ADVANCED THEORETICAL PHYSICS PROJECT DISCLOSED
Do or do not … there is no try.
—MASTER YODA, THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK
“There is a black UFO program someplace. Let’s see if we can find it. If the rumors are right, THEY have a tiger by the tail and want help transitioning the information to the public. Somebody has got to be minding the store—who is it?”
It was with that premise that the Advanced Theoretical Physics Project (ATP) was born. I’d like to say it was in the bowels of the Pentagon; it has such a nice ring to it, but that would not be true. Rather, it was located in my unbelievably spacious office in Tysons Corner, Virginia, with views of the Shenandoah Mountains to the west.
With help from a few other researchers we initiated the ATP project specifically to examine issues regarding UFOs, and what role the Department of Defense (DoD) might be playing. Like most of the general public, we assumed somebody in DoD had responsibility for studying UFOs. This was a small internal group drawn from the government and aerospace industry, all of whom were interested in the topic. Admission was by invitation only, and those selected to participate had to have the right credentials. This chapter outlines what few people outside the membership of that group have ever heard about. In fact, very few of them know the full story. What we expected was not what we found.
Years later, sitting in front of Lieutenant General Jim Abrahamson, then the director of the highly acclaimed Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI), known more popularly as Star Wars, I began the briefing to him and explained that we were there to discuss UFOs. It took only a few minutes before he stopped me and asked, “Who are you guys really?” That spoke volumes about the subject and where UFOs were on the SDI priority list. This is the story of how we got there, and beyond.
To appreciate the importance of the research presented, background material is provided to allow better understanding of the depth of penetration that was accomplished. Of significance are the personal relationships that intertwine over time; always assisting when needed. Note that the interactions with most agencies were not simple onetime interviews, but ones that gave continuing support at various levels. Also of importance was the manner in which traditional military research and development functions were juxtaposed with UFO interests. Understanding how that unique fusion occurred is critical to knowing how this effort was accomplished. It was that aspect that separates this research from all others in the field.
Setting the Stage
The creation and execution of the Advanced Theoretical Physics group did not just happen. Rather, it took considerable coordination and effort. Often the direction I was moving in my career was not clear to me at the onset. In fact, at my retirement from the Army, I told the assembled group that it was as if some external force seemed to guide my actions. When I resisted various movements and failed to get my way; it was only later that the necessity for certain events to have occurred become apparent. Maybe it was synchronicity, but the eventual functions and outcomes that led to the observations in this book were far too complex to have been planned or orchestrated by me. While the emphasis here is on UFO studies, there were interactions in many other realms of phenomena that remain totally intertwined with destiny.
To understand the significance of this research effort, some fairly extensive background knowledge is required. In that way the reader will be able to discern how all of the pieces fit together. The ATP project was actually the result of substantial groundwork in establishing various credentials in the military that allowed me to function within acceptable limits while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of traditional credibility. It also required finding the right network of people who would be willing to participate in projects that could be perilous to one’s career, and establishing the set of senior officials who could fly cover for such an operation. In general, the military is fairly risk-aversive. To get promoted in the military the conventional wisdom was to assume assignments where the potential for failure was minimal. Venturing into studies of psi phenomena and UFOs was not seen as career enhancing. As a mustang (former enlisted noncommissioned officer who went to Officer Candidate School), and who had chosen Special Forces missions over straight infantry assignments, I knew my time was limited and further promotion beyond lieutenant colonel was out of the question—but that was wrong.
Enter the Voodoo Warriors
In the summer of 1980, recently promoted and fresh out of Command and General Staff College (CGSC) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, I was assigned to the Headquarters of the Department of the Army Inspector General’s office (DAIG). There we conducted inspections on systemic issues as selected by the Inspector General of the Army, Lieutenant General Richard Trefry.
While attending CGSC I had written and submitted a manuscript to Military Review, the staid journal of the college. The piece was called “The New Mental Battlefield.” This article described the potential use of remote viewing, psychokinesis, and similar psychic skills in military operations. In fact, this was the first time that these subjects had ever been broached in an official U.S. Army publication. The article was published in December 1980 and, strangely, became the cover story for that issue. In one of many synchronistic incidents, the editor of the magazine had previously had a near-death experience in which he found himself out of his body. He was therefore fascinated with the article, and the cover came complete with pictures of Kirlian photography. While they were not really germane to the story, this was quite a departure for a traditional professional military journal. The immediate impact was relatively muted within the Army and I continued with regular IG work. However, Ron McCrae, one of the staff writers for the noted Washington columnist Jack Anderson, spotted the article. McCrae drafted an editorial for Anderson which was then published in The Washington Post under the title “The Voodoo Warriors of the Pentagon.”
Obviously Jack Anderson’s article, which was picked up by the wire services, was not very supportive of the notion of military applications of psychic capabilities. Anderson was known for finding topics that would incense the public, and often dealt with government waste of taxpayer money. Certainly, the writers assumed, the concept of government funding psychic warfare would get a response from the public. Anderson and McCrae were right, but not as they had anticipated. Rather than being angry about sinking money into a possible psychic warfare program, the public wrote in to tell Anderson how much they appreciated knowing that this research was going on. Given the 1970 publication of Sheila Ostrander and Lynn Schroeder’s popular book, Psychic Discoveries Behind the Iron Curtain, many civilians believed that the Soviets were seriously pursuing these topics and that the United States had fallen behind.
It was from Anderson’s article that I experienced blowback as well. One morning, while sitting at my desk in C-Ring on the first floor of the Pentagon, a red-faced lieutenant colonel accosted me. He was assigned to the Office of the Army’s Assistant Chief of Staff for Intelligence, Major General Ed Thompson, and they were furious about the Anderson exposé. He first asked if I had written the article, and then he wanted to know if I was aware of the clearance procedures for publications of any nature. Fortuitously, I happened to have the file with me that contained all of the administrative paperwork associated with the Military Review article. Once shown that his office had signed off approving the publication of the manuscript, he left in a huff. Of course what had upset them so much was that they had responsibility for the secret embryonic remote viewing program, then-called Grill Flame. After many years in the black world, this program was declassified in 1995, and became known to the public by its final designation, Star Gate.
Task Force Delta—Defining the Difference that Makes a Difference
Although officially working for the Inspector General of the Army I was already participating in a very unique organization called Task Force Delta. This is not to be confused with the more famous Delta Force, à la Colonel Charlie Beckwith, with a counterterrorist mission. (As a side note, “Charging” Charlie Beckwith and I were students in the same Ranger class [2-58] in the late summer and fall of 1958. He was a decidedly boisterous lieutenant, and I was a very junior enlisted soldier who was promoted to sergeant by graduating from that grueling course.)
In fact, this new Task Force Delta was an Army version of a think tank and was facilitated by some very enlightened senior leadership. That top echelon comprised three- and four-star generals who knew the Army needed dramatic revamping given the vicissitudes that followed Vietnam. There was a need, they thought, to have people available to address tough, multifarious problems in an unconstrained environment. Blue sky thinking was not only allowed, it was encouraged.
It was there that Lieutenant Colonel Jim Channon brought out his First Earth Battalion, a notional unit with concepts easily three decades ahead of their time. Channon’s project would become better known to the public when Jeff Bridges played a distinctive character based exclusively on him in the 2009 movie, The Men Who Stare at Goats. A brilliant imagineer and craftsman, Channon was the artist of choice for many senior flag officers in the Army Headquarters. He had a unique ability to listen to generic ideas, and then graphically portray them with a stunning mastery to convey complex subjects so that they had clarity and were understood by even the most adamantine staff officers. Channon was one of a kind: intelligent, intuitive, caring, and extremely gifted. By traditional Army standards, while he could bridge both worlds, many of his fellow officers would think him a bit too unorthodox for the conventional force. That never stopped Jim and today many of his basic designs have been inculcated into standard Army graphics. As a result of cross-pollination, his drawings included translating some of my advanced concepts into a visual format for briefings at the highest levels in the Army. We remain friends to this day.
Task Force Delta was then led by Colonel Frank Burns, an innovative organizational effectiveness officer with extensive training in neurolinguistic programming (NLP). There were only five people permanently assigned to the cell, and three were strictly administrative. Burns’s deputy was a civilian, Tom Kelly, who in later years would become the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Army during the George W. Bush administration. Thanks to Burns and Kelly, members of Task Force Delta were employing information technology over phone lines long before the Internet was up and running. Current computer users, with downloads measured in megabytes, probably cannot even imagine having documents transmitted at 600 baud per second. At that slow rate we could watch each letter as it was printed out—and graphics were unheard of.
Other than the five-person core group, participation was purely voluntary. Some of those who participated went on to lead the Army, and at least one, Colin Powell, became a household name for his achievements. While predominantly Army personnel played, we also had a fair-sized group of civilians who were sufficiently intrigued that they paid their own expenses to attend meetings that were held on a quarterly basis. Task Force Delta was an organization that thought so far outside of the box that its members didn’t know whether or not a box existed.
For me, the important aspect of Task Force Delta was the people with whom I came in contact both inside and outside the Army. The free exchange of ideas at times included informal discussions of UFOs—but I learned who was open to such discussions, and who was not.
One of those who would consider unusual topics was the Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, Richard G. Stilwell, a retired Army four-star general, who had been appointed in a civilian position as the number two person in the Department of Defense. In reality, it was General Stilwell’s wife who suggested that he contact me and arrange for a meeting on phenomenology. As a lieutenant colonel assigned in the penetralia of The Building, as the Pentagon was known, it was highly unusual for a one-on-one session to be requested by someone at that rarefied level of command. Normal protocols called for a variety of head-nodders from each intervening layer of the organization to be briefed on the topics and approve the presentation. On this day, that did not happen. At 12:30 P.M. I was sent in to the outer E-Ring office to meet General Stilwell. Actually, we had previously met when he was still on active duty and assigned as the Commander of U.S. Military Assistance Command, Thailand, and I was the Special Forces A-Team commander at a remote base called Nong Takoo. While I recognized him, he had no apparent recollection of our prior brief encounter, nor would I have expected him to.
Our discussion was quite pleasant and lasted about half an hour. We discussed many areas of phenomenology, but we probably focused on the Soviet efforts. One question he asked was where I was assigned and with whom I was working on these unusual topics. The meeting ended rather noncommittally and I left wondering what had just happened. It seemed that we had just had a pleasant conversation, addressed interesting topics that appeared to be of mutual interest, and thought that would be the end of it. Wrong again.
In reality, I was working concurrently with two different organizations, albeit one of them informally. The Inspector General projects I engaged in were important, but generally very mundane. The most intriguing project was the team to which I was then assigned that was exploring how the Headquarters of the Department of the Army Inspector General’s Office could transform itself into something more useful. That study brought me into direct contact with our boss, Lieutenant General Richard Trefry, as I led an extensive interrogation into his understanding of current IG practices and his vision for transformation. After his retirement General Trefry later was recalled to become the Military Assistant to President George Bush, the Elder.
The other key person with whom I was involved was then Lieutenant General Maxwell R. Thurman, who at the time was the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff of Personnel. Thurman would later get his fourth star and eventually commanded U.S. forces during Just Cause, the invasion of Panama that removed Manuel Noriega from power. Shortly thereafter, the sudden discovery of leukemia sent him into retirement. However, both men would remain as important figures in my life, even after we had all retired.
Returning to my desk, I dwelled little more about the unwonted meeting with General Stilwell. Then, at 4:20 P.M. that afternoon the DAIG executive officer walked in and said, “Tomorrow morning you don’t work here anymore.” As it turned out Stilwell had contacted both generals Trefry and Thurman and moved me under the latter. This abrupt transition marked the first time I was assigned outside the normal Army personnel system. In fact, I would never again be transferred by the official system, a point that both perplexed, and eventually angered, the personnel managers who always believed they knew what is best for all soldiers. Years later I met an officer whom I knew from a previous assignment in Hawaii. He mentioned that while he was assigned to the office that manages all U.S. Army Infantry officers, he had held my records locked in his desk door because there was no place in the system he could file it.
Moving Formally into the Psychic Realm
For a short time I worked directly for Lieutenant General Thurman, but my interests in Soviet exploitation of psychic phenomena soon took me to the dark side and the U.S. Army Intelligence and Security Command (INSCOM) where I first met Major General Albert “Bert” Stubblebine. A supporter of Task Force Delta, General Stubblebine also knew the Army had to make major adjustments and was willing to take steps that were both innovative and courageous. With piercing blue eyes, white hair, and a gripping handshake, Bert made an impression everywhere he went. He was a dead ringer for the actor Lee Marvin, and actually perpetuated the rumors that they were brothers. It is Stubblebine who was unfairly portrayed by Stephen Lang as General Hopgood in the movie version of The Men Who Stare at Goats. It was Hopgood who dashed headlong into a wall in an unsuccessful attempt at interpenetration of two material objects.
It was under the guidance and protection of General Stubblebine at INSCOM that I actively pursued a wide range of topics including various phenomena. Many of those projects are discussed in my first book, The Warrior’s Edge, which was coauthored with Janet Morris. Those topics ranged from remote viewing and psychokinesis to firewalking, orgone energy weather modification, and primary perception. Experimentation in the last topic came under the tutelage of Cleve Backster, who is best known for discovering that plants communicate and are sensitive to their surroundings. The developer of the techniques used in modern polygraphy, it was Backster who first hooked up a philodendron and measured electrical output when the plant was stressed. Using oral leucocytes, we took the process much further and suggested applications for communicating with agents who had been abducted.
Of course, while I was assigned at INSCOM, UFOs from 1981 to 1984 were included in my mix of topics as I had wide latitude in what I wanted to investigate. In fact, when people would ask me what I did in the Army, I would somewhat jokingly respond, “I’m a freelance colonel.” That was not far from the truth while I was working directly for Bert Stubblebine. However, as readers that follow closely remote viewing lore know, Stubblebine ran afoul of others in the Army senior leadership and retired rather abruptly. There can be a price to pay when creativity exceeds acceptable boundaries—even when it is successful.
Stubblebine’s retirement left the newly appointed Lieutenant General William Odom in charge of all Army Intelligence. He wanted nothing to do with remote viewing or phenomenology in general or me in particular. They say you are known by your enemies, and I had made a powerful one in Odom. One of Stubblebine’s last endeavors on active duty was to find a position for me outside of INSCOM. There was, it turned out, a three-star general who was Deputy Commander of the Army Materiel Command (AMC) who was favorably disposed to unusual topics.
That was Lieutenant General Robert Moore, and he was known to strike terror into the hearts of even the most experienced officers of any rank. Stubblebine and I visited him and described the problem in blunt detail. If left in INSCOM, I’d be crucified—institutionally speaking. General Moore agreed to take me in, and the next out-of-process personnel move was undertaken. While he knew of my interests in paranormal activities, I had to fill a position of some kind. Therefore, I was assigned as the only military officer working in an office comprised of senior civilians that managed the Army’s technology base. Those were projects that were early in the research and development (R & D) phase and involved a broad look at emerging technologies. As a result of my assignments in INSCOM and AMC, my contacts in both worlds—intelligence and research—continued to expand near exponentially. Because of my R & D position, I was now contacting civilian research organizations and defense developers on a continuous basis. In addition, I maintained my involvement with Task Force Delta as long as it continued to exist.
Following his retirement Bert Stubblebine went to work for respected defense contractor BDM as the Vice President for Intelligence Operations. We remained in close contact for the next several years and that contact played a vital role in the development of the ATP project. The initial meetings would be held in the BDM secure facilities in Tysons Corner, Virginia, and located not far from my office.
In 1984, after only a few months at AMC, I was abruptly given an assignment to take over a huge, but failing project called New Thrust. The army had recently successfully fielded five new major systems including the M1 Abrams tank, the M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicle, the Apache attack helicopter, the Patriot air defense missile system, and the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). The next advances, it was thought, would be technology sectors and it was the responsibility of New Thrust to coordinate these next generation weapons systems. The R & D projects included technology-based advances in precision-guided munitions, command, control, communications and intelligence systems (C3I), reconnaissance, surveillance, and target acquisition systems (RSTA) and a few others. The breadth of this assignment would lead to a totally unanticipated promotion, but also provide a wide variety of technology contacts.
Introduction to the Skunk Works and Area 51
Among the people I met was Dr. Ron Blackburn, a retired U.S. Air Force lieutenant colonel who was then working at the Lockheed Skunk Works in Burbank, California. Tall, rail-thin, and bespectacled, Blackburn was as close to a functional paranoid as one can be. While I had evidence that the KGB previously had intercepted some of my calls, and acted on them, Blackburn just always assumed someone was listening. When meeting in hotel rooms he would compulsively unscrew the voice end of the handset and remove the components—even though there was no classified discussion ongoing.
It was Blackburn who first asked me if I had ever heard of the infamous Area 51. In the early 1980s, this facility was still not widely known inside the military, let alone the general public, even though it had been functional for decades. During this period, what was called at the F-117, or stealth fighter, was a very dark secret. In reality, it never was a fighter, but rather a small bomber developed to decapitate the Soviet nuclear strike capability. Stealth was not just an advance in technology; it was a war-winner—meaning a weapon system so sophisticated that it changed how we would defeat a Soviet attack in the case World War III ever materialized. Extreme security measures surrounded the development of this craft, and of course, that secrecy generated rumors. Those rumors ran from reports of alien spacecraft, to strange cadavers, and eventually live extraterrestrial visitors collaborating with the U.S. Government. In the annals of UFO mythology, Area 51 would assume a prominent, albeit unwarranted role. But make no doubt about it, strange things did fly in the desert—but humans designed and operated those strange things.
Among areas of common interest between Blackburn and me were UFOs. We discussed many possibilities related to who might be in charge of UFO research. We both thought that there was some organization, probably within the U.S. Air Force, which had the responsibility. But we acknowledged that whoever had the ball, there must be an interagency effort as well. Our assumption was that somebody must be in charge, and we were well aware of all of the prevailing stories and rumors. Roswell, we assumed, was a real UFO event.
The most likely situation regarding what happened to the crash material was what we called the Raiders of the Lost Ark scenario. That reference came from the final scene in that movie in which the enigmatic Ark of the Covenant was seen being transported into an extremely large warehouse, probably in Suitland, Maryland, and stashed away, then possibly forgotten. The assumption of the group was that a craft had been recovered and a team of top scientists called in to examine it. The technology was so advanced they had little success in understanding it. It would have been as if a stealth aircraft fell into a remote area of the world and was found by a tribe of primitive people. They would look at it, but without a basic understanding of the physics and engineering behind the development, it would be of little practical use to them. Our guess was that a team had looked at it, but was unable to make any advances. They would therefore figuratively bury the material, with the intent of revisiting it every few decades to determine if we humans had advanced technologically enough to understand how the craft operated and how to exploit it. At the heart of the matter would have been the propulsion system—and what must be a new energy source.
Still, we thought there had to be an organization that had oversight and responsibility for protecting the technology. Since we both held Top Secret-Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS-SCI) clearances, we wanted to be very careful so as to not jeopardize those coveted tickets as they were important to our livelihood. We also anticipated that if an exploration of the topic were conducted responsibly, one of two things would happen. The best scenario would be that we would be brought into the existing program, thus gaining the information we wanted. In addition, done properly, we believed that the ATP members could bring some new expertise to the table.
The less desirable outcome was that we would be generically advised of a project and then censured. In that process we would be advised to read certain material, then be required to sign papers stating we would never reveal what we had learned—all accompanied by severe legal penalties for failure to comply. During my career I did get caught up in what was called “inadvertent disclosure.” In some ways, that can be the worst outcome, short of going to jail. In that process you are allowed to read basic documents about the project but generally devoid of significant details, and then told to never inquire about the topic again. That process can be an effective strategy for controlling inquisitive minds inside the system. Even given that possibility, we were willing to get our hands slapped. The upside would be that if we did not get the desired disclosure, we still would know that somebody was minding the UFO store.
The Players and the Rules
Willing to assume the risks, I set about forming the group. The initial desired outcome would be to determine who knew what about UFOs. First, I needed a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, known in intelligence circles as a SCIF. These are rooms that are built to detailed specifications to prevent anyone from eavesdropping via electronic surveillance techniques. There are no external portals and the entire facility is enmeshed in wires that prevent intrusion. To run this meeting I contacted Stubblebine, who could get us access to one of BDM’s SCIFs. Out of courtesy, we did inform Joe Braddock, a renowned scientist and the B of BDM, that we were going to hold meetings there. He seemed mildly curious, but exhibited no strong interest one way or another.
To establish the ATP group we decided on certain rules. At that point in time the Freedom of Information Act, or FOIA, was in full swing and UFO inquiries proliferated. It was stated by government administrators tasked with responding that the congressional staffers who wrote the FOIA would never have guessed that so many UFO requests would be filed to the point where they actually clogged the declassification system. To legally avoid answering any UFO FOIA requests, I adopted the term advanced theoretical physics, assuming no one would make the connection and request ATP reports. Further, there were no written documents kept within U.S. Government agencies. One of the rules was that there were no written reports to be kept by anyone, though it now appears that the rule may have been violated by one or more of the defense contractors who participated. As the person responsible for conducting the sessions, I never wrote any reports before or after meetings.
Membership was highly restricted and it was literally an old boy network. The rules were:
— By invitation only (nobody was allowed to come that we didn’t know)
— Participant background and interest had to be demonstrated
— Referrals could be made, but I reserved the right of acceptance
— Minimum security clearance levels were TS-SCI at SI-TK, no exceptions
— As noted—there were to be no written documents about the meetings
— Participants had to cover their own costs
In Richard Dolan’s recent book, UFOs and the National Security State: The Cover-up Exposed, 1973–1991, certain dates of the ATP meetings are listed. They are probably correct, and as I no longer have the list available I cannot discount them. However, his list of participants is only partially correct, and in some cases wrong. Since it was always the intent to keep attendance confidential, I will not reveal names except for those who have already chosen to be identified, or have authorized me to use their names. Membership included people from the Army, Navy, and Air Force, plus several from defense aerospace industries and some members from the Intelligence Community. Obviously, at least one representative from the Lockheed Skunk Works was present, and Dr. Bob Wood, then with McDonnell Douglas, has identified himself as a participant to other UFO researchers. While those dates of the formal meetings may be accurate for plenary sessions, my contacts and briefings took me to many, many more places than ever have been identified. Even I did not keep a complete list of locations and senior people that I briefed.
The first meeting held at the BDM vault resulted in considerable discussion about the nature of the UFO phenomena. It rapidly became clear that almost everyone present was familiar with the same rumors, but no one admitted to firsthand knowledge. At best, all of the information was second- or third-hand if provenance could be traced at all. The basic assumption remained the same—there was some secret organization that had responsibility for the phenomena. However, everyone from an organization that seemed a likely candidate—either from the U.S. Government or aerospace industry—thought it was some other agency or group that was conducting the research.
That narrative remained constant throughout the life of the ATP and beyond. The importance of that finding cannot be overstated when it comes to understanding the role of various departments regarding UFOs. The key assumption across all agencies was that somebody else was charged with responsibility for UFOs. The ultimate answer appears to be that nobody does have that responsibility. While this notion runs counter to all of the conspiracy theorist’s proclamations, that was the bottom line.
Interestingly, I was not the first person to independently make this observation. In reviewing Jacques Vallee’s recent book, Forbidden Science—Volume Two: Journals 1970–1979, for the Journal for Scientific Exploration, it is noted that he had encountered similar responses several years before. Vallee, whom I count as a personal friend, had several decades of experience with UFO investigation and was an inveterate chronicler of events as they happened. During the 1970s he was involved with many of the same intelligence organizations that were participating in the ATP. After years of interaction, he describes his “reaction to the Intelligence Community: Some fascination, mixed with disgust.” In giving numerous briefings, and holding discussions within the Intelligence Community, or IC as it is known in inner circles, Vallee also found the analysts’ real interests focused on what other agencies were doing in the UFO field, not the phenomena.
Delving into the Intelligence Community Regarding UFOs
The IC is an encapsulated universe and knowledge is power. Even after intelligence shortfalls of 9/11 were widely reported, the IC, while it has improved on information sharing, still has a long way to go before intelligence integration is complete. It is also essential to understand that personal relationships are far more important than institution-to-institution associations. One purpose of the ATP was to form those personal bonds; an objective that was never fully met.
Over the first few meetings the discussions were quite general. Classified reports concerning UFOs were made available. Over the years I had access to both classified and unclassified material, often regarding the same incident. What civilian UFO researchers did not know was that about 99 percent of the material was actually in the public domain. The small part of the information that was not being discussed involved protecting sources and methods of obtaining the data. It is those sources and methods that are usually the most sensitive part of any report, as revelation of those techniques may cut off future acquisition of intelligence data.
As an example, there is an extremely well-documented September 1976 case involving Iranian Air Force fighters encountering a huge UFO north of the capital, Tehran. The case will be addressed in more detail later. Of note is that the secret classification initially assigned to the case had to do with the fact that U.S. intelligence personnel received some reports directly from the participants, and not through official channels. In short, we did not want the Shah of Iran to know we were getting information that he, or his agents, were not aware of though they later assisted in the investigation.
After a few meetings the ATP group had discussed enough evidence to understand the UFO issues were real, but that government agencies were not nearly as involved as everyone had expected. While some of the initial conclusions may sound like a blinding flash of the obvious, they are included just for the record. The observations included:
— We determined there was sufficient evidence supported by high-quality data to know that some UFO cases were real anomalies—not just poor observation or misidentification.
— There were cases involving military weapon systems that posed a significant threat and should be investigated.
— Multisensory data supported observations of physical craft that performed intelligent maneuvers that were far beyond any known human capability. Examples included:
• Extremely rapid acceleration (0 to 4000 MPH near instantaneously)
• Speeds that are not achievable by any manned craft today
• Very fast, sharp turns (90 degrees or more and producing g-forces that would exceed human survivability)
• Abrupt disappearance from radar (long before stealth technology was developed)
• Interrupting electrical systems without physical damage to them.
— There were cases that involved trace physical evidence.
— The Condon Report was a seriously flawed effort. (This was extremely important and will be discussed in detail in a later chapter.)
— Study of the UFO data could provide a potential for a leap in technology. This would not require access to a craft, but could be derived from scientific examination of the reports determining the theoretical physics required to achieve such results
Supported by that assessment, a rational argument could be made to support initiation of a formal new project researching UFOs. Issues included:
— Many new sensor systems were available, and new capabilities are constantly evolving.
— Cases continued to occur, and some with very significant implications for national security.
— Review of prior studies (Blue Book and Condon) proved them to be inadequate.
— It did not appear that this would be a duplicate effort—meaning the proverbial deep black program was in fact a myth.
— We had assembled a team that was capable of conducting appropriate research.
— That the advent of the Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI) brought new requirements. Specifically, if we were going to start a war with space-based sensors, it was imperative that it would not be because of a misidentified UFO.
Based on the conclusions drawn from solid data, I developed a basic briefing and began working my way up the hieratical military system. This was an information briefing designed to provide the recipient with sufficient knowledge to comment. Note that in the military, information briefings are very different from decision briefings. In the latter case, the principal person is expected to make a specific decision such as committing resources or granting permission for actions to occur. It is axiomatic that it is easier to get forgiveness than to obtain permission for risky ventures. As mentioned, I was prepared to get slapped if that was what it took to stir up the UFO pot. Mentioned previously was inadvertent disclosure. I had experienced that personally. What I learned was that you may not learn what is in the box, but you will certainly know when you’ve stumbled into it, or stepped on the wrong toes. As I’ll describe repeatedly, with one exception, I never encountered resistance. In fact, quite the opposite almost always happened.
Taking UFOs to the Four-star Level
Washington leaks like a sieve! It is said that if two people in the Capitol know something, it is no longer secret. Therefore, after holding three general sessions I decided I’d better let my boss, General Moore, in on the idea that I had been holding secret meetings about UFOs. The last thing needed was for another Washington Post article to break without warning. Since such an article would not be time-sensitive, it could be used for public titillation on any slow news day. General Moore found the topic moderately interesting, but thought that I should also brief his boss, General Richard Thompson, the four-star commander of Army Materiel Command (AMC).
Unlike Lieutenant General Moore, who had a lot of research and development experience, General Thompson was primarily a logistician, and responsible for procuring and fielding all of the weapons systems for the Army—a huge formal obligation. AMC was an organization of more than 100,000 personnel, most of whom were in the civilian workforce. While R & D was important, that funding paled compared to acquisition. General Thompson’s job entailed spending tens of billions of dollars to buy and maintain tanks, helicopters, missiles, sensors, communications equipment, and a myriad of other things that supported the most advanced ground fighting force in the world. Having had extremely limited previous direct contact with him, I could barely imagine where a topic as bizarre as UFOs would fit on his priority list.
At that level, time is precious and information briefings short. In this case I was given fifteen minutes to tell him that I had been running meetings that, if exposed, would cause a lot of red faces—and probably burn my ass permanently. Read-ahead papers were always prepared so the commander would not be caught cold. In this case, it was very nebulous and stated I would address advanced theoretical physics—the letters UFO did not appear.
The session went far better than I had dared to anticipate. General Thompson had no apparent knowledge of the topic but was willing to assume the risk if a newspaper article appeared. Compared to the nasty public feud of the time over the efficacy of testing the Bradley Fighting Vehicle, UFOs would be noise. In that controversy, reporters made assertions that the automatic fire-extinguishing system would kill the troops inside the Bradley and that the results had been rigged to show the system was safe. By comparison, news of ATP meetings would be a minor blip. But, more important, General Thompson asked how he could help me. My response was that when the time was right, I would like him to introduce me to the four-star officers involved in R & D from the other services. He agreed and later he kept his word.
Who Was in the Loop
The first set of meetings and briefings were conducted from 1984 through 1988. What was not known publicly until now was that I was able to continue some of my efforts after retirement and while at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). The presentation morphed over time based on reactions from the people I briefed and as new cases emerged. We actively sought out people that were thought could be helpful and provide connections to those who might have responsibility and interest in a UFO study. Note that a few of the team members attended some of the briefings, but I was the only person to have direct contact with all of the recipients.
Ben Rich and the Skunk Works
Fairly early in the process Ron Blackburn introduced me to Ben Rich, a brilliant aerospace engineer who had taken over as president of the Lockheed Skunk Works from the legendary Kelly Johnson. Johnson was the pioneer that chose Groom Lake and Area 51 for the development of the most advanced aircraft of their time. This was the initial home to the U-2 spy plane, which was actually reported as a UFO on numerous occasions. Seasoned pilots would spot something shiny above them and clearly under intelligent control. Based on incomplete knowledge of the real state of the art in aviation; they knew nothing could fly that high, thus they dutifully reported these objects. Of course, the U-2 community was happy to have their craft declared UFOs. In fact, that cover story remained officially classified secret for nearly half a century.
Ben Rich was involved in numerous advanced aircraft designs including the prototypes for the SR-71 and the F-117 Stealth Fighter. For exotic aircraft that pushed the envelope of engineering, Rich was the go-to guy for the CIA, the U.S. Air Force, and others. His experience and track record were unmatched. Therefore, we reasoned if anybody was in the know, it would be him. My several contacts with Rich spanned nearly a decade and continued after I retired from the Army. Of course our mutual interests covered far more than UFOs and included work on advanced aviation concepts for military purposes. I was the one who invited him to speak at Los Alamos and introduced him to Dr. Sig Hecker, who was the director of LANL in the early 1990s.
Rich was extremely attentive to what we presented to him about UFOs and even arranged to bring in a friend who once had been the Deputy Director for Research and Engineering (DDR&E) in OSD, and who was then a key member of the Defense Science Board. His friend was underwhelmed with our presentation and thought the evidence we presented was not sufficient. Short of showing him a UFO, I’m not sure what it would have taken to make a convincing case for him. Note that the DDR&E was the top research position in the Pentagon. The scientist was not at all evasive, just not convinced.
Rich, while remaining a bit skeptical, displayed significant interest. In fact, he had a shopping list of technologies that he wanted to get his hands on. The top priority was propulsion, but other technologies were of interest including navigation and the means for disappearing from radar. After all, it was Rich who had come up with American stealth technology. Begun as a DARPA project, Have Blue, Rich knew that if the locations of radar sites were known, then measures could be taken to redirect the incoming signals. Given the computing power available in the 1970s, the easiest calculations were based on straight edges; hence the aircraft design was akin to a number of flat plates. His approach ran counter to those guessing about what a stealth fighter might look like. That resulted in the Revell Toy Company airplane model they called the F-19, complete with flowing curves. While Rich’s design decreased the radar cross-section from a known direction, it was increased in other directions. American stealth technology was not on par with the Star Trek Klingon cloaking device. Whatever UFOs were doing, the technology would have to have been different from ours and far more advanced. He wanted it.
Having heard the same rumors we had, Rich’s first approach was to assign a key person on his staff to see if they could ferret out a black program on UFOs that was being conducted by some other organization. At the time the Lockheed Skunk Works had sensitive technology contracts with all of the usual suspects. If one of those organizations was involved, the crosswalk would be natural and germane to their projects. None was found. The person assigned, an experienced SR-71 navigator, became a liaison to me. The ATP group would benefit from his information but only one other participant knew his identity.
I am well aware of the quote attributed to Rich concerning having the technology to take ET home to the stars. The statement demonstrated that he, like many Americans, was frustrated with the propensity of government agencies to overclassify projects—a topic addressed in a separate chapter. The oft-repeated quote states, “We already have the means to travel among the stars, but these technologies are locked up in black projects and it would take an act of God to ever get them out to benefit humanity.… Anything you can imagine we already know how to do.” Even if the quote is accurate, though it seems a bit of an overstatement of facts, we did have such capability at that time using nuclear propulsion. Rich did address UFOs in public, but was quick to point out he meant UnFunded Opportunities. After all of my firsthand interactions with Rich, I was, and remain, convinced that he did not have any direct knowledge of a surreptitious UFO program involving extraterrestrial beings.
If Five People Know, Dr. Edward Teller Is One
Another key individual that rumors associate with knowledge of UFOs is Edward Teller. The rationale for the association was reasonable. While Dr. Teller described himself as the father of a son and daughter, he was known to the world as the father of the hydrogen bomb. At the time of the Roswell event in 1947 he was the leading authority in Western civilization in the knowledge of the most advanced energy source on the planet. Years later some scientists and political observers found some of his concepts quite radical, but at that time he was a man that President Truman was most likely to go to for answers to complex issues related to energy.
I first met Dr. Teller at Los Alamos. There was a briefing ongoing in a darkened room when I slipped into an empty chair at the table. When the lights came on, I was quite surprised to find that I was sitting next to him. Over a period of time I had several interactions with Dr. Teller and he became an early supporter of my work in nonlethal weapons. This progressed to the point that I had him to our home in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for dinner on a few occasions. Eventually, I did have direct discussions with him about UFOs.
For the first dinner on November 13, 1993, my friend, physicist Dr. Hal Puthoff, was also invited. The purpose was so that Hal could describe his groundbreaking theoretical research in zero point energy (ZPE) to Dr. Teller. The ZPE concept was a topic that Dr. Teller was not familiar with at the time, and this informal setting provided Hal a great opportunity to go one-on-one with him without playing to an audience. That was important as too frequently in technical briefings extraneous observers will interject comments just to prove how smart they are, or why a theory can’t possibly work regardless of evidence. As Dr. Teller arrived at our home in Santa Fe, Hal turned to me and said, “My God, a living icon.”
Even in his upper eighties, Dr. Teller’s mind was extremely sharp and focused. He did not suffer fools, or trivial matters. One knew immediately if a pedestrian or inappropriate topic had been raised. With a thick Hungarian accent Dr. Teller would abruptly state, “That is not of interest to me!” Fortunately both ZPE and UFOs were acceptable topics for discussions.
At the dinner table Hal sat next to Dr. Teller and went through his presentation. Dr. Teller stopped him periodically and asked, “What is the reference to that?” Hal provided the reference, and Dr. Teller said, “Send it to me.” Hal agreed and proceeded. Then Dr. Teller would again stop him, saying he understood the prior commentary, but what was the new reference? That process was repeated several times. Finally, Dr. Teller closed his eyes and remained silent for many minutes. At the time it seemed like an eternity and I was wondering if we needed to check his pulse. Then Dr. Gregg Canavan, one of his protégés who was also at the dinner, interjected finally, “Dr. Teller is thinking.” After more than ten minutes he opened his eyes and stated, “That would mean the following,” and he proceeded to tell Hal the implications of his theory. Hal noted that Dr. Teller was indeed correct. Later Hal confided in me that it took him a computer to do the sequential logarithmic equations that Dr. Teller had just done in his head. (You might note that I have referred to him as Dr. Teller for that is the degree of respect that was always shown to him in person. Even his protégés called him Dr. Teller.)
On another dinner occasion we discussed UFOs in general and several specific cases. My guess was that if the Roswell crash was real and only a very few people had been in the loop, Dr. Teller would have been one of them. Again, in 1947 he was working on the most powerful energy source known to mankind, and energy, not flying craft, would have been the dominant concern.
Interestingly, he did not appear to be familiar with the Roswell incident. As we discussed it, he came up with the identical hypothesis that I, and a number of people engaged in the ATP project, had derived. If a foreign crash had occurred, it would have scared the hell out of everyone. The first assumption would have been that the Soviets had made a major leap in technology. Given the state of the newly initiated Cold War, that would have caused panic in senior defense officials. If the craft were determined not to be of Soviet origin, then the logical place to take the artifacts would have been Los Alamos, not Wright Field in Ohio. The scientific capability at LANL would have exceeded that of the U.S. Air Force. As Dr. Teller noted, the national labs were established to handle the most difficult technical problems and he agreed that he would have been one of the people called to investigate—he wasn’t.
One case we did discuss that caught his interest was Cash-Landrum, the December 1980 incident in which three people were irradiated. Again, he was not familiar with this event, but seemed intrigued by the facts surrounding the radiation injuries. I will cover Cash-Landrum in more detail later. That is a very solid case, in which the observations and facts just don’t make sense or support any prosaic hypothesis.
Again, I’m well aware of the various statements pertaining to UFOs that have been attributed to Dr. Teller. They are at variance with my firsthand experience in directly addressing the topic with him. A few people aware of my relationship with Dr. Teller have suggested that he was being evasive, and just not admitting his knowledge of the topic. Based on my very careful observation of his demeanor during these conversations, I concluded that neither obfuscation nor deflection occurred. Rather, his reaction was as anticipated, and, more important, fits both the facts and common sense.
Burt Rutan: An Interested Skeptic
Another aerospace giant known for his high-tech innovation is also a personal friend. Burt Rutan has expressed his interest in UFOs with me and several other scientists who have rather detailed knowledge of the topic. Years before he formally rolled out SpaceShipOne at his hanger in Mojave, California, we had discussed space ventures in general and UFOs in particular on other occasions.
Unlike most aerospace developers and entrepreneurs who tell people what they plan to do, Burt tells you what he has done! On April 18, 2003, I was present when the White Knight rolled by and took off after Burt announced his intention to be the first civilian enterprise to put a man into space. Then slightly over a year later, on June 21, 2004, I was also honored to be on the tarmac as he successfully put Mike Melvill into space and fulfilled his promise. Standing next to me at that time was none other than Captain James T. Kirk of the USS Enterprise (William Shatner).
It was in October of that year that Burt claimed the ten-million-dollar Ansari X Prize for successfully launching a civilian craft into space twice within fourteen days—a monumental achievement, proving that space was no longer the sole domain of nations and that independent civilian industries were about to take over a key role in exploration beyond the bounds of Earth. The prize money was awarded to Burt’s sponsor in the quest for the X Prize, Paul Allen of Microsoft fame, who had sufficient trust in the vision to invest far more money than the prize was worth. Allen did send some of the prize money to Burt’s company, Scaled Composites, who, in their typically magnanimous manner, distributed it among all their hard-working and highly dedicated and motivated employees.
Burt’s creative endeavors were acknowledged in Time magazine when in 2005 he was named as one of the one hundred most influential people in the world. Then in 2006, CBS’s 60 Minutes did a special segment about his adventures. Creative and renowned for his innovations, Burt is as conceptually involved as one can get in advanced aviation.
Just as I had experienced with others who are considered the insiders of aerospace, Burt is interested in UFOs but generally skeptical. He is, however, very suspicious, and even dismissive, of wild claims, especially those that suggest that a UFO has been reverse engineered. Burt’s current exploits include a cooperative venture funded by Sir Richard Branson to develop SpaceShipTwo for Virgin Galactic that will take paying civilians into suborbital space. Again, these are the top innovators in the field, curious by nature, open-minded, and with unparalleled connections, yet they seem to have no indication of a secret UFO program.
NORAD—Threat or No Threat
While in the Army I conducted dozens of other briefings with senior military and Intelligence Community officials. With one notable exception the response was always the same—interest, skepticism, and no direct knowledge of a program that was responsible for researching UFOs. However, several of them thought there must be a program someplace else. The following are examples of some of the positions and responses I encountered.
One of the people I briefed was a general officer who was previously assigned as a senior watch commander in the North American Air Defense Command. Known to most people simply as NORAD, the massive underground facility is located in Cheyenne Mountain, where it was designed to withstand a nuclear blast. The organization was designed for the primary purpose of detecting an airborne attack from the Soviet Union. Our nuclear strategy at the time, mutually assured destruction, appropriately called MAD, required that a sneak attack be spotted and a retaliatory response be made immediately. This was accomplished by constant monitoring of an extensive set of radar systems that blanketed our northern skies.
When I inquired, the general told me he was unaware of any tracking of UFOs. While this ran counter to other information I had collected, it is consistent with his position in the organization. What I knew from other sources was that unidentified objects were spotted periodically. In fact, years before that, when on an Inspector General study at Fort Carson, Colorado, I took the time to visit to NORAD. While there I decided to take a chance and probe a bit. A young lieutenant was giving the unclassified public briefing and asked for questions. I asked, “Do you ever track objects that accelerate very quickly, or make extremely sharp turns?” Without blinking he responded, “You mean UFOs. Yes.” He declined to comment any further. In fact, another U.S. Air Force officer who later participated in the ATP had provided me with unclassified data indicating that uncorrelated objects were spotted, probably once or twice a month. The discrepancy in information most likely suggests that the incidents were not of sufficient interest or concern to reach the flag officer level. Those who saw the reports, on the other hand, were personally involved and did take note.
The reason I state that the responses are consistent based on the position of the respondent is the difference in responsibility. While NORAD may have been state of the art when it was built, it became impossible, or at least impractical, to constantly upgrade their computers. The emphasis of the computer codes was to distinguish threat from no threat. Therefore, extraneous data were generally rejected, meaning if the incoming objects were not following a predicted path that indicated a threat, it was rejected. There would be no need to alert a senior watch commander. These differences are consistent with what is reported throughout the ATP project. Rarely did any UFO incidents take on real significance—they are more interesting to civilians who have trouble comprehending the Air Force’s position on the subject.
The Defense Intelligence Agency Would Have to Know—Wouldn’t They?
One of the most interesting interviews I conducted was with a retired three-star general officer who previously had commanded the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA). The DIA is the totally military arm of the Intelligence Community and focuses their attention on national security threats to the armed forces. Their mission statement is to “Provide timely, objective, and cogent military intelligence to warfighters, defense planners, and defense and national security policymakers.” And their vision is “Integration of highly skilled intelligence professionals with leading edge technology to discover information and create knowledge that provides warning, identifies opportunities, and delivers overwhelming advantage to our warfighters, defense planners, and defense and national security policymakers” (emphasis added). It seemed logical that the DIA would be an integral part of any UFO data collection program, or be involved at some level in understanding UFO capabilities as part of their vulnerability studies. After all, there were stories about how quickly military response teams arrived at UFO crash sites and other incidents. To accomplish that task, it would be through DIA that the networks were coordinated—if they ever existed.
On this occasion General Stubblebine made the introduction and accompanied me on the briefing. When I finished the lieutenant general noted that DIA did not have a requirement to collect UFO data. For those not familiar with intelligence gathering, everything collected is based on established requirements. The IC does not just collect interesting ideas. More important, however, the former DIA commander did go on to describe his own personal experience. Many years before, as a new lieutenant serving in Korea, he had observed flying craft making maneuvers that he believed would have been impossible for our Air Force at that time. The point is that his own belief system accepted the existence of UFOs based on his personal eyewitness observation, but that was not enough to generate collection and reporting requirements.
There was an interesting reaction from another very senior science official in DIA. After I concluded the presentation he said, “I always wondered why I wasn’t briefed on this topic.” The importance of such statements is that if an incident, like a UFO crash, did occur someplace in the world, it would most likely be an element of the IC that would obtain first knowledge and pass the report back to one of the headquarters mentioned. For recovery it would be imperative to have an apparatus in place that could respond. Even if it were a tightly compartmentalized project, you would still need to have senior leadership involved, if only to protect it or allocate the resources required to support the mission.
The Central Intelligence Agency Must Know
A sitting deputy director of the CIA gave General Stubblebine and me a similar institutional response. This was a person who was known to both of us, and had been aware of some of the more exotic programs. In fact a few years prior to this interview he had come to my home and observed metal bending firsthand. In our UFO discussion he stated that the CIA did not have any requirements for collection of UFO data. Of course there were some UFO reports in the CIA databases, and I’ll later describe the impact of FOIA on their system. While the agency was not actively involved in UFO research, I did request a liaison from the CIA to the ATP. That was granted. He also provided me with other contacts both inside, and outside, his agency. We remained in communication after he left the CIA and he became an active supporter of my work in nonlethal weapons when I was at LANL. His civilian position after retiring from the CIA placed him near the apex of surveillance satellites. Although we maintained periodic contact he never mentioned having any additional information about UFOs.
The offer of assistance by one suspected of hiding a UFO project was just one of many examples in which help was given in my search for a black program. History has shown me that when you are deflecting a person from a black program, you don’t provide them with assistance that could expose the project you want to protect. The responses given by this person were commensurate with those of other agencies. Again, there was no indication of deflection from the topic in order to mislead us.
My normal work brought me in contact with various elements of the CIA. While some of those visits involved discussion of phenomena such as remote viewing and psychokinesis, others were more mundane, including nonlethal weapons. Due to my reputation it was not uncommon to have topics like UFOs come up in conversation. Mostly people wanted to know what I thought about these things. But on several occasions officers would volunteer information about their personal observations. Surveys have shown that from 7 to 10 percent of the population have seen what they believed to be a UFO. Members of the CIA are no different. In no instance did anyone mention that the observation had been directed as part of their official duties. Rather, they reported being engaged in some normal activity and making the observation incidentally.
As many UFO buffs are aware, Dr. Bruce Maccabee, formerly an optical physicist for the U.S. Navy, has discussed his meetings about UFOs at the CIA. Bruce is one of the most skilled UFO researchers, a topic he pursued on his own initiative, and not related to his naval research. Over time he acquired a reputation as an expert in the field, primarily due to his in-depth investigation of intriguing cases, especially ones involving photographic analysis. We have discussed our encounters at the CIA and with other groups as well. Bruce also has found that after giving presentations on UFOs that people from these agencies would come up and share their personal observations. They also expressed an interest in what other agencies might be doing in the field.
A footnote to a CIA report by Gerald Haines, concerning that agency’s involvement with UFOs, contained a September 30, 1993, memo by John Brennan to the Executive Assistant, Director of Central Intelligence, Richard Warshaw, that mentioned a response team. Brennan stated, “The CIA reportedly is also a member of an Incident Response Team to investigate UFO landings, if one should occur. This team has never met” (emphasis added). The poorly written footnote has been grasped upon by true believers as proof of government interest. While creation of a crisis response team seems logical for a host of contingencies, the apparent lack of interest reflects the priority that the CIA gave this matter.
The National Security Agency—They Listen to Everything
Briefings at senior levels of the National Security Agency (NSA) produced similar results. Howell McConnell had been participating in the ATP from the beginning. McConnell was a career employee at No Such Agency, as some people jokingly refer to this supersecret organization, which was located a stone’s throw outside the Washington Beltway at Fort Meade, Maryland. Based on his own initiative and personal concern about UFOs, Howell had written a position paper on the topic that was made available to his superiors. Upon a document search responding to a written request under FOIA, that paper had been released by NSA. Thus, he was known to the public as informed in the area. For personal reasons Howell and Jack, a coworker of his, had a deep interest in the topic. At some briefings Jack described his own sighting that defied explanation. He reported seeing an object moving across the dark sky with a stream of light trailing behind it. According to him, the object abruptly stopped and the light seemed to be sucked into the source, much like a string of spaghetti might be vacuumed into one’s mouth. The light did not go out, but rather it seemed to be withdrawn into the UFO; something that lights don’t do.
When it came to recordkeeping, Howell was also a saving grace in NSA. While civilians seem to believe that every piece of information that goes into the U.S. Government is saved, that is not true. Especially in the days of paper files, Washington, D.C., would have sunk into the swamp on which it is built just under the sheer weight of the documents. Rather, most material was scheduled for routine destruction after a specified date. Using an old boy net, McConnell had become known inside NSA for his interest in UFOs and incoming reports were regularly funneled to him.
He kept many of those reports long after their expiration date. It is important to note that the vast majority of those documents were from intelligence officers around the world who were sending in reports that appeared in their local newspapers. There were a few that got our attention, as they came from trusted sources. However, even having reports with high credibility, and possible military significance, was not sufficient to get formal collection requirements related to UFOs.
As ATP progressed, Howell, Jack, and I did meet with a very senior official in NSA regarding what had been concluded thus far in our study. Like the senior officials from the other agencies, he was interested but had nothing to offer. There was no problem with Howell keeping track of information regarding UFOs, but no requirement to do so. Most of the UFO reports that came into NSA were generated by people located at foreign sites passing on routine information they thought worth observing.
Another set of important briefings were in Air Force channels. As it turned out, I was requested to give a briefing at Kelly Air Force Base in San Antonio, Texas. The subject was not UFOs, but on the process that AMC was using to transition basic technology into engineering development. By comparison, the Air Force projects to develop new aircraft dwarfed the Army R & D programs as they seemed to be very adept at convincing Congress to provide them lots of money. This was a high-level meeting with the four-star officer involved in R & D of each service present. I took advantage of the situation and asked General Thompson to mention me to General Larry Skantz who then ran U.S. Air Force research and development and was headquartered at Andrews Air Force Base, just south of the Washington Beltway. General Thompson agreed, and during a break we made a brief handshake introduction. That was all that was necessary to gain concurrence to allow me an audience at a later date.
A few weeks later the meeting was held. Due to a bit of nervousness in the Army Headquarters in the Pentagon, Dr. Jay Scully, the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Research, Development, and Acquisition, insisted that someone from his office accompany me as a head-nodder. Actually Scully had already heard my UFO briefing and was generally supportive. However, prior to that occasion I did not enjoy a cordial introduction to him. It was not regarding UFOs, but rather the process for technology transition that went astray. Then a lieutenant colonel, I arrived for the meeting alone, which was a huge mistake. Protocol dictated that when meeting someone holding an assistant secretary position, a general officer-level person would accompany any staff officer to the briefing. My senior executive staff (SES) boss failed to make the meeting and I didn’t know where he was. Worse, an article had appeared in Defense News the day before stating that Dr. Scully was on the outs in the Pentagon and that no one took him seriously anymore. Without my SES, I was proving this insult to be true. We sat at the table, he asked where my boss was, and then literally picked up my briefing and threw it at me. Not a propitious start. We did kiss and make up later with Lieutenant General Moore apologizing. That R & D transition process was then approved.
The UFO briefing went better, but Dr. Scully wanted his own man present in case things did not sit well with General Skantz. We entered the office accompanied by the Air Force officer who had been working with ATP and a brigadier general who was in charge of advanced R & D. While the meeting was generally cordial, General Skantz asked why there weren’t more blue uniforms (meaning USAF personnel) in the room. Both generals seemed interested, but obviously had no real knowledge of the topic. In the end I was directed to go to the USAF Space Command, which was then a two-star command located in El Segundo, California, near LAX, and get their reaction.
That meeting was set, and the U.S. Air Force officer from ATP and I made the trip. He was the same officer who had provided me the data from NORAD and had the technical expertise to explain it. The commanding officer was then Major General Don Katina. The meeting went well and we asked for support establishing a more formal program. Since General Skantz had directed the visit, we needed a specific reply that we could send back to him. After a lengthy discussion, he told us, “Tell him Katina says yes.” An important point about this meeting was that, while open-minded, he did not have any apparent background in the UFO subject. In a few years Space Command would become a four-star command at Peterson Air Force Base in Colorado, and General Katina would get his fourth star and take command of that organization as well.
The Strategic Defense Initiative—Going for the Gold
After setting the stage with the services, it was time to transition the project into a formal program with a real budget. The logical place to go was Strategic Defense Initiative, known to most people simply as SDI or by the colloquial name—Star Wars. President Reagan was already concerned about ballistic nuclear weapons even before he was elected. Pushed by him, SDI had become the most massive and controversial program in the Department of Defense. Headed by Lieutenant General Jim Abrahamson, SDI had a budget of about five billion dollars. (That would be the equivalent of about ten billion dollars in 2010.) We figured that SDI certainly had both the money and the mission that could support a small program to study UFOs.
For several years we had been postulating that SDI would be the appropriate place to ask for funding. When completed that project would monitor space for potential incoming missiles. As decision and response times decreased, it would be essential that the command and control system have accurate information regarding objects coming at the United States. Our concern was that an uncorrelated target—meaning a UFO—might trigger a response based on erroneous data. In short, could a UFO accidentally set off the next world war? However long the odds, it seemed that having knowledge of everything that might be flying in critical airspace would be prudent.
Again it was General Stubblebine who was able to arrange a meeting. General Abe, as he was known to his staff, was not aware of the topic for discussion and his protocol people did not demand the traditional read-ahead paper. For this meeting I had more help, including Howell McConnell and Jack from NSA as well as the USAF staff person who had worked with me. Howell was important as he brought along some very sensitive documents that were actually intercepts of Soviet discussions about UFOs.
I began by introducing everyone; then tried to easily transition into the UFO matter. Within a couple of minutes, General Abe stopped the meeting. “Who are you guys really?” he asked. He seemed a bit stunned by the topic. This was not deflection, but a clear lack of prior knowledge of the topic. Obligingly we again went around the table introducing each person and the agency he represented. While the Air Force data from Space Command got some interest, it was the NSA material that received the most attention.
What the Soviets Were Saying
Included in the briefing were statements from Dr. F. Yu Zigel, a senior Soviet astronomer and laboratory director. Zigel’s comments included:
— “The sightings demonstrated indisputably artificiality, strangeness, and intelligence.”
— “Unusual speed and kinematic movements, luminescence, invulnerability, and paralysis of aggressive intentions” (inferring the Soviets had tried to attack one or more UFOs).
— “To explain these events by natural causes is senseless.”
— And, “the only hypothesis that offers an adequate explanation is UFOs.”
Obviously, the Soviet scientists that NSA was listening to did not doubt the reality of the UFOs.
“How did you get this?” General Abrahamson asked, seemingly shocked by the verbatim transcript. McConnell responded, explaining our technical eavesdropping methodologies. He then asked Howell, “Can they (the Soviets) do this as well?” General Abrahamson was asking about Soviet signal intelligence intercept capability. “We think they can,” responded McConnell. What shocked me most about the meeting was that the senior officer running the most expensive and highly secretive program in the world did not seem to understand the threat capabilities. That was more surprising than the UFO discussion that followed.
As we moved ahead with the meeting and presented more data, the tone changed considerably. General Abrahamson noted that as a former fighter pilot the concepts intrigued him. However, when it came to money, he turned us down. General Abrahamson noted that he was “doing some hairy things,” but if he got caught funding something as exotic as a UFO project, Congress would use it as a weapon against him in the perennial budget wars on the Hill. The Star Wars program already was extremely controversial and his adversaries, of whom there were many, would conclude that if he could afford to fund a UFO project, SDI must have too much money. This was an entirely reasonable position as there was no doubt that many in Congress had their knives out for this program. His budget already was under serious attack and he did end up taking a billion-dollar cut that year. Despite wanting money to formalize the project, I had to fully agree with his rationale. It was also abundantly clear that Star Wars was in no way related to fighting ET—that was not even on their scope!
Anybody who has participated in the U.S. Government budget process understands just how vicious the infighting can be. Despite prior buildups, in the late 1980s the annual defense budgets were already declining. It was a zero-sum game. If you wanted to fund a new project you had to figure out what other project you were willing to cut. Contrary to the protestations of the true believers, UFOs were nowhere on the DoD priority list. More on that subject later.
General Abrahamson was not totally dismissive. He told us that his program would soon be monitoring more of space than had ever been done before. If we could tell him what to look for, he would consider including that data in the algorithms that were being generated for the SDI system. For reasons not related to SDI, we did not have the opportunity to follow up on his offer.
Aside from the ATP effort I had more firsthand evidence confirming that SDI was certainly not designed to fight aliens from outer space, nor did they even have a basic knowledge of the UFO topic. In addition to my onetime discussion with General Abrahamson, I became close personal friends with one of his most senior people. As a top-level scientist, this person had in-depth knowledge of the capabilities of the entire U.S. space architecture, including, but not limited to, SDI. A true skeptic, he was open to the UFO topic, but stated he has never seen any data that supported the existence of a deep black UFO program—or that any organization was routinely keeping track of sightings or data related to UFOs. Over more than a decade and a half we have discussed many sensitive topics. There have been times when he has told me that specific topics were off limits and could not be discussed. UFOs were not one of them.
Only once, in all of the dozens of briefings that I gave, did I get a negative response. In all other situations general interest was shown, along with some reasonable skepticism stated. However over time there was more and more evidence that no formal UFO program currently existed. On this one occasion, things turned ugly. After I briefed General Max Thurman, who at the time was the Vice Chief of Staff of the Army (the number two four-star position in the Army), he asked me to address the Board on Army Science and Technology (BAST) study group that was examining the Army use of space. Heading that committee was Dr. Walt LaBerge, an eminent scientist who had previously served as the Principal Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, the Under Secretary of the Army, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force, and was then a vice president at Lockheed. Among his many accomplishments LaBerge was the co-inventor of the Sidewinder air-to-air missile, and he had led the team that built the NASA Mission Control Center. His distinguished career had brought him in close contact with many advanced developments in the U.S. space programs.
Attending the meeting were about ten scientists and Dr. LaBerge. For about an hour I ran through my briefing and informed them that the universe was probably not built the way they thought it was and UFOs deserved serious consideration. As I concluded, Le Berge asked the group if they had any questions. There were a few pretty good questions from the attendees who seemed interested in what I had been saying. Then, the most amazing thing I have ever witnessed in a scientific meeting took place. Livid, LaBerge slammed his hand on the table and began screaming at me. His first comment was, “You’re not supposed to know that. That’s what you learn when you die!” To say I was startled by his overreaction would be an understatement. Never would I have anticipated that someone of his stature would totally lose control of his emotions in front of a group of peers. There may be outbursts when scientists disagree about facts, but bringing religious beliefs in an uncontrolled and explosive manner before a panel like this was far beyond the pale.
His outburst did not stop there, and LaBerge went on ranting for several minutes. He brought up another program, one that we were the only two people in the room who understood what he was railing against. It was the remote viewing program that he had been briefed on when he was serving in the Office of the Secretary of Defense. In 1987, Star Gate was still in the black world, and very few people knew about it. While he obviously had a strong emotional bias against the program, I knew from other sources that he was lying about the facts. As I picked up my viewgraphs I muttered to myself that I thought we were having a scientific discussion.
The Army Science Board—a Positive Response at Last
While there were many more briefings and discussions with officials who would likely have been in the loop, I’ll conclude this chapter with just one of them. At the request of Dr. Scully, who was in charge of Army R & D, a meeting was established for a small group of members of the Army Science Board (ASB). Most of the attendees were not aware of the topic until they arrived at the Pentagon. This was probably the longest briefing conducted on UFOs in the entire ATP experience and it lasted most of a working day.
I opened the session with an expanded briefing that lasted nearly two hours. Pragmatically oriented, I focused the group on two issues: defense-related cases, and aircraft safety incidents. Of course the Space Command data and NSA materials were included, and presented by representatives from those agencies. Among the experts present was Richard Haines who was then working at NASA–Ames in California where he served as Chief of the Space Human Factors Office. With decades of experience in both psychology and UFO studies, Dick gave an excellent briefing on the results of his extensive research into reports provided by predominantly civilian pilots. At that time he had a database of more than 3,000 cases, some of them pointing to a clear danger to civil aviation. Those incidents have continued and many more have been reported over the past two decades.
In addition U.S. Air Force Major General Jim Pfautz gave a presentation from the point of view of his prior position on the Intelligence Community Staff. Stubblebine and I had met with Pfautz a couple of years prior. At that point in time, the IC was not organized the way it is today. This was long before the creation of the Director of National Intelligence, and the head of the CIA actually wore two hats. While he was the CIA Director, he was also the Director of Central Intelligence or DCI, a separate position altogether. Under the DCI there was an organization that was responsible for integrating intelligence data from all of the agencies and establishing a single IC position on any given topic. When the President was briefed, it had to be a unitary position that was provided, even if dissenting views were noted. The DCI could not brief the President stating that the CIA thinks one thing, but DIA or NSA has other opinions. Therefore, it was the IC staff that had oversight of almost all intelligence matters. General Stubblebine and I believed that if there were a program or networks that followed UFO data, it would be this group and the IC staff that would have to be in the loop. Previously we had met with Pfautz at his office and he had told us they were not the integrating agency for UFOs. That is important as his position was the place where reports came together. If there had been one office that would catch reports from any agency, it would have been under Pfautz. Also, if he were attempting to hide a program he would not have appeared at the ASB meeting.
His presentation was fairly general, bounced lightly off of the UFO topic, and then he alluded to the remote viewing program, without addressing it directly. He did seem to support the creation of a project that might gather and analyze UFO reports. Interestingly, he decided to expose himself to author Howard Blum, when Out There was being written. While it has been written that I’m at least part of the model for Blum’s character named Colonel Harold E. Phillips, I can state that most of the book is pure poppycock.
At the end of the meeting, the members of the Army Science Board present discussed what they had heard. My pitch had been for the creation of a small but formal project to explore the topic. The members present unanimously concluded that there was sufficient evidence of high-quality observations and data from veridical sources to proceed. They pointed out that there was a need to be able to accurately assess space threats. There was one area on which they were split—that was whether or not the Army should be leading the project. The majority agreed that the Army should take the lead, at least initially. Any such innovative project needs a champion who would be able to lead the charge into what would surely be a contested area. The minority vote was that it should go to the U.S. Air Force. While they had been somewhat interested observers, there was no apparent burning desire to get more actively involved.
The project leadership issue turned out to be moot. Returning to my desk at the Army Laboratory Command in Adelphi, Maryland, I found a note to call Colonel Branch at the Army personnel office in the Military Personnel Center. After a decade under their radar they had finally caught up with me. An assignment was offered that only required any full colonel who could breathe. They were adamant that I would not be allowed to find a new position on my own. The decision was fairly simple. I was then currently involved in a number of very advanced high-technology programs, ones that would likely be attractive to defense contractors, while the new assignment was a dead-end job that would blunt my expertise. What I did not know is that I would turn down a major defense contractor and take a position at Los Alamos National Laboratory (LANL). For the record, I was able to hold a meeting similar to ATP at the lab. Like the initial ATP that I orchestrated for years, there were no written records kept.
Tom Clancy’s Commentary—More Accurate than Most Might Think
Those people who have read Future War: Non-Lethal Weapons in Twenty-First-Century Warfare know that the foreword was written by my friend, Tom Clancy. Tom had included some of my nonlethal weapons concepts in his books and in so doing allowed them to be introduced to far more people than I could ever have reached. Over the intervening years we have had intense discussions on a wide variety of topics. When I first broached UFOs and told him about the ATP he was quite skeptical. His thinking has come a long way since then.
People who have followed Tom’s nonfiction works know that he has many very high-level connections in the military and Intelligence Community. Also, his fiction books are replete with technical details of weapons and sensor systems. They are not always quite accurate, but then he has intentionally made many changes to protect some of the classified aspects of our military capabilities. Obviously he has a cadre of people like me who feed him information—some of it quite sensitive. I remember one time visiting his home on the Chesapeake Bay and learning that a day or two prior Colin Powell had been there as well. That is an example of the people who stop by. During one of our numerous UFO discussions we talked about the rumors of a black program based on the Roswell crash. Tom’s comment was quite informative. He said he knew we did not have a craft “because somebody would have told me!” That is probably an accurate statement.
This chapter is important as it describes how over several years my exploits took me to the senior levels of the military, and included briefing the director or deputy director of the CIA, DIA, NSA, plus many other officials in various agencies, industries, and government science boards. The outcome of such meetings almost always included being introduced to other influential people. Among those I met with were Dr. Edward Teller (who became a personal friend while I was at Los Alamos), Ben Rich (legendary president of the Lockheed Skunk Works who developed the SR-71 and the first stealth aircraft), Burt Rutan (aerospace engineer extraordinaire), and Lieutenant General Jim Abrahamson (then director of the five-billion-dollar Strategic Defense Initiative (SDI)).
What I learned in my personal, face-to-face meetings runs counter to the wild tales that abound in conspiracy theory literature. However, unlike those conspiracy theory proponents, I am the only person who has discussed this sensitive topic with each of those listed, and many, many others like them. Worth noting is that even at the most senior levels, some officials shared the conventional mythology of the general population regarding UFOs. Despite their high-level positions, they all seemed to think that someone else was responsible for the topic.
In studying UFOs, nothing is simple. The next chapter brings the conundrums that arose when a respected Army officer made audacious claims about crashed UFO material and the role he stated it made in advancing American technology.
Copyright © 2011 by John B. Alexander