Nervous smiles and fluttering eyelids
The growing futility of containment tactics on the UFO mystery
"A secret's worth depends on the people from whom it must be kept" –Carlos Ruiz Zafón, The Shadow of the Wind
During a late-night chortlefest last year in which Barack Obama joked that America’s UFO secrets will likely remain locked up indefinitely (“the aliens won’t let it happen … they exercise strict control over us”), Jimmy Kimmel made a prediction for the ex-president: “Now, you know there are a lot of people who are gonna examine all your facial expressions here, every twitch – everything.”
Sure enough, just before the Office of National Intelligence issued its first UAP report in June 2021, four body-language experts calling themselves The Behavior Panel posted their YouTube interpretations of the nonverbal cues accompanying Obama’s remarks. And 44 wasn’t the only authority getting x-rayed. Reviewing UFO-related video snippets from Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Donald Trump, former National Intelligence directors John Ratcliffe and James Clapper, and former CIA directors Leon Panetta and John Brennan, these boys had a field day.
Led by Scott Rouse, trained in interrogation techniques taught by the FBI, the Secret Service, the Defense Department and military intelligence, fellow analysts Greg Hartley, Chase Hughes and Mark Bowden jumped on every nervous, uncomfortable or incongruous physical and vocal tic the UFO questions elicited.
To be sure, the field of kinesics is plenty controversial. Although evidence extracted from nonverbal behaviors has been used to build criminal cases, some behaviorists and psychologists blast the whole lot of it as a pseudoscience more engaged with entertainment than gathering empirical data. I’m not smart enough to know one way or the other. But watching these guys going deep on the granularity of micro-behaviors is definitely entertaining.
A ‘complete deflection back to the interviewer’
We see Obama’s performance getting dissected into segments like “lateral boundary hand movement, which is pretty uncharacteristic behavior for him.” When shown the Navy night-vision vids of triangles shadowing U.S. warships off California in 2019, Bush lapses into “more lip pursing, more avoidance . . . a complete deflection back to the interviewer.” My personal favorite is The Panel’s take on Panetta, offering a subtle negative head shake that appears to contradict his unambiguous suggestion that the technology comes from Russia and/or China.
“His blink rate’s through the roof . . . to ludicrous speeds,” offers Hughes, who says Panetta’s response is atypical of his demeanor before Congress over the years. “This is not his baseline.” Adds Hartley, “This is out of character, and those things indicate deception.”
But the real eye-opener surrounded Obama’s top spy John Brennan.
In January 2018, a month after the NY Times broke the news about the DoD’s secret UFO program, I got a chance to toss Brennan a question during a brief press conference in Sarasota. His unruffled endorsement of the Pentagon’s continuing UFO “endeavors” was unremarkable, and he fielded it with the ease of an ordinary policy question.
Nearly three years later, however, Brennan’s body language was – according to The Behavior Panel – revealing a dramatically different story.
In a December 2020 podcast interview with the director of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, Brennan was asked for his best guess about the origin of UFOs. He rambled and dodged and ultimately managed to say UFOs “might in fact be some type of phenomenon that is the result of something that, um, we don’t yet understand, and that could involve some type of um, activity that, uh, some might uh, say, uh, constitutes a, a different form of life.”
It wasn’t so much what Brennan said (zilch) as how he said zilch. Over the course of the wide-ranging podcast, the career spook rarely made eye contact with show host Tyler Cowen. But it was his reaction to Cowen’s brief UFO query – the forced chuckle, the downcast gaze, the hand to side of the face, fingers pressing into the forehead – that animated The Behavior Panel into pronouncements like these:
The man is ‘tortured’ inside …
“He’s eye-blocking so he doesn’t have to deal with it,” “His behavior is different from everything we’ve seen or will see . . . that’s the behavior you see when somebody knows they’ve done something wrong and they’re tortured by it . . . I know when I’ve seen it, that person, inside, they’re a wreck, they’re a mess,” “For lack of a better term, I think it’s a bit of a resistance technique.”
Well, much had changed in Brennan’s world from early ’18 to late ’20. Congress had begun to smell a rat on the UFO front, new and legacy media platforms were reassessing the evidence, and even mainstream planetary scientists were complaining to Scientific American of a sneaking impression that they’d been bamboozled for decades by the feds. In short, by the end of 2020, the lumbering ship of state appeared on the verge of making an unparalleled course correction. Maybe inner-circle lifers like John Brennan knew more about the icebergs ahead than they could let on – but not nearly enough to prepare us for how to process what’s coming.
What’s coming are galloping, off-the-shelf technologies and aggressive entrepreneurship that isn’t waiting for Uncle Sam to get his shit together. One of my regrets – especially after watching the conclusion of the History channel’s latest installment of “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” – is that Clyde Good and Bud Evans aren’t around for the show.
Utah real estate baron Brandon Fugal has invested a fortune into turning a remote and controversial ranch – subjected to Defense Intelligence Agency scrutiny more than a decade ago – into a one-of-a-kind field research lab. A long-festering Petrie dish of alleged paranormal activity, Skinwalker Ranch is under vigilant surveillance by state-of-the-art sensors, and the baffling results are being released in installments for popular consumption.
It was the data from S3 E10 that got me to thinking about Clyde and Bud. The episode concluded with a 3-D photogrammetry survey of Fugal’s entire 512-acre tract. When the drone-camera images were processed and overlayed, two “phantom structures” – invisible to the eye, yet substantive enough to leave a pair of geometrically-shaped pixelated artifacts suspended maybe 100 feet in mid-air – materialized on the digital map. What was it? Guess we’ll just have to wait until Season 4 to find out. That’s showbiz, folks.
Anyhow, in 1950, shortly before the eruption of the Korean War, Norman “Bud” Evans and Clyde Good were attached to the 9th Fighter Squadron in Misawa, Japan. The Air Force was phasing out its World War II P-51 prop jobs for F-80 jet fighters, but the Mustang pilots still rehearsed their gunnery drills. Target practice involved going after tow planes dragging bullseye banners, roughly 8-feet tall and 30 feet long, suspended on 800 feet of cable.
‘I’m not going to live forever’
Evans was in the air for training exercises when he heard a pilot vent his surprise over the radio: “We’ve got a target, but no tow ship.” A ground radar operator dispatched Evans to the sector, but the phantom had vanished by time Evans made the rendezvous. He joined two pilots for a debriefing, both of whom said they had approached and flanked a rectangular UFO, an estimated three times the size of their gunnery target. The pilots could even see each other’s planes silhouetted through what they compared to “translucent glass,” maybe just a few inches wide. The flying window pane then shot off.
Later, Evans and a wingman were scrambled to join a third pilot reporting a large, thin, broad rectangle moving erratically over Hokkaido. Once again, the thing disappeared into cloud cover before they could intercept.
Shortly thereafter, Evans and nearly everyone else stood by the runway at Misawa, awaiting a VIP base inspection posse. But then, from the east, just moments before the brass arrived, a familiar sight broke in line. Evans: “I knew as soon as I saw it that this is what the guys had seen before, and it was right ahead of where the C-54 was going to come. It was quite large.”
Retired lieutenant colonel Clyde Good was there, too: “It was coming in pretty slow, and at first we all thought it was a tow target. So I’m looking for its power source, and there were no props, no jet engines, no visible means of propulsion, and it doesn’t make a sound. But it was definitely under control of somebody or something, because it then pulled straight up, like a bat out of hell and took off, just disappeared.”
Evans and Good caught up with each other, decades later, by accident, on Florida’s Space Coast, where they were neighbors. They never forgot what they saw, didn’t care who knew it, and told the newspaper all about it in 2002. How, after all, were military pilots supposed to train for something that commanded their airspace and openly mocked their weaponry?
“I’m not going to live forever,” Good grumbled. “But nobody ever talks about it. It’s like everyone’s in denial.”
The old pilots probably would’ve gotten a kick out of the photogrammetry images of the stealth structures suspended above Skinwalker Ranch. They might also have enjoyed watching the fluttering eyelids of retired IC bigwigs on the hot seat, or watching five current or former presidents trying to shrug it all off with good-natured chuckles.
Clyde, however, died in 2012 at 88. Bud passed in 2020. He was 95.
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