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In your face
Pentagon call on video release raises broader questions about public records
The Pentagon’s magnanimous decision to showcase footage of Russia’s March 14 attack on a top-shelf U.S. drone makes us forget all about the videos it won’t release of Air Force jets shooting down three low-tech UFOs in February. [U.S. Defense Department]
Every year since 2005, American journalism has promoted Sunshine Week to remind news consumers that press freedom requires, to paraphrase Barry Goldwater, eternal vigilance. Introduced by the Florida legislature in 1909, armored up in 1967, and chiseled into the state constitution in 1992, Florida’s “sunshine laws” have been the inspiration for Sunshine Week and a national model for open-records policy ever since. But of course, things are changing.
Nourished by rivers of dark money and dingbat conspiracy theories, Florida’s Balkanized political landscape — pitting neighbors against each other over school board meetings, public health, hospital boards, library books, drag shows, etc. — is offering a sneak preview of possibilities for the rest of the USA. During the March 12-18 edition of Sunshine Week, and with what appears to be the overwhelming acquiescence of Florida voters, state lawmakers were and still are quietly laying the groundwork for the big con.
In action that will, in due time, reveal the screaming matches over “wokeness” for the diversion they’ve always been, legislators in Tallahassee were busy trying to ram three dozen public-records exemption bills into law. Included in the veto-proof Republican agenda are bombs engineered to shred defamation protections for journalists to make us even more ignorant about our own business than we already are. The end game is to lure the U.S. Supreme Court into expanding the definition of malice so the kleptocracy can financially ruin what few watchdogs are left.
As goes Florida …
In 2020, a record 115 reporters were arrested across America, and the chilling effect on the nation’s third most populous state has barely begun. Those who track organized assaults on press freedoms put the decline in a global context.
Reporters Without Borders (RSB) is a France-based international nonprofit that has been quantifying these trends for nearly 40 years. Since 2002, they’ve been grading governments according to this standard: “. . . the effective possibility for journalists, as individuals and as groups, to select, produce and disseminate news and information in the public interest, independently from political, economic, legal and social interference, and without threats to their physical and mental safety.”
By those standards, democracy was most robust in Norway, Denmark and Sweden in 2022. At the ass end, in descending order, were Iran, Eritrea and North Korea’s mafia dynasty at 180. Russia managed a 155, China trailed Russia at 175, and Costa Rica (8) led Canada (19) in the Northern Hemisphere. The U.K. rated 24, France came in at 26, and the U.S. actually moved up two notches to 42 during the first full year after Trump’s violent exit from the White House. But the USA started out in 17th place 20 years ago, and has been slowly, steadily losing ground in the aftermath of its response to 9/11. As RSB makes clear, the contagion is global.
“Chronic issues impacting journalists remain unaddressed,” its report states. “These include the disappearance of local newspapers, the systematic polarisation of the media, and the erosion of journalism by digital platforms amid a climate of animosity and aggression towards journalists among others.”
While legislative and policy insults to democracy’s most basic tenet don’t generate the kind of headlines triggered by the politically motivated roundup and murder of news-gatherers, their legal codification can be more transformative than targeted dosages of polonium-210 and Novichok.
Last year, in a direct appeal to Senate leaders for congressional intervention into a security apparatus increasingly incapable of accountability, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines warned that national security had become an existential threat to national security.
“It is my view,” wrote the DNI boss last year, “that deficiencies in the current classification system undermine our national security, as well as critical democratic objectives, by impeding our ability to share information in a timely manner, be that sharing with our intelligence partners, our oversight bodies, or, when appropriate, with the general public. This reduces the Intelligence Community’s (IC) capacity to effectively support senior policymaker decision-making, and further erodes the basic trust that our citizens have in their government.”
Haines’ remarks were aimed at a zealous overclassification culture that at least borders on pathological. As of 2019, nearly 3 million Americans held national security clearances, according to ODNI. Of those, 1.7 million were under a confidential or secret umbrella, and the remaining 1.3 million were cleared for top secret.
In an essay filed with the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies last week, researcher Robert Powell employed Haines’ remarks to draw attention to an entire category of truth smothered by the military bureaucracy. And the trickle-down results are so dispiriting, Powell says he doesn’t even bother to FOIA for UFO information anymore.
FOIA a ‘sham and a shame’
Powell and then-MUFON cohort Glen Schultze made a big splash with federal documents 15 years ago. Using FAA and National Weather Service radar records (the military claimed it had none to offer), they provided forensic proof of a UFO event that had challenged the unprotected airspace of a presidential residence in Texas in 2008. Worse, its presence provoked no military air cover in response.
Key details were extracted from En Route Intelligence Tool data, those raw, unedited, unfiltered pingbacks that paint things in the sky that air traffic controllers don’t see, from birds to vapor trails. In 2011, the FAA pulled the national security blinds down over ERIT records, and the subsequent clampdown on associated UFO data has dissuaded Powell from trying to acquire the concealed UFO shootdown videos from February. Reportedly, not even Congress has gotten to screen those yet.
Powell last made a stab at FOIA in 2021, when he tried to learn more about American Airlines 2292’s near collision with a cylindrical object, flying without a transponder over New Mexico, at 30,000 feet. The FAA rejected his request for radar records in May 2021, and hasn’t acknowledged his appeal for nearly two years. “Our FOIA system,” Powell stated in an email, “is a sham and a shame.”
Here ya go, the basic shapes of UFOs — but thanks for asking! [Office of the Director of National Intelligence 3/21/22]
Citing independent investigator John Greenewald’s inability to get so much as UFO shapes declassified last year, Powell’s paper wondered if independently acquired NGO data on The Great Taboo might also be at risk:
“Let’s accept, for a moment, that disclosure of shape or any of the other redacted information such as types of sensors used in detections and flight characteristics is a threat to our national security. This poses a question related to civilian organizations that might release this same type of information.
“What if shape or UAP characteristics are released by groups such as SCU, the Galileo Project, or the Mutual UFO Network? What if a group of scientists puts together a passive radar system to measure the speed of a UAP? The assumption would then be that the government would have the right to act in the name of national security and shut down civilian UAP research operations. This is quite a slippery slope for a free society.”
Yep. And just last week, as the nation prepared to revisit the cloudbursts of lies that flushed us into the tragedy of Iraq 20 years ago, the U.S. Air Force decided to release video of Russia’s attack on an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, a total loss ranging anywhere from $28 to $56.5 million – and most definitely a sequence that was all about national security. Yet, letting us see the ostensibly low-tech and non-adversarial UFOs our jet fighters brought down last month poses a bigger threat to national security . . .
Wittingly or not, by broadcasting its assets’ vulnerabilities to conventional weapons systems while hiding footage that may or may not have connections to a phenomenon it doesn’t understand, the Pentagon has signaled once again that national security isn’t the real issue here. The real issue is maintaining control of a story that has, from its inception, been impervious to FOIA/Sunshine Law scrutiny. It’s a story so huge, its mere verification could shatter the IC’s own authority. If democracy can indeed pick and choose its hill to die on, let it be with the biggest headliner in human history, and crimes against knowledge, not the more predictable death by a thousand cuts.
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