On civilian leadership, subpoenas
Step one in unclogging the UFO information pipes? Get the military out of the way, says CUFOS Scientific Director Mark Rodeghier
On February 21, eastbound at 36,000 feet over northeastern New Mexico, American Airlines Flight 2292 contacted local air traffic control to report a bogey in a commercial flight corridor.
“Do you have any targets up here?” wondered the Airbus A320 pilot. “We just had something go right over the top of us – I hate to say this, but it looked like a long cylindrical object that almost looked like a cruise missile type of thing – moving really fast right over the top of us.”
Tyler Rogoway of The Drive published the radio communications from the incident recorded in real time by a private civilian radio interceptor. His efforts to get an official release from the FAA were less successful. And American Airlines suggested Rogoway direct all followup questions to the FBI/Albuquerque office. But the FBI – as Black Vault researcher John Greenewald recently pointed out – apparently can’t get its shit together when responding consistently to FOIA requests.
The Bureau informed Greenewald they could find no “responsive” records to his query for additional details. But that’s not how they answered a FOIA submitted by researcher William Puckett of UFOs Northwest regarding AA 2292.
In a response dated March 2 – the exact same date as its reply letter Greenewald, stating it had bupkis – the agency that said it had no records on the incident released four pages of heavily redacted notes to Puckett. It acknowledged a “bizarre close encounter” involving said airliner, adding that it had contacted law enforcement on the ground about any sighting reports. However, the Bureau told Puckett, “the FBI does not have federal jurisdiction to investigate this matter.”
And in an additional kiss-off from the feds, the FAA informed Puckett that his queries for the authorized release of voice recordings from AA 2292 and radar data were being rejected. “I have never encountered anything like this in 20 years of FOIA requests,” Puckett stated in an email blast. “I could maybe believe that the voice tapes wouldn’t be released, but not the radar data.”
As Greenewald pointed out, what’s especially peculiar is how, in last year’s Congressional language laying the groundwork for the Director of National Intelligence’s unclassified “preliminary assessment” of UFOs that came out last week, “a detailed analysis of data of the FBI” for UFO “intrusions” over restricted air space was specifically requested. Yet, no FBI jurisdiction on AA 2292?
“Why can’t that American Airlines case be investigated by the task force? Why can’t those radar tracks be looked at?” wonders Mark Rodeghier. “Why can’t the pilots be interviewed, and other systems used to investigate it be looked at?”
Rodeghier is the Scientific Director of the Center for UFO Studies, founded in 1973 by J. Allen Hynek, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of modern UFOlogy. Before his death in 1986, Hynek named Rodeghier as his successor and curator of CUFOS’ sprawling trove of UFO archives dating back to the mid-20th century and earlier.
Until 12/17 turned things inside out, the Chicago-based Center had languished in relative obscurity for decades outside UFO circles. Now, the phone won’t stop ringing. “We’ve had more quality people contact CUFOS in the past two years,” says veteran researcher, “than in the previous 10 combined.”
Rodeghier brings the long view and context to bear on what looks to be the most enduring and successful coverup in American history. And the bungled information management of the AA 2292 incident reinforces his longstanding contention that it’s not enough merely to get the military out of the UFO business. Civilian ownership of the issue must be transparent and coherent. And the sooner, the better.
“There’s no agency set up to study this – how could there be, we’ve been avoiding it for so long – but the military doesn’t need to be handling this,” he says. “Yes, they’ve got better sensors and methods than the civilian world does, but will we learn what they learn? Will we be told fully what they find out once they finish their analyses? Based on past experience, I think we can conclude no.
“If you’re in the military and you discover, years later, than an adversary’s been here, that they’ve penetrated your security, then you do what the intelligence community calls a damage assessment. Well,” says Rodeghier, “this isn’t a damage assessment exactly, but it’s along the same lines. You need to find out what’s been happening while you weren’t paying attention. And that’s probably never going to get out there.”
But forget about NASA taking the lead in civilian research, he says. “They’re not set up for it, they’re not in the business of studying this kind of phenomenon – they’re in the business of space exploration.” By default, the “obvious” go-to sponsor for government funding would be the National Science Foundation. That, and/or a collaboration with blue-chip nonprofits like the Gates Foundation.
“Look at what’s already happening,” Rodeghier says. “You’ve already got people like (heavyweight Harvard astronomer) Avi Loeb lobbying for scientific research, and we’re starting to see young SETI guys who are coming out of the closet and talking openly about how UFOs should be studied. If funding became available now, oh my god, it would be like a gold rush.”
The key, he says, would be open communication lines between the Pentagon and the civilian world.
“Transparency has to start within the government itself, where everybody has to talk to everybody else. Because if you don’t do that, you’re not going to do good science, good research.” Example:
The AA 2292 pilot reports an anomaly. The theoretical civilian data collection agency confirms radar records, consults with other pilots in the vicinity, examines signatures from satellites and other monitors, confers with NORAD, and assembles a package for “the best brains” on the civilian team to evaluate and explain to taxpayers.
“That’s about as far down the road as I’ve played it out,” says Rodeghier. “Because where you go depends on what you’ve learned and where you’re at. But I do know what the first phase of a project should look like.”
Among the advantages of civilian leadership would be opportunities for international cooperation.
“I understand the military saying we can’t work with adversaries, even if we trust them – we can’t share our data because it’ll tell them what we can measure. And I get that,” he says.
“Civilians may not have as many tools as the military, but they have the huge advantage of not being restricted about who they can talk to. They can go to China or Russia or whoever’s doing similar open research and say, ‘OK, here’s what we’ve got, what have you learned, what are you trying? Oh, we’ll try that here and we can build on each other’s work.’”
But Rodeghier says going forward without taking stock of the past, and mining its massive caseloads of data for patterns, would be myopic.
“Imagine the response to the Navy videos that surfaced in 2017 if there had never been a UFO phenomenon,” he says. “How much fuss would there be about it? Not much. That’s because those F-18 videos don’t stand alone. Newton said that classic phrase, ‘I stand on the shoulders of science.’ The Navy pilot sightings stood on the shoulders of 70 years of solid UFO reports, so when they came out, it wasn’t like a one-off thing. And that’s why the public and the media and the politicians began to pay attention in a big way.”
A journey through the past, both recent and distant, should be comprehensive enough to fumigate past modes of rumored surreptitious bureaucratic practice. Take, for instance, former Sen. Harry Reid’s expressed belief that defense contractors, such as Lockheed Martin, have hoarded secret UFO research. Or the controversy surrounding the alleged confession of ex-Defense Intelligence Agency director Thomas Wilson to physicist Eric Davis that he, Wilson, was denied clearance to review a corporate Special Access Project on the phenomenon.
“The only way to handle that is with congressional hearings,” Rodeghier says. “I don’t see any other way to make that happen.
“Marco Rubio (former chair of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence) or whomever should say it’s great that we’re looking into UFO sightings, but we keep hearing rumors that someone else knows more than they’re saying, so I’m going to subpoena Eric Davis and I’m going to subpoena Admiral Wilson and I’m going to ask them to testify.
“Congressional hearings could be explosive, and I don’t know which way it would go – I could see them having ramifications that could be concerning to somebody thinking only about winning the next election. But I also think this is one of those rare issues that does not seem to be politicized.
“I don’t want to be too optimistic – there’s too many things that can go wrong,” says Rodeghier, who joined CUFOS in 1974. “But I do think this is one of those topics, like space, in general, where anybody across the world can be openly interested without having to worry about politics. Most science problems are global in nature, and this one really is.”
How about starting with something simple? Like maybe AA 2292?