Still begging for 'adequate attention'
The last time this place entertained UFO hearings, the price of gasoline was 34 cents a gallon, Bill Gates was 13, and Pentagon whistleblower Luis Elizondo wasn’t even born.
“From time to time in the history of science, situations have arisen in which a problem of ultimately enormous importance went begging for adequate attention simply because that problem appeared to involve phenomena so far outside the current bounds of scientific knowledge that it was not even regarded as a legitimate subject of serious scientific concern. That is precisely the situation in which the UFO problem now lies.”
In his opening remarks to the House Science and Astronautics Committee on June 29, 1968, University of Arizona atmospheric physicist Dr. James McDonald explained to lawmakers the necessity of a political intervention. UFOs had so thoroughly demolished the conceits about our place at the top of God’s pecking order, the phenomenon had devoured the brains of establishment science. McDonald laid it all out, chapter and verse, like a coroner’s report, all the things his peers couldn’t process: exotic tech running circles around air defense systems; stealth and cloaking camouflage; unimpeded surveillance of America’s power plants, nuclear and otherwise; electromagnetic disruptions; radiation injuries – the litany went on and on and on.
But without permission from lawmakers, McDonald argued, science would never enter the fray of its own volition. Never mind the ongoing University of Colorado study contracted by the U.S. Air Force – it would be proven fraudulent soon enough. What science needed was a nudge, or a shove, or direct orders and funding from Congress in order to force it to confront the stark boundaries of its limitations.
McDonald and fellow transparency advocates never got a return invitation to extend that one-day conversation. America, after all, was tearing itself apart, the evening news was ruining suppertime with endless body bags and, hey, we were all going to the moon. -30-
On Tuesday, for the first time in nearly 54 years, Congress is set to reconsider the evidence it abandoned 11 presidential administrations ago. But when the House Intelligence Committee calls Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence and Security Ronald Moultrie and Deputy Director of Naval Intelligence Scott Bray to testify, the milestone will also, in retrospect, look curiously inevitable.
Raytheon’s F-18-mounted Advanced Targeting Forward Looking Infrared camera, which nailed the Tic Tac UFO on video and reinvigorated the UFO debate in 2017, was just the most widely publicized coup in the rapidly evolving digital toolbox. Four years earlier, above the coastal waters off Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, a Wescam MX-15 employed by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection plane recorded evidence of the phenomenon’s transmedium properties when a UFO sliced through the shallows without making a splash, zipped along underwater at cartoon submarine speeds, then split into two flying objects without breaking the waves.
Complete with embedded metadata, the technology that captures events like these are eroding mainstream resistance in ways James McDonald could only dream of. From Scientific American magazine to Harvard’s new Galileo Project, snowballing momentum for rigorous inquiry underscores the one thing that hasn’t changed since the Flower Power era – the intransigence of military intelligence, which has done a damn fine job of hoarding untold reams of UFO material from taxpayers, who’ve been subsidizing the collection ever since nuclear bombs infected the Jetstream with strontium-90. And into that information blackout comes the inevitable popularization and entertainment, a mixed bag which finds analysts like Rich Hoffman sounding cautionary notes for those new to the game on the eve of the big event.
Co-founder of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies, Hoffman is an enterprise architect with Marshall Space Flight Center’s Redstone Arsenal. He and his SCU colleagues have produced exhaustive evaluations of the 2004 Nimitz encounter and the 2013 Aguadilla incident, both of which were likely major factors in grabbing congressional attention over the past five years.
“We got the (Aguadilla) video directly from the pilot, literally before anybody else had it out there,” Hoffman says. “We had a team that looked at it frame by frame. And we spent about a year and a half tearing it apart, so that when we finally released our (162-page) report, we felt confident about our conclusions, that we were looking at an anomalous object.”
The hearings will unfold just as History’s ongoing “The Secret of Skinwalker Ranch” series and the just-released “A Tear in the Sky” documentary are drawing crowds. Both storylines apply systematic surveillance of territory regarded as hotbeds for UFO activity, using a full spectrum of imaging and sensing technologies. And the shows actually cross-pollenate in Season 3 of “Skinwalker,” when a team from the “Tear” cast shows up at Skinwalker Ranch in Utah commanding an SUV bristling with tracking gear, called OSIRIS. In fact, those new arrivals are members of UAPx, which is partnering with SCU’s volunteer scientists. But Hoffman says SCU has yet to see any data from UAPx, which he says illustrates the gulf between entertainment and science.
“It’s kind of like we’re doing it all backwards,” he says. “We end up putting stuff out there before we’ve had the time to do a proper analysis and it takes on a life of its own. Somebody makes an announcement that we’ve discovered a UFO, the press picks it up, and the images go around the world. Then maybe later somebody circles back and does an investigation, and finds out that, no, it’s actually a balloon. Well, by then it doesn’t matter, everybody knows it’s a UFO. And that creates a problem for UFOlogy.”
Hoffman points to video footage acquired from a 2019 incident off the coast of southern California, where the “Tear in the Sky” crew concentrated its research efforts last year. Two Navy warships, the USS Omaha and the USS Russell, grabbed sequences of peculiar flashing triangles and a round submersible object shadowing their operations. Both went viral, naturally.
“Suddenly (the footage) is going out to (filmmaker) Jeremy Corbell, who relies on (watchdog journalist) George Knapp to help get it out. Show me in that whole sequence where anybody did any investigation. It’s like, you make your announcement first, just to get attention.”
But could after-action analysis make the scientific method as entertaining as the stagey dramas on location? The injections of boom-boom percussion when tri-field meter readings spike, a tight reaction shot of arched eyebrows when an old-timer tells the gang about a UFO landing on this very spot, a breathless scramble for cameras when a strange blip appears moments after the launch of small sensor-laden rockets – how could tedious hours of evaluation compete with those edits and action?
Hoffman says that depends on the nature of the data. And if anything on the open market right now is poised to gather quality evidence, it’s the UFODAP hardware/software configuration developed by Chris O’Brien, Wayne Hollenback, and Ron Olch. UFODAP made its commercial debut on “A Tear in the Sky” this month. If UAPx team members Matthew Syzdagis and Kevin Knuth, who will presumably present their findings at SCU’s Anomalous Aerospace Conference in Huntsville on June 3-5, had given Hoffman’s growing flock of scientists some heads-up data to look at, the show might’ve been even stronger. Particularly that most puzzling anomaly in the night sky off SoCal, theorized by some of the UAPx operators to be a wormhole.
“UFODAP, in terms of its applicability in object detection and discrimination, is the most mature platform of all the tools out there that I’ve seen,” Hoffman says. “And it’s available for public consumption at a cost that’s not gonna rob you blind. It has the parameters that allow us to tell the difference between, say, an aircraft or a bird and something truly unusual. And you don’t have to review 24 hours of recordings to find something that popped up for maybe two seconds.
“The problem is, we’re not utilizing the media and journalism to be able to tell the story the way it needs to be told. We’re putting a lot stuff out there that just creates confusion, before the analysis and the conclusions are done, which just leaves everybody speculating and guessing about something that might well be familiar, like a drone.”
Despite Tuesday’s scheduled hearings, history suggests the military will continue to keep a lid on its secrets, which have been obtained through phased array radar, AWAC and sonar platforms, satellites, and perhaps a number of other systems whose existence is classified. Unless and until Uncle Sam makes a convincing case it seriously intends to comply with congressional demands for accountability, Hoffman says the best evidence will continue to elude some of America’s brightest minds.
“I think you’d want to leverage expertise wherever you can. The counterargument might be, well, how do we get them military-grade data that we don’t even want to talk about, how do we pass along classified information to someone who has no clearance? Well,” says Hoffman, “we actually have people who do have clearances. I have a clearance. Call it knowledge management.
“We don’t need to see everything, but we want to help get the story out. The same is true with Project Galileo. We’re all just waiting for something like that to happen.”
Such a modest proposal, but one whose mere possibility James McDonald could never have envisioned. Maybe the bigger question is, will the testimony have enough clever editing to draw and sustain a decent crowd?