By Gildas BourdaisI met, for a second time, with Jacques Patenet, the engineer in charge of GEIPAN, the new French service of UFO studies at the French Space Agency CNES - Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales, or National center for Space Studies - and I can give some more information on the release of those UFO files.
We talked at a TV debate ("C Dans l'air"), recorded yesterday, airing tomorrow, Friday, March 30, on the French national network France 5.
Some more information, and some corrections of what has been already reported:
The name GEIPAN means Groupe d'Etudes et d'Information des Phenomenes Aerospatiaux Non identifies, (Group for Studies and Information on Unidentified Aerospatial Phenomena). It was created in September 2005, to replace the SEPRA, which closed in January 2004. Also put in place at that time, a steering committee (COPEIPAN) presided over by Yves Sillard, former director of CNES, and comprising about fifteen members, whose names are not known.
In January 2006, Jacques Patenet announced that GEIPAN was going to put all its UFO files on the web site of CNES, during 2006. The project had been delayed but has now begun with the release of some 400 files this monthh, covering the period 1988-2005.
Initial inquiries by CNES began in 1977 on the creation of the first service called GEPAN, but there are files from the fifties, and even one from 1937.
There are a total of 1,650 files, including some 6,000 testimonies, and a volume of some 100,000 pages, A4 format (not 100,000 files, as stated somewhere!).
This month, Jacques Patenet has given a number of interviews, in which he warned that we are not going to find any new big case. The best cases, such as Trans-en-Provence in 1981, are known already.
However, there is new information worth mentioning. The number of unidentified cases after serious study (the "PAN D" category), is now estimated at 25 to 28% (depending on the day ot the interview, apparently). This is much more than previous figures. In recent years, it was given at around 13%. So, the revision of the files has at least brought this bonus for French Ufology...
Two main ideas are being put forward by Jacques Patenet, in several interviews. First: "There are no secrets, and we are releasing all the files. Our purpose is to put to rest allegations of UFO secrecy. Second, the extraterrestrial hypothesis is conceivable, but there is not the slightest solid proof for it, or against either."
For my part, the point I want to stress is that, yes, these files at GEIPAN are not "secret" files. They are mainly sightings by civilian witnesses, gathered and reported by the Gendarmes - the military police. If there are really secret files in France, they are somewhere else, probably of military nature. At the debate yesterday on French TV, we pushed him a bit on that question, and he had to admit it. So, his first
the statement is somewhat misleading, in fact. If there are secret files, he just does not have them!
I also want to correct another mistake, seen in the Sunday Times article of March 25, "Spooky... They Start a UFO Website Then it Crashes". It mentions the COMETA Report (without naming it), published in 1999, as being a publication of the French government, at the IHEDN (Institut des Hautes Etudes de Defense Nationale). Some people had said it at the time, but it is not true. This report was from a private group, the COMETA, even if its true that it had been encouraged at the beginning by the head of IHEDN, General Norlain.
In all, I think that we can consider that publication of French UFO files as a very positive effort; which has already the effect of renewing interest for UFOs in the French media, and perhaps of putting France back on the map of Ufology!