Let’s talk about this idea that Brigadier General Roger Ramey, a career officer who had spent his whole life dealing with classified information, would allow a civilian photographer to accidently photograph a classified document. This is the idea behind attempts to read and understand what is now known as the "Ramey Document."
First, let’s note that if it can be accurately read, and if the interpretations put on it by those who have studied it are correct, then this is the smoking gun. Here is a document with a known provenance, held by a general, and dated to July 8, 1947. We have everything we need to prove that the document is real. Something that can’t be said about so many of the documents circulating in the UFO community today.
Let’s now ignore the various interpretations put on the document because they are unimportant to this discussion. We’ll agree that some of it can be easily read and other parts of it require a great deal of interpretation to make anything sensible out of them.
Instead, let’s look at what we know about this and see if we can’t, if not come to a consensus, at least understand the other side of the argument.
We know that the photographs were taken by J. Bond Johnson, who, at that time, worked at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. We know that he went out to the air base and made his way to Ramey’s office. I would suggest that he was escorted but only because I can’t see them allowing a civilian to wander around the building unescorted, especially if he was going to see the general. In other words, he would not have been left alone in the office, but that too is an argument for another time.
According to Johnson he posed Ramey and took a picture or two of him. Johnson said that he handed a paper to Ramey so that he had something in his hand, though I don’t know why he would have done that (Ramey, holding the document, and DuBose sitting in the chair seen here). If that is true, the message on the paper is irrelevant because it would be the preliminary newspaper story and we all know what that was about. It would have provided the original information about the find but nothing that had been confirmed.
At other times, it was suggested that the paper was something that came from Ramey’s desk. If that is true, then the message might be of great importance, though I suppose you could make the same argument, that is, that the information contained is preliminary and of no great importance, especially since Ramey allowed himself to be photographed holding it. Again, that should be left to the interpretations which is another discussion altogether.
This is the point where we begin to argue that Ramey would not have breached security in such a fashion but in today’s world, we are subjected to a number of stories of important government leaders inadvertently revealing highly-classified information to cameras. One of those cited is McGeorge Bundy, who, while a member of the Johnson Administration was photographed carrying a top secret document and revealed the code word (UMBRA) that went with it.
Recently a British minister visiting No. 10 Downing Street was photographed carrying a document that was clearly classified. Inspection of the photograph revealed some of it’s classified message.
But in both these instances, neither man was a military officer. They were of what I think of as the political elite and both had the attitude that the rules didn’t apply to them. They couldn’t be bothered with most common of rules about classified material, which was a simple cover sheet.
So, had this document been classified, it would have been under a cover sheet when taken from the message center to Ramey’s office. When Johnson came into Ramey’s office, Ramey would have covered the document (if it was not already covered) so that someone without the proper clearances couldn’t have seen it.
The next question should be, where was Ramey’s aide. The aide would not be very far from the general, and one of his jobs would have been to ensure that such a breach of security didn’t happen. True, there is no mention of Ramey’s aide in any of the discussions, but then the aide is pretty much like furniture... you don’t mention the desk or chairs, but you know they were in the room.
We do know that Ramey’s Chief of Staff, Thomas DuBose, was in the room and I wonder, if the document was classified, why he didn’t say anything about it. I remember any number of incidents, while I was in the military, in which one officer, or even enlisted man, suggested that we all be careful with the classified material, making sure there were cover sheets on them to prevent inadvertent revelation and exposure. Both Ramey and DuBose would have been trained in dealing with classified and I find it difficult to believe that they would have made this mistake.
Which is not to say that they wouldn’t have made such a mistake, only that it is extremely unlikely and citing examples from the civilian world doesn’t really make the point.
What we are left with here, in this specific argument, are the facts as related by Johnson... or rather, the statements made by Johnson, one of which is that he had brought the paper into Ramey’s office with him.
Forgetting that, we have no evidence of Ramey’s aide in this little adventure, but he shouldn’t have been far from the general’s side, and he should have stopped Ramey from holding a classified document while the civilian photographer was in the office. This is, of course, speculation based on no testimony that the aide was in the office at the time.
DuBose, as Chief of Staff, should have stopped Ramey from holding a classified document during the photography. He would have recognized the document as classified but he said nothing about it in any of the interviews conducted with him.
There should have been a cover sheet on it, based on the procedures for dealing with classified documents and there is no evidence, in the photograph of such a cover sheet.
Where does that leave us? In this argument, to this point, all examples of highly classified documents that have been inadvertently photographed are of civilians making the errors. And we have seen them making some incredible mistakes. But we have nothing to show high-ranking military officers making similar mistakes, and even if we find those, it doesn’t prove that Ramey made such a mistake.
In the end, all we know is that J. Bond Johnson took photographs of Brigadier General Roger Ramey and Ramey was holding a piece of paper. We can read some of the document easily but not other parts. There is nothing on the document to suggest that it was classified, but the way the paper is held and the angle of the photograph might have precluded those images from being photographed.
And that is really all we know about this. We could argue interpretation. We could argue relevance. But all we know is that Ramey was holding a document. Johnson said it was his idea to put something into Ramey’s hand. And we can read some of what is on the document. Other than that, we are into speculation and interpretation.
For those interested in more information, just type Ramey Memo into your search engine and take a look at David Rudiak’s interpretation.