By James SimonsU OF T -- Outside Convocation Hall, a predominantly white, middle-aged group of about 20 discuss their personal encounters with UFOs. Retired electronic engineer John Ford says he saw his first flying saucer in 1963, while picnicking in the Zimbabwe bush with his wife and their friends. Catherine Monserie, on the other hand, has seen alien crafts outside Paris in 1967 and over the Toronto Islands in 1995.
The Wandering Eye
The Wandering Eye
It is no surprise that audience members at the university's UFO Disclosure and Planetary Directions Symposium are ET believers -- you'd have to be to spend $40 for seven hours of conspiracy theory. What is surprising is that most of the convention's audience, as well as its featured speakers (who include a political activist, a nuclear physicist and former minister of defence and former Deputy Prime Minister Paul Hellyer) are not your central-casting idea of conspiracy theorists. As nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman says, his speech could have been called, "What's a Nice Guy Like You Doing in a Place Like This?"
Friedman is here to address what he refers to as a "Cosmic Watergate" and "the biggest story of the past millennium": Western governments' secrecy regarding extraterrestrial life. Friedman, who began studying UFOs in 1958 after ordering a text on the subject to avoid paying shipping fees on a load of books, is considered the "original civilian investigator" of Roswell, New Mexico's famous 1947 UFO crash site.
Pursuant to 1966's Freedom of Information Act in the US, Friedman requested the CIA's UFO files. This appeal, which should have taken 10 working days to process, took five years, leading him to assume, "These guys must work five minutes a
day." When the documents did arrive, the majority of their content was blacked out.
Clearly, the government is keeping secrets. Author Richard Dolan says clandestine UFO research is funded by the "black budget" -- secret money collected from classified federal taxes, drug trafficking and securities fraud.
There are many explanations for governments' secrecy. Some allude to fears of a Wellesian public panic in the wake of disclosure and Dolan says that once you acknowledge a problem, you are expected to take action, which the government is unprepared to do. Paul Hellyer reinforces this point by saying that he was "too busy" to pay attention to the UFO issue while in office.
But the speakers agree that governments must reveal any existing UFO-related problems and set about solving them immediately. Stephen G. Bassett, director of Paradigm Research Group, says alien abduction is his biggest concern in the world today. To put this comment in perspective, Bassett cites overpopulation as the second most pressing matter. During a question and answer session, a female audience member worries about the treatment of the human-alien hybrids that allegedly result from abductions.
Still, not everyone views abduction as a major threat. Paul Hellyer says he is unaware of anyone dying at the hands of extraterrestrials. Instead, Hellyer sees anti-alien weapons as a bigger danger. The politician believes that the nuclear missiles constructed under Ronald Reagan's Star Wars initiative were actually conceived to defend us against unfriendly interplanetary visitors. Bassett echoes the futility of such attempts: "All they have to do is drop meteors on us and we're in the Stone Age."
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