Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Nat Geo Secret History of UFOs

By Robert Hastings
     Well-known “skeptic” Robert Sheaffer’s performance in Secret History of UFOs, the National Geographic network’s latest debunking-disguised-as-documentary, begs the question: At what point does the systematic presentation of half-truths and outright falsehoods about the UFO phenomenon cross the line from incompetent scholarship to intentional disinformation?

As I noted in my last article, given the extremely biased and propagandistic treatment of the UFO subject one consistently finds on Nat Geo, it might reasonably be argued that the network has been working behind the scenes with the CIA to debunk the phenomenon.

This is not some paranoid fantasy. Indeed, the history of the agency’s covert efforts to spin or suppress UFO-related stories, utilizing its contacts in the news and entertainment media, is now well-documented. The policy resulted from the findings of the CIA’s 1953 Robertson Panel, which explicitly recommended using the mass media to debunk UFOs in the interest of national security. Journalist Terry Hansen’s excellent, scholarly book, The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-up, just republished as an e-book, details the agency’s decades-long use of the television networks, among other organizations, as tools to disinform the American people about the UFO reality.

While it would be nearly impossible to prove or disprove that producers at Nat Geo are in cahoots with the spooks—barring the intrepid efforts of some journalistic sleuth who is willing to ferret out the facts—it can at least be said that those responsible for the ongoing series of UFO “documentaries” at the network are slavishly spouting the agency’s official party-line regarding the supposed non-existence of UFOs, year after year, program after pathetic program. Their reliance on Robert Sheaffer, in particular, as a purportedly objective scholar on the UFO topic, belies either their naiveté or their premeditated participation in a disinformational ruse.

Highly relevant to this discussion is my research into Sheaffer’s affiliation with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) which was previously named The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). As journalist Terry Hansen has argued in The Missing Times, the historical role of CSICOP (now CSI) strongly suggests it has been performing as an intelligence community “front organization”—pumping anti-UFO propaganda into the media without revealing its true source or motivation.

My own findings about Sheaffer’s “skeptical” group—he was a founding member of its UFO Subcommittee—relate to my 39-year investigation of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites, as documented in declassified files and military witness testimony. Many years ago I discovered that two of CSICOP’s leading members had professional ties to the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program, something they seemed very shy about publicly discussing in any meaningful way.

Moreover, one of those individuals, James Oberg, once privately harassed a former U.S. Air Force officer, Lt. Robert M. Jacobs, after he openly discussed a still-classified, nukes-related UFO incident in various magazine articles the 1980s. As discussed in my book UFOs and Nukes and online, Oberg—who had worked as a nuclear weapons researcher and security officer while in the Air Force in the early 1970s—chastised Jacobs, in a personal letter, for releasing “top secret UFO data” relating to the September 1964 Big Sur Incident. This was a very odd accusation indeed, coming from someone whose public, supposedly-skeptical stance is that UFOs don’t even exist.

(According to now-Dr. Jacobs, a UFO had been inadvertently filmed through a high-powered telescope/camera as it paced and then circled a dummy nuclear warhead during a missile test flight at Vandenberg AFB, California. Apparently, four beams of light were seen shooting from the domed-disc to the warhead in rapid succession, whereupon the warhead began tumbling, eventually falling into the Pacific Ocean hundreds of miles short of its target. This amazing encounter has been confirmed as a real event by a second USAF officer, retired Major Florenze J. Mansmann, who unequivocally says that two CIA agents confiscated the Top Secret film.)

After Jacobs went public with the story, another leading member of CSICOP/CSI, the late journalist Phillip Klass, engaged in what Jacobs considered to be a thinly-veiled threat by pointedly mentioning, also in a private letter, his close professional associations with two leading figures in the U.S. intelligence community, Admiral Bobby Inman and U.S. Army General Daniel Graham.

Over the years, Klass had been accused of being a government disinformation agent by various UFO proponents. In response, he had always recoiled indignantly and dismissed the charge as nonsense. Interestingly, to my knowledge, never once did Klass openly cite Inman and Graham as associates and personal character references, as he did with Jacobs, when privately pressuring the former USAF officer. Fortunately, rather than being intimidated by Klass and Oberg, Dr. Jacobs eventually released the contents of their self-incriminating letters to him.

A third leading member of Robert Sheaffer’s organization, Skeptical Inquirer magazine editor Kendrick Frazier, published two demonstrably-inaccurate articles about the Big Sur case in an apparently frantic effort by CSICOP to debunk the incident, no matter how badly the facts had to be distorted or completely misstated to achieve the ruse. My documented exposé on the group’s now-discredited, attempted sleights-of-hand may be read at my website.

Significantly, although one will have to search diligently to find information confirming this fact, Kendrick Frazier was employed for over 20 years as a Public Relations Specialist by Sandia National Laboratories—one of the key facilities involved with the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program—during the same period his “skeptical” magazine was repeatedly pooh-poohing UFOs and ridiculing those who reported them. Frazier has even ducked mentioning his longtime job as a government-paid spin doctor in his self-written biography.

So, let’s recap here: Among CSICOP/CSI’s leading members are a former USAF officer (Oberg) who publicly rejects the reality of UFOs but privately chastised another former officer who leaked information about an Air Force/CIA cover-up of one very important case; a journalist (Klass) who publicly ridiculed those who suggested a disinformational motive for his UFO debunking, but privately acknowledged his close professional associations with top-level officials at the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency; and a magazine editor (Frazier) who continues to work for a magazine ostensibly devoted to dismissing UFOs on purely scientific grounds but who simultaneously worked as a PR mouthpiece for the U.S. nuclear weapons program for two decades, a position he has avoided mentioning in published references to himself.

In short, Robert Sheaffer’s “skeptical” organization has some very suspicious links to the U.S. government which it has attempted to downplay and even hide from public scrutiny. And this is the group of “UFO experts” that Nat Geo calls upon when seeking a supposedly knowledgeable, objective authority to interview about the nature of the phenomenon, when producing its alleged “documentaries” on the subject.

Whether by design or default, the latest debunking effort by the network is possibly the worst piece of anti-UFO propaganda ever produced by them, comparable to the crudest of the former Soviet regime’s notorious and now-laughable fact-spinning exercises during the Cold War era.

For example, to hear Secret History of UFOs tell it, the reason Americans began reporting sightings of disc-shaped “flying saucers” in the late 1940s is because they had been whipped into a near-hysterical frenzy by sensational news reports in July 1947 relating to the Roswell Incident which, according to debunkers quoted on the program, was in reality the recovery of a secret military balloon-train belonging to Project Mogul, not a crashed extraterrestrial craft, as many now believe.

Dr. David Rudiak, a leading Roswell researcher, says, “Those guys are merely parroting the theory originally adopted by an Air Force counter-intelligence team at the Pentagon in 1994 to thwart U.S. Congressman Steven Schiff's official inquiry into what happened at Roswell.” Rudiak further notes that the project’s own records confirm that the specific test flight alluded to, Flight #4 on June 4th, had been cancelled due to cloud cover, thereby discrediting the debunkers’ and the Air Force’s claims about its alleged involvement in the now-famous Roswell object debris-recovery operation.

Rudiak explains, “The Air Force also deliberately brought back the two previous flights from the dead, #2 and #3, in order to make a case for #4 being the crash object. In reality, Mogul records unambiguously show these flights were likewise canceled due to high winds and equipment failure. All three flights were therefore written out of the project summaries, as can easily be seen in one image excerpt:

- click image(s) to enlarge -

Note that the summaries instead list Flight #5 as the first ‘successful’ Mogul flight, and it is so-listed in NASA’s records and in an official Air Force history of flight. It cannot account for Roswell, nor can any other real Mogul flight, the fates of which are all well-documented. ‘Flight #4’ is a fiction created in modern times purely to debunk Roswell. How can a nonexistent balloon flight explain anything?”

In spite of this documentation, Robert Sheaffer and the other debunkers continue to assert that misplaced public interest in the supposedly-discredited reports of a recovered flying saucer resulted in thousands of ongoing UFO sighting reports, even decades later, as gullible Americans jumped on the bandwagon. In doing so, Sheaffer and company conveniently fail to mention the U.S. military’s own secret assessment of the mysterious aerial objects, undertaken not long after the Roswell Incident, as revealed in the now-declassified “Twining Memo”, which was only released to the public via the Freedom of Information Act, decades after it was written.

In the late summer of 1947, after a three-month, nationwide sighting wave, Air Intelligence at the Pentagon urgently requested a report on the “Flying Discs”, as the military called them at the time. In response, Air Force Lt. General Nathan F. Twining, Commander of the Air Materiel Command (AMC), based at Wright Field, Dayton, Ohio, held a conference with personnel assigned to the Air Institute of Technology, the Office of the Chief of Engineering Division, various aeronautical laboratories within the Engineering Division designated T-3, and Technical Intelligence officers. For raw data, these groups used in their evaluations interrogation reports supplied by the Pentagon, containing statements by military UFO sighting witnesses.

Summarizing the input he received from his engineering and intelligence staff, Twining sent a memorandum to Brigadier General George Schulgen, Chief of the Air Intelligence Requirements Division, in which he presented AMC’s initial assessment of the unexplained aerial objects. Dated September 23, 1947 and classified Secret, the key portions of the memo are as follows:
1. At the request of AC/AS-2 there is presented below the considered opinion of this command concerning the so-called “Flying Discs”...
2. It is the opinion that:
a. The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious.
b. There are objects probably approximating the shape of a disc, of such appreciable size as to appear to be as large as man-made aircraft.
c. There is a possibility that some of the incidents may be caused by natural phenomena, such as meteors.
d. The reported operating characteristics such as extreme rates of climb, maneuverability (particularly in roll), and action which must be considered evasive when sighted or contacted by friendly aircraft and radar, lend belief to the possibility that some of the objects are controlled either manually, automatically, or remotely.
e. The apparent common description of the objects is as follows:
(1) Metallic or light reflecting surface.
(2) Absence of trail, except in a few instances when the object apparently was operating under high performance conditions.
(3) Circular or elliptical in shape, flat on bottom and domed on top.
(4) Several reports of well kept formation flights varying from three to nine objects.
(5) Normally no associated sound, except in three instances a substantial rumbling roar was noted.
(6) Level flight speeds normally above 300 knots are estimated.
In other words, despite the debunkers’ bogus claims on Secret History of UFOs about the reasons underlying public interest in the supposedly non-existent Flying Saucers—allegedly the result of inaccurate news reports relating to Roswell, coupled with Cold War hysteria and a widespread fascination with the dawning Space Age—in reality, behind-the-scenes, government analysts and officials took the UFO sighting reports by both civilian and military observers absolutely seriously.

(Upon reading the Twining Memo in its entirety, one will discover this sentence, “[Consideration should be given to the] lack of physical evidence in the shape of crash recovered exhibits which would undeniably prove the existence of these objects.” So, if Roswell was actually the secret recovery of a crashed extraterrestrial craft, as many researchers and one retired U.S. Air Force general, Arthur E. Exon, contend, why is there no mention of that fact in the memorandum? Veteran Roswell researcher Dr. Kevin Randle, who is also a retired U.S. Army intelligence officer, correctly notes that the Twining memo was only classified “Secret” whereas the momentous, paradigm-shattering recovery of an alien spaceship and the bodies of its crew would certainly be classified “Top Secret” or above, thereby precluding any mention of the incident in any lower-classified document. General Exon’s public comments about the Roswell Incident—he called it the recovery of “a craft from space”—are a must-read for anyone wishing to have an informed opinion about the case.)

Aside from this glaring omission in Secret History of UFOs’ allegedly astute, balanced historical analysis of the phenomenon, the program also neglects to mention the existence of hundreds of declassified U.S. government documents confirming an ongoing interest in our nuclear weapons program by those who presumably pilot these mysterious craft. While reports of UFOs at nukes-related facilities were mentioned by former USAF Captain and Project Blue Book chief Edward J. Ruppelt in his 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, documents detailing the sightings only became available decades later.

Most of these files have been in the public domain since the late 1970s and have been repeatedly publicized in the media as the result of efforts by researchers, most notably during my September 27, 2010 “UFOs and Nukes” press conference in Washington D.C., which was objectively covered by hundreds of news organizations worldwide, including CNN which streamed it live:

Consequently, Sheaffer and the other debunkers on the Nat Geo show can not possibly be unaware of these documents and, therefore, their failure to acknowledge the very important and dramatic revelations contained in them is either evidence of their extremely biased, thoroughly unscholarly presentation of the UFO data, or their premeditated participation in the dissemination of disinformation, knowingly or unknowingly aided and abetted by Nat Geo.

Regardless, among the declassified Air Force, FBI and CIA files relating to UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites are those which report the following developments:
● Repeated observations of “flying discs” by military personnel and civilians at the Los Alamos laboratory—the birthplace of atomic and thermonuclear weapons—in December 1948 and January 1949. The sightings were classified Top Secret.

● Ongoing UFO sightings in 1949-50 at Los Alamos and the Sandia Laboratory (the very lab where CSICOP/CSI big-wig Kendrick Frazier worked for some 20 years in the 1980s and ‘90s).

● Sightings of UFOs maneuvering near or hovering over ICBM sites operated by F.E. Warren AFB, July 31-August 2, 1965.

● Sightings of UFOs maneuvering near or hovering over ICBM sites operated by Malmstrom AFB, in November 1975.
These cases are just the tip of the iceberg. Sheaffer and the other debunkers will undoubtedly claim that the sightings mentioned in these documents, and a great many others, are irrelevant because they actually involved observations of natural phenomena or manmade aircraft. However, a careful, unbiased review of the declassified memoranda and reports substantiates instead the credible reporting, decade after decade, of aerial objects which are disc-shaped, capable of both hovering and high velocity flight, sometimes tracked on radar, and invariably evade the military jet interceptors sent up after them.

In short, while the debunkers’ scholastic ineptitude will satisfy those who have concluded a priori that bona fide UFOs are non-existent, their claims fail miserably when attempting to explain the unidentified aircraft reported in the now-available files. (a priori: Made before or without examination; not supported by factual study.)

Elsewhere in Nat Geo’s Secret History of UFOs, another CSICOP/CSI heavyweight, James McGaha, smugly dismisses the famous Rendlesham Forest UFO incidents, in Suffolk, England, in December 1980, as sightings of a meteor (on the first night) and a flashing lighthouse beacon (on the second night).

These unsupportable claims ignore the fact that three former/retired USAF Security Policemen (SPs), attached to the 81st Security Police Squadron operating at the nearby twin bases of RAF Bentwaters and RAF Woodbridge, report observing, on the first night, a landed, triangular-shaped object, which later lifted off and zoomed skyward at high velocity.

A very talented meteor indeed!

The Nat Geo “documentary” dismisses the three landing gear marks found at the site as due to small animals burrowing into the ground, despite the fact that plaster casts later made of the depressions reveal their hemispherical shape and perfect equilateral triangular-arrangement. Not to mention the fact that they were found to be radioactive.

Over the years, James McGaha has conjured up various highly-implausible explanations to account for this evidence, recklessly mangling the truth in the process, given that the actual facts thoroughly demolish his meteor/animal-based theory about the nature of the incident. Was any mention made by Nat Geo of the impressive empirical data taken from the UFO landing site? One of the plaster casts was briefly shown but then quickly discredited (unconvincingly) by voice-over narration.

The second night of reported UFO activity at RAF Bentwaters that week is even more interesting, in my view, involving the sighting of a disc-shaped craft which directed laser-like beams down into the base’s nuclear Weapons Storage Area (WSA), according to some of the SPs posted there.

The then-deputy base commander at Bentwaters, now-retired USAF Col. Charles Halt, has long reported that he heard excited radio chatter from various guards at the weapons facility—describing the light beams falling into it—while leading another team of SPs in Rendlesham Forest, investigating unexplained lights observed there.

Regarding the flashing light seen in the woods that led to the search, Halt has said, “The lighthouse was visible the whole time [we were watching the rapidly moving light]...it was readily apparent, and it was 30 to 40 degrees off to our right...” In other words, both the lighthouse and the mysterious, blinking eyeball-shaped light were observed simultaneously. Of course, debunker McGaha conveniently ignores this fact.

Col. Halt says that his team also saw multiple, maneuvering, oval-shaped UFOs in the sky after they had left the woods, while crossing an open field. One of those aerial objects, while momentarily hovering directly above his group, sent a laser-like beam down to the ground near their feet. After a few seconds, the beam disappeared and the UFO silently raced away toward the Bentwaters base.

A very talented lighthouse indeed!

Does the Nat Geo program mention any of these very important details, which effectively refute James McGaha’s hollow hypothesis? No, of course not. And McGaha himself, for whatever reason, continues to ignore Halt’s first-person account of the incident and its nuclear weapons-related aspects. (Not unlike Skeptical Inquirer editor and Sandia Labs’ PR Specialist Kendrick Frazier’s desperate attempts to discredit the Big Sur case.)

Excerpts from my 2006 taped interview of Col. Halt, as well as from various interviews he gave to journalists over the years, may be found in my book and online.

I will briefly add here that I was the first person to interview, on audio and video tape, the two USAF air traffic controllers who were in the Bentwaters tower on the night that Halt was in the woods. Both confirm tracking a bona fide UFO that traveled some 120 miles in 8-12 seconds. One of the controllers, Jim Carey, recalls the object making an instantaneous, right-angle turn before leaving the vicinity of the base.

The other controller, Ike Barker, confirms seeing the UFO out the window of the control tower, as it hovered briefly near the RAF Bentwaters water tower. He describes the object as an orange-colored sphere with small lights or windows around its equator. After a few seconds, it raced away at blinding speed. When I asked Barker for his opinion about the object he tracked, he replied, “I can tell you that this was no manmade technology. I was very familiar with all types of aircraft, obviously, and I can tell you that what I saw was not from any country on Earth. I will never forget it!”

Although I first published my interviews with the two controllers in 2008, “skeptic” James McGaha totally ignores their on-the-record testimony and clings to his laughable lighthouse theory to explain away the many UFO reports that night.

When I recently asked Col. Halt for his assessment of Secret History of UFOs, for which he was interviewed, he replied, “Yesterday I received my [courtesy DVD] copy of the National Geographic program and was shocked. The theme is entertain and discredit. I smell one of our [intelligence] agencies. I went back to them and told them I will never cooperate again!”

Halt elaborated by saying, “When I did the program for Nat Geo, they promised me it would be accurate and reflect what happened. I explained in detail why it couldn't have been the lighthouse and all about the Air Force Air Traffic Controllers at the Bentwaters tower seeing the object visually and on the scope. I gave them many more details to substantiate the [reality of a UFO] event. They ignored all of this and instead focused on several questionable skeptics.”

So, when CSI “skeptic” Robert Sheaffer sarcastically dismisses my repeated, publicly-stated concerns about Nat Geo’s possible covert collaboration with the CIA, in the production of its anti-UFO-propaganda-presented-as-history, it should be noted that I am not the only one who holds that opinion. Col. Halt, in addition to having been later promoted to base commander at RAF Bentwaters, retired from the Air Force as the Director of the Inspections Directorate for the Department of Defense Inspector General, a position in which he had total inspection oversight for the entire Department of Defense—all services and department agencies. This very prestigious assignment confirms the high degree of confidence his superiors had in his abilities and judgment.

Unfortunately, Col. Halt, like filmmaker James Fox—who now openly regrets his participation in Nat Geo’s ridiculous series, Chasing UFOs—was betrayed by a network whose track record demonstrates that it simply can not be trusted to objectively present the facts about the UFO phenomenon in its ongoing debunking-exercises on the subject.

Finally, to those Americans who have naively swallowed the absurd, grossly-distorted portrayal of UFOs routinely offered up by Nat Geo’s producers and their CSICOP/CSI consultants, I say go ahead and bend over; they would love to kick you again.


  1. What is this guy Hastings yapping about? He makes all kinds of dumb comments, assumptions, claims, and he doesn't sound like someone who has really studied the UFO "phenomenon". I'm not an expert on UFOs because there is no such category. I've been a UFO enthusiast since 1957 and I've had 6 solid, unquestionable sightings and I videotaped one which is on the Internet. I helped edit a cult UFO magazine, I attended the U.N. UFO day and took photos of the attendees which can be seen in some websites and I've been a member of many UFO forums and I've gained some notoriety such as being one of sources which helped evict Ken Johnston from NASA. So you can say I know what I'm talking about. I've never seen any efforts by the CIA or anyone or any agency having any effect on the UFO phenomenon. Millions have seen UFOs in day and night, millions have photographed, filmed and videotaped UFOs, and no one has been interfered with. Reports of such are questionable especially when MIBs are mentioned since MIBs never really existed and were the creation of author Ray Palmer. One thing that is prevalent in UFOlogy and that is bs. That's what I get from this article.

  2. TV shows live and die by ratings, so I sometimes wonder: why do most UFO documentaries engage in so much debunking? Maybe I'm wrong, but I suspect that people generally like to be left with an air of mystery instead of being told 'you're stupid if you disagree with us'. If the debunking is too successful then surely fewer people will tune in to the next episode. What kind of producer goes out of their way to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs? What's the incentive?
    If anyone wants to see some really awful (Robertson Panel inspired) anti-UFO propaganda then find the one-off documentary 'UFO: Friend, Foe or Fantasy' on YouTube. Today's equivalents are much slicker, but about as untrustworthy.

  3. Mr. Hastings, if Mr. Sheaffer was wrong, please let us know. But let me suggest that it is unnecessary to write a very long and often off-topic preface comprised of unfounded speculations. And let me respectfully add that it sounds extra-nutty to start such a clearly paranoid rant by saying it's not paranoid.


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