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The UFO Cold War New Revelations in a CIA-published Study by Jon Elliston
Dossier Editor
pscpdocs@aol.com

During the heated international contest that was the Cold War, the U.S. government lied to the public about thousands of UFO sightings. Says who? A historian from the U.S. intelligence community, that's who. A newly published article in the CIA journal Studies in Intelligence explains how military officials misled curious citizens about top secret spy plane flights that were often mistaken for alien craft. And that is just one of the revelations in this fascinating and controversial study.

The report was released in the aftermath of other major government attempts to address the UFO issue. Just prior to the 50th anniversary of the Roswell incident, celebrated by thousands in New Mexico in July 1997, the U.S. Air Force unveiled the second of two reports on what may have occurred in the most famous of UFO cases. Titled Case Closed, the report argued that many UFO and "alien" sightings reported by citizens were in fact nothing more that confused interpretations of Air Force balloon flights and "impact tests" using humanoid dummies dropped into the desert.

In 1995, another Air Force report, Fact vs. Fiction in the New Mexico Desert, made the case that the intrigue over Roswell was the unfortunate result of a military coverup of a top secret balloon experiment named Project Mogul.

While these reports revealed important new information about government duplicity concerning UFOs, the CIA-published article goes further than any prior document in disclosing that U.S. officials fibbed about strange craft witnessed by Americans. The article, "CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-1990," was prepared by Gerald Haines, a historian now working for the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) who "did the report when he worked for the CIA," according to an NRO public affairs officer contacted by Dossier. The NRO said that Haines is "declining interview opportunities" about his Studies in Intelligence article, but Dossier reached him on the telephone nevertheless.

Haines told Dossier that his report was commissioned by President Clinton's first CIA director, James Woolsey, who "wanted to be sure he had all the facts" on the CIA and UFOs after a question on the topic was put to him during a radio interview. According to Haines, a classified version of his report was issued by the CIA about two years ago. He says that the CIA "removed very little" information from the study before releasing it to the public, and that the still-classified portions of the report "had nothing to do with UFOs" directly.

Although Haines said he could not comment on some of the questions asked by Dossier, there is much in his report that confirms and expands upon previously released official evidence, and for the most part Haines' UFO/CIA history is amply documented. His review, which examines how the United States' preeminent intelligence agency (like millions of regular Americans) sporadically became concerned about UFOs, is by far the most complete account currently available.

Haines begins his study, as well he should, in the UFO-laden year of 1947. It was then that the CIA was founded, and it was then that reports of a crashed "flying saucer" near Roswell kicked off the modern fascination with UFOs. Near the beginning of his chronology of events, Haines makes his first allegation that the Air Force tried to debunk UFO sightings. Referring to an early Air Force UFO investigation, Haines writes that the late-1940s Project Grudge (a predecessor to the more widely known Project Blue Book) "tried to alleviate public anxiety over UFOs via a public relations campaign designed to persuade the public that UFOs constituted nothing unusual or extraordinary."



According to Haines, the "CIA closely monitored the Air Force effort, aware of the mounting number of sightings and increasingly concerned that UFOs might pose a potential security threat." The issue caught the attention of analysts at the agency's Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI). By the early 1950s, some CIA officials had concluded that "since there is a remote possibility that they may be a interplanetary aircraft, it is necessary to investigate each sighting," as one OSI memo stated.

After skimming through the history of the Air Force's early UFO studies, Haines makes extensive use of CIA internal records from the early 1950s to construct a detailed accounting of how the agency's top officials, including at least two of its directors, were drawn into the UFO issue for reasons of national security.

The pinnacle of the CIA's early UFO work came in January 1953, when the agency commissioned a secret report by the "Robertson Panel," a group of experts hired to weigh the national security implications of the UFO threat. The story of the panel has been told before, but never with the detail and insider documentation that Haines provides. His fact-filled, absorbing account of the CIA's desperate effort to keep the Robertson report classified will be particularly useful to UFO historians. (In the wake of the release of the Haines report, an August 8 Washington Post editorial -- titled "The Summer of UFOs" -- noted that "getting the internal documents [on UFOs] for public scrutiny has been like pulling teeth.")

America's spies were constantly concerned with concealing their involvement with UFO matters, Haines reports. From the time of their earliest forays into UFO territory, "Air Force and CIA officials agreed that outside knowledge of Agency interest in UFOs would make the problem more serious" -- the "problem" being public concerns about strange sights in the skies. By the 1980s, when the CIA apparently had only a slight interest in UFOs. "Agency officials purposefully kept files on UFOs to a minimum to avoid creating records that might mislead the public if released," Haines reports.

The effort to feign disinterest in UFOs wound up hurting the CIA's reputation on the issue, Haines concludes, because the "concealment of CIA interest contributed greatly to later charges of a CIA conspiracy or coverup." On August 8, veteran intelligence author David Wise echoed that observation in a New York Times op-ed. "You don't have to believe in little green men to see the admitted deception [in the Haines report] as yet another example of official lying that has eroded public trust in government," Wise wrote, placing the UFO deceit in the context of other government "cover stories," such as those employed during the Vietnam War and the Watergate and Iran-contra scandals.

In fact, a UFO coverup of sorts was perpetrated, Haines charges, one involving both the CIA and the Air Force. It involved highly classified spy plane projects like the U-2, which naturally were designed for optimum stealth. To hide the existence of such planes from the Soviet Union, the government had to hide them from the American public as well.

As Haines tells it, the clandestine flights of the U-2, first tested in August 1955, set off a rash of UFO reports by civilian pilots and air traffic controllers. The sightings, says Haines, should have come as no surprise given the appearance of the first U-2 models, which were painted silver. As the planes "reflected the rays from the sun, especially at sunrise and sunset," they "often appeared as fiery objects to observers below."

Meanwhile, damage control duties were consigned to the Air Force, where Project Blue Book investigators knew of the CIA's surveillance plane tests and "tried to explain away such sightings by linking them to natural phenomena such as ice crystals and temperature inversions." Haines goes on to allege that "over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights (namely the U-2) over the United States." The Air Force, he says, was forced "to make misleading and deceptive statements to the public in order to allay public fears and to protect an extraordinarily sensitive national security project."

What, exactly, did Haines mean when he referred to "over half of all UFO reports"? Were these the reports logged by the Air Force's Project Blue Book? When asked these questions by Dossier, Haines said he could not comment. When asked if this was because he would have to discuss sensitive information to answer correctly, or if it was just too long of a story to go into, Haines replied: "Both."

When asked about the allegations in the Haines report, an Air Force spokesman, Brig. Gen. Ronald Sconyers, told the press that "I cannot confirm or deny that we lied" about UFO sightings. Though we do not know the specific basis for Haines' claim, if his account is correct, then this attempt to hide the spy flights from U.S. sky-watchers is perhaps the greatest program of official lies about UFO sightings ever documented.

How long did the spooks grapple with the UFO controversy? Haines concludes from his investigation that "while Agency concern over UFOs was substantial until the early 1950s, CIA has since paid only limited and peripheral attention to the problem." However, there are hints in his report that the some serious CIA work on the UFO front continued for decades.

In the 1970s and '80s, for example, the OSI's Life Science Division had "counterintelligence concerns that the Soviets and the KGB were using U.S. citizens and UFO groups to obtain information on sensitive U.S. weapons development programs (such as the Stealth aircraft), the vulnerability of the U.S. air-defense network to penetration by foreign missiles mimicking UFOs, and evidence of Soviet advanced technology associated with UFO sightings." Haines elaborated a bit on this for Dossier, explaining that some CIA officials were worried that "the Soviets could infiltrate these organizations and establish an information corridor" that would provide insight on classified aircraft.

Given this potentially serious "counterintelligence concern," did the CIA then monitor or investigate civilian UFO groups in the United States? When asked this question, Haines adamantly assured Dossier that "the CIA does not conduct domestic operations," and that he saw "nothing in the record that would indicate" such an effort. However, he said that "on a couple of occasions," the CIA "recommended that the FBI look into" the activities of private UFO groups.

While it is too early to issue the final verdict on Haines' study, this latest, greatest government UFO report opens several avenues for further discussion and investigation. On the Internet, a vibrant forum for the myriad disputes of Ufology, debate and speculation about the Haines report commenced immediately. The controversy erupted on an online newsgroup devoted to discussing the CIA, where one skeptical person commented: "Even if this were true, that would leave 50% of all UFOs unexplained. But why should we believe a group of professional liars about anything? I suggest that all ufologists and the general public at large take this with a very large grain of salt!"

Haines studied the history of the UFO issue enough to know that such sentiments will remain strong. Though his article is a turning point in official openness about government lies and UFOs, he predicts that the public will remain highly skeptical of CIA-published reports such as his. "Like the JFK assassination conspiracies," he writes, "the UFO issue probably will not go away soon, no matter what the Agency says or does."


(c) Copyright 1997 ParaScope, Inc. Document: Read "The CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs"