Sunday, July 13, 2014

Lies and More Lies

In an earlier posting I purposely and deliberately said that the Air Force lied about sighting solutions in the Project Blue Book files. I said this because they knew, based on their own files, that the satellite solution for one aspect of the Portage County Chase did not work. They, which is to say Hector Quintanilla, knew the truth. As the man in charge, he owns the ultimate responsibility here and he had, naturally, complete access to the Project Blue Book files.

Let’s look at something that I have found in the Air Force file on the Las Vegas UFO crash of April 1962. A New York civilian had written to the Air Force and asked if fighters had been scrambled to intercept the object, whatever that object might have been. Major C. R. Hart of the Air Force Office of Public Information wrote back and said that no fighters had been scrambled. Other evidence showed that jets had taken off from Luke Air Force Base near Phoenix, but nothing came from Nellis Air Force Base near Las Vegas. Did Hart lie in the letter?

No, I don’t think so. I believe he was answering the question honestly based on the information he had and based where he was located. He was not part of Project Blue Book staff but assigned to Air Force public affairs. He didn’t know of the attempted intercepts so when he wrote that none had been tried, he was telling the truth as he knew it.

The difference here is that Quintanilla knew the truth about the Portage Country chase and knew that part of the solution didn’t work. The memo for the record that mentioned that the Echo satellites were not visible in northeastern Ohio at the time was in his file, in his office and he should have seen it. I don’t believe that he ever thought the UFO files would become part of the public record or that we would ever see that memo, so that any solution provided was just fine with him.

And yes, I can provide other examples where the Air Force mislead the public about their UFO information. They say that only 701 sightings remained unidentified at the close of Blue Book but that isn’t exactly true. Overlooking the fact that some cases were labeled as identified when that identification can be shown to be untrue, there were some 4000 sightings labeled as “insufficient data for a scientific analysis.” That means that more than thirty percent of the sightings were labeled as “insufficient data,” which isn’t an identification at all but keeps that sighting off the unidentified roles.

We can reduce it to single cases as well. In Levelland, Texas in 1957, witnesses at thirteen difference locations reported that their engines had been stalled, their headlights dimmed, and their radios were filled with static as a glowing UFO landed near them or flew over them. The Air Force concluded that ball lightning was responsible.

But ball lightning is very short lived and there are no cases in which a dozen or more displays of ball lightning are seen over a limited geographic area within a couple of hours of each other. Ball lightning is small, eight inches to a foot in diameter. They sometimes roll along the ground and “pop” out of existence. They in no way match the descriptions provided by the witnesses, but in the world in 1957, the Air Force didn’t care about that. They just wanted a solution and ball lightning, to their minds, fit the bill.

To be fair, the Air Force did get some of the solutions right. In the Chiles – Whitted case from 1948 in which the two airline pilots thought they saw a cigar-shaped craft with windows on it, the Air Force suggested a “bolide.” Most rejected this idea, but when the Soviet rocket Zond 4 re-entered the atmosphere in 1968 there were some who described a cigar-shaped craft with windows. It became obvious that this sort of illusion was possible. In today’s world, with hundreds of meteor falls recorded and displayed on YouTube, it is possible to see this illusion. As the meteors break up, it does look as if there is a structured craft with windows on the side. When the witness only manages a split second sighting, this sort of explanation becomes even more likely.

The real point here, however, is that the Air Force, as their investigation continued was not interested in investigating UFO sightings, they were only interested in explaining them. If that explanation sounded “scientific” that was even better. But as we review the files, we see how some of those “scientific” explanations fail, and we see where the Air Force bent the facts to propose some ridiculous explanations. And, as noted, in a few cases their solutions were contradicted by the facts they had gathered themselves.


Woody said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cda said...

There were cases that were put into one category then later put in another category. It is so much dependent on who is doing the investigating and their own feelings on UFOs. Also, the scientific consultants they brought in had their own views, which would have differed over the years.

A case was rarely clear-cut. A few were but the majority had their ifs and buts, as is inevitable.

Then there was the Battelle Report. How many of their resolved cases tallied with the USAF's own conclusions; and what about their unsolved ones - did they tally with the AF 'unknowns', and if not, why not? Why are 6 out of the 12 'good unknowns' as given in the Battelle Report (Blue Book Report 14) NOT included in the USAF's final list of unknowns when it closed down Blue Book?

Battelle never investigated a single case; they merely went by the AF's own analysis, then added their own thoughts as, presumably, suggested by their own consultants.

Ufology is a wonderful game, isn't it?

Anthony Mugan said...

In one sense I suspect CDA and are at not too far apart in numerical terms, although some way in terms of interpretation.
When you put together the long list of all the various factors that can contribute to misidentifications and look to see if a specific factor can be ruled out in a specific case the net result, in my opinion, is no more than a few dozen cases ( where data is available in English) where all known causes of misidentification can be reasonably excluded.
Curiously I found myself dismissing most of the BBC unknowns as 'insufficient information' on that way if looking at it. Equally some 'identified' cases made the cut. We have to remember that for most of it's existence the principal mission for Blue Book was to head off Congressional hearings and minimise interest in the subject. Apart from some brief early periods investigations and public statements need to be seen in terms if this focus.
The small number of cases that really hold up is not surprising given the chance nature of any data capture and generally less than rigorous initial investigation. Add in the data from non-English sources and the scale of the under-representation of this figure is apparent.
What the remaining cases represent is harder to lock down. Strand and others have done interesting work on cold plasmas at Hessdalen and this may provide a route to understanding much if the phenomena. Some years ago I thought they and others such as Persinger and Derr etc might have cracked the problem, but alas ( given the implications) that no longer seems to be a complete solution to the really hard unknowns, unless some radically new physics are assumed, which is not a safe assumption at all.
So lies...yes, the AF lied. Perhaps if I actually had to make the policy decision and live with the responsibility of it, I would probably also lie. Society isn't ready.

Larry said...


Back in 2005 there was a little (and I do mean little) book published by a retired Princeton Philosophy professor—Harry Frankfurt. The book was titled “On Bullshit” (which I will hereafter abbreviate as “BS”). It purported to be the first scholarly treatment of the subject of BS, even though the term BS is commonly utilized by everyone speaking the English language. If you haven't read it already, I would recommend getting your hands on a copy.

One of the main ideas (and the relevance to this posting) is that BS is a category of behavior distinct from lying. In lying, there is at least respect for the distinction between truth and fiction. In BS, there is contempt for this distinction; the motive is to get the one receiving the BS to form a particular opinion about the one dispensing the BS in some way. This is why we often associate BS with, for example, politicians. It is a common perception that politicians will say anything to get elected. I think that the Air Force Blue Book operation was—technically speaking—BS. The whole idea was to get the public to believe the message: “we’re not worried folks—no national security issues here!” They would put forth any statement that advanced that meme—sometimes even the truth.

cda said...

Didn't Winston Churchill once use that delightful phrase "terminological inexactitude" in the House of Commons?

Frank Stalter said...

The CIA has claimed that Blue Book cross checked pilot sightings with them and as a result the U-2 and SR-71 were responsible for about half of all pilot sightings in the late 50s into the 60s. That was never a reported explanation for any of those sightings . . . so yeah, they're lying and more or less admitted it.

Anthony Mugan said...

Thanks Larry