Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Petition Debates Underscore The Divide

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By Billy Cox
De Void

     Among the unintentional consequences of the White House “We The People” petition drive — currently gauging public interest on everything from marijuana laws to Net neutrality — is an emerging glimpse into the polarization of the UFO dilemma in America. In rebuffing two recent petitions calling for an end to the alleged coverup of “extraterrestrial” interactions with Earthlings, the Office of Science and Technology Policy, at the very minimum, demanded a higher standard of proof from a field of research renowned for its fractiousness.

Though the OSTP’s Phil Larson needed galoshes for the cloudburst of jeers provoked by his recent “no credible evidence of extraterrestrial presence here on Earth” petition response, Leslie Kean rushed to his defense. The author of UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On the Record, Kean staked the credibility of her 2010 New York Times bestseller on working with, and getting endorsements from, sources with unassailable CVs. On the Record challenged “scientists who should no longer be allowed the luxury of denial,” and urged American establishment science to grow a pair and join the rest of the world in conducting public and transparent research. A study with integrity, she argues, could reap a windfall in expanding our understanding of physics.

In a Huffington Post blog two weeks ago, Kean hammered not Larson’s response, but the “inappropriate and fundamentally flawed content of the [We The People] petitions themselves.” Kean, whose work was turned into a History Channel documentary last summer, took the petition authors to task for using presumptuous language.

“Clearly,” she stated, “we can’t make the leap from the existence of unknown airborne objects, for which we have proof, to claims of extraterrestrial communications, which can’t be proven, if we want to appeal to scientists.” Noting how the term “UFO” was conspicuously omitted from both petitions, she advocated the establishment of a small but formal government office to take a fresh look at the best cases, and report to “a qualified civilian oversight board.”

Lobbyist Steve Bassett, whose “disclosure” petition collected 12,078 signatures, says “UFO is the language of the information embargo,” and is planning to launch another petition challenge on Thursday. “Leslie Kean wants to continue to play their game,” says Bassett. “She’s calling it ‘a new way forward,’ but I say it’s the old way going backward.”

But abandoning the “We The People” option as a lost cause altogether is retired USAF captain Robert Salas, whose petition collected 5,387 endorsements. Spurred by his active-duty experience in 1967 when a number of nuclear missiles went off-line in their silos during alleged UFO surveillance of a Strategic Air Command facility, Salas is piqued by “the simplistic and dismissive statements” from the OSTP. He thinks Kean is barking up the wrong tree.

“The real problem,” he says in an email to De Void, “is that we are trying to get answers from people that simply don’t have access to the answers and are not motivated to dig to the depths they need to get them.” He predicts Kean’s proposed study group will prove futile: “If such a public group were formed (even with her friend John Podesta involved), their activities would simply be superficial as was Project Blue Book (the unclassified version) and the end result would be the same.”

In an email reply, Kean says Salas’ “conspiracy based” thinking “doesn’t get us anywhere, in terms of making change.” In fact, she says, the purpose of such a group would be to assess new and existing data, not to go foraging for classified projects. “We don’t know if there is a secret program and if so how much they actually know. So we have to operate as if it doesn’t exist, especially because the political establishment in DC certainly knows nothing about such a program. And these are the ones we’re trying to influence. We want this to become an integrated part of a government agency like it is in other countries, and a public program.”

You can already predict the next question: Would a public UFO study inevitably come into conflict with pre-existing black programs? It’s not only premature but irrelevant. At this point, the real question is, are there enough fearless, open-minded and truly inquisitive scientists in this country capable of following the evidence to its conclusion, no matter where it leads?

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