UFOs and the CIA - Anatomy
of a Cover-Up
by Reg A. Davidson
The modern age of UFO phenomena began on a July afternoon in 1947
when private pilot
Kenneth Arnold reported nine unidentifiable
silvery, crescent-shaped objects that skimmed through the sky at an
incredible rate of speed.
Their motion, Arnold said, reminded him of "a saucer skipping over
water." A news reporter took up Arnold's description and the phrase
"flying saucers" soon became imprinted on the collective
When strange objects continued to be reported by competent
witnesses, the U.S. authorities began investigating the phenomenon.
The task fell under the auspices of the United States Air Force, but
few were aware that the CIA took an interest in the strange
phenomena soon after the first reports of "flying saucers" emerged.
The Air Force was actually in a state of near panic due to the wave
of sightings. UFOs were reported over Maxwell Air Force base in
Alabama, (hen, to the horror of the top military brass, over the
White Sands Proving Groundóright in the middle of their atom bomb
territory. General Nathan Twining, commander of the Air Material
Command, wrote to the commanding general of the Army-Air Force
stating that the phenomenon was something real, that it was not
"visionary or fictitious," and that the objects were disc-shaped, as
large as aircraft, and controlled.
The press latched onto the reports and sensationalized stories of
alien invasion gripped the population. The press and the Government
were demanding answers. The Air Force, worried that the whole
situation was get-ting out of hand, tried to quell public angst by
ordering a full investigation.
On December 30, 1947, Major General L. C. Craigie ordered the
Project Sign at what became known as
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Dayton, Ohio.
auspices of the Air Material Command's Technical Intelligence
Division, Project Sign was directed,
"to collect, collate, evaluate and distribute to
interested government agencies and contractors all information
concerning sightings and phenomena in the atmosphere which can
be construed to be of concern to the nation-al security."
The project was given a 2A restricted classification
security rating under a system that acknowledged 1A as the highest,
or most secret, designation.
The following year, three men from Wright-Patterson approached Dr.
J. Allen Hynek, an astronomer then employed by Ohio State University
in nearby Columbus.
"They said they needed some astronomical
consultation because it was their job to find out what these
flying saucer stories were all about," Hynek recalls.
Hynek was hired as a consultant with the Air Force
and remained in that capacity for over two decades as Sign evolved
Projects Grudge and Blue Book, the last officially ceasing in
December of 1969.
According to Hynek, the Air Force had a simple, but effective,
method to explain UFOs: Dismiss all sightings as misidentified
astronomical phenomena. The problem, says Hynek, was the Air Force
"regarded it as an intelligence matter" instead of handing the
investigation to an academic or university group. Therefore, any
serious investigation of the new phenomena was stultified [rendered
useless] because top military brass believed it was an
"intelligence" matter, another intrigue of the emerging Cold War.
However, military personnel directly involved in Project Sign had a
different view. While 96 percent of reports turned out to be
misidentified astronomical phenomena (e.g., the planet Venus), the
other 4 percent were not so easily discredited or explained, and a
minority of military personnel took these seriously.
Minority intelligence opinion then divided into the two camps,
namely, those who saw UFOs as evidence of new Soviet technology, and
those who thought they might be precursors of an invasion by
"FLYING SAUCERS" AND THE CIA
Ever since 1948 the CIA has maintained an interest in UFOs and
remains tight-lipped to this very day on the subject, keeping
evidence and documents on the phenomena many levels above Top
A memo sent on January 29, 1952 to the CIA's deputy director of
Intelligence from Ralph Clark of the Office of Scientific
Intelligence (OSI) states:
"In the past several weeks numerous UFOs have
been sighted visually and on special UFO group radar. This
office has maintained a continuing review of reputed sightings
for the past three years and a special group has been formed to
review the sightings to date."
Many researchers believe that from the very beginning
the CIA was quite certain UFOs were not just Soviet technology. In
fact, as evidence accumulated pointing to the possible
extraterrestrial origin of UFOs, the CIA became increasingly nervous
that other U.S. government agencies might launch their own inquiries
into the matter. Secrecy would be an impossibility if everyone
investigated UFOs, and in a matter of time, details would leak to
the media and the public.
In response to these concerns, the CIA began a process of
maintaining a tight rein over the investigations to ensure no public
inquiries would ever take place. To discredit the phenomenon, the
CIA set up a panel of experts whose job was to explain away UFOs.
The CIA convened on 14 January, 1953, a confab that became known as
the Robertson Panel, after its Chairman Dr. H. P. Robertson, then
director of the Weapons Systems Evaluation Group in the Office of
the Secretary of Defense, and also a CIA employee.
The sequence of events leading directly to the Robertson Panel
involved a series of UFO sightings over the nation's capital in the
summer of 1952, sightings confirmed by military personnel, including
radar operators and scrambled interceptor pilots, and which
themselves resulted in the largest post-WWII military press
conference to date. At the press conference itself, the repeated
radar sightings were put down to "temperature inversions," and the
attending Air Force officers made no mention of the scrambled jet
Besides the esteemed Dr. Robertson, the Panel also included as
members physicist Dr. Luis Alvarez, later a Nobel Laureate, Dr.
Samuel Goudsmit, another physicist from Brookhaven National
Laboratories who was an associate of Einstein's and had discovered
electron spin, a former University of Chicago astronomer and then
deputy director of the Johns Hopkins Operations Research office, Dr.
Thornton Page, and finally Dr. Lloyd Berkner, yet another physicist
and one of Brookhaven's directors.
The Panel was addressed by a variety of CIA and Air Force personnel
who reviewed some twenty of the better UFO cases and showed two film
strips of alleged flying saucers, one of which purportedly portrayed
objects characterized as "self-luminous" by no less an authoritative
source than the Navy's Photograph Interpretation Laboratory which
had spent over 1,000 hours analyzing the particular movie film in
Although impressive evidence was presented by the panel, highlighted
by detailed reports documented by the Air Force, its recommendations
read like they were formulated before the panel even convened.
The CIA had already developed a cover story to cloak the real story:
UFOs were to be dismissed as just another scientific enigma, a Cold
War datum, one that might be cleverly manipulated by the enemy.
the Robertson Panel ruled,
"that the evidence presented on
Flying Objects shows no indication that these phenomena
constitute a direct physical threat to national security."
While this ruling is considered contentious by many
UFO researchers, it was the panel's second conclusion that really
shocked. The panel decreed there was no national security threat
from UFOs, however, its members did see a real and distinct danger
posed by UFO reports!
In the panel's own words, it concluded,
"that the continued emphasis on the reporting of
these phenomena, in these perilous times, result in a threat to
the orderly functioning of the protective organs of the body
"We cite as an example [of such danger]," the Panel continued,
"the clogging of channels of communication by irrelevant
reports, the danger of being led by continued false alarms to
ignore real indications of hostile action, and the cultivation
of a morbid national psychology in which skillful hostile
propaganda could induce hysterical behavior and harmful distrust
of duly constituted authority."
In other words, UFO reports might induce national
psychosis that could be subject to manipulation by the Soviets.
In the final list of recommendations, the panel calls for,
security agencies to take immediate steps to strip the Unidentified
Flying Objects of the special status they have been given..."
The CIA had effectively halted any serious research into the
phenomena, and now controlled all ongoing U.S. military
RUPPELT VS. THE CIA
The public became aware of the panel a few years later with the
publication of "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects" by
Captain Edward J. Ruppelt, former commander of
Project Blue Book.
Both Ruppelt and his Intelligence Liaison Officer, Major Dewey J. Fournet, gave evidence to the Robertson Panel.
Although the panel relegated UFOs to the dustbin of history, Walter
Smith, then director of the CIA, saw fit to keep all evidence
classified. The CIA's decision shocked Captain Ruppelt and Major
Fournet. Both were part of the minority of intelligence officials
that believed the evidence for UFOs was incontrovertible. They also
believed the possibility of hysteria would be reduced if the public
were told the truth.
Ruppelt had fought hard to keep the Air Force investigations afloat,
after joining the Project Grudge team in January 1951, but soon
found the CIA constantly interfering and withholding valuable
information. Project Grudge evolved into the now famous Project Blue
Book in March 1952 with Captain Ruppelt appointed as its chief. All
this came in response to a spate of UFO sightings, beginning with
the 25 August, 1951 famous sightings at Lubbock, Texas, which caused
an enormous stir with the American public. And soon after, on 12
September, 1951, a major UFO sighting
above the skies of Fort Monmouth [New Jersey] in clear view of
visiting military brass, contributed to the Air Force's new found
Ruppelt first became aware of the CIA's unwanted presence after the
Washington UFO "invasion" of July 1952, when he was hampered from
doing his job, and witnesses to the sightings were intimidated into
changing their reports or simply remaining silent.
The person who most worried Ruppelt was Chief of Staff General Hoyt
S. Vandenberg. It was Vandenberg who had buried
official UFO "Estimate" report, caused its incineration, and had the
Project Grudge. It is not clear just how much
Vandenberg was influencing top military officials responsible for
implementing the Air Force's UFO projects.
Vandenberg had been head of the Central Intelligence
Group (later the CIA) from June 1946 to May 1947, and his uncle was
once chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, then the most
powerful committee in the U.S. Senate. Clearly, Vandenberg still had
great influence in those areasó and according to Ruppelt, pressure
was always coming from them to sup-press the results of official UFO
Thus, Ruppelt was not surprised when the CIA and other high-ranking
officers including General Vandenberg convened a panel of scientists
to "analyze" all the Blue Book data. Nor was he too surprised when
the Robertson Panel found that no further study was necessary.
The pieces of the jigsaw puzzle started to fall into place. It was
clear to Captain Ruppelt and other members of Project Blue Book,
that the purpose of the Robertson Panel was to enable the CIA and
Air Force to state in the future that an impartial body had examined
the UFO data and found no evidence for anything unusual in the
skies. Subsequently, the Air Force embarked upon a public relations
campaign to eliminate UFO reports totally. The CIA decided not to
declassify the sighting reports and to tighten security even more
while continuing to deny "non-military personnel" access to UFO
One month later CIA director Walter Smith classified all UFO
documentation and all subsequent directors continued to endorse the
INITIATION OF A COVER-UP
In August 1953 Ruppelt left the Air Force out of disgust and because
of the limitations placed on his work by the CIA. The same month the
Pentagon issued the notorious Air Force Regulation 200-2, that
prohibited the release of any information about a sighting to the
public or media, except when it was positively identified as natural
phenomenon. The new regulation also ensured that all sightings would
be classified as restricted. In December 1953 the much worse
Joint-Army-Navy-Air Force Publication 146 made the releasing of any
information to the public a crime under the Espionage Act.
And the most ominous aspect of JANAP 146 was that it applied to
anyone who knew it existed, including commercial airline pilots. Any
information flow to the public was effectively cut.
By the end of the year Project Blue Book was severely decimated and
for all intents and purposes, UFO research plunged into secrecy and
under the control of the CIA. In just over six years since Kenneth
Arnold's sighting of strange silvery objects, the infamous
intelligence agency had secured complete official silence on the
subject of UFOs.
The cover-up began and continues today, due to the CIA's indomitable
power over all other intelligence groups within the U.S. security
The truth is out there... and it just might be
somewhere deep inside the secret files of the CIA.
Back to Contents
Back to The Saga of Flying Objects