Extra-terrestrial intelligence or terrestrial intelligence agencies?

It is trendy to suggest to friends and family that the US government knows more about the UFO phenomenon… or even extra-terrestrial beings. Though entirely speculative, it does not mean that the US government plays no role in the phenomenon whatsoever. There is good evidence that shows that it, either officially or unofficially, has been interested in the UFO phenomenon – and has actively promoted it.

Philip Coppens

At the time of Project Bluebook the government could only confirm that it was interested in the UFO phenomenon. After all, they were the ones in charge of it. But behind the scenes of the official investigation, there were attempts to make contact, not with an alien intelligence, but with the UFO community.
One of the first researchers who warned about the government’s involvement behind the scenes in the UFO community was Jacques Vallee…. Who immediately was accused of circulating disinformation for the CIA (without any supporting evidence for the allegation). George Adamski, the patriarch of the UFO contact phenomenon, would soon confess that his career as “ambassador of the Space brothers” was crafted by four scientists working for the US government. They worked for the Point Loma Naval Electronics Laboratory, near San Diego, and a similar facility near Pasadena. They wanted to lay their hands on photographs of spacecraft moving through space. When Adamski began his career on the lecture circuit, this was with the support of the scientists, as well as a member of the British army. People like Bill Cooper and John Lear, who try to get the attention of every researcher, stating they have the ultimate truth about the phenomenon (though contradicting one another), had and have close connections with the military agencies. Are they therefore confessing for their sins… or are they promoting disinformation which those agencies want to distribute?
Jacques Vallee has chosen for the latter possibility. As he states: “the information they have revealed is time and again identified as either lies or wrong, which is the intention. As such, they bring the entire phenomenon in a heightened state of chaos, which is one of the intentions of the US government.”
“How is it that such persons time and again succeed in convincing the community with their tales? Because those researchers are very naïve; they are not familiar with the methodology as to how the government promotes disinformation.”
One example of these techniques was unveiled by one of the highest ranking KGB officers ever to defect to the West: Oleg Gordievsky. He argued that it was the KGB that had promoted the story that AIDS had escaped out of a military biological warfare facility in the US. It was a highly successful “leak”, which circulated in conspiracy circles for many years… even eight years after Gordievsky revelation and the successive Soviet apology, the story continued to convince people…

The government’s attitude towards the UFO phenomenon was largely due to the conclusions of the Robertson Panel, which in 1953 concluded that the two largest UFO groups, the Aerial Phenomena Research Organisation (APRO) and Civilian Saucer Intelligence, had to be monitored. Why? “Because of the potentially huge influence they could exercise on the ideas of the public, if UFO sightings became common place.”
It would take until the 1960s before NICAP, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, became what seemed like a hobby club of the CIA. It is difficult not to conclude that the CIA was running NICAP.
But first, let us return to APRO. Roger Harkins, a journalist for the Boulder Daily Camera, wanted to know whether or not the government was indeed censuring UFO stories – as the story went. When the Associated Press Agency in Denver asked him to write a story about an upcoming UFO lecture, he followed the initial story with a second article, in which he linked the CIA with UFOs. Jim Lorenzen, president of APRO, had given Harkins seven reasons as to why the CIA would be interested in UFOs. It was Harkins contention that the CIA would want to stop his article, and that the Associated Press would allow this. Thus, he handed in his article at AP and left for the newspaper’s offices, waiting until his article would come through the teletyper. He waited for more than a day – without the article ever appearing. It is positive proof that material was read and often stopped – a censure was in place.
It has since become public knowledge that the CIA and other agencies tried or asked to place their agents in major news organisations, to either apply pressure so that certain stories would not run, or just to censure certain stories – at worst put a favourable spin on a story if it could not be stopped. Media specialists have equally confirmed how television and major newspapers mainly relied on what the telex fed them. When decades later the Belgian government held a press conference on the UFO phenomenon, American newspapers did not report as the story was not carried. During the study at the University of Colorado, the psychologist of the team, David Saunders, stated that the CIA was present everywhere. According to Saunders, they were the support behind Eduard Condon, chairman of the committee to investigate the UFO phenomenon, who has been largely responsible for the government’s negative attitude towards the phenomenon. When Saunders tried to make a memo public in which it stated that it was committee business to discredit the UFO witness rather than the phenomenon, Saunders was immediately fired, for “disobeying orders”.

NICAP was founded by space expert T. Townsend Brown in October 1956. Brown was a well-respected scientist on “free energy” who believed that the UFO phenomenon might teach him certain things. The intent of NICAP was to bring a serious note into the UFO phenomenon, which was more like a gossip column than an instrument of scientific research. And NICAP had to be run as any company would be.
The official papers of NICAP listed two CIA employees. But in the 1950s, the public profile of the CIA was totally different from what it be in following decades: it was a respected organisation, and so were its members. Nicholas de Rochefort, member of the CIA Psychological Warfare Department, was made vice-president of NICAP in late 1956; Bernard J.O. Carvalho became president of the member committee.
Carvalho was often used as the go-between for private companies owned or run by the CIA, such as Fairway Corporation, an airline company used by the heads of the CIA.
In 1957, it was nevertheless remarkable that Roscoe Hillenkoetter, the first Director of Central Intelligence (1947-1950) was selected as a member of the board of the UFO organisation. Hillenkoeter stated that “no matter what” the truth about UFOs had to be uncovered.

Roscoe Hillenkoetter

In 1957, Colonel Joseph Bryan III became member of the board. Between 1947 and 1953, Bryan had been the founder and head of the Psychological Warfare Staff at the CIA. He was the man who could make everyone doubt and lead them – and us – to the edge of despair by playing endless mindgames. But the game that Brown tried to play, ended quickly. Only four months into its existence, in January 1957, Brown was forced to make major changes in his organisation. If he failed to do so, he would be forced to resign – from his own creation. The financial resources of the organisation had been too major; the strategy too radical. The choice between bankruptcy or a reorganisation made the board demand for the resignation of Brown. And so happened the following day. Donald Keyhoe thus became the new chairman.
Keyhoe himself was “asked” to leave in 1969 and it was Bryan himself who became the new chairman. Bryan always refused to admit he was involved in Keyhoe’s resignation, but the files of NICAP clearly reveal that he was involved.
Bryan’s job description at the CIA meant that he had and knew how to play the media. Together with Time reporter Charles J.V. Murphy, Bryan toured Europe, a propaganda effort that brought him into direct contact with many important publishers and politicians.

Donald Keyhoe

NICAP once again drifted into financial troubles when the University of Colorado published its result. It was this report that put the UFO phenomenon in a very negative daylight. Under its chairman John L. Acuff, NICAP’s financial situation became disastrous. The reason was very simple: Acuff diverted most of the funds that entered the organisation to his private account. When it was discovered that Acuff had sold the membership list to the American Nazi Party, its ranks dwindled further. Once no more money was left, Acuff unsurprisingly left, to be replaced by Alan N. Hall. Hall was another former employee of the CIA.

In 1961, when Keyhoe was in charge of the organisation, NICAP was the largest UFO organisation around. It was in September that Betty & Barney Hill believed they had been abducted. Betty came across one of Keyhoe’s books in her local library and decided to write to him. NICAP receive more than 40,000 letters per year (about a hundred per day), but this single letter nevertheless made its way quickly to the attention of Keyhoe. A few days afterwards, Keyhoe was lunching with Robert Hohman and C.D. Jackson, a former advisor to President Dwight Eisenhower. Jackson advised on Cold War strategy and also co-operated with Henry Luce for Time-Life. Hohman and Jackson stated that they were working on an article discussing the alleged extraterrestrial contacts of Nicola Tesla, David Todd and Marconi. Keyhoe on his part spoke about the letter he had received from the Hills.
A month after the alleged abduction, Walter Webb, a NICAP researcher, visited the Hills. Shortly later, Hohman and Jackson request an interview, which is granted. It would last twelve hours, at which time the two writers believe the Hills have had a period of “missing time” around the time of the abduction. They believe that this could be recovered by using hypnosis. Within the space of half a day, these two gentlemen had thus defined the classic abduction phenomenon, as well as its salvation: hypnosis.

Betty & Barney Hill

The incident poses some questions: Hohman and Jackson are speaking about a “major electronics firm” that would be interested in their story about extraterrestrial contacts… but they never mention it, nor does anything ever seem to have happened afterwards. Furthermore, when they introduce themselves to the Hills, the two gentlemen give another reason: they are doing research into the origins of those ships, in accordance with existing scientific theories, specifically those proposed by Hermann Oberth, the father of the V2 rockets. But they fail to mention for whom they are doing this research. In short, the stories seem to be fabricated and as we are not confronted with two choir boys or charlatans, it suggests they were hiding their true motives; given their background, this would suggest an alliance with certain sections of the intelligence community.
In 1973, Keyhoe published Aliens From Space, in which he stated that the two gentlemen on occasion “helped” NICAP. But in John Fuller’s book on the Hill abduction, a different story emerges. Hohman and Jackson are described as independent researchers, who are interested in the Hills because of the story they have to submit to their editor. Fuller was furthermore made aware of this item of information in a confidential meeting at NICAP. We can only wonder why their involvement and the explanation of their involvement had to be treated with so much care.
When Jacques Vallee published Messengers of Deception in 1979, he stated that Keyhoe had bragged when he wrote that he had forced the government to go public with certain material. Keyhoe, he argued, was a puppet in a game played by the Psychological Warfare division of the CIA. NICAP and other UFO organisation were players in the same game, controlled by the CIA puppet masters. It is clear that Messengers of Deception did not become a bestsellers with UFO researchers – very little has changed since its publication, even though Vallee’s reputation remained largely that of a man whose opinion was respected.

NICAP was not unique. The first president of CUFOS, the Center for UFO Studies, was Sherm Larson, a member of the Counter Intelligence Corps. The ideal employee of that organisation is often described as “the most suspicious, incredulous, unreasonable, pathetic, inhuman, sadistic bastard in every language”. That “sort of person” somehow came to lead a major UFO organisation? By coincidence?
What does this type of infiltration mean? According to Todd Zechel, who carefully researched NICAP’s history, the conclusion is simple: to conclude we are confronted with a conspiracy is either to make an all too easy conclusion, or state the obvious.

This article originally appeared in Frontier Magazine 2.1 (1996)