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In a democracy, the decision where to draw the line between a citizen's right to know and the government's right to secrecy for national security reasons must be made by appropriate members of the society. This issue has become the focus of much attention today and is especially relevant to an ongoing discussion, both inside and outside Congress, regarding UFO phenomena.

For obvious reasons, military services and the intelligence agencies must maintain a certain amount of secrecy. However, in recent decades, and especially since the end of the Cold War, many observers believe that the use of government secrecy has become excessive.

The power of government employees to restrict access to reports which they write by classifying them "confidential," "secret" or even "top secret" is often absolute. Once these reports are classified, they can only be declassified by the originator or by a special procedure that moves along at a glacial pace. Nor does the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) help very much. It does not apply to most classified material. Meanwhile, our criminal statutes protect against the unauthorized revelation of classified materials.

Secrecy, like power, lends itself to abuse. Behind the shield of secrecy, it is possible for an agency or service to avoid scrutiny and essentially to operate outside of the law. Accountability to the tax payers and to the Congress can be conveniently avoided.

The vast majority of people employed by the U.S. government do not have access to classified information. Even those with secret and top secret clearances will not have access to all highly classified information. Furthermore, it is doubtful whether any member of Congress can have access to all such information. Given the size of the government bureaucracy and high degree of compartmentalization that exists within it, it is conceivable that even the President himself is not fully briefed on matters classified as "above top secret." Such information, allowing access only on the strictest "need-to-know" basis, is not necessarily given to senior elected officials who come and go and can therefore be regarded as temporary, political and unreliable.

Such is the case for top secret UFO information. In 1980, for example, researchers requesting information through the FOIA learned of the existence of 156 top secret UFO-related documents held by the National Security Agency (NSA). This lead was not found through the NSA itself, but through internal references in UFO-related documents held by other government agencies. When the researchers filed a FOIA request for the 156 NSA UFO documents, they were denied access to all of them. They appealed, but Judge Gerhard Gesell of the First Federal Court, District of Columbia, after reviewing the 21-page written argument submitted by the NSA, denied their appeal. The 21-page summary was later released, but even in this summary most of the information was blacked out.1

Such action seems inconsistent with a government that officially downplays the existence of true UFOs, and officially states that there is no threat to national security.

In the case of UFO phenomena, the question must be asked: what would give an un-elected government official the right to keep this information to himself, thereby depriving the rest of the world of possible knowledge of almost inconceivable magnitude and consequence? Such elitism by the officials of any government, much less a government based on the principles of democracy and individual rights, is a gross injustice not only to its own people, but to all people.

At issue, in this case, is access to knowledge perhaps so profound that it affects not only our very perspective on man's place in the universe, but also perhaps his continued presence on this planet. If the UFO phenomenon is real, we have clear evidence that an unknown technology is at work, whose potential could be enormous for the good of mankind - a potential source, for example, for useful energy benign to the environment.

To acknowledge the enormous gap between our present understanding of science and what is being evidenced, would provide the urgently needed challenge to the scientific establishment to examine where some of its basic assumptions might be faulty and to move beyond them.

Is it possible that a few privileged individuals have access to this information while denying it to the electorate for "national security" reasons, so that it can be privately studied? In a democracy, should not this decision be made by our elected officials and be based upon an informed discussion?

"UFO research is leading us kicking and screaming into the science of the twenty-first century.

"I have begun to feel that there is a tendency in 20th Century science to forget that there will be a 21st Century science, and indeed a 30th Century science, from which vantage points our knowledge of the universe may appear quite different than it does to us. We suffer, perhaps, from temporal provincialism, a form of arrogance that has always irritated posterity."

(From a letter by Dr. J. Allen Hynek to Science magazine, August 1, 1966.)

Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Northwestern University astronomer; scientific consultant on UFOs to the U.S. Air Force from 1948 until 1969. Founder of the private Center for UFO Studies in 1973.



1. Judge Gesell Ruling re National Security Agency, November 14, 1980.