Fleet Street is enjoying watching the Ministry of Defence squirm, again, as federal censors attempt, again, to get the UFO monkey off its back. The controversy was officially put to bed in 2013, when the UK’s National Archives dumped the last of the MoD’s reports into the public domain. That was it. End of story. No mas. But last week, in a shout-out to “World UFO Day,” The Daily Express crowed “Exclusive: MOD to release UK’s top secret UFO ‘X-Files’ that ‘could prove aliens exist.’”
That’s wishful thinking. But the MoD really should be ashamed of itself for putting Archive historians in such a sticky wicket last year. That’s when, in response to a FOIA request concerning retired U.S. airman John Burroughs — who claims to have suffered permanent injuries from an alleged 1980 UFO encounter at an air base on British soil — the military admitted it was still sitting on, ahem, 18 relevant documents. That shouldn’t have been terribly surprising, since few if any of the previously published pages from half a century of eyewitness sightings had ever been classified to begin with. In reply to Burroughs’ followup, the Defence Secretariat conceded in February 2014 that the files in question were being considered for release “in the near future.”
Last week, 18 months later, Conservative Party House of Lords member Guy Black of Brentwood formally wondered from his Parliament seat just what, exactly, “in the near future” really meant. That forced Defence Minister Earl Howe to promise the military would get said files into the hands of the Archives no later than March of 2016. Then he whacked the ball into another court by adding the Archives “will make the necessary judgement about when they release these files to the public.” So on and on it goes in the UK.
It’s sad when a government can’t bear to admit the extent of its interest in UFOs. But even more heartbreaking than the UK was what happened last week in Germany. In a showdown that seems almost ludicrous, on June 29, the Federal Administrative Supreme Court felt compelled to order the German Parliament, or Bundestag, to release material on what it’s done to comply with a particular United Nations resolution. On UFOs. From 1978.
Known technically as UN General Assembly Decision A/33/426, that agreement suggested member states should, among other things, “take appropriate steps to coordinate on a national level scientific research and investigation into extraterrestrial life, including unidentified flying objects, and to inform the Secretary-General of the observations, research, and evaluation of such activities.” Which is not, one would think, a huge national priority anywhere.
And yet, since a report on German efforts toward that end was confirmed by Exopolitik.org in 2010, the Bundestag has gone to court to prevent the release of what blogger Andreas Muller states is a mere “informational summary of known facts on UFOs, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI), and the UN-Resolution A/33/426.” Although a little clarity gets lost in translation, Muller says it contradicts Germany’s long-standing position that the state has had no interest in The Great Taboo. Muller then links to a 2014 story summarizing 67 pages of previously withheld Cold War UFO documents languishing in files of the BND German intelligence agency. Many are still bound by a 30-year statute of limitations embargo, but available details on the known incidents are lights-in-the-night-sky innocuous.
The aforementioned grenzwissenschaft-aktuell blog goes on to quote Germany’s Congressional Scientific Research Service – which reportedly produced the Bundestag’s currently litigated “A33/426” documents – as stating, “The fact that both the United Kingdom as well as France (and several other countries) have been engaged with the question about the existence of UFOs and extraterrestrial live (sic) forms and that they confirmed this interest by publishing their formerly secret files extensively, even online, suggests that also German agencies and federal ministries are engaged with this problem and question.”
Come on, Bundestag. Man up. Say it. We’re interested in UFOs. Just say it. Say it.