... by the CIA.
Thanks to a loyal reader of Skeptophilia, I was able to peruse the CIA.gov link entitled "Take a Peek into our 'X-Files'," which begins thusly:
The CIA declassified hundreds of documents in 1978 detailing the Agency’s investigations into Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). The documents date primarily from the late 1940s and 1950s.
To help navigate the vast amount of data contained in our FOIA UFO collection, we’ve decided to highlight a few documents both skeptics and believers will find interesting.
Below you will find five documents we think X-Files character Agent Fox Mulder would love to use to try and persuade others of the existence of extraterrestrial activity. We also pulled five documents we think his skeptical partner, Agent Dana Scully, could use to prove there is a scientific explanation for UFO sightings.
The truth is out there; click on the links to find it.We are then not just invited, but positively encouraged to peruse the files on such cases as the sighting of flying saucers in East Germany in 1952 and the report from the same year describing UFOs over a uranium mine in the Belgian Congo, not to mention the report of the Scientific Advisory Panel on Unidentified Flying Objects filed with the CIA in 1953.
Then, if that wasn't wonderful enough for you, we are directed to a page called "How to Investigate a Flying Saucer" wherein we are told all about Project Blue Book. It's as if the CIA had a sudden attack of conscience and decided to come clean on everything that the UFO world holds dear:
Before December 1947, there was no specific organization tasked with the responsibility for investigating and evaluating UFO sightings. There were no standards on how to evaluate reports coming in, nor were there any measurable data points or results from controlled experiment for comparison against reported sightings.
To end the confusion, head of the Air Force Technical Service Command, General Nathan Twining, established Project SIGN (initially named Project SAUCER) in 1948 to collect, collate, evaluate, and distribute within the government all information relating to such sightings, on the premise that UFOs might be real (although not necessarily extraterrestrial) and of national security concern. Project SIGN eventually gave way to Project GRUDGE, which finally turned into Project BLUE BOOK in 1952.We then are led through a systematic way to study such sightings, including methodologies for eliminating "false positives," how to identify (terrestrial) aircraft and other natural phenomena, how to gather data (and what data is critical), and how to file an eyewitness report.
I cannot begin to imagine how a diehard UFO conspiracy theorist would react to reading this. My guess is that the reaction would largely be a scoffing dismissal of the entire site -- the stance being that of course the CIA is still covering up its knowledge of aliens (Roswell! Groom Lake! Dulce Base! Area 51!). This release of a few reports is only meant to persuade the weak-minded that the CIA has nothing to hide. The real stuff on alien autopsies and grotesque alien/human hybridization experiments is still being covered up.
It's especially amusing that the release of these documents has coincided with the reboot of The X Files. I do not think this is an accident, and it indicates something that I had not known before, namely that there are government intelligence agents who have a sense of humor. If you've seen either of the two new episodes that have been aired so far, you will know that Chris Carter et al. have basically pulled out all the stops, and threw every conspiracy trope in the world into two fifty-minute shows. And, no spoilers intended, the CIA and Department of Defense do not come out looking like heroes.
So anyway. Anything that can induce some cognitive dissonance into the minds of conspiracy theorists is okay by me. I don't think that the CIA is telling us everything they know -- being that "top secret" designation happens for a reason -- but it's nice to have access to at least some of the original documents. Now, you'll have to excuse me, because I have some UFO reports to read.
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