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AARO itself is the problem, says a UFO historian
“I cannot let yesterday’s hearing pass without sharing how insulting it was to the officers of the Department of Defense and Intelligence Community who chose to join AARO . . .” 7/27/23; “So, Mr. Grusch, since AARO has stood up and since I've been director, has not come to see us and provided any information . . . we have extended an invitation at least four or five times now for him to come in over the last eight months or so and has been declined,” 10/31/23 — Dr. Sean Kirkpatrick
Wouldn’t it have just sounded better if, in her canned farewell remarks about the departing UFO boss Sean Kirkpatrick, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks had kept it simple by saying something like, “The United States appreciates Dr. Kirkpatrick’s service” and left it at that? Instead, she commended the controversial director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office for his “honesty and integrity” and “his commitment to transparency.”
Of course, thanks to the black veil AARO drapes over its database of 800-plus UFO cases collected since the agency’s inception in July 2022, Hicks’ confidence can’t be independently verified. The “legacy” she cited about what “the department will carry forward” apparently refers to the surprise-free AARO website that took more than a year to roll out, and a congressionally mandated whistleblower portal that took even longer.
The legacy also includes Kirkpatrick’s assessment that AARO “has found no credible evidence of . . . objects that defy the known laws of physics,” and that most UFOs remain unknown “primarily due to a lack of data.” The legacy includes the proclamation that AARO has discovered no evidence of “transmedium” capabilities, despite Customs and Border Security’s recent declassification of a 2013 video of a UFO flashing those exact capabilities in the waters off Puerto Rico. It also includes the former STRATCOM deputy intelligence director’s declaration that the now-famous 2004 Tic Tac incident has “no supporting data” beyond the video that triggered breakthrough coverage in the NY Times six years ago. It presumes Kirkpatrick did everything humanly possible to investigate claims by the Navy pilots and sailors on duty during the Tic Tac incident — these folks are certain that radar and flight-data tapes of that encounter were scrubbed and/or impounded by authorities with clouded affiliations.
But intramural politesse restrained Hicks from mentioning how, in reality, Kirkpatrick’s reign has been marred by his very public pissing contest with former intelligence officer David Grusch, who claims Kirkpatrick shrugged off his investigation into ongoing secret and possibly illegal UAP programs. Both have called each other liars, and I’d pay $ to see them on the same public stage to duke it out. Budget hawks like Rep. Eric Burlison obviously would, too. This week, in a proposal approved by a voice vote, the Missouri Republican added an amendment to the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill that would “renew the security clearance of David Grusch.”
"I have received zero emails or calls from them. That is a lie,” 10/31/23 — David Grusch’s response to AARO’s Sean Kirkpatrick.
“Grusch has some problems of his own – I wish he would be more transparent, too, not in terms of giving out classified information but in explaining more about what he’s done,” says UFO historian Mark Rodeghier. “That said, between the two of them, I guess I’m gonna lay my money on Grusch on being more honest at this point, partly because he’s an independent actor, and because Kirkpatrick is in a big bureaucracy and has to answer to his bosses. And we know what happens to upper management in any organization – it’s all political.”
Fifty years ago, Rodeghier was on the ground floor when pioneer ufologist J. Allen Hynek founded the Center for UFO Studies in Evanston, Ill. To mark the anniversary, CUFOS recently overhauled its website, which allows visitors to examine the 300,000-plus historical entries in its new UFOCAT database. Users can search for, isolate, and/or combine incidents into myriad associations, from geography and terrain to UFO colors, estimated size, shapes, event duration, and weather.
UFOCAT has been a massive undertaking, and its archives offer the sort of long view that gives an acidic edge to Rodeghier’s take on AARO. Some critics accuse the year-old agency of perpetuating a whitewash evoking Project Blue Book, the dismissive and defunct Air Force study that relegated UFO research to subculture ghetto status more than half a century ago. But Rodeghier says the two aren’t even in the same ballpark. In fact, he adds, the public would be better served by coming to grips with AARO’s mission than getting torqued over who occupies its director’s chair.
More opaque than Blue Book
“How many people actually work for AARO? Nobody knows,” says the veteran researcher. “How many of them have PhDs, what are their qualifications? We don’t know. How in the heck can we not even know the organizational structure and the number of personnel or their qualifications?
“Blue Book was by far more transparent than AARO. Blue Book actually let people come in and look at the files. You could go to (headquarters in) Dayton if you were (renowned physicist) James McDonald or a newsman and you could study the cases yourself. But AARO isn’t set up that way. Blue Book took reports from everybody, not just the military, but civilians, and that’s where most of their reports came from.”
AARO limits sightings input to current or former government employees, contractors and military personnel. Because those reports are filtered largely through classified sensors and secure channels, AARO isn’t obliged to release case details, and access to them hinges on individual security clearances. For those reasons, Rodeghier questions the agency’s public worth, particularly when an institution like NASA, so loudly committed to transparency, is asked to consider signing on to AARO’s rules of engagement.
“Although AARO leads the whole-of-government response to UAP, the panel recommends that NASA play an essential role within that framework,” the space agency’s independent UAP Study Team stated in September. “NASA should leverage its core capabilities and expertise to determine whether it should take a leading or supporting role in implementing a given recommendation.”
Anybody know how NASA might maintain a transparency charade if its open-source sensors detected UFOs throwing shadows over an American submarine base or nuke plant? Who’s to say that hasn’t already happened?
‘Something has to give’
“I don’t want NASA coordinating with AARO – it’s just a bad idea,” Rodeghier says. “They already said they were acting as a liaison to the UAP Task Force earlier, and now they’re ready to coordinate with another military project? Right there, that’s a huge red flag. And frankly, NASA is just not the right place to study UFOs, not in the current environment. NASA studies space, they do space missions, and rockets, all that stuff. Its mission has very little to do with UFOs, public perception notwithstanding.”
The allure of going around in circles is, you can’t be surprised by the results. In this case, history isn’t so much a lesson as an obstacle to be ignored by all but a few academic-minded nerds that nobody listens to.
“The UFO problem initially had to be investigated as a threat by Project Blue Book,” Rodeghier says. “The (1953 CIA) Robertson Panel concluded hey, it may be a threat psychologically, but the phenomenon itself is not a threat, so we have to downplay interest in the subject, so Blue Book becomes a public relations operation, and away we go.
“The current conversation had to be sold with a threat angle, and there may be some horrible things going on that haven’t come out yet, but UFOs haven’t attacked us or anything, and there aren’t a huge number of (related) medical injuries. Yes, the reports are intriguing, but the military doesn’t care about science. Maybe the best outcome is for AARO or ‘the government’ to come out and say yes, we’ve determined they’re not Russian or Chinese, there are a large number of unexplained sightings, but we’ve eliminated the threat problem. They’re a scientific problem.”
Whether the “threat problem” has truly been eliminated to everyone’s satisfaction at this point is irrelevant, Rodeghier argues. The gridlock should’ve been dispersed decades ago by research through the National Science Foundation, or its equivalent, and energized by significant congressional funding. However, given the unending eruptions of stupidity, paranoia and violence in the Middle East, Ukraine, and China — to say nothing of climate turmoil or the accelerating decay of American democracy from within — those prospects look bleak.
But maybe we’ll be surprised. Maybe whistleblowers with solid intel on black projects will “come forward and everything changes.” Unless and until that happens, AARO will remain a black hole-sized infosuck with little regard for the public interest. “We can’t go on like this,” Rodeghier says. “Something has to give, in the next few years, at most.”
In perhaps a curious double-edged swipe at David Grusch at that off-camera press conference two weeks ago, Kirkpatrick managed to toss a few peanuts to the pigeons. "We are investigating each and every one of (Grusch’s leads),” he said. “There are some bits of information that are turning out to be things and events that really happened.”
But “we” can’t talk about it. Sooo . . . it’s up to the next guy to take out the garbage . . . sounds like a plan!
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