USAF first responders announce intent to file federal lawsuit
|By Larry Lowe|
A bombshell exploded at the mock Citizen Hearing on Disclosure today in Washington, D.C., when retired USAF Tech Sergeants John Burroughs and James Penniston announced their intention to bring a federal lawsuit against the Veterans Administration in an effort to obtain medical benefits to remedy injuries sustained in the line of duty.
If the lawsuit comes to trial, it will be significant as a formal legal inquiry into a series of events that have eluded public discussion for over three decades. The last time the phenomenon at question was formally addressed by the U.S. government was in 1968, when the House Committee on Science and Astronautics heard testimony by key UFO researchers including University of Arizona atmospheric physicist James E. McDonald.
The career United States Air Force veterans claim the government is denying them information that would allow proper treatment for injuries sustained in the line of duty as base security at the US airbase at RAF Bentwaters in December of 1980. Burroughs is currently a resident of Sedona, Arizona.
Penniston and Burroughs were the first on-scene responders to a potential base incursion by an object of unknown origin into one of the most sensitive United States Air Force installations at the height of the cold war. As such, the pair were momentarily on the front lines of the USAF defense establishment in Europe.
In the course of first response, Penniston and Burroughs were exposed to the effects of an as yet unexplained phenomenon. At the time the base was a key component of US Air Force deterrent strength at the height of the Cold War and the area surrounding the base home to a variety of high-power radar and electromagnetic weaponry. Incidentally, the base had one of the highest suicide rates of any in the Air Force.
To this day, there has been no public explanation of the events surrounding their exposure to the phenomenon. The incident in question has been denied by USAF representatives despite the release in 1983 of a memorandum by the then-Deputy Base Commander Lt. Col. Charles Halt to the British Ministry of Defence confirming the incident.
The pair claim that formerly classified documents confirm that the Air Force was aware of potential dangers the phenomenon presented to the airmen, but failed to properly brief them for their mission.
Both Burroughs and Penniston have experienced medical issues in the years since. The VA has utterly denied benefits to the pair and further obfuscated any release of medical records on the incident without reason.
“We've been stonewalled”, Burroughs said. “We've tried A, We've Tried B, we've tried C and none of the avenues has lead to proper support of our post-incident medical issues, nor to any viable explanation why information useful to treatment of our condition is being withheld.”
By filing a federal lawsuit, the pair intends to force disclosure of the details known to their chain of command pertaining to the incident that would prove useful in treatment of their respective conditions.
According to Patrick Frascogna, council for the pair:
“After almost two years of utterly futile attempts to obtain John Burroughs' and Jim Penniston's service medical records from the government, in addition to one failed attempt by Arizona Senator Jon Kyl, it is becoming patently obvious that someone, somewhere, does not want them released.”
“Key records from the time frame in question are considered classified by the VA. Consequently, if we cannot obtain them, all of them, without redaction, then we will be left with no recourse other than to file suit against the federal government, perhaps even by year's end.”
If the action moves forward, the chain of command and key witnesses to the potential incursion the pair responded to will be subpoenaed to testify as to the nature of the phenomenon Penniston and Burroughs were exposed to and knowledge of it withheld from them during training.
"It's time to see how much memory can be recovered when you have to raise your right hand," Burroughs said in a post to their Facebook page, 'Justice for the Bentwaters 81st Security Police at Rendlesham Forest 1980'.
Further details of the impending suit will be provided by Patrick Frasconga, council for the plaintiffs, as will responses to all further media queries.
“We don't intend to be the last two casualties of the Cold War”, Burroughs said, “left hung out to dry by our chain of command and obsolete notions of national security. There is no reason at this late date to deny us the information that could extend our lives, the bulk of which we spent in service to our country.”
The announcement is a shot across the bow of the ship of state.
The UFO community is fond of quoting Col. Nathan R. Jessup (Jack Nicholson) in the movie A Few Good Men when -- speaking from the frame of reference of the military mindset that prefers to operate from behind a curtain of secrecy presumably justified by the needs of 'national security' while covering up his abuse of command -- Jessup tells the prosecuting attorney "You can't handle the truth!"
A more appropriate quote from the film, taken in the context of a career military service person responding to a perceived injustice, is when Jessup reacts to being caught in his own lies and erupts "You just f**ked with the wrong Marine!"
In stonewalling Penniston and Burroughs access to the records of the effect of the phenomenon, the shadowy officials withholding information that could extend their lives have likely f**ked with the wrong airmen.
The pair have been swept up in a cover-up of something truly phenomenal that began even as the events were unfolding in three successive nights just after Christmas, 1980. In the immediate aftermath, airmen were chemically debriefed, a team appeared out of nowhere to gather evidence, which disappeared into the bowls of the defense establishment, while cover stories of 'little green men' in 'flying saucers' were spread among the townsfolk.
The pair, both from the midwest, and share quintessentially American values. If you are going to deal with these guys, you need to have your life squared away and live up to your word, as they do. Chief among these values is a sense of justice and fair play, perhaps the fundamental American virtue.
They are not your usual phenomenon witnesses. They both have experience in law enforcement and know how to cross examine a witness. Both understand well the intricacies of dealing with the government bureaucracy. And they both know how to compartmentalize information on a need to know basis. They have taken careful, methodical steps to arrive at a point where a federal lawsuit is likely the only recourse.
The story really begins in December of 2010 at a 30th reunion when they both felt a compelling need to revisit the scene of the crime. Revisiting Rendlesham Forest. Penniston in particular was affected with a 'total recall' of the events of the night of their original encounter.
That reunion visit let to the airing of an episode of Ancient Aliens that revitalized the case with the revelation of a cryptic notation Penniston had felt compelled to make in his notebook: Pages of '1's and '0's that are now understandable as binary code, but which were meaningless to him at the time.
Decoding the binary revealed a more cryptic message and a set of coordinates scattered around the globe, each of which can be associated with an ancient civilization.
In the wake of the reunion, and with the advent of worsening health problems (vertigo and heart issues) the pair decided to launch their own investigation.
Accompanied by a veteran investigator, Burroughs made the first visit to one of the locations described in the binary code and later Penniston flew to Arizona to examine the area further. Events transpired that would indicate that whatever phenomenon the encountered in the forest outside Rendlesham was still having an effect on their lives and perceptions.
Meanwhile, they began an investigation into the activities of fellow witnesses and their chain of command, one that would eventually reach as far as Arizona Senator John Kyle, who, after looking into the matter, announced he could not help them.
The USAF records department announced that it did not have any records on the incident, in direct contradiction to the State Department, which claimed that all records were the property of the USAF. When letters were sent to the players in the field inquiring about a willingness to testify, they were met largely with silence, however several national security organizations began evidencing an interest in the pair's investigation.
Technically, Penniston says, there is nothing to prevent him from discussing the event—he was told that the matter was not classified upon his mustering out processing. But all the records of RAF Bentwaters are strangely missing during the time period in question, as are Burroughs' medical records, which are understood to be in a classified section of the VA database. A Veteran's Administration nurse reviewing his medical history concluded 'obviously I don't have a need to know' the details of his encounter and concluded a review on his behalf. Absent the relevant information, it is hard to understand how VA medical personnel can make an accurate diagnosis or provide proper treatment.
As Burroughs noted on the Justice Facebook page recently:
"We are involved in an ongoing campaign to force the authorities to reveal the truth about what happened and to seek justice for the men and women caught up in these incidents, some of whom have suffered adverse physical and psychological effects. This campaign has a number of strands, including legal action, targeted Freedom of Information Act requests, and our forthcoming book, which is being handled by one of the world's biggest and most prestigious publishing houses."
Neither Burroughs nor Penniston make any claim to know what actually happened to them nor what they and a number of other military witnesses perceived during the incidents. Perhaps the most accurate presentation done to date was a 2013 Canadian Discovery Channel episode now beginning to aired in the US.
Whatever he origin of the events, it seems clear that the government knows more than it is willing to release about the incident. Withholding information to two of the first three responders on scene that could extend their lives seems at odds with the very American ideals they devoted their careers to protect and defend.
Whatever the truth may be, Burroughs and Penniston are intent upon finding it. While those convinced that the government is withholding information on a potentially paradigm-shifting issue are justifiably excited by the announcement, caution is in order, as a number of hurtles need to be overcome before the case would come to trial. Not the least of which is separating truly viable classified information vital to national security interests from information that is merely inconvenient to the orderly function of the body politic.
All formal media inquiries are being handled by the pair's attorney. To learn more about the intended lawsuit, contact:
Patrick Frascogna, Esq.
234 East Capitol Street, Second Floor
Jackson, Mississippi 39201
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