Thursday, September 1, 2011

Symington calls for greater governmental legitimacy on UFO issue

September 1, 2011

Source:  , Phoenix UFO Examiner
Please click here for the original Article.

Former United States Air Force officer, Governor of the State of Arizona and life long pilot Fife Symington III issued the strongest statement yet in his measured campaign to change public, media and government perception of the most psychologically challenging enigma of our times: the ever increasing numbers of objects reported in the skies that do not conform to any known or reasonably presumed human engineering capability.

Speaking during the Phoenix Lights segment of the premiere broadcast of Secret Access:  UFO's on the Record, last night on the History Channel, Symington said: "Public officials need to be more open and more courageous when dealing with issues like this.  We need to deal with it legitimately and objectively and if we don't know what it was, we should say 'we don't know what it was'."
Symington's appearance and remarks lend the weight of his resume and his personal experience with the phenomenon to New York Times best-selling author Leslie Kean's call for creation of a governmental body to accept and evaluate UFO reports, something that has been lacking since the predetermined1968  Condon Report  gave the United States Air Force the pretext to shut down the shallow public relations program known as Project Blue Book and thereby evade the issue for close to four decades.
Kean's  New York Times Best Selling book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record., the History channel special, the CNN/HLN panel discussion and ensuing response on Don Lemon's Facebook page, the overwhelming response to Lee Speigel's work at AOL/Huffington post are all part of an apparent shift in media comprehension of the serious nature of a small but critical number of UFO reports.  
Thursday night’s “Secret Access” report by The History Channel — “UFOs On The Record” — is the sort of crisp advocacy journalism one might easily envision in PBS’ “Frontline” rotation. Focused (if not a tad overproduced), expertly sourced, and devoid of the tripe that too often characterizes network programming on this issue, “UFOs On The Record” is a foundational model for jump-starting a national conversation so desperately overdue. — Billy Cox, Sarasota Herald-Tribune
The American media is coming to the realization that responsible UFO reporting is the kind of news that will garner high ratings — and eventually someone a Pulitzer.  The Government will not be far behind.

The origins of the now-waning conventional mainstream American public opinion on the UFO issue can be traced to the Robertson Panel, a CIA convened and managed secret hearing conducted in the wake of the largest — and arguably most significant — mass UFO sighting in American history, the wave of 1952, which culminated in two consecutive weekend demonstrations of phenomenal capability by unknown objects over the capital of the United States, Washington D.C.
The panel, headed by Howard Robertson, was convened between the time Dwight D. Eisenhower won the 1952 general election and his inauguration.  It considered evidence presented by the United States Air Force -- by that time already a strong opponent of UFO information in the public domain and came to what many feel was a carefully orchestrated conclusion.
In short, the Robertson Panel concluded, rather paradoxically, that unidentified objects operating with impunity in U.S. airspace, with no contact with air traffic control and exhibiting performance that was in some cases unbelievable were no threat to national security.  
The issue was the public reports of these objects, which, if given an air of legitimacy, constituted, in the Panel's words:
"The continued emphasis on the reporting of (UFOs) does, in these perilous times, result in a threat to the orderly function of the protective organs of the body politic."  — Robertson Panel
The ostensible rationale was that excess UFO reports might clog communications channels in the event of a 'real' incursion by Soviet aircraft, but more likely the real reason the CIA did not want the media nor the American public to take the UFO issue seriously is that, simply, no one had a viable explanation for the origin or motives of the objects.
And no one had the moxie to go on record as saying so.
The Air Force did not want to explain that something was operating in US airspace it could not fathom, explain nor match.  The CIA gave them a pass in the interest of 'national security', a euphemism for not alarming the public, which had been more than a passing concern since Orson Welles, one of the greatest theatrical showmen of all time, scared hell out of the radio listening audience on Halloween night of 1938 by elaborately constructing a fake radio broadcast of an invasion by Martians.
The directives of the Robertson panel could not be more clear. Make the UFO issue loose credibility.   
 Recommendation: "National security agencies . . . take immediate steps to strip the UFOs of the special status they have been given." — Robertson Panel
How they did that is well documented in Terry Hansen's 2001 book "The Missing Times" which recounts efforts to make the subject untouchable by mainstream journalism and to discredit the phenomenon in the minds of the average citizen.
Hansen will be the guest on Coast to Coast AM this evening with host George Knapp, a Peabody award and multiple Edward R Morrow award winning investigative journalist with KLAS-TV in Las Vegas.  Knapp is one of the tiny handful of mainstream journalists daring enough to inquire into the unexplainable aspects of the phenomenon and yet cogent and discerning enough not to be compromised by the complicated maze of confabluation, disinformation, misidentification and in some cases outright fabrication that blur vision of the core phenomenon.
The United States Air Force conducted the largest press conference since World War II in response to the Washington Merry-go-round as it came to be known and managed to squirm off the hook of accountability with technically sounding but implausible explanations of temperature inversions affecting air traffic control radar.  That theory that did not account for the observations of air force fighter pilots, airline pilots and numerous trained observers on the ground.
Project Blue Book was set up to take UFO reports from the public and discount them where possible, while military personell were instructed by JANAP-146 to report directly to the head of the Air Force and maintain the secrecy of the reports.
The public relations exercise of Project Blue Book continued until Colombia Astronomer Dr. J. Allen Hynek in a hastily contrived sound byte offered the possibility that what a dorm full of Michigan college students had observed was 'swamp gas' ,which made the Air Force investigation of unidentified flying objects a national laughing stock.
To get out of the difficult position of having to even deal with public opinion, the USAF instigated the Condon Committee, headed by Dr. Edward Condon, based out of the University of Colorado to 'investigate' the issue 'scientifically'.  Condon's conclusion was forgone at the onset. 
In late January 1967, Condon said in a lecture that he thought the government should not study UFOs because the subject was nonsense, adding, "but I'm not supposed to reach that conclusion for another year."  — Wikipedia
"Our study would be conducted almost entirely by non-believers who, though they couldn't possibly prove a negative result, could and probably would add an impressive body of thick evidence that there is no reality to the observations. The trick would be, I think, to describe the project so that, to the public, it would appear a totally objective study but, to the scientific community, would present the image of a group of non-believers trying their best to be objective but having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer."  -- internal memo from Condon Member Robert Low
When the Condon report was published, the news media read Condon's summation — which was at odds with the contents of the report, printed the proper stories and the USAF announced they were going to save the tax-payers some money and close Blue Book, which the Condon Report was careful to explain was not really needed.
Since then, there has been no official accountability for unexplained high performance objects operating in US airspace.  
No response to the Hudson Valley sightings wave of the late '80s.  No response to the incursion at RAF Bentwaters, a US airbase in england.  No Response to the Gulf Breeze sightings near a Naval air station in Florida -- and initially, no response to the reports of something large, black and phenomenally capable in the skies over Phoenix.  No response to a similar sighting over Stephenville Texas.  No response to any of the reports.  Nada.  Zip.
Despite a phone call to the National UFO Reporting Center by a person claiming to be an airman on duty on the base alleging the two ready-standby F-15's were launched at around 8:15 and encountered an extremely large unknown object answering the general description offered by others at 18,000 feet descending to 10,500 feet, the Luke AFB PAO's statement the next day was that all the airplanes were in bed by 6:00 PM and there were no operations in the time frame of the Phoenix Lights observations. This is at odds with the statement of trucker Bill Greiner who personally witnessed three jets departing Luke in afterburner racing to intercept the unknown around 10:00 PM.
In the wake of the Phoenix Lights incident, Phoenix city Councilwoman Francis Barwood appealed to Arizona Senior Senator John McCain, a former U.S. Navy fighter pilot, who in in turn asked the U.S. Air Force about the objects sighted over Phoenix.  McCain ran into the same obfuscation and selective-evidence policy that the Robertson Panel had been fed in 1953.  Senator McCain explained in a letter to Barwood that the Massachusetts Air Guard claimed to be dropping high intensity magnesium flares south of Phoenix that evening, and that the Air Force felt they must be the origin of the reports.
Kean points out the time disparity of the Air Guard claim and its failure to address the perception of a large floating object, clearly described by hundreds of independent reports.  The Air Guard response, Kean says, 'makes a mockery out of what thousands of people said they saw.'  Indeed it is little more useful and sensible in addressing the observations of hundreds of Arizonan's than Symington's original press conference fiasco.
                                             • • •
Cornell Astronomer Carl Sagan, a widely popular scientist with a penchant for wondrous explanation, and no small amount of wonder at the grandeur of the universe he studied,  was fond late in his career of the inaccurate but high-sounding axiom that 'Extraordinary Claims require Extraordinary Evidence.'  They don't, logically, the burden of proof is no more or less, regardless of the supposition, but no matter, it sounded great and Carl Sagan had said it.
The subtle implication was that there was no evidence of truly unidentified flying objects. Such is not the case, but again, the implication was handy and Carl Sagan had implied it.
The most thoughtful response ever given to this was by the artist and abduction researcher Budd Hopkins, who, in a green room discussion with Sagan prior to a television appearance, retorted "Extraordinary evidence requires extraordinary investigation", a brilliant and logically correct observation.
Hopkins' remark must have made an impression on his companion, Leslie Kean, an investigative reporter with a proven track record in cultural journalism.  Kean spent the better part of a decade in what can only be termed an extraordinary investigation into the extraordinary evidence that exists in regard to the UFO phenomenon. She culled the best cases with the best evidence and the most credible witnesses.
The result is her book, in which Symington made his first full formal written statement after the 2007 account at CNN, which was the text of the statement he delivered when he moderated a conference at the National Press Club in 2007.  That conference was documented in James Fox's film 'I know what I saw' and Kean's best-seller.
The History Channel special is based on that book. During the Phoenix Lights segment of the program, Symington not only recounts his description of his sighting, he takes another measured step towards a formal call for formation of a formal process to understand what is obviously going on around us but our government would have us ignore.
Symington's description of the avid interest in the Phoenix Lights provoked by the USA Today front page account of the event, complete with the now iconic illustration by witness Tim Ley as 'approaching hysteria' is probably a little self-serving, but that detail can be overlooked.
It was the playback a decade later of tape recording of a witnesses frustration with the Governor's 1997 act that James Fox says provoked the Governor to tell his personal version of the story.
If the personal cost paid by the witnesses who felt mocked, shamed and afraid to come forward in 1997 finally changed Gov. Symington's mind on his own silence that is only appropriate.  For the standing response by government institutions in dealing with UFO reports is to ridicule and discredit the witness. And seldom is the cost to the witness included in the political calculus.
British Ministry of Defense UFO Desk manager Nick Pope described the policy in an exclusive to AOL News/Huffington Post columnist Lee Speigel in an August 17 article.
"I'm a little bit apologetic about this because obviously, when I was in MoD, I had to play this game myself. To really achieve our policy of downplaying the UFO phenomenon, we would use a combination of 'spin and dirty tricks.'
"We used terms like UFO buffs and UFO spotters -- terms that mean these people are nut jobs. In other words, we were implying that this is just a very somewhat quaint hobby that people have as opposed to a serious research interest."
"Another trick would be deliberately using phrases like 'little green men.' We were trying to do two things: either to kill any media story on the subject, or if a media story ran, insure that it ran in such a way that it would make the subject seem ridiculous and that it would make people who were interested in this seem ridiculous."  —  Nick Pope
The net effect of the unwarranted dismissal of civilian UFO reports, ostensibly in deference to a seven decade old radio program, while shrouding what information the military is able to obtain in secrecy is two-fold: 
On one hand it deprives our society of the tools it used to put 12 men on the moon and create an unparalleled system of public air transport — the bright minds who research, analyze, experiment and eventually develop new aerospace technology.  A public interest in the UFO phenomenon is academic career suicide, as depicted in the movie version of Sagan's outstanding best selling novel 'Contact'.
On the other it condemns witnesses to repress paradigm shifting personal experience, which leads to profound cognitive dissonance and personality disorder.
UFO secrecy affects everyone, across all walks of life.  In Arizona alone you can find numerous examples of real people who have had their lives profoundly impacted by a phenomenon our government will not acknowledge and apparently can not come to grips with.
It affects civilians, such as Travis Walton, a member of a logging crew in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, whose close encounter with a floating disc resulted in a 5 day abduction.  Walton's workmates, despite taking and passing polygraph tests, were suspected of murder until Walton returned, scared, shaken and unable to tell of his experience without risk of being labeled insane.  It affected Sedona based photographer and author Kim Carlsberg, whose promising career amid the glitter and posh circumstance of Hollywood was imploded when she had the temerity to write a book 'Beyond My Wildest Dreams' recounting her abduction experiences.  The volume remains an early classic work in the field. (Carlsberg's latest effort, 'The Art of Close Encounters' includes an attempt at a forensic recreation of Symington's observation, based on his account to CNN and reports from other witnesses that match it.)
It affects military personell who have donned the uniform and done their duty, such as Maricopa resident John Burroughs, an Airman First Class on duty at RAF Bentwaters the night something profoundly unidentified made an incursion near a U.S. Air Base in the middle of the Cold War.  Burroughs' apartment has been ransacked while he was absent and his career marginalized as a result of his encounter.  It affected the life of East Valley resident and former White House Honor Guard member Mike Fortson. Fortson has had to deal with the aftermath of his observation of a V-shaped object during the night of the Phoenix Lights since the morning after it happened and has reacted by telling his truth at every opportunity, trying to convince an uninformed world what he saw was real.
It affects political figures such as Francis Barwood, who became the object of considerable editorial derision for simply doing her duty and raising the concerns of her constituents to any and all applicable higher governmental authority, only to get a mockery of a reply.  Symington's own career ended abruptly shortly after the Phoenix Lights when he was convicted of fraud, charges that were later quietly reversed by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals — once Symington was no longer a factor in the political scene.
It affects working professionals such as Dr. Lynne Kitei, a medical education professional who witnessed the Phoenix Lights and was initially too scared of repercussions to allow herself to be identified as a witness.  Eventually, Kitei would gather witness reports, combine them with her journal and produce a book and then a documentary on the event, which can usually be seen near the anniversary of the event. Similarly, Phoenix Lights witness Steve Blonder wrote a book on the events in an effort to present the information he gathered to the public, an act which he says almost cost him his marriage.
It inspires artists, like Tempe film maker Daniel Pace, whose enigmatic and eloquent masterpiece 'The Appearance of a Man' describes the impact of whatever this phenomenon is on the devoutly religious.
It provokes the honestly curious to brave 100 plus degree heat to attend MUFON meetings at the University of Advancing Technology, to hear the likes of UFO historian Richard Dolan outline the current state of understanding of the phenomenon.
If the UFO phenomenon was not able to hide behind a tattered veil of government denial and silence and mainstream media indifference, it would be overt.  And it would be the biggest story any media professional could hope to cover.
Symington is right.  It is time for Government officials at all levels to begin treating this subject legitimately and objectively.  The political expediency of not risking one's carefully groomed political career asking difficult questions that may not have an answer beyond 'I don't know' is a false economy.  The longer the government keeps its head in the sand and maintains the pretense that nothing is happening, the more foolish it looks to an ever increasing populace (need I say electorate) that knows, as does Sue Watson, what it sees.
Kean is right.  It's time for the government to take that tentative first step down a path that can provide them with access to the only viable exit strategy for a seemingly inescapable public information policy that had endured for over half a century and long since outlived it usefulness.  It's time to start taking reports legitimately and allowing academia the intellectual freedom to analyze them.
No doubt they will discover something.  A pattern, a tell-tale behavior pattern that matches advanced physics.  Then the media can report that.  Then those who lay claim to the responsibility to be our leaders can announce there is something there, after all, and bask in the grand satisfaction of a place in the history books.
So, despite the details and the rationale, kudos are in order to Symington for a belated but heartfelt attempt to set the record straight.  As are in order for Leslie Kean, Richard Dolan, Bryce Zabel, Leslie Bohem, George Knapp, Terry Hansen, Billy Cox, Lee Speigel and most recently Don Lemon for having the gumption to document an untouchable subject in a forthright and responsible manner.  Ed Murrow would be proud.
If the former Governor of Arizona, who now says he saw them himself, is no longer able to launch a formal investigation into the Phoenix Lights, then perhaps in light of the now sensible media coverage and the shifting public perception of the legitimacy of this issue, perhaps the sitting Governor will have the political will and moral fiber to launch one, as called for in an earlier Phoenix UFO Examiner report.
The Obama White House makes much of its policy of transparency and openness, especially the use of the social networking nature of the internet to provide input into the governing process.  However when the White House announced a website asking Americans what the critical issues they cared about most, the topic of UFO information release was quietly excised on the pretense that such absurd subjects were not appropriate for the forum.  And thus the official reluctance to treat public interest in the subject as legitimate continues.
One of the problems the UFO interest community has is the fractured and disparate nature of the means of response.  A Facebook page was created in the wake of the History Channel broadcast making a simple plea for government accountability on this volatile issue.
Perhaps if everyone ion Facebook who cares were to 'like' this single Facebook page, a message would be sent as to the actual magnitude of public desire for legitimate government response to the continuing UFO enigma—one that everyone knows is there, but no one in a position of political responsibility is willing to address.

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