Has the British Ministry of Defence Released All of Its UFO Files?

Robert Hastings says “No!” and Nick Pope Agrees

A new BBC online article, dated June 20, 2013 and titled “UFO sightings: Files explain why MoD closed down special desk”, discusses what I consider to be a calculated decision by the British government to feign a lack of interest in the UFO phenomenon, even as public sighting reports in the UK reached a very high level. At the conclusion of this article, former MoD UFO specialist Nick Pope comments on my assessment.

In response to the story, I posted the following comment:

“The U.S. Air Force used this same sleight-of-hand in 1969 to get the American public off its back by closing down Project Blue Book. Years later, FOIA requests forced the release of U.S. government files which proved that other groups, including the CIA and NSA, continued to secretly study national security-related UFO incidents in America. Hopefully the British public won't be duped by this ruse.” Were it not for a word-count limit, I would have added that the USAF’s Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) was also involved in sensitive UFO investigations, something not mentioned by the Pentagon during its Blue Book closure announcement.

Similarly, the real situation regarding official interest in UFOs in the UK is far different than the MoD—and its de facto debunking spokesman, Dr. David Clarke—portray when discussing the topic in the media. For example, over the past five years, information has emerged relating to the famous Rendlesham Forest incidents, in December 1980, which confirms that a bona fide UFO was indeed tracked by both British and American radars in the area.

My 2007 tape recorded interviews with the two USAF air traffic controllers on duty at RAF Bentwaters during that time-frame may be read in an article which also contains a published statement by retired MoD UFO Desk administrator, Nick Pope, regarding former RAF radar operator Nigel Kerr’s independent radar tracking of the same unidentified aerial object.

Significantly, one of the USAF controllers, Ike Barker, told me that the UFO—which appeared as an orange-colored sphere, approximately the size of an F-111 fighter/bomber—had been spotted out the window of the air traffic control tower at the exact moment it was observed to be momentarily hovering on the tower’s radar scope. It then moved rapidly away in the direction of the base’s Weapons Storage Area (WSA) which contained tactical nuclear bombs, according to multiple USAF sources I have interviewed.

RAF Bentwaters’ American Deputy Base Commander at the time, then-Lt. Col. Charles Halt, has been on-the-record about the incident at the WSA since 1991, saying that while he was leading a security team in nearby Rendlesham Forest that night, investigating strange lights seen there, he had heard frantic radio chatter from Security Policemen posted at the bomb depot, reporting that the UFO was hovering near the facility and directing laser-like beams down into it.

While Barker’s testimony differs somewhat in the details, compared with Halt’s account, it does provide a general corroboration of a UFO presence near the WSA in the pre-dawn hours of December 28, 1980. (It may well be that the UFO made more than one pass near the facility, which would explain the discrepancies in their statements: Barker said the UFO flew extremely fast in a southwesterly direction, passing just to the west of the WSA; he did not see it hover nearby the bunker complex or send down beams into it, as the radio chatter heard by Halt indicated.)

So, according to a former USAF deputy base commander and a USAF air traffic controller, a bona fide UFO actually maneuvered very near the largest nuclear weapons storage depot in Western Europe, located in Suffolk, England. Moreover, Col. Halt says security personnel at the site reported that the aerial object apparently targeted at least one of the bunkers there with laser-like rays.

(In 1994, I interviewed another retired USAF colonel, whose identity must remain confidential, who confirmed the incident and further stated that two tactical nukes were subsequently removed from the Bentwaters WSA and flown aboard a C-5A cargo aircraft to Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, for analysis. This individual said that the report he read about the event did not mention the technical findings resulting from that investigation and, therefore, he could not say whether the two bombs had been adversely affected by the beams.)

In spite of these dramatic revelations, the MoD officially claims that its records show no evidence of a UFO threat to the UK’s national security. Clearly, important facts about the Rendlesham Forest incidents are still being suppressed by the British government, despite its recently-hyped claim that it is being transparent with the public regarding its knowledge—or more accurately, lack of knowledge—about the UFO phenomenon.

Moreover, one of the now-retired USAF Security Policemen involved in the multiple UFO events at Rendlesham/RAF Bentwaters that week, Technical Sergeant Jim Penniston, says that Ministry of Defence personnel were present for his harsh debriefing following his encounter with a landed UFO in the woods during the early hours of December 26th. While their role may have been a passive one—leaving the questioning to two USAF officers who were not introduced and whom Penniston did not recognize—the mere presence of persons working for MoD's Air Staff secretariat DS8 hints at an interest in the events in Rendlesham Forest not reflected in the files declassified by the MoD's UFO Desk in the recent past.

In summary, it appears that what the MoD has been engaging in is the selective declassification of UFO-related files, whereby low-level, generally mundane documents are released with much media fanfare, while very sensitive files continue to be withheld from public view. The practice is commonly called “spin”. The purpose of this propaganda tactic is to alter the actual story of official interest in the UFO phenomenon, so that it appears as if there exists only minimal concern or none at all.

My comprehensive exposé on the MoD’s deliberate duplicity and debunker David Clarke’s witting or unwitting role in foisting this UFO disinformation on the British people, may be read at my website.

Addendum

Upon completion of this article, I sent it to former Ministry of Defence UFO Desk administrator Nick Pope, and requested his candid opinion regarding my contentions.

In particular, I asked Pope to provide his assessment of Dr. David Clarke’s self-created role as the authoritative interpreter of the reasons for, and significance of, the MoD’s release of classified UFO documents—a self-serving ploy that members of the British media seem to have swallowed unreservedly. As one will read, Mr. Pope puts things in their proper perspective.

Nick Pope responds:

Classified Documents in the MoD's UFO Files

Project Condign's final report was classified Secret UK Eyes Only, as were some of the supporting papers. Some of the minutes recording discussions relating to the setting up of the Flying Saucer Working Party were classified Top Secret. However, the UK's Freedom of Information Act contains wide-ranging exemptions covering areas such as defense, security and intelligence, among others.

All documents passed to the National Archives will have been reviewed by MoD before being sent out (this is one of the reasons why the release program took five years), so anything released to the public is either unclassified, or is now judged to be unclassified, whatever the original classification. Careful scrutiny of the released material shows plenty of documents have been redacted or withheld in entirety. And that's not including several of the more interesting files, documents, films and photographs that the MoD claims have been "inadvertently destroyed" or "lost".

Access to Classified Information

In government, access to classified information is a product of your security clearance and your 'need to know'. Thus, in a sense, you can never say for sure whether you're privy to all the information on any particular topic, because even if you're the "Subject Matter Expert", there may not just be specific things to which you're denied access, but areas the existence of which you're not even aware. Think of this in terms of 'unknown unknowns'. So while I had a Top Secret SCI security clearance for much of my MoD career and certainly believe I saw all the UFO files, I can't be certain: "I don't know what I don't know" is another way that those of us who have dealt with highly-classified material sometimes characterize this situation.

David Clarke

To clarify David Clarke's role, he's a ufologist, formerly with the British UFO Research Association. He's done some volunteer clerical work for the UK's National Archives on the Ministry of Defense UFO files and got to do a few interviews on the subject when each batch of files was released—generally when I was unavailable. In relation to the final batch of files he got a few more interviews than usual, simply because I now live in America and there were limits to what I could do with the UK media.

Having done as a government job what he did as a hobby, I can confirm that Clarke has never worked for the MoD or held a security clearance. MoD redacts the files before sending them to the National Archives, so he's only ever seen the same unclassified material as any other member of the public [Hastings’ emphasis].

One MoD document referred to him as a "UFO spotter"—a disparaging term used to describe somebody with a nerdish and slightly obsessive attitude to the subject. He's a folklore buff who's interested in fairies and goblins and I've been told he privately thinks some UFOs and alien abductions may represent "some sort of supernatural phenomenon". He keeps this opinion to himself, presumably because he's worried people would think he's a nut. So he's no sinister debunker—just a slightly odd hobbyist, reading out the government press release. Some people would probably use the term "useful idiot" to describe his parroting the MoD "no defense significance" sound bite, which was designed solely to keep Parliament, the media and the public off our backs.

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