Thursday, September 22, 2011

The F.B.I.'s Inadvertent Incentive to Press On

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By Larry W. Bryant

Larry Bryant     My first FOIA request to the U. S. Federal Bureau of Investigation occurred shortly after the Act's advent as a public tool for inquiry and accountability. Here's how I came to exercise my right to know where - when - how - why the Bureau had begun to compile its dossier on my early exercise of First Amendment rights:
Back in the early 1960s, when I was a federal employee (but totally
unrelated to that employment), I embarked on a local UFOtruth campaign to determine how (and why) selected law-enforcement agencies in southeast Virginia were processing citizens' reports of UFO encounters. The campaign consisted of a series of research queries sent via typed postcards . Apparently, one or more of the contacted chiefs of police had felt intimidated by the queries to the point of notifying the Bureau. Soon enough, an agent from the F.B.I. field office in Norfolk, Va., visited me -- not at my home but at my employer's office.

During the ensuing interview, I proceeded to justify my existence by explaining my interest in UFO research aimed to support the work of such public-interest groups as the now-defunct, Washington, D.C.-based National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. For his part, the agent explained that he was going to compose a memorandum for the F.B.I. files.

Some weeks later, I sent a letter to F.B.I. director J. Edgar Hoover, asking that he send me a copy of that memo. In his reply letter, he declined, saying that all F.B.I. files are deemed "confidential." So I waited (but continued, by the way, to pursue my UFO research/writing).
Upon the FOIA's birth, I fired off a renewed request that I be provided a copy of whatever records the Bureau had chosen to keep on my activities. This time, they complied. The memo now remains a monument to the Bureau's, the CIA's, the Office of Naval Intelligence's, and the Army Intelligence and Security Command's intrusive compilation of dossiers on selected UFOlogists during a
protracted era of government marginalization of both the work and the collective persona of these volunteer researchers. These agencies' insecurity over how close we may have been getting to dispelling the Deepest Secret has fueled my persistent probing ever since the 1960s.

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