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Border Patrol goes rogue
Emails, texts reflect dissention over UFO policy
I figured I’d better make a screen grab of Customs and Border Protection’s UFO web page to prove it existed if the bureaucrats have second thoughts about providing “catastrophic” assistance to “bad actors.”
Stress fractures within the bureaucratic armor cloaking America’s UFO secrets buckled and snapped without a sound last month when the Customs and Border Protection office reversed its own policy with an unexpected data dump on its website. Without context, without explanation, without so much as a formal press release or announcement to justify its action, CBP’s surprise move was conducted with such discretion that no one noticed until last week.
The disclosures, which were posted on August 9, included 10 mostly underwhelming UFO/UAP videos along with a mishmash of totally and partially redacted memos, emails, texts and media articles, pointing to growing discord between upper management and underlings trying to figure out the rules. Nearly half those vids are actually part of an hour-long track of a single UFO called the Rubber Duck, broken into four 15-minute segments (more on that in a moment). Which ones are valuable? You tell me.
The biggie was CBP’s formal ownership of the Aguadilla video, from 2013. Suddenly, The Government has now officially released nearly four minutes of footage that showcases UFO “transmedium” capabilities in the sky and waters of coastal Puerto Rico.
“Who made that decision? It had to be Homeland Security,” says researcher Morgan Beall, who acquired the groundbreaking video from a CBP agent in 2015. “Why? I know for a fact that, if it were up to the Pentagon, they would’ve told them not to do that. To be honest, I think it’s a message of frustration.”
‘The results could be catastrophic’
In 2015, as a reporter for the Herald-Tribune in Sarasota, I made a Freedom of Information request to CBP for an unedited version of the Aguadilla vid. The independent researchers who became known as the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU) had just published a 159-page analysis of airborne surveillance footage in thermal mode chasing a nighttime bogey. Apparently tumbling at speeds ranging from 40 to 120 miles an hour, descending over streets, trees, and buildings, the thing ultimately sliced into the shallows at 80 mph without splashing, traveled underwater, then split into two separate objects as it reemerged.
CBP slammed the door on my FOIA, not on national security grounds, but by citing Title 5 U.S.C. 552 (b)(7)(E), which protects “techniques and procedures” employed by law enforcement investigations. After appealing that decision, in January 2016 I received a detailed no-dice response that bears repeating here.
“Releasing this video,” stated Shari Suzuki, Chief of CBP FOIA Appeals, Policy & Litigation Branch, “would identify the techniques practiced by the agency during the clandestine aerial tracking of the plane. Most notably, it shows the specific vantage point from which CBP prefers to conduct its clandestine surveillance in relation to the target plane. Bad actors can identify specifically from what altitude, directional positioning, airspeed, and distance CBP hopes to surveil while avoiding detection from its targets. The on-screen metadata compounds the issue. The bands of text at the top and bottom of the screen alleviates any guesswork on their behalf, specifically providing such exact information as the CBP aircraft’s airspeed, altitude, and the GPS coordinates of both the aircraft and the surveillance target.
“Taken in combination, this information would essentially provide bad actors with a map of where to look for CBP in the sky during smuggling operations. If the bad actors know where to spot CBP aircraft, they will be far better at ferreting out CBP’s attempts to track and surveil them and could subsequently attempt evasive measures, abort their mission, or attack their pursuers. Additionally, both the actual video and the onscreen metadata, if released, would arm smugglers with the type of information that could extend the perimeter of their counter-surveillance operations, or focus their efforts on the specific locations from which CBP prefers to surveil. The results could be catastrophic, thwarting attempts to stop smuggling operations or exposing CBP law enforcement agents to attack. For all these reasons, we agree that FOIA Exemption (b)(7)(E) was correctly applied to the videotapes at issue.”
How ‘bout those emails?
Even then, seven years ago, you didn’t have to be a genius to recognize this for the steaming crock of five-star gold-standard horseshit that it was. Robert Powell, a member of SCU’s Aguadilla investigative team, provided a couple of CBP videos – complete with embedded metadata – the agency didn’t mind sharing with CBS when it wanted to trumpet its success at busting low-flying dope runners. Furthermore, if CBP even pretended to make a show of good faith, it could’ve easily scrubbed that “catastrophic” metadata from the Aguadilla sequence six years ago, just as it clearly did with the UAP videos it posted in August. Yet, thanks to CBP’s Aguadilla footage with metadata intact, “bad actors” now have the source code to march unimpeded into the U.S. black market, right?
So, what changed between 2016 and now?
There are clues aplenty strung together in CBP’s confusing firehose of documents listed in a section called “Records Pertaining to Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon.” Some 78 pages are fully censored under the (B)(7)(E) statute, but given the erratic repetition of additional uncensored entries, the actual number of unique whole-page white-outs may be just a fraction of that.
The most revealing exchanges occur in the summer of 2021, shortly after the Office of the Director of National Intelligence officially confirms the reality of UFOs in June and calls for “an intelligence assessment of the threat posed by unidentified aerial phenomena.” Now gird your loins for a soup of acronyms:
An employee identified only as Border Patrol Agent/Paramedic (BPA/P) has been paying close attention to the work of SCU, and its ongoing investigation into a CBP video known as the Rubber Duck. Reportedly filmed for an hour by the Arizona National Guard in 2019 as it glided over desert terrain, the UFO gets the nickname from its peculiar configuration. The Rubber Duck vid is said to have been leaked to SCU by a source in the Department of Homeland Security. CBP falls under the jurisdiction of DHS.
On August 5, 2021, BPA/P contacts someone at the Arizona Air Coordination Center/Tucson Sector (A2C2), via email. Taking a cue from ODNI’s new directive, BPA/P informs A2C2 that he (or she) is working up a 20-page evaluation of UFOs from the Border Protection perspective. Along the way, BPA/P has “found hundreds of agents and dozens of pilots that have witnessed events, including a large amount within SOD.” (Special Operations Division?) Of special concern is yet another incident, in February 2021, over Tucson. It involves a harrowing 70-minute game of cat-and-mouse initiated by an extraordinarily maneuverable “drone” against helicopters belonging to CBP and the Tucson PD.
Go do your little ‘pet project,’ son
BPA/P states that pilots and “many Border Patrol agents” hope to “freely report what they see without ridicule,” but “unfortunately it’s still very much taboo.” The medic continues, “I know this subject is sensitive in nature and I have taken upmost (sic) care not to divulge sensitive or classified information to the SCU folks that pertain to our operational security. They have me sign an NDA as well and will protect my identity until after I retire.”
A2C2 praises BPA/P for “the level of thought and effort you put into this,” and asks the agent for any updates. BPA/P responds with an idea: “Maybe it would be possible for me to do my work at home due to its sensitive nature,” and suggests being issued “a tablet or a laptop” for that purpose.
The next day, however, BPA/P is upbraided in an email from DCMDR MRT, who shoots down the laptop/tablet request. He (or she) warns the medic about “labeling research work as sensitive without direct, express authorization or the appropriate clearance to do so . . . Additionally, please refrain from emailing (A2C2).” DCMDR MRT tells the medic to “observe chain of command . . . or I will route communications to (censored) and he will make the determination of what is forwarded to A2C2.”
Chastened, BPA/P agrees to “abide by the policy” on August 16. DCMDR MRT offers a patronizing response within hours: “As a pet project or for fun, do all the research you want. I know the topic is of great interest to you, and there’s a ton of information to sift through. If you want to dabble in your spare time at work, feel free. There just isn’t an avenue for formal research or reporting any type of findings or conclusions. It falls outside our purview. Thanks.”
The apparent final installment in this disjointed email narrative is a response from J3 SOD, recipient redacted, on October 3, 2021: “T4 . . . I apologize, and took the Director of National Intelligence’s UAP report seriously about reporting requirements.”
The CBP website also posted an exchange of heavily vetted text messages between unknown personnel. The year isn’t mentioned, but the date is August 5, presumably 2021, and the content is peppered with snark and sarcasm.
Bracing for an ‘ass chewing’
“You’ll never believe the email I fired off to (redacted) and (redacted) and (redacted) response.” “What did you email to those guys?” “I will forward it to you. I’m taking (redacted) walk.” “We’re going to need to discuss your email habits.” “Ha ha. Sensitive nature of my work.” “Yeah, you can’t be emailing the A2C2 director and the (A)PAIC. Well, you can, but do not be surprised if it bites you in the ass again.” “Yeah, I fall on the sword for many causes. Story of my life.” “So, to that end, please do not email my boss and my boss’s boss. Jumping the chain of command is not a highly respected activity.” “T4” “Forward me the email please.” “Thought I was still working for (redacted) just in J3. I gave (redacted) SA out of respect.” “I swear, if I get an ass chewing over this . . . Since when do you report to (redacted)?”
The next textblock is redacted before the exchange resumes: “I repeatedly told (redacted) and (redacted) what I wanted to do while in there. I thought I just got moved to J3 to help fix the Stats side of air and everything. (Redacted) responded and thanked me for my hard work. I’m just trying to tie up loose work ends on stuff. I can do that on my work phone to send emails. I know (redacted) was leaving and wanted to update him on the status of my work project.” “I’m going to send you my official response on email. I want there to be no question on where I stand on this. Enjoy. (Redacted)” “T4”
Codebreakers, have at it.
One thing the CBP dump didn’t include were its own internal analyses on any of the videos it posted. Beall says the “kinda boring” Rubber Duck sequence — regarded as a true unknown by SCU investigators — deserves more attention than it’s getting. “We see the properties of an object moving in daylight over a hot desert location, and it should be creating its own friction in midair. But the object is very cold. We don’t really understand that.”
Also, the full Aguadilla footage has yet to be released, Beall says. He says his CPB source gave him the video at Homestead Air Base only after the command ladder kicked it back, with the news that another agency in Quantico wasn’t interested, either. Makes you wonder if management would’ve been so apathetic if the sort of comm chatter that electrified the Navy’s “Gimbal” and “GoFast” encounters not been scrubbed from Aguadilla.
Let’s hear the audio version
“From my understanding, they took out the audio before they put it on a thumb drive and shared it with everybody because they didn’t want to get in trouble, they didn’t want their voices to be played on the national news,” Beall says. “There was radio chatter between ground control and other aircraft on there, is my understanding. And, yeah, they were saying some bad words on there, which was another reason they took it out.”
Beall has no idea if any of the DHC-H Turboprop crew members will take advantage of congressional whistleblower protections for UAP witnesses and testify to what they saw over western Puerto Rico 10 years ago. “But I’ll bet you some of those guys are in (CBP) leadership positions now,” he adds.
For SCU Aguadilla report co-author Robert Powell, the fact that neither NASA nor the Pentagon’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office saw fit to address the CBP video casts doubt on those agencies’ commitment to transparency.
“You know, of all the AARO work being done, we haven’t seen any of their UAP analysis. They’ve said most of their 800 cases are explainable objects, and I believe that on the surface,” Powell says. “But they never show the work they’ve done to make that determination. 800 cases? That’s a lot.
“We had five guys working on Aguadilla and it took us a year and a half to come out with a report, five of us, hundreds of hours, in the upper hundreds. They’ve (CBP website) got a video on there with something that looks like a garbage bag with hot air. Something like that, you probably don’t have to put a lot of effort into it, but you’ve still gotta look at it, you’ve still gotta log in your conclusions about what you decided and why, then you put it in a spread sheet. I mean, that’s an hour right there.
“So you’ve got 800 cases and in all 800 cases, if all you do is spend an hour on each one? That’s 800 hours, or 20 man-weeks, minimum. That’s assuming you don’t have an Aguadilla in there somewhere. And how many folks do they have who actually work on these cases? We don’t even know how many people are working for AARO.”
Using declassified data, Border Patrol agents have baited the hook for AARO, NASA and any other concerned federal stakeholders. Whether those bureaucracies view it as a trap or an opportunity will probably come down to a bloodless algorithm calculating reward v. risk.
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