Monday, September 01, 2008

CSICOP, Now CSI:
CSI’s “Scientific” Analysis of UFOs: Thanks, but No Thanks!

UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites
Another excerpt from Robert Hastings’ book
UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites


By Robert Hastings
© 8-31-08

Robert Hastings Cropped (B)     (This is Part 3 of an earlier posting, titled, “Reporter Duped by UFO Debunkers” in which I described how Albuquerque Journal reporter John Fleck was badly misled about the reality of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites, by two of the leading UFO debunkers affiliated with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), who dismissed my own well-documented findings.)

I earlier mentioned journalist Terry Hansen’s excellent book, The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up, which I highly recommend to anyone wishing to better understand how the type of information contained in my own book could have been successfully kept from the American people—scientists and laypersons alike—for so long.

Regarding CSICOP [now CSI], Hansen examines the possibility that the skeptical organization was infiltrated early on by a small but determined group of U.S. government-affiliated operatives, whose true motives have far more to do with disinformation than skepticism. He writes, “[The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal] is an organization of people who oppose what they contend is pseudo-science...CSICOP, contrary to its impressive-sounding title, does not sponsor scientific research. On the contrary, it’s main function has been to oppose scientific research, especially in areas such as psychic phenomena and UFOs, two topics that, coincidentally or not, have been of demonstrated interest to the U.S. intelligence community over the decades. Instead, CSICOP devotes nearly all of its resources to influencing the American public via the mass media.”

Hansen continues, “CSICOP can accurately be described as a propaganda organization because it does not take anything approaching an objective position regarding UFOs. The organization’s stance is militantly anti-UFO research and it works hard to see that the news media broadcast its views whenever possible. When the subject of UFOs surfaces, either in the news media or any other public forum, CSICOP members turn out rapidly to add their own spin to whatever is being said. Through its “Council for Media Integrity” CSICOP maintains close ties with the editorial staffs of such influential science publications as Scientific American, Nature, and New Scientist. Consequently, it’s not too hard to understand why balanced UFO articles seldom appear in those [magazines].”

Hansen further notes, “CSICOP’s public stance on UFOs is best personified by [the late] Philip J. Klass, head of the organization’s UFO Subcommittee. Klass isn’t a scientist. In fact, his education is in electrical engineering. After graduation from Iowa State University in 1941, he went to work for the avionics division of General Electric, one of the nation’s largest weapons and nuclear energy contractors. In 1952, Klass joined the aerospace trade publication Aviation Week & Space Technology, where he has often written about ‘black budget’ military projects such as those covertly funded by the CIA...Over the decades, Klass has made a name for himself publicly sparring with UFO researchers and injecting his particular spin on UFOs into the mass media at every opportunity, not always accurately or with much scientific merit...Despite his lack of scientific credentials, Klass has enjoyed remarkable popularity with the news media.”

Hansen might have added that Klass’ long-time employer, Aviation Week & Space Technology magazine, has a remarkable track-record of scooping its competition by publishing articles based, in part, on information provided by government insiders. Indeed, Aviation Week may be considered as a conduit to the public for information originating from many of the key players in the aptly-named military/industrial complex.

To illustrate the rather cozy relationship between the magazine and the intelligence community, in particular, I earlier noted that Klass once boasted in a private letter that he could cite as character references both Admiral Bobby R. Inman (USN Ret.)—the former Director of the National Security Agency, who also held Deputy Director positions at both the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency—and Lt. General Daniel O. Graham (USA Ret.), the former Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency and former Deputy Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. In the letter, Klass stated that “Both men have worked with me and gotten to know me [through] my efforts for Aviation Week.”

Hansen, whose diligent journalistic investigation of CSICOP goes well beyond that conducted by any UFO researcher, observes, “If the [CIA’s] Robertson Panel had wanted to set up a front organization to debunk the UFO phenomenon, it could have hardly done a better job than to infiltrate CSICOP and encourage its media management activities. Perhaps its not surprising, then, that Philip Klass has occasionally been charged with being a covert government agent, a charge he has vigorously denied...”

Hansen goes on to note that during a 1994 confrontation with Klass, at a CSICOP meeting in Seattle, the UFO debunker first said that an official UFO cover-up would not be possible because the U.S. government could not keep such an important secret. When Hansen challenged that assertion, and cited examples of other important secrets which the government had successfully kept from public view—such as decades-old cryptographic-related programs—Klass apparently reversed himself and admitted that some secrets could indeed be kept long-term. Then, in what was arguably a very telling comment, Klass told Hansen that some secrets should be kept, for reasons relating to national security. He went on to mention that his employer, Aviation Week, had once agreed to keep secret its knowledge of the SR-71 spy plane, at the government’s request. If nothing else, this admission by Klass only further illustrates the magazine’s cooperative, mutually-beneficial relationship with the various agencies and departments of the U.S. government—in which one hand washes the other, so to speak.

“So,” Hanson summarized, “under cross-examination, Klass had gone from claiming the government can’t keep secrets to saying that it can, it must, and even that his own publication had been complicit in keeping government secrets. Klass did not appear very happy about the course this conversation had taken and he soon reverted back to his [initial] claim that UFOs did not exist...A charitable view of Klass is that he is simply a zealot, another of those for whom scientific dogma supplies the reassuring psychological bedrock that others find in religious fundamentalism. When confronted with evidence that calls into question his core beliefs, Klass responds—as any fundamentalist would—by rejecting the evidence. Thus, his duplicity can be accounted for by human nature. One does not need to resort to more conspiratorial explanations.”

“On the other hand,” Hanson continued, “Klass also has many of the qualifications one would expect in a deep-cover propagandist. He has a history of working for the secretive military-industrial complex, a demonstrated aptitude for duplicity, a District of Columbia address, remarkable mass-media savvy and success, an evident belief in the necessity of government secrecy and, of course, cover as a journalist with Aviation Week.”

Hanson has much more to say in his book regarding the U.S. government’s routine use of the mass media to spin or suppress information it wishes to keep from the public. The Missing Times is a remarkably well-documented exposé and should be read by UFO proponents, skeptics and debunkers alike, not to mention any American citizen who has ever suspected that the news offered by the national media—the “free press”—is not always what it appears to be.

My own opinion regarding CSICOP (or, now, CSI) is that if one is going to accept at face-value the many unfounded and dismissive claims about UFOs made by some of the key members of this “skeptical” organization, one should at least be aware of those persons’ longstanding professional affiliations with the U.S. government or government-influenced publications. To summarize:

Kendrick Frazier: Employed as a Public Relations Specialist, for more than two decades, at Sandia National Laboratories, one of the U.S. government’s leading nuclear weapons labs. During the same period, Frazier served as Executive Editor for Skeptical Inquirer magazine, a position he continues to hold today.

James Oberg: A former U.S. Air Force officer who once did classified work related to nuclear weapons, and a long-time employee of NASA. Before his retirement, Oberg worked on the Space Shuttle program (1975-97); he currently serves as a space science consultant for NBC News and continues to promote his anti-UFO position.

Philip Klass: Now deceased, Klass was employed, for over two decades, at a U.S. intelligence community-friendly aerospace publication. By his own admission, Klass had developed close professional ties with at least two top-level intelligence officers—U.S. Navy Admiral Bobby Inman and U.S. Army General Daniel Graham—both of whom held, at various times, high-ranking positions with the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, and/or the National Security Agency.

Well, call me paranoid, but I think I see a pattern here. For an organization ostensibly created to scientifically investigate paranormal subjects, including UFOs, CSICOP—especially its UFO Subcommittee—seems to be completely lacking in UFO experts with truly scientific credentials, but is conspicuously top-heavy with individuals having U.S. government connections, of one kind or another. The reader may draw his or her own conclusions but, personally, I believe that one would be well-advised to assiduously avoid the highly-suspect spin regularly offered up by the UFO “experts” at CSICOP/CSI and, instead, consult other, genuine sources of scientifically-credible information on UFOs.

Let me be clear: I am not accusing the leading UFO debunkers affiliated with CSICOP/CSI and its publication Skeptical Inquirer of being government-sanctioned covert agents, or even UFO cover-up sympathizers—“assets” in intelligence parlance—who have engaged in a disinformation campaign designed to discredit UFOs, as well as those who report or investigate them. The reason I am not accusing them is because I have no proof to back up my personal mistrust of their motives.

However, having said that, I do make the observation that most of CSICOP’s leading UFO debunkers—that is, those who have served as members of the organization’s staff—share a very interesting and, I would argue, rather suspicious camaraderie relating to their professional backgrounds.

For whatever reason, these individuals are intent on claiming that there are no UFOs and, therefore, no U.S. government cover-up of them. In view of their rather interesting affiliations, I merely ask: Wouldn’t Kendrick Frazier’s statements be more credible had he not spent his career doing public relations work for the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program? Shouldn’t Philip Klass—having worked for more than two decades as a journalist for one of the U.S. intelligence community’s most valued media conduits—been more carefully scrutinized by the media, for a conflict of interest, when he tirelessly insisted that there is no government UFO cover-up? Even James Oberg’s own classified nuclear weapons-related work while with the Air Force, as well as his later involvement with the U.S. government’s space program, seems to fit this pattern of direct or indirect governmental ties on the part of those who ostensibly dismiss UFOs on purely scientific grounds, but who seem arguably more intent on dismissing the notion that there is an official UFO cover-up.

(Yes, admittedly, almost all of my own sources have military backgrounds too. Importantly, however, unlike the highly-vocal UFO debunkers at CSICOP, most of them have divulged their UFO-related secrets only reluctantly, when pressed by myself or other researchers to do so. Therefore, as a rule, they have very cautiously presented their insiders’ perspective on national security-related UFO activity. This is, of course, entirely dissimilar in approach to the relentless, high-profile, anti-UFO public relations campaign undertaken by CSICOP’s debunkers over the years. I might also add that my own ex-military sources present their accounts in a simple, straightforward manner—and rarely insist that anyone believe them—whereas, in my view, the ongoing UFO-debunking pronouncements by the CSI-COPs are routinely jam-packed with classic propaganda devices, obviously designed to influence public opinion.)

In any event, the question being asked here is whether or not CSICOP/CSI has had within its ranks a few persons who have a hidden agenda on UFOs, which has nothing to do with genuine scientific skepticism. While I don’t know the answer to this question, given the extreme, unscientific anti-UFO track-record of the organization, I think it needs to be asked. Regardless, whatever these debunkers’ affiliations and motives may be, the reader doesn’t need what they have to offer unless, of course, you actually enjoy being misled by pseudoscientific propaganda, government-inspired or not.

It goes without saying that the statements above do not apply to the CSICOP/CSI membership in general. It’s only natural and to be expected that an organization which bills itself as “skeptical” in orientation will attract persons with a similar philosophical outlook. CSICOP/CSI counts among its membership many world-renowned scientists and other respected intellectuals. There is no question that a great many of these persons share a sincerely incredulous outlook on various subjects classified as “paranormal”, including UFOs.

Therefore, the fact that many of CSICOP’s members have rejected the validity of the UFO phenomenon—a subject about which they know little or nothing, and are not qualified to discuss authoritatively—certainly does not mean that they are secretly working for the CIA. Bias and presumption, rather than ulterior motives, account for these self-appointed UFO experts’ flawed perspective on the phenomenon. Consequently, if they have been misled by CSICOP’s top UFO debunkers, they have no one to blame but themselves.

I’ll conclude this chapter by simply saying that if one is sincerely seeking an objective, unbiased scientific assessment of the UFO phenomenon, one should bypass the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious misinformation foisted on us all by Klass, Oberg, Frazier, and other debunkers affiliated with CSICOP/CSI. Instead, one would do well to read anything ever written on the subject by Dr. James McDonald or Dr. J. Allen Hynek—at least, anything written by Hynek during his post-Project Blue Book period, when his scientific investigation of UFOs was not hampered by the official restrictions under which he labored while affiliated with the U.S. Air Force.

Perhaps I am being overly optimistic but, who knows, once acquainted with some legitimate data on the UFO phenomenon—including that gathered decades ago by McDonald and Hynek—a few of the daring scientific skeptics reading this book [UFOs and Nukes] might actually begin practicing their profession, when addressing the subject of UFOs, instead of just offering lip service to that practice.

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