Saturday, January 06, 2018

Disconnected from Disclosure

Disconnected from Disclosure

As I write this (January 2018), I am in the midst of collating all the Canadian UFO reports filed with various organizations and agencies in 2018. It’s too early to cite any hard numbers, and it usually takes me and Geoff Dittman until about March or April to get data entered and analysed, but it looks like 2017 will have been a “good year” for UFOs.

Some of you will think that’s been obvious, with the announcement in October 2017 by former punk rocker Tom DeLonge that he had formed the To The Stars Academy (TTSA) for studying UFOs and disseminated the evidence for alien contact with humans. Then, in December came the revelation that some individuals associated with DeLonge’s group, including former Pentagon employees, had worked within a program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). It existed from 2007 to 2012 (although rumoured to have continued secretly) to study “unidentified aerial phenomena.”

This announcement, through no less a media vehicle than the New York Times, was hailed as the Disclosure about UFOs that ardent believers have been waiting for all these years. The existence of a classified government program to study UFOs had been assumed by many, but this was the admission everyone was waiting for. Since Project Blue Book closed in 1969, it seemed incomprehensible that the US government and military establishment would not have continued to receive and study UFO reports, especially from military personnel at the very least.

Along with this announcement, media were given access to a former military pilot who described an in-flight encounter with a UFO that had been seen approaching the USS Nimitz off the coast of San Diego in 2004. Two videos were also released, neither of which were the “gun camera” videos taken by this pilot, but they seemed to support the story that the American crew had an aerial encounter with something strange over the ocean.

I won’t go into the details of the post-release analyses of these videos by the more objective members of the ufological community, who have tried to track down the true provenance of the videos and who have painstakingly examined the videos for possible explanations. Debunking skeptics, oddly enough, have simply brushed the claims aside and dismissed them out of hand. “Call me when you have a dinner invite from an alien,” said science populist and UFO debunker Neil DeGrasse Tyson in a CNN interview about the Nimitz claims. “The evidence is so paltry for aliens to visit Earth, I have no further interest.”

To hardcore believers, however, the TTSA Nimitz story is the proof they have been waiting for. The government knows aliens are here, and they’ve been keeping the truth from us. But now, mainstream media have taken an interest, and so we finally have Disclosure!

Although… we don’t, really. Because of the strong marketing by DeLonge and his TTSA staff, media did remain interested for a while, but the alien story has now been trumped by other news. We didn’t really get much in the way of revelations. The Nimitz video had been leaked publicly on YouTube years ago through a German special effects company, raising some warranted suspicion. The videos don’t match what the pilot saw. The pilot’s testimony itself is interesting, but we’ve had many pilots come forward with stories of UFO encounters over the past several years. A popular book by Leslie Kean details many of these. The stories show that UFOs are still being seen and reported by qualified observers.

In Canada, we’ve been more fortunate than the Americans, as UFO reports have been continuously part of the official record through the decades. As readers of this blog know, I regularly include UFO sightings reported to Transport Canada and other official agencies in the annual Canadian UFO Surveys. And 2017 was no exception. In fact, because UFOs were being reported and recorded while the American UFO project had been closed, it was obvious that another American project must have been doing the UFO work in parallel to the Canadian records. AATIP is at least a partial answer, and it only officially ran between 2007 and 2012.

And what do the 2017 Canadian UFO reports tell us about the nature of the UFO phenomenon? Do they support the excitement of Disclosure?

In a word, no.

In fact, out of roughly 1,000 UFO reports every year in Canada, none are proof of alien intervention or visitation. Yes, there’s a small percentage of unknowns or unexplained UFO reports every year, but even they just mean that we’re not sure exactly what they were. And in many cases, further investigation and details that come to light later can help explain even those as terrestrial and human phenomena.

It’s also useful to consider the numbers involved. Typically, there are about ten percent fewer UFO reports in Canada than the USA, in any given year. This is because there’s a direct population effect. More people around as potential UFO witnesses means more UFO reports. So that means there are, roughly, about 10,000 UFO reports in the USA every year. And these are only the ones reported to civilian agencies like NUFORC and MUFON. Where do the sightings made by military personnel on routine or clandestine missions get reported?

A partial answer might be the AATIP group as noted in the TTSA release. It makes perfect sense that UFOs seen by military pilots and other official observers would be going to an official agency, just in case the UFOs seen were “enemy” aircraft or other phenomena posing potential threats to personnel. Aliens need not be involved. Furthermore, because such sightings would be regular occurrences during the course of normal operations in many theatres, a program keeping track of such observations would not just operate for seven years. It would be an ongoing thing.

AATIP, therefore, was likely only an arm of another project, bleeding into the civilian world through technology companies like that run by billionaire Robert Bigelow, who has a profound interest in the UFO phenomenon and who believes we are being visited by extraterrestrials.

It was also claimed that Bigelow had to “modify” special buildings within his purview in Las Vegas “for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that… had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.” This was perhaps the most remarkable claim within this broader story. Pilot testimonies of UFO encounters are nothing new. Government UFO programs have been noted before. But actual physical evidence from a UFO? That’s in a different category of ufological discourse.

We don’t know what these might be, however, and there’s no hint that anything about this is forthcoming. But over the course of UFO history, many claimed alien artefacts have been presented and examined by ufology researchers and independent laboratories. None have been deemed truly alien.

But which ones might be in such a collection? I developed a list some time ago and posted it publicly. They might include:

1. Ubatuba magnesium.
2. The Bob White "bullet"
3. Falcon Lake radioactive silver bars
4. Ottawa slag
5. Crashed-saucer material (?) from El-Taire, Bolivia?
6. Crashed-saucer material (?) from Plains of San Augustin
7. Roswell fragment found by Ben Mezrich?
8. Implant(s) from Derrell Sims' collection
9. Valensole plant material?
10. Pretoria (1965) asphalt
11. Desvergers' cap
12. Maury Island slag
13. Angel hair?
14. "Space grass"
15. Spitzbergen rocket hardware
16. Chunk of UFO shot off UFO by Navy fighter in 1952?
17. Others?

One can imagine that if money was no object, you could get your hands on this kind of material. It’s been known that pre-eminent ufologist Jacques Vallee visited Argentina as recently as 2016 and may have been given access to some of the original Ubatuba metal at one point in the past. He noted in one interview that the Ubatuba metal, if really from the 1930s as claimed, would be quite interesting. (He also described a metallic fragment from a 1970s UFO case that turned out to be aluminum.)

What this shows is that pieces allegedly from alien spacecraft have been found and examined for a long time, and that this “hard evidence” could be what scientists contracted by UFO-focused billionaires would be examining for evidence of alien visitation. And such scientists could be part of an actual “Invisible College” like what Vallee described in one of his books, willingly studying UFO evidence out of personal interest and collaborating with like minds at post-secondary institutions around the world.

This was, in effect, what I have been doing in the background for many years, seeking out academics willing to entertain the subject of UFOs without dismissing it out of hand and engaging in useful discussions. For example, it’s how I got a small group of scientists, ufologists and a UFO witness together in the early 1980s for the Manitoba Conference on Ufology to talk openly about the nature of the UFO phenomenon. It’s partially why I continue to work with Geoff Dittman and others on the annual Canadian UFO Survey: to gather UFO data through collaboration with UFO organizations sincerely seeking to help understand the phenomenon, and make the data available for others to use in studies. (It’s already being used in some statistical courses as an example for data mining.)

Which brings me back to UFO report data.

We began the annual Canadian UFO Survey in 1989. Originally, it was simply an exercise to see what the overall national picture looked like in terms of UFO sightings reported in Canada. What area of the country had the most UFO sightings? Were there any patterns to the distribution? Were saucers more common than cigars? What could UFO reports tell us about UFO witnesses themselves? And so forth.

The hardest part was getting cooperation from other ufologists and group across the country, who tended to be rather territorial and ensurient. Through the enlightened teamwork with those that worked with me, however, we gained some insight into the nature of UFO reports and their characteristics. What’s more, we had some data on the distribution of UFO reports across classifications. Most were simply lights in the sky. Close encounters were few and far between. Most UFO sightings had more than one witness. And so on.

But above all, the analyses showed that few UFO reports were left unexplained after investigation. In fact, after a few years, it became obvious that data on things such as the duration of a sighting, the colour, and the time of day, often provided enough information to explain many UFO cases. The ratios of unknowns to explained cases or to those with possible or probable explanations remained fairly constant from year to year. Only a small fraction of UFO cases each year were left as unexplained, and even in those cases, none were convincing proof that aliens were visiting Earth.  After something close to 30 years of studying actual UFO reports (as in the case of the annual Canadian UFO Survey), we have looked at about 18,000 UFO reports in only one country. And this can be extrapolated to something like 150,000 to 200,000 UFO reports from the USA during that same time period.

(This of course is immaterial to the caution that not all ufologists believe UFOs are alien spaceships. Many note that UFO simply means unidentified flying object, and that perhaps other explanations such as an atmospheric phenomenon might be responsible. The reality is that media campaigns such as that launched by DeLonge and TTSA trumpet the contention that UFOs are indicative of alien intervention.)

But based on analyses of tens of thousands of UFO reports, if there is no real evidence that UFO sightings are caused by alien spacecraft, what is the whole Nimitz/Pentagon/TTSA announcement and effort all about?

It’s also interesting that in 2004, Bigelow announced the closing of the National Institute for Discovery Science (NIDS) which he founded and funded in 1995 to study Fortean phenomena, but especially UFOs. But by 2004, he noted NIDS had no cases to study for years and therefore was rendered “inactive.” Yet only three years later, AATIP was created and later allocated $22 million to Bigelow for studying reports of unidentified aerial phenomena, and had been encouraged enough to create a building to house alien artefacts.

As noted elsewhere, I had met Robert Bigelow in 2009 at a MUFON conference. We talked a bit about my work and he expressed interest in an arrangement to receive information about “good” Canadian UFO cases. This meant cases for which he could send his team of investigators out to interview witnesses and acquire physical evidence, if any, ahead of media and other civilian investigations. But since no such Canadian cases became evident, it was a moot point.

To me, all of this is pointing to what I would call a disconnection from disclosure. The revelations so far presented don’t seem to be the (capital D) Disclosure that UFO zealots have been waiting for. There was initially a bit of a media flurry, but mainstream media are back to focusing on other issues. It’s possible that with so much attention to and claims of “fake news” today, stories about possible alien visitation just don’t seem that remarkable. Especially when the hard evidence isn’t made available.

There are stories floating around the Internet about mogul-financed investigations of UFO crash sites, an invisible college of academics in conferences on ufology, and back-engineered projects and products (such as smart phones, quantum computing, and Velcro) that were inspired or produced from bits of alien tech.

And yet, there are thousands of real, verified UFO reports from sincere witnesses who believe they have seen alien spacecraft, but upon even cursory investigation (let alone intensive research) turn out to have simple explanations. This is a paradox of significant proportions, and flies in the face of any imminent disclosure or even “soft” disclosure, however you may wish to define it.

On the one hand, we have thousands of UFO reports from individuals across many demographics. The overwhelming majority are innocent misidentifications, but many are easily explained IFOs whose witnesses are firmly convinced aliens have contacted them. A tiny fraction is unexplained, but these don’t necessarily mean aliens are visiting.

On the other hand, there are people in positions of power and/or influence who are convinced that aliens have made themselves known to a select group. We also know that various world governments and military institutions have had (and likely continue to have) an interest in UFO reports. This interest is largely because intrusions on a country’s airspace is of great concern, but when individuals in power involve themselves in such programs, the delineation between objectivity and religious belief in alien influence blurs. Disclosure is assumed by some; rejected out of hand by others.

And hence, we have a disconnection from disclosure. We need facts and data that would allow reasonable conclusions to be drawn, but we still have mostly conjecture and interpretation. Proponents of the recent revelations scoff at “debunkers” who refuse to see this Disclosure that is as plain as the noses on their faces. Adamant skeptics demand more tangible evidence that can be presented in a public court for open examination.

I suspect that with some government officials rattling some cages, we might see the initiation of some low-level congressional inquiries into the truth behind the recent furore. We might be treated with the release of additional footage from the Nimitz video.

But will any of that be enough to state there is true Disclosure of alien intervention?

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