N DECEMBER 1988 countless witnesses in Puerto Rico saw apparent encounters between US warplanes and strange, huge alien aircraft. On one occasion, bystanders saw two F-14 jets actually enter another massive flying triangular craft. Were the war planes destroyed or were they co-operating in joint manoeuvres with the unknown vessel? Certainly some conspiracy theorists have suggested that the United States government actually has a close relationship with alien visitors, and provides them with ground bases. One of the areas is said to be
under the water of the western Atlantic. Other theories propose that extraterrestrial beings are allegedly abducting law abiding US citizens in return for technological secrets. But what do our governments really know about UFOs?
The US Department of Defense does not, officially, have anything to do with UFOs anymore. That is because they are no longer called UFOs. In the present age, such phenomenon are called Uncorrelated Targets, or UCTs for earthbound unidentified air-based incidents. The US military rarely reveals what it knows, and exact figures are scarce. Officially, there is also no central department dealing with the issue, although many investigators consider this to be a fallacy. In either case, this situation has only developed since 1974 with the shutting down of the US military?s open, public examination of UFO cases.
After the Second World War, a spate of UFO sightings initiated a US project called ?Operation Blue Book?. It was a scheme designed to show the public there were no secrets in the US?s official investigation of alien craft. This ?openness? was merely a front, and it was actually made a crime equal to spying for military officers to reveal details of UFOs to unauthorised people. In reality, Blue Book only reported cases that were guaranteed to be found as hoaxes or mistaken identity. One of the experts who worked as a scientific consultant on the project was Josef Allan Hynek, an astrophysicist and sceptic. He revealed that any sightings reported by people under 18 years of age were automatically ignored, and other incidents would only be published if they could be rationalised. In total, Blue Book investigated 15,000 reports of UFOs, many of them still not explained, and Hynek himself experienced something of a conversion. He became an informed believer, and coined the term ?close encounter?.
Britain has its own group of people similar to Hynek. Nick Pope was a civil servant who worked for the Ministry of Defence. His role was to respond to questions from the public about UFOs. During the course of his work, he uncovered enough fascinating infor?mation to write his own books about unexplained phenomenon. Other investi?gators believe what Pope has been privy too is merely the tip of the iceberg, and some quite extraordinary files concerning the issue of UFOs have been uncovered. One collection entitled ?UFO Policy? features a six-page document from 1960 which states that any unauthorised information disclosures would be viewed as breaches of the Official Secrets Act.
The Ministry of Defence official policy states that it does not investigate UFO sightings unless they are of ?defence signif?icance?. Despite impressive proof or terrifying witness accounts, the authorities at the Ministry of Defence continually rule that each incident has no importance to national security. At least that is the public position, and what happens behind the scenes is unknown.
One of the problems British investigators have when searching for old files like this is that the various ministries and departments involved are quite adept at being secretive. United States officials, on the other hand, are supposed to be more open. The American Constitution and Freedom of Information Act is designed to let the public know what is actually happening. In 1980, however, a group called ?Citizens Against Unidentified Flying Objects Secrecy? sued the National Security Agency. It wanted the NSA to open its files on 239 UFO incidents but the authorities argued that to do so would damage US national safety. In recent years a ruling changing the classification status of documents has meant many of these reports will finally be put in the public domain.
One cannot help but feel that any truly amazing official papers that may cause public hysteria will be suppressed. Are national governments hiding the truth from their people, or is there really nothing to report? It is a question to which we may never have a definite answer.