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Re: UK National Archives UFO Files #7

From: Joe McGonagle <joe.mcgonagle.nul>
Date: Thu, 03 Mar 2011 01:53:44 +0000
Archived: Thu, 03 Mar 2011 06:31:34 -0500
Subject: Re: UK National Archives UFO Files #7

=46rom Dave Clarke's blog:


National Archives UFO Files 7

On 3 March 2011 The National Archives released the 7th tranche
of MoD UFO files.

All 35 files and 4 annexes can be downloaded from the TNA UFO


where you will find a highlights guide, podcast and background
briefing. Here is a summary of the key stories and themes that I
have chosen from this collection.

(1) Destruction of Files -- the first 'Smoking Gun'?

A number of papers in this tranche of files reveal the MoD
destroyed whole collections of UFO files as recently as 1990 for
reasons they could not explain They were reluctant to publicly
admit they had destroyed files as they feared this might add
fuel to allegations they were involved in a cover-up. They were

The most frank admission appears in papers covering an internal
MoD exchange following the public release of the famous
'Rendlesham File' in 2001. When a copy of this file -- that
contained unclassified paperwork -- was sent to me in May that
year it was immediately obvious from the paper trail that
further documents relating to the case must be held by other MoD
branches, specifically the secretive Defence Intelligence Staff
section DI55 that had an interest in UFOs and foreign
technology. But an archive search by MoD records staff revealed
that a collection of DI55 files covering the period 1980-82 had
been destroyed, even though other files from the surrounding
years had survived. Even worse, record staff could not say who
authorised the destruction of the files or why as it was MoD
policy to shred the Destruction Certificates after five years
(DEFE 24/2026/1). MoD were warned that if what it called this
"apparent anomaly in the records" were made public...

"...it could be interpreted to mean that a deliberate attempt
had been made to eradicate the records covering this incident".

Why were these files destroyed? The most likely answer is that,
at the time, intelligence staff believed they contained nothing
worth preserving. We know these files were just a fraction the
total number "lost" or destroyed in the chaotic and disorganised
MoD records system before Freedom of Information regulations
forced them to put their house in order.

But in hindsight, by allowing the arbitrary destruction of
swathes of intelligence records, MoD have helpfully provided a
rod for conspiracy theorists to beat them with.

(2) 'Media obsession' leads to policy change

DEFE 24/1986/1 is the first of a number of MoD UFO Policy files
to be released and contains some papers originally classified as
Secret (the first examples so far during the three year TNA UFO

The contents reveal how in 1996-97 the workload of the UFO desk
at MoD increased by 50% as a direct result of the "media
obsession" with the subject that followed the 50th anniversary of
the Roswell incident. The papers also show that MoD partly blamed
the increase on the media activities of its former desk officer,
Nick Pope, whose second book, The Uninvited (on alien abductions)
was published in the summer of that year.

In a April 1997 internal briefing Martin Fuller, the head of
Secretariat Air Staff 2 (the department responsible for UFOs),
wrote that he and Pope's successor, UFO desk officer Kerry
Philpott, were a result struggling to answer a stream of letters

"...from members of the public...seeking information about the
existence of alien life forms, or seeking a detailed
investigation/explanation for...allegations of abduction by aliens,
out of the body experiences, animal mutilations, crop circles
etc" (DEFE 24/1986/1).

The doubling of the Sec(AS) workload directly led to a
significant change in MoD policy covering how staff handled
sighting reports received from members of the public from 1997
onwards. In February a 24-hour UFO hotline answerphone service
was set up to make it easier for members of the public to report
their sightings to Whitehall. However, from April that year it
was agreed that only reports made by credible witnesses such as
police officers, aircrew and other service personnel, that had
some degree of corroboration and/or were reported in a timely
fashion, would be forwarded to Air Defence and Defence
Intelligence staff for further checks. The briefing papers
underline that, in secret, MoD had no real interest in receiving
any "singleton reports from the public which tell us nothing."
But in practice officials briefed they could close their UFO
reporting facility as this "would reveal our policy and there
would be a risk that it would be divulged to the UFO fraternity."

This policy change is significant as it preceded the decision by
DI55 to remove themselves from UFO research with the completion
of the Condign report in 2000. Nine years later, the inevitable
endgame of the MoD's evolving UFO policy was implemented. In
November 2009, against a backdrop of public service cuts, the MoD
took the opportunity and pulled the plug on its UFO hotline and
closed its 'UFO desk.'

(3) 9/11: UFOs on Radar

A RAF briefing prepared for the MoD's UFO desk officer (see DEFE
24/2025/1) reveals 15 unidentified aircraft were detected on
radar approaching UK between January-July 2001 immediately before
the 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington. Six of
these were unidentified (although two did not enter UK airspace
and four were assessed as 'friendly'). Despite the arrival of
'open government' the RAF were reluctant to answer specific
questions from members of the public about these radar detections
as they

a) feared the information would be misinterpreted by those who
did not understand how the air defence system worked and

b) their answers could reveal official secrets to an enemy.

More information on radar detection of 'unidentified aircraft'
and procedures for scrambling RAF aircraft to intercept intruders
can be found in DEFE 24/2041/1. This file contains a important
RAF ADGE briefing dated 30 October 2000 that says:

"...there is no record of any air defence aircraft employed on
any air defence mission ever having intercepted, identified or
photographed an object of an extra-terrestrial nature."

The RAF Wing Commander responsible for this statement also briefs
that during the Cold War aircraft were scrambled on a daily basis
to intercept Warsaw Pact aircraft approaching the UK coast. After
1989 there was a dramatic fall in scrambles to just two or three
incidents per year but there was

"....no evidence to suggest that any of these scrambles have
taken place against anything other than man-made aircraft".

In DEFE 24/2092/1 a response to a Parliamentary Question from
Lynn Featherstone MP reveals the numbers of UFO sightings
reported to MoD had fallen dramatically from a peak of 609 in
1996-97 to an average of 130 per year between 2001 and 2006. Just
12 reports received since 2001 had been referred to experts in
Air Defence for further scrutiny and "none of these had been
determined as posing any risk to the integrity of UK airspace".

Two files contain detailed reports summarising the results of RAF
investigations into UFO incidents. The first followed a spate of
UFO reports from across the British Isles on 16 April 1978. This
'flap' was solved by RAF Fylingdales BMEWS station in North
Yorkshire that found the sightings coincided with the re-entry of
space debris into Earth's atmosphere (DEFE 24/2048/1). A briefing
prepared by Group Captain Neil Colvin based on 501 reports
reviewed by the RAF during 1977-78 concluded:

"...none have ever been confirmed as having an unknown origin
by our radar sites".

A second investigation report was compiled in October 1996
following press reports of lights in the sky filmed by police in
Lincolnshire that were reportedly confirmed by a blip seen on
radars at RAF Neatishead, Norfolk (see DEFE 24/1986/1 and DEFE
24/2018/1). These events led the late Labour MP for Don Valley,
Martin Redmond, to write to Defence Minister Michael Portillo
questioning why no RAF aircraft were scrambled to investigate
this apparent breach of UK airspace. As a result, a RAF Wing
Commander was asked to compiled a report and spent eight working
days quizzing eye-witnesses. His report (DEFE 24/2032/1)
concludes that two entirely separate phenomena were involved: the
 lights seen by police were bright stars and the blip on radar
was a permanent echo created by a tall church spire (Boston Stump).

(4) Cosmic Crashes -- UFOs that Fell to Earth

A UFO file from 1979 (DEFE 24/2037/1) reveals government concern
about the risk posed by the crash-landing of debris from space on
UK. When the nuclear-powered Soviet reconnaissance satellite
Cosmos 954 disintegrated over the northwest territory of Canada
in January 1978 radioactive debris was scattered over 124,000
square kilometres. Fears of what could happen if a similar piece
of junk should rain down from the sky over Britain were raised in
the following year when the giant US space station Skylab began
to decay from its orbit. Although not powered by a nuclear
reactor, it weighed some 75 tonnes and there were fears that
debris might strike parts of the British Isles.

In March 1979 the head of MoD's Defence Intelligence asked the
Home Office to circulate guidelines to police, fire and local
authorities in the UK. The 'restricted' document dated 20 April
1979 titled Satellite Accidents, spelled out the emergency
procedures that should be put in place in the event of a nuclear
hazard reaching the UK from space. Skylab was not nuclear powered
but there remained the possibility of injury or damage from
falling debris, although this was deemed to be "extremely remote."

The file also reveals MoD were keen to examine examples of space
debris and wanted the police to ensure any found by the public
were swiftly reported to the MoD's UFO branch, S4(Air). The
space station burned up harmlessly over the Indian Ocean on 11
July 1979, scattering debris over a large area of the west
Australian desert. Nevertheless, MoD were presented with two sets
of "debris from space" that had supposedly fallen in Britain. One
metallic object was found on a golf course in Eastbourne, while
another -- consisting of twenty pieces of "rock-like debris" --
woke a woman in North Wales when they crashed onto her roof at 5
a.m. one June morning. The file reveals police divided the rocks
into three samples, placed them in plastic bags and sent them to
Whitehall. The lump of metal from Eastbourne, on investigation,
was found to be "simply a piece of molten scrap metal".

There are further relevant papers in DEFE 24/1997/1 including
correspondence between UFO author Nick Redfern and the Home
Office regarding emergency procedures for dealing with "landed
and crashed UFOs and space satellites." DEFE 24/1986/1 contains
correspondence between TV documentary marker John Keeling and MoD
during concerning a 'War of the Worlds' incident in 1967 that,
for a few hours at least, was treated as a potentially real
"alien invasion" of the UK.

John is writing a book based on the bizarre events that followed
the discovery, early in the morning of 4 September, of six
miniature "flying saucers" in a perfect line across Southern
England from the Sheppey to the Bristol Channel. After 12 hours
of mayhem, in which four police forces, bomb disposal units, the
army and the MoD's intelligence branch were mobilised, it emerged
the saucers were a rag-day hoax by engineering students from
Farnborough Technical College.

The events of September 1967 reveal how difficult it would be for
the authorities to conceal a real UFO "crash landing" from the
public. As John writes in his excellent Fortean Times article
Invasion 1967 (FT 228), this incident has been ignored by
proponents of government UFO cover-ups because it raises too many
uncomfortable home truths, such as:

"Where was the cover up? Where were the UFO crash retrieval
teams? Even at the height of this drama, no meaningful efforts
were made to suppress information. The fact is, you can't cover
something like this up."

(5) Nick Pope

Nick was the Sec(AS) civil servant responsible for UFO reports
1991-94. After his 'tour of duty', and whilst employed elsewhere
in MoD he publicly proclaimed his belief in UFOs and in 1996
published a book, Open Skies Closed Minds, that was cleared for
publication. In the following year the publication of Pope's
second book, The Uninvited, that dealt with 'alien abductions',
led MoD to prepare a set of "press lines". These said "clearance
to publish does not imply MoD approval of, or agreement with, the
contents" (DEFE 24/1986/1).

DEFE 24/2092/1, contains a background briefing on Nick Pope
prepared by MoD following a Parliamentary Question from Lib Dem
MP Norman Baker in March 2006 that asked:

"...the Secretary of State for Defence whether his department's
UFO project is still extent."

The briefing said the question was most likely prompted by
"recent press articles...in which Mr Nick Pope, a serving Civil
Servant, has been widely quoted on the topic of the MoD's 'UFO
Project'" The briefing continues:

"The MoD has never operated anything described as 'the UFO

and continues:

"...Mr Pope left Sec(AS) in 1994 and his knowledge of this
issue, other than from publicly available sources, must be
regarded as dated. Mr Pope elected to describe his position as
the 'Head of the MoD's UFO Project', a term entirely of his own
invention, and he has used his experience and information he
gathered (frequently by going beyond the official remit of his
position) to develop a parallel career as a pundit on the topic,
including writing several books, some purportedly non-fiction. Mr
Pope constantly puts himself forward in various parts of the
media, solicited and unsolicited, as an 'expert' (despite his
lack of recent knowledge about the work carried on in the branch
concerned) and seeks credit amongst other aficionados for having
'forced' MoD to reveal its 'secret' files on the subject. The
latter is far from the truth, as we had begun publishing details
of the most 'popular' reports in the Publication scheme, prior to
the advent of the Freedom of Information Act. Mr Pope's
activities have nevertheless resulted in the generation of
considerable workload for the stuff currently employed in
responding to questions on this topic."

Listen to 'Strange Days... Indeed' - The PodCast



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