to challenge each and every contributor’s official statements, insisting they are all in error or liars. But this in itself raises an important problem, too. Why would so many well-placed and qualified individuals, most with outstanding service records, make such statements? Not fame, surely. Not for monetary gain. Then why?

Kean carefully crafts her work in a logical and compelling manner, without wide-eyed believers’ fanaticism but with a rational approach that challenges the reader and leads toward her thesis that it’s time for a paradigm shift: a new Kuhnian “scientific revolution.” She restates and improves upon the skeptics’ rallying cry that “extraordinary claims demand extraordinary evidence” by making a sensible, subtle adjustment: “An extraordinary phenomenon demands an extraordinary investigation.”

Kean argues that, like many other countries around the globe, the United States should create a small official department to investigate UFO sightings in a timely manner and inform the public of details regarding their actions. This would not be simply a “public relations exercise” as Blue Book and been, but a way to reassure a frustrated public that its elected officials and taxpayer-funded military are actually doing their job at protecting American interests.

Kean presents the facts of many remarkable UFO cases, summarized in most instances by the witnesses themselves. Whereas some simply express their bewilderment at what they saw and the way in which official investigation transpired, because they are in positions to know the capabilities and limitations of terrestrial aircraft, they cannot contain themselves from concluding that they could have encountered an alien craft. It’s duly noted throughout the book that only a small fraction of UFO reports are unexplained, and a smaller fraction are thoroughly investigated and studied.

The fact that a real phenomenon is manifesting in terrestrial skies is the main premise of each section of the book. Based on Kean’s presentation, it is a logical and reasonable conclusion. And that’s a problem, because UFOs aren’t real, right?

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I predict that this book will soon be one of the top ten on the subject.
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