Sunday, January 20, 2013

UFO Debunker, Philip Klass and the FBI

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Phil Klass & The FBI

Philip Klass and the FBI

By Dr Kevin Randle
A Different Perspective
      A while back we discussed Phil Klass’ habit of writing to the employers of those who thought they had seen a UFO, or who investigated them, or just disagreed with him. He seemed outraged that there were people who didn’t accept everything he said, and took great offense at that. He would express his disappointment with those by creating a little trouble for them.

A few skeptics who visit here thought I was being overly harsh and a little unfair to Klass. They thought several examples were needed. But even with some acts I thought were over the top, those skeptics thought Klass had done nothing wrong. With Klass it seems to have been an on-going thing.

While going through the FBI files that dealt with UFOs, I came across a series of letters that Klass had sent to them. Apparently Klass was offended by an article written by Dr. J. Allen Hynek that had appeared in the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. It was an article that didn’t actually advocate any particular position but suggested that UFO sightings reported to law enforcement entities would be of interest to those at Hynek’s new Center for UFO studies. It provided a way for law enforcement to respond to the concerns of the citizens without having to actually do anything. A sort of win - win. Law enforcement cleared the report and the CUFOS received it for further investigation, if necessary.

According to a Memorandum dated February 21, 1975, Mr. Heim, reported that Klass had called the editor of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin. According to that document, Klass, “In strong terms laced with sarcasm, he derided our publication of the article by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, ‘The UFO Mystery,’ in the February, 1975, issue of the LEB. Klass suggested that by publishing this article, the FBI had given its endorsement to a hoax (that UFOs are extra-terrestrial in origin) and to a fraud (Dr. J. Allen Hynek).”

Importantly, according to the memorandum, “Mr. Klass was politely reminded that nowhere in Dr. Hynek’s article appearing in the Bulletin, or in numerous other of his writings which were examined by us, does Hynek suggest UFOs are extra-terrestrial in origin…” (Remember, this is 1975, about the time he was establishing CUFOS).

A letter dated June 14, 1975, written to then FBI Director Clarence Kelly, Klass renewed his assault. He wrote, “The enclosed photo-copy of a headline and feature story in the recent issue of ‘The National Tattler’ is a portent of the sort of ‘FBI endorsement’ for the flying-saucer myth that you can expect to see, repeatedly, as a result of an article about UFOs carried by the February issue of The Law Enforcement Bulletin.” While his source for this claim of FBI endorsement outrage is The National Tattler, hardly the pinnacle of journalistic excellence, that didn’t matter all that much to Klass, he quoted it anyway.

Klass added, “That article was written by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the spiritual leader of the vocal group of ‘believers’ and ‘kooks’ who claim we are being visited by extraterrestrial spaceships. And while the FBI did not endorse Hynek’s views per se, the decision to publish his article and to alert law enforcement agencies as to what to do ‘if they land,’ has embroiled the agency for all time.”

The telephone call then, was not enough to slander Dr. Hynek. When he didn’t receive the response he wanted, he renewed his attack, but toned down the rhetoric in the written communication. He just claimed that Hynek was the “spiritual leader” of, what to Klass, would be the other side. But he had learned that the FBI had not endorsed the opinion that some UFOs were alien craft merely that they approved of the idea of the UFO reports being relayed to a non-governmental agency to investigate. Hynek had offered the various law enforcement agencies an alternative to telling the public to call the Air Force or the local college authorities if they felt a need to make a report.

I am not sure what so annoyed Klass about this. Hynek asked for the various law enforcement agencies to relay the reports to the Center. I don’t know why Klass would object to this. It wasn’t as if he was attempting to force his belief structure on anyone. He was merely asking for information. Klass was actually attempting to somehow inhibit that flow.

There is nothing wrong with Klass contacting the FBI to respond to their publication of Hynek’s article. There is nothing wrong with Klass offering to write a rebuttal piece giving his opinions about the reality, or lack thereof, of UFOs. There is nothing wrong with Klass writing, “I would welcome the opportunity to present the other side of the UFO issue in The Law Enforcement Bulletin, and to thereby help remove the earlier seeming FBI endorsement of flying saucers.”

It was the language, the allegations and the name calling which is out of place. Reasonable people can reasonably disagree, but Klass wouldn’t leave it at that. He crossed a line, repeatedly, with his personal attacks and his shading of reality to suit his purposes. He was uninterested in debate; he was in a campaign to inflict his views on everyone else.

The point is that Klass did carry about a campaign against those with whom he disagreed. I know that I don’t attempt to suppress the opinions and beliefs of the skeptics who visit here (except when the insults become too personal) and welcome, for the most part, their view of the issues. But for a few, such as Klass, it wasn’t enough that he had what he believed to be the ultimate truth; everyone had to agree with that truth as well.

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