At least nobody got killed
||By Billy Cox
Don’t even waste your time reading this one today, because it’s so inside baseball, so utterly constipated and confounding I want to set my head on fire and swan-dive into a pond of gasoline. Yeah, that’s right, it’s the corporate media’s latest orgy of ineptitude over UFOs — AGAIN — so you guys can just step back and move right along while I ingest an emetic and hurl.
Whoa whoa whoa. Whoa. At ease. Deep breath, visualize world peace. Context first. Remember the context.
In 1970, shortly after shutting down Project Blue Book, the Air Force moved its UFO files to Maxwell AFB in Huntsville, Ala. And just to settle on definitions, these weren’t actually formal studies. As Lt. Col. Hector Quintanilla, the Blue Book director, stated in 1968, “Our primary responsibility is to collect data and then check the subjective material to see what the stimulus might be . . . We’re not an investigative force. . . . We collect data. It’s a misnomer to think we investigate.”
Furthermore: These files were never secret; you had to schedule an appointment, but you could read them yourself. Among the first to comb through the 100,000-plus hard-copy documents was Fund for UFO Research founder Don Berliner. In 1974 or thereabouts, Berliner spent a week at Maxwell, writing down names of the eyewitnesses for potential followup material. Some of those names were found only in newspaper articles; Blue Book was big on collecting and saving clippings.
The files were shipped from Maxwell to the National Archives and Records Administration in 1975 and compressed into 94 spools of microfilm. “A lot of people wanted to see them,” says Berliner. “They were really popular.” So, in 1976, reservists Xeroxed the stuff for transfer into public-release microfilm. But with a hitch. A USAF review board ordered the worker bees to black out eyewitnesses’ names. “They even censored the names of people mentioned in the newspaper accounts,” says Berliner. “They cited privacy reasons, but that didn’t make much sense to me, considering how the names had been available for so long. What it meant was, if you were a researcher, you couldn’t go back and reinvestigate the cases.”
Nevertheless, even though Berliner — and who knows how many others — had already recorded eyewitness names before the clampdown, FUFOR decided to purchase the entire catalogue of censored Blue Book microfilm. And that was pretty much that, until 1998, when one of Berliner’s associates who was visiting NARA called to say he was actually looking at the raw unedited microfilm records, complete with unredacted names. “I said are you sure? He said yeah, they’re on the original 16 millimeter film. So I told him to use our credit card and order a complete set.” FUFOR sprang for about $3,000. “But we got the original version with all the names.” So much for the embargo..
In 2007, a history website digitized the Archives’ censored version of Blue Book and placed them online. It wasn’t newsy enough to rate MSM coverage back then. A year or so ago, just for grins, Berliner called the Archives and asked if he could see the original uncensored 16 millimeter files, “and they said ‘Absolutely not.’ I said ‘Well, would you like a copy? I’ve got one.’ They didn’t think that was very funny.”
So try to imagine the bewilderment, in extremely small hardcore circles, over the MSM clusterf*#! when the Open Minds website announced on Jan. 12 how those Blue Book files — the ones with the censored names, which have been languishing in the public domain online for nearly eight years — were now available in John Greenewald’s Black Vault database without charge. Greenewald, a Los Angeles rez, has been downloading FOIA-acquired government documents — on UFOs and other federal matters — onto his site since he was a teenager in the Nineties. What happened a week after Open Minds produced its piece caught Greenwald off guard, as he states in an email to De Void: “I never claimed this is the first time they hit the web, but rather, I got them compiled then just converted them to a much easier to use format. Crazy how the media works sometimes.”
Crazy? That’s being charitable.
From the New York Daily News to the Washington Post, from Fox News to the Chicago Sun Times, this sucker couldn’t have made a bigger splash if Larry Flynt belly-flopped from the second floor. And the reliable cliches (“The truth is out there — now on the web,” USA Today; “Is the truth out there?”, Christian Science Monitor; “It’s enough to make Mulder and Scully seethe with envy,” CNN) were the least of it. This was a magpie chorus to see who could mangle the most facts with the least effort possible (“Blue Book was shut down in 1985 …”, Fox31 Denver). Even the Air Force Times screwed it up, calling it the “Air Force’s top secret files on sightings … by a California man who spent nearly 20 years hounding the government to produce them.”
NBC’s Today Show anchor Natalie Morales alerted the nation with this especially piquant intro: “The U.S. Air Force just released the files to a top secret government program called the Project Blue Book, launched to investigate more than 12,000 UFO sightings … NBC News has reached out to the Air Force and we are waiting for a response.”
(Psst, Natalie: You’re still waiting because they don’t take you seriously, girl …)
Again, just to reiterate, the media had kittens over the Blue Book files sans noms. Were Greenewald’s Black Vault database all he had to work with, Minnesota researcher Tom Tulien never would’ve been able, in 2011, to add eyewitness gravitas to his indictment of the arguably most significant and embarrassing UFO incident in the USAF’s official records. This one involved a UFO incursion over the Strategic Air Command base in Minot, N.D., in 1968. Seriously, check it out at minotb52ufo.com This one’s got everything — nuclear missiles, security-team recon, air and ground sightings, radio communications outages, and radarscope confirmation from a B-52 in flight. The brass didn’t know what the hell to make of that one. They officially blamed everything from Sirius to Vega to plasmas to ball lightning. Nearly 50 years later, the USAF veterans who were there remain incredulous over the whitewash.
“The story’s good, it’s remarkable,” says Tulien, “but the real value is what it tells us about Air Force procedures and protocols. Blue Book was always a public relations stunt — you just don’t find SAC investigating UFO cases. But that’s exactly what happened this time because this was serious. And the Minot report fell right through the cracks.”
Minot was so good, with an assist from Tulien, even Peter Jennings took a peek and included it in ABC’s “UFOs: Seeing is Believing” in 2005. But Jennings’ cursory report barely scratched the surface. Imagine the impact the media could make if it directed national attention to the night The Great Taboo punctured American security surrounding the most dangerous weapons the world has ever known. But press coverage of real news? That would be even more unbelievable.
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