The 'dead generation' blues
UFO testimony may require acceptable scapegoats
Blockin’ out the scenery, breakin’ my mind: If only the national security language cloaking UFOs could be this unambiguous.
From 1995 to 2002, South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) heard from nearly 21,000 victims of crimes – murder, rape, torture, etc. – committed under apartheid tyranny over a 34-year span beginning in 1960. As recently as 1996, a year after TRC began its work, Commissioners discovered that members of the country’s National Intelligence Agency were still destroying incriminating documents.
Of the 7,112 amnesty applications submitted by the accused, 5,392 were rejected, 849 were granted, and the rest were withdrawn. Though relatively few trials and even fewer convictions ensued, the TRC marked a milestone for recovering South Africa’s clandestine history and exposing structural malfeasance, while keeping the fledgling democracy from falling apart in the face of horrific testimony. Archbishop Desmond Tutu called its legacy “an incubation chamber for national healing, reconciliation and forgiveness.”
“There were a lot of discussions going on in South Africa back then,” adds constitutional law attorney Dan Sheehan, “about ‘How can we allow these Afrikaners, who kidnapped and literally skinned countless black people, to go free? Just because they come in and say, gee, I’m really sorry that you caught me’?
“Getting real justice is a major problem, and somewhat limited. But (TRC) did enable the governing process to continue going forward.”
And that’s why, according to the co-founder of the Romero Institute human-rights nonprofit in California, some members of Congress are now beginning to look to TRC as a “primary template” for drilling into the core of Uncle Sam’s deep dark UFO quicksand. Seventy-five years of stonewalling, obfuscation and denial have created autonomous self-perpetuating infrastructure whose remedy appears to reside outside legislative norms. Despite the congressional demands for accountability recently signed into law, institutional resistance is apparently banking on rotating members of the elected class to follow precedent, get distracted, and go away.
But Politico’s Bryan Bender reported this week on how legislators privy to classified updates are actually beginning to lose patience with the skimpy briefings they’ve been getting. “They’re not moving fast enough, not doing enough, not sharing enough,” a staffer for Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) complained. Ditto from a disappointed aide to Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY): “They need to show us that they are prepared to address this issue in the long-term.”
Outspoken status-quo critic Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN), who continued to accuse Pentagon leadership of perpetuating “a coverup,” is actually doubling down. In perhaps the most bipartisan re-election logo we’ll see in Campaign 2022, Burchett is peddling caps, stickers and T-shirts sporting the image of a flying saucer beaming the words “I Believe” from its belly.
Shuck ‘n’ jive rookies
The reason lawmakers are so pissed is because they’re newbies to the long-running shuck ‘n’ jive show and actually thought they could fix it last December with Section 1683 of the National Defense Authorization Act. NDAA 1683 ordered the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence to create a UFO/UAP office to jump on the thing, figure it out, and produce substantive progress reports on par with Operation Warp Speed. The Pentagon took it seriously enough to vomit up an acronym nobody can pronounce, AOIMSG, which isn’t even worth spelling out anymore because it’s so meaningless. Say “AOIMSG.” Out loud. Again. Gesundheit! For what it’s worth, AOIMSG is still looking for a director to blame, and its office isn’t required to be fully staffed until June. But as Bender reported, pols on the oversight committees are already smelling methane and sulfur – and the Pentagon at least has to show a pulse.
Just last month, for instance, it did manage to flush one clog down the drainpipe by confirming its ouster of Garry Reid, Director for Defense Intelligence (Intelligence and Security). Reid’s most famous subordinate was Luis Elizondo, director of the once-secret Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. Repeatedly frustrated in his efforts to walk his UFO research up the command ladder, Elizondo resigned in 2017, then unveiled the project to the world via the New York Times.
But it wasn’t until Reid got the hook in April that the picture became a little clearer. In multiple podcasts since that reckoning, Elizondo has named Reid as the DoD official who stovepiped his UFO data, spread misinformation about Elizondo’s official duties, and attempted to yank his security clearance. Those retaliatory measures, Elizondo says, were a response to his making end runs around Reid to get information to higher authorities. The Pentagon also confirmed that, at the time Elizondo left, Reid was under an Inspector General investigation for unrelated ethics violations.
Sheehan was in Elizondo’s legal corner last summer when Elizondo lodged his formal IG complaint, which also cited the deletion of his professional emails, in violation of federal statutes. But Sheehan says the Pentagon’s tossing a body or two under the bus for congressional consumption won’t cut it.
“This is about a lot more than a narrow whistleblower complaint concerning Garry Reid or (Pentagon mouthpiece) Susan Gough and some of the others carrying on inside the Defense Department,” Sheehan says. “It’s more about the concealment of information which is violative of the democratic process. To conceal this information from representatives in Congress, to conceal it from the American people so that they can’t make informed judgements about such an important public policy?
“The question we have to ask is, what kind of resources do we have available to continue to pry this open, despite the pushback we’re getting?”
None, apparently, within conventional guardrails. Bureaucracies are stocked with unelected lifers with little incentive to jeopardize their careers by pushing for internal reforms. In 2021, the Office of National Intelligence stated that nearly 3 million government employees and private contractors held federal security clearances at home and abroad. But those numbers are actually down 17 percent from 2013, according to FWC.com, due largely to accelerating private-sector competition for cybertalent. Either way, secrecy is the coin of the realm in this paranoia-fueled growth industry – nearly 9 percent of all jobs listed in the Richmond-Baltimore region require security clearances.
Somewhere beneath all those stats, however, are company men (and women) charged with maintaining this likely illegal embargo on UFO discoveries, a black hole swirling well into its seventh decade of one-way info. No wonder that transient small-s republicans may be looking at how to craft a TRC model surgically precise enough to remove the cancer without damaging security’s legitimate vital organs. As many South African victims of apartheid discovered, however, supporting the TRC required compromises that were tough to swallow.
“Well, they did get a fairly in-depth revelation of what had been going on,” Sheehan says. “But a lot of people who confessed their direct involvement were never required to give (the Commission) names of their associates who did not come forward. So it was a different system from what we’re used to in the United States, where those involved in heinous activities can name names in order to save themselves and end up going into the witness protection program.
“In South Africa, probably only 20, 25 percent of the actual offenders came forward – and everybody else skated.”
A cure for rabies?
The scope and nature of state secrets in South Africa are plenty different from what American lawmakers are chasing. But America’s UFO whitewash has ruined lives and careers, to say nothing of lawbreaking, and deciding which insiders get immunity in exchange for testimony foreshadows the hard and maybe rancid choices ahead. Sheehan, whose courtroom battles range from the Iran-Contra debacle to the representing Native Americans attempting to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, wonders if legislators know what they’re in for.
“Let’s not be Polyanna about how difficult this is gonna be,” he says. “The challenge is that people who are in a position to know things may well be deeply embedded in a lot more than just this one issue. There’s probably a crossover in the membership of that elite core into other levels of secrecy and activity – narcotics, bank fraud, money laundering, the misuse of national security and surveillance systems, a lot of things. And their participation in this one (UFO) issue might not justify outing them.
“So we’re going to need to develop more modern protocols to gain access to information, because this dynamic is still going on. If it can be shown that the individuals responsible for making some of the more heinous decisions early on are already dead and gone, well . . . it makes it a little easier to lay it all on a dead generation.”
But first things first: Does the rabid extremism poisoning Capitol Hill have the temperament or the attention span to even imagine a fight of this magnitude — especially, without knowing in advance whose secret ox might get gored? Can we trust them, on their honor, to recuse themselves if and when the breadcrumbs lead to conflicts of interest? Are there enough steady hands left under the Dome to thread this needle without bringing the whole house down?
Maybe South Africa could send a delegation.