UFO Workers Need To Speak
Ufology is full of whistleblowers. There’s the one who worked on the alien spaceship at Area 51, the one who was involved in a gunfight with extraterrestrials, the one who rescued an alien and was able to send him back home, and the one who went on an exchange trip to an alien planet. Then there’s the one who did an interview in a hotel room, and the one who did an interview in a darkened room, so as to disguise his identity. Oh, and let’s not forget the one who was assassinated by the government. Ufology is full of whistleblowers, right? Wrong! Ufology is not full of whistleblowers. Ufology is full of bogus whistleblowers.
At first sight, this may strike some people as being overly-harsh. You might be thinking about leaked government UFO documents that you’ve read, and recalling UFO documentaries or conferences where some of these whistleblowers have appeared. Surely, you might say, a fair proportion of what we know about UFOs comes from various courageous whistleblowers who have taken the decision to violate their secrecy oaths, because they believe they have a higher moral responsibility to the truth. The people have a right to know, as the saying goes. It all sounds great in theory, but the truth is somewhat different, and can be easily demonstrated with a bit of critical thinking.
Ask yourself what happens – outside the field of ufology – to people who leak highly classified information. I’m not talking about traitors who pass classified information to foreign powers, but people who have made such information public, citing the public’s right to know. Some well-known names spring to mind: Former CIA employee Edward Snowden and US Army intelligence specialist Chelsea Manning are two such people. In the UK, ex-MI5 officer David Shayler and former MI6 employee Richard Tomlinson are good examples. There are others. Now, ask yourself, what did the government do in all of those cases? The answer is this: they went after the individuals concerned, proactively, aggressively and relentlessly, using the full resources available to them. And no, I don’t mean they tried to kill them, I mean that where the state was able to do so, the full weight of the criminal justice system (police, prosecutors, courts, etc.) was brought to bear upon them. In real life, that’s what happens to people who leak classified information. So why doesn’t this happen with ufology’s whistleblowers? Why would the government leave such people alone? The answer is obvious. Ufology’s so-called whistleblowers aren’t leaking classified information at all. They’re making up stories. If any of these people were genuinely leaking classified information they’d be arrested in an instant. I know this not because of my time on the MoD’s UFO project, but because of a later job that I did in the Directorate of Defence Security, where I had some peripheral involvement with Official Secrets Act cases. That, along with my 21 years in a government department where top secret information is commonplace, taught me a lot about the reality of how allegations of security breaches are handled.
Incidentally, at risk of being labelled a government lackey, I don’t approve of whistleblowers anyway, even genuine ones. That’s because such people leak information after deciding that they know better than anyone else whether or not something should be released. However, what I’ve learned from my own work on classified information is that the information owner – usually the subject matter expert – is best-placed to make judgements on whether or not something can safely be declassified. So it’s a mistake for someone else to see such documents pass across their desk and, without knowing the full story, decide for themselves that something should be public knowledge. It’s arrogant and ignorant. That’s not to say that there’s no place for responsible whistleblowing in a free, open and democratic society, but that’s a discussion for another day.
Returning to UFOs and whistleblowing, what of the verifiable government and military personnel who have spoken out about UFOs? People like Edward Ruppelt, Dr. J. Allen Hynek, myself, Dr. John Alexander, Charles Halt, John Burroughs, Jim Penniston and others? The key point is, they’re not whistleblowers. Such people fall into two categories. Witnesses such as Halt, Burroughs and Penniston are simply describing experiences they’ve had. Unless someone specifically instructed them not to talk about things, they aren’t divulging classified information by describing what they saw and experienced. When I collaborated with Burroughs and Penniston on the bestselling book “Encounter in Rendlesham Forest”, the manuscript was pre-submitted to both the UK MoD and the US DOD, because we treat our respective secrecy oaths seriously. When Charles Halt is asked about nuclear issues, he declines to comment, neither confirming nor denying the presence of nuclear weapons in any particular location at any particular time (I answer such questions in exactly the same way). As for those of us who aren’t witnesses, but who have genuinely investigated UFOs for the government, we take our secrecy oaths seriously too, and would never release classified information without proper authorisation. We’re not whistleblowers either. When people see me on TV talking about the MoD’s UFO files, I’m discussing material that’s already been declassified and released by the British Government.
This brings me to the final irony concerning people in ufology who claim to have inside knowledge about secret government UFO projects. You know the ones I mean. The ones making fantastic but totally unverifiable claims about vast underground bases, secret exchange deals between Presidents and extraterrestrials, moon bases, Mars colonies, and much more besides. Such people are absolutely certain about UFOs, extraterrestrials, etc. They’ll give you chapter and verse on anything from UFO propulsion systems and alien agendas, through to the geography of various alien planets. This mirrors the way that many ufologists at the extreme ends of the belief spectrum (i.e. the most devout true believers and die-hard debunkers) are absolutely certain about the true nature of the UFO phenomenon. And here’s the ultimate irony: those of us who have genuinely researched and investigated the UFO mystery for the government are much less sure about things!
Nick Pope is a former employee of the UK Ministry of Defence. From 1991 to 1994 he ran the British Government’s UFO project and he is now the public face of the ongoing project to declassify and release the entire archive of these UFO files. Nick Pope held a number of other fascinating posts in the course of his 21-year government career, which culminated in his serving as an acting Deputy Director in the Directorate of Defence Security. He now works as a broadcaster and journalist, covering subjects including space, fringe science, defence and intelligence.