Lance objected to my word “routinely,” when I suggested that Philip Klass routinely contacted employers of UFO witnesses and investigators. Christopher Allen suggested that if I listed five examples, then that might cover the point.
What I should have said originally is that Klass (seen here) routinely caused trouble for the witnesses, researchers, investigators and believers in UFOs by writing letters to their families, friends and employers and that he harassed them periodically when they didn’t respond to him as he thought they should.
Here’s what we can prove.
Klass, using his power as an editor of Aviation Week (meaning he wrote his letters in the McDonald case on the magazine’s letterhead, suggesting the inquiry was not from Philip Klass private citizen, but from Philip Klass on the staff of the magazine) contacted the Office of Naval Research about Dr. James McDonald. He wanted to know if McDonald had been doing UFO research while on grant research in Australia.
The answer was yes, but the ONR knew about it and had tacitly approved what McDonald had been doing. Klass was not satisfied, though I don’t know why, or who he thought he was to object. He had raised what we all might agree was a legitimate concern about the misuse of government money for UFO research. ONR launched an internal audit and determined that what McDonald had done was not outside the rather wide scope of his research grant.
Klass, continued writing letters (no Lance, not one everyday), but enough to cause concern in the ONR. While the thinking at ONR is not known, it is known that the military, as well as others in Washington, D.C., respond quickly to inquiries from Aviation Week. Klass might claim that he was a private citizen concerned with taxpayer money, but he used the club of the magazine to get what he wanted. ONR decided not to continue funding McDonald’s research. We can guess why they made that decision, but it would only be a guess.
It is not clear if Klass’ superiors knew what he was doing or if they would have approved had they known in the beginning. By the time the question was raised about the legitimacy of Klass’ use of Aviation Week letterhead, the wagons were circled and other editors suggested they knew and approved of Klass’ action. Kind of the same circumstance that we find with McDonald and his superiors at ONR.
The point here is that Klass did contact McDonald’s superiors and slung allegations about the legitimacy of McDonald’s research. You can suggest that all Klass wanted to know was if McDonald had been conducting UFO research in violation of his grant, but once that question was answered, Klass should have moved on. Instead he continued to write letters. Obviously he had another agenda.
Had this been the only example of this sort of thing, then it could be overlooked. Maybe Klass had gone too far in his questioning and maybe he wrapped himself in the mantle of Aviation Week, but McDonald had used ONR funds to pursue his UFO research. When ONR didn’t complain, or rather announced that they found nothing improper, that should have been the end of it. Of course it wasn’t.
Klass did this again after Dr. Bob Jacobs wrote an article for the January 1989 issue of The MUFON Journal. In it, Jacobs said that he was a former Air Force officer and that he had been involved in a UFO sighting, which, I guess is now called The Big Sur UFO Filming. Jacobs said that the UFO was alien and that the Air Force had ordered him not to talk about what he had seen and what had been filmed. He wrote that he had been told, “Lieutenant Jacobs, this never happened.”
In his article, Jacobs referenced a paper, Preliminary Report on Image Orthicon Photography written by Kingston A. George. Klass, though he had all the information necessary, wanted Jacobs to send him a copy of the paper. Klass offered to pay for it but Jacobs didn’t like the tone of the letter. To him it seemed that Klass was ordering him to send the paper.
Jacobs refused, and Klass, apparently went ballistic. He wrote a two page report in his Skeptics UFO Newsletter (SUN) about Jacobs and the Big Sur sighting, suggesting somewhat unkindly that the whole thing was bogus.
Klass wrote, “JOURNALISM PROFESSOR (AND FORMER USAF OFFICER) ‘MANUFACTURED TALL UFO TALE, THEN ACCUSES THE GOVERNMENT OF COVERING IT UP.” (Those who have seen the SUN Newsletter know that Klass was in the habit of capitalizing, underscoring and using boldface type to emphasize his remarks, sometimes using all three at once.)
Jacobs suggested that he had cited his source properly, given Klass the name of it, the author and the date, and that was all he was required to do to properly source the document. Klass then wrote to Jacobs’ boss at the University of Maine in an attempt to discredit him.
Dear Prof. Craig:
I am writing to bring to your attention what seems to be to be unbecoming conduct on the part of a journalist and member of your faculty. One should expect a faculty member to serve as a role model for students in demonstrating the ethics and responsibilities of their profession. I refer to Dr. Bob Jacobs.
According to that letter, Klass introduced himself and then said he had become interested in Jacob’s claim that he had photographed a UFO. He wrote that he had offered to pay for the report mentioned earlier and that Jacobs had refused to send the document.
Klass then wrote:
I understand why Jacobs is reluctant to release this report. Based on my research, I’m confident the report would reveal that his ‘UFO tale’ is a cock-and-bull story.
If Jacobs were a young journalist working for the National Enquirer, or one of its even less scrupulous clones, I might be more tolerant of his behavior. But when a professor of journalism, who publicly accuses the USAF and the U.S. Government of ‘cover-up,’ resorts to intentional distortion of the facts to mislead his readers and then to cover-up, I am deeply distressed.
I hope you share my feelings.
It was signed by Klass.
This is akin to the tactic he used against McDonald and the ONR. But the University of Maine had no fear of Aviation Week or a UFO hobbyist (as Klass described himself in the letter) from Washington, D.C. Jacobs did not lose his job.
To read all of the article by Dr. Bob Jacobs, see:
But that’s not all.
When Stan Friedman (seen here in "lecture" mode) began to contemplate a move to Canada, Klass decided that he needed to save Canada from the foibles of Friedman. He wrote a letter that Richard Dolan found in Canadian archives in 2005.
According to Dolan:
The letter was dated August 15, 1980, and addressed to Dr. A. G. McNamara of the Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics. It was unsolicited, and is a straightforward character smear of Stanton Friedman, who was at the time in the process of moving to Canada. According to Klass, Friedman was a “full-time UFO lecturer (of the ‘snake-oil salesman’ variety).” He was moving to Canada "to become its chief UFO Guru." Friedman was ‘quite a showman’ whose lectures were ‘so filled with half-truths and falsehoods that it would take me several hours to offer a rebuttal. And like wrestling with an octopus, when you manage to pin down one leg, the other seven are still thrashing about.
The letter disparages Friedman’s professional credentials as a nuclear physicist, twice refers to Friedman’s "mountainous ego," and calls him "something of an outcast" within the UFO "movement." All in all, a nasty and underhanded little letter. Better yet, Klass enclosed a "White Paper" he prepared on Friedman "that illustrates the man’s modus-operandi and his distortion of facts." (This White Paper was not included in the material I saw at the archives.)
But why send the letter at all? Klass said he wanted to warn the good people at NRC that Friedman would now in all likelihood be directing his focus on them.
"I can assure you," Klass wrote, "that you and your associates will be publicly accused of a UFO Coverup (or ‘Cosmic Coverup,’ as he is prone to say) that ‘dwarfs the Watergate scandal.’" Also, "to alert you to deal cautiously with him knowing he is inclined to distort the facts and exploit any ambiguity in your statements."
The final statement is illustrative. "Please treat this letter in confidence, sharing it with appropriate associates as you see fit."
Dolan concluded, “In other words, tell as many people as you can, but behind Friedman’s back, please.”
For those who wish to read Dolan’s complete analysis of this incident, see:
But that’s not all.
In a similar vein, as I joined the Air Force Reserve as an intelligence officer, Klass was in communication with the man assigned to do the background investigation. I know this because the man happened to live across the street from my father and told him I was being investigated for a security clearance. All I know was that Klass thought that it ironic that as a UFO investigator I had written magazine articles that suggested the Air Force was engaged in a cover-up of UFOs. He suggested they read those stories before deciding if I was worthy of the trust of the Air Force. After all, I had already demonstrated that I thought little of the Air Force and if trusted with its secrets, might I not leak them into the public arena.
I do know that the investigator did obtain some of the stories I had written about the Air Force, including one about the opening of the Project Blue Book files while I was still in Air Force ROTC. That story, and the others, did not seem to worry the Air Force. I was both commissioned and then granted a top secret security clearance (I'm standing on a building at the Baghdad International Airport in 2004).
Klass, in a move that I never understood, mentioned that I drew a number of unnamed benefits based on my military service. We exchanged a series of letters over this with Klass harping on these benefits. I told him repeatedly that after using the G.I. Bill for college and to buy my first house, I knew of no other benefits to which I was entitled. At that point I had not completed twenty years of military service (active duty and reserve and National Guard). Since then I have retired from the military with more than twenty years and do receive various benefits.
He didn’t like my answer and kept asking the question. However, when I asked about his military service he responded, sarcastically, about his long military record. Yes, it was all tongue in cheek and I understood that, but if he expected a serious answer from me, shouldn’t he supply a serious answer to my question? He did avoid service during WW II and Korea and was probably considered too old for Vietnam, though the Army didn’t think I was too old for Iraq.
But that’s not all.
J. Allen Hynek, who had once been an Air Force consultant to Project Blue Book, learned that Klass called McGraw-Hill about Hynek’s UFO book. According to Allan Hendry, Klass wanted to know why McGraw-Hill had a “UFO nut” on its payroll and suggested that McGraw-Hill fire him.
And when he wasn’t attempting to interfere in the private lives by attacking our livelihoods or our plans to move, he was busy assassinating the characters of those who disagreed with him or who claimed UFO sightings. The Travis Walton case proves the point with Klass’ continued assaults on Walton’s integrity and his prying into Walton’s past.
Let’s be clear on this. Background checks are important and necessary. When Robert Willingham claimed to be a retired Air Force colonel, it was necessary to learn if that is the truth. If Willingham was not an Air Force officer, then his story of the Del Rio UFO crash collapses. But my investigation was limited to the public sources available, and not a search through his entire background to find any dirt that I could. The issue was Willingham’s military service and not what he might have done as a teenager.
And, if a witness has a long history of deceit, is known for his tall tales or practical jokes, then it is necessary to learn that. But there becomes a point where that sort of investigation can become intrusive and borders on harassment. Klass was unaware of the line, or maybe he knew where it was, but simply didn’t care.
While he should get credit for learning about the first lie detector test taken by Walton, the one Walton failed, getting into Walton’s juvenile record is going a step too far. I’m not sure that a juvenile indiscretion, a one time thing, should become part of a UFO investigation, especially if the circumstances are as Walton laid them out in one of his long responses to Klass. A very well written and intelligent response appears in the 1996 updated edition of Fire in the Sky.
Walton is an extreme case, with Klass spending years attacking not only Walton but the fellows with him and his family. I think that dragging his family into it is another step too far. Call the case a hoax, suggest that it is not grounded in reality, but do you really need to attack the family as well.
Klass (back to the camera in Roswell, New Mexico) attacked Minnesota police officer Val Johnson, after Johnson said his police car was damaged, and he was burned, by a UFO. Klass called the case a hoax, which was calling Johnson a liar, in national publications and various other forums. Fortunately, Johnson’s boss, and the others in the area didn’t buy Klass’ assessment, which had been based on Klass’ opinion that there are no UFOs and therefore Johnson must be lying.
In another case, that of Australian Frederick Valentich, who disappeared in a small aircraft after reporting that he was under aerial assault by some undefined UFO, Klass told Don Ecker that Valentich was a drug smuggler. There is no evidence of this, other than Valentich seemed to have had four life preservers on his light plane. I’m not sure how Klass determined this, or if it was true, but the smear was there.
For more information about this see the Wikipedia entry about Klass and see:
In fact, we can look at case after case in which Klass had decided that the witnesses were lying. He claimed he could prove them to be a hoax, but his proof often fell short. He just didn’t have the information to prove a case a hoax, but since there were no UFOs, then, in some cases, that was the only possible answer.
To some, labeling a case a hoax is not a big deal. But the bottom line is this, especially when the case has received national, or international, publicity, labeling it a hoax is calling the witness, or witnesses, liars. If there is evidence that the case is a hoax, then yes, it should be labeled as such and we all, skeptic, debunker, researcher or enthusiast, should spread that solution far and wide.
But when there is no evidence of a hoax, but the only available answer left to explain a case in the mundane is hoax, then it should not be labeled as such. Klass had no evidence that Val Johnson had wrecked his police car on purpose and made up the story of the UFO, but Klass labeled it a hoax anyway.
A quick search in almost any reference will revel Klass’ investigations and his conclusions. Anyone will be able to see that Klass attacked not only the case, but the witness, or the investigator involved. His attitude seemed to be that if you can’t attack the case, then attack the witnesses.
Such conduct can be seen in the University of Nebraska seminar about UFOs to be held in 1983. According to Jerry Clark:
On August 23, 1983, an administrator at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln took a strange phone call from a man who had a complaint which he expressed at some length. When he finally got offf the phone, the administrator summarized the conversation in a memo to another university official:
“Mr. Phillip [sic] Klass ... is a member of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal [CSICOP]. This committee has a much different view of unexplained phenomena than those groups we are working with as sponsors of "this conference [titled Exploring Unexplained Phenomena]. He was, in fact, quite adament [sic] in his position regarding the credibility of the conference presenters. Further, Mr. Klass has a personal feeling that the nature of this conference seriously questions the integrity of the United States Government. He feels that there is no scientific evidence to support the claims of the presenters and indicated that these organizations, by publicly questioning the government, lend support to the Communist movement."
On November 23 Klass wrote the administrator, who was startled to see large chunks of Klass' words from their three-month-old conversation quoted verbatim -- indicating, the administrator correctly surmised, that Klass had taped the two without informing him he was doing so. Klass said that since a "copy of your memo was 'leaked' to outsiders," he wanted to "clarify and expand upon statements" he had made. He said "we" -- presumably meaning himself and CSICOP -- did not seek to "prevent conferences or meetings by those who want to propose UFOs" but that he had some trouble with the university's sponsorship of a conference on the subject. What, he asked, would the university do "if the American Nazi Party came in and said they [sic] wanted to hold a conference?"
"I emphasize to you that I am not, repeat not, suggesting that any of the people or any of the organizations are in any way affiliated with Communist Fronts or with the Soviet Union. But as a patriotic American, I very much resent the charge of 'coverup', of lying, of falsehoods, charged against not one Administration, not two, but eight Administrations going back to a man from Missouri named Truman, a man named Dwight Eisenhower. Because if this charge is true -- Cosmic Watergate -- then all of these Presidents were implicated, and all of their Administrations.... [In making this charge, ufologists] seek what the Soviet Union does -- to convey to the public that our Government can not be trusted, that it lies, that it falsifies. Now I'm not so naive -- remembering Watergate -- to say that never has happened in history. But from my firsthand experience (i.e., 17 years in the field of UFOlogy), I know this charge is completely false. And I resent it as an American citizen."
Remarkably, Klass distributed copies of this letter to others, including me, on the evident belief that it would exonerate him, in other words demonstrate that when read in context his sentiments would sound rational. He would even charge that the administrator's paraphrase had been "inaccurate," when if anything it made Klass' charge sound marginally less nutty. As I wrote Klass on December 6, "In the past, when your critics have accused you of engaging in McCarthyism, they were using the term in a metaphorical sense. Now, it seems, they will be able to use it in the most literal sense."
For those who wish more information and to read all of Jerry Clark’s thoughts on this, see:
Phil Klass, of course, didn’t see it all quite this way. In an interview conducted by his friend, Gary Posner, he gave his own version of the events. Klass told Posner:
To the best of my aging recollection, I have never attempted to get any organization to cancel a pro-UFO conference or any of its selected speakers. But I know what you're referring to. Back in 1983 I received a phone call from a faculty member of the University of Nebraska at Lincoln, who was embarrassed because the school was sponsoring a conference on the alleged "Cosmic Watergate Government UFO Coverup," and no skeptical speakers were on the agenda. So I decided to write a short article "needling" the university. But before doing so I needed to interview an appropriate official. So I called Prof. Robert Mortenson, the school's director of conferences, who expressed surprise to hear that no skeptics had been invited. He told me that he appreciated my concern, and that if they were to sponsor a UFO conference the next year, there should be a better effort made to balance the presentation. At one point during that telecon I did say that, although I am not suggesting that any of the people or organizations involved in the conference are in any way affiliated with communist fronts or the Soviet Union, nevertheless, their reckless "Watergate-type coverup" charges against eight administrations, going all the way back to President Truman, serve, not unlike communist propaganda, to foment distrust and suspicion of the integrity of our government. I also very distinctly remember telling Mortenson, "Let me emphasize to you that I am not, repeat not, suggesting that you cancel or terminate this conference." Again, that was in 1983. A newspaper article the following year quoted Mortenson as saying that the university had decided not to hold another UFO conference that year because the ones in 1982 and 1983 had lost money.
This was, of course, the excuse given for not holding another conference, though it came after the conference host demanded to know why the series had been cancelled.
Klass continued his version, saying:
...[F]ollowing our conversation, Mortenson wrote a brief memo about it to an assistant chancellor. But he misquoted me as having said that conferences like this "lend support to the Communist movement," which carries quite a different connotation -- I had been very, very deliberate in my choice of words to insure that I would not be misunderstood. Anyway, who leaked the memo I don't know. But photocopies of it were distributed at the conference. And the next issue of the MUFON UFO Journal said that I had tried to "scuttle" the conference because it, and others like it, were "aiding the Communist cause." In the same issue, MUFON's director, Walt Andrus, quoted the memo verbatim and even indicated that he had in his possession copies of Mortenson's original handwritten notes that he had jotted down during our conversation. So, armed with all that, one of my most vehement critics began to hurl the charge of "McCarthyism" against me -- even though I had earlier provided him with a verbatim quote of what I had actually said. Mortenson later denied in a letter to me that either he or his deputy had given his notes to Andrus, but he did say that copies of his memo had been sent to the program coordinator and the "file" for informational purposes. But as for exactly what I did say in that conversation, it is just as I told you. When I picked up the phone to call Mortenson, I was planning to write an article, but I never did because he sounded so gratified to learn from me that the panel was so biased, and even asked me if CSICOP would provide speakers for the next year's conference. And because I had planned an article, to assure accuracy I tape recorded that call and, fortunately, I still have that tape.
For those who wish to read all of Posner’s interview with Klass, see:
For all of this, I had a fairly cordial relation with Philip Klass over the years. We once went sailing on the Potomac and got stuck, momentarily, on a sandbar. In later years Klass didn’t remember this, but I did, probably because it is the only time that I went sailing.
We would speak at conventions, and as I have told others, on the last occasion that I saw him, I had to assist him up a couple of stairs to the elevators and then onto his hotel room. His health wasn’t as good as it had been in the past.
And for all the trouble he caused, he was not the worst of the lot. That distinction belongs to Kal Korff, who in today’s world attempts to market himself as a colonel and who has threatened to sue anyone who looks at him sideways. He is a vicious man filled with rage and makes up the most outrageous claims. When challenged with evidence, he quietly changes these claims, but never apologizes.
Of the two, I much prefer Klass who seemed to be a gentleman outside the UFO arena. Korff is just nasty. How you feel about all this is, I suppose, a matter of perspective.