Wednesday, March 21, 2007

The Hippler Letter

It seems that more often than not, as I put together the material for this blog, that it is negative. I have explanations for UFO sightings and I have information about aspects of the phenomenon that is more explanatory than mysterious. I believe that most people want information that advances the mystery rather than explains it, but I also believe that if there is a good, solid explanation, they would rather have it than continue to accept the mystery if there is a good, rational answer for it.

So, I look for things that I believe to be mysterious, that I can legitimately suggest have no explanation. And when I can’t, I provide the best available answer. But this is a two-way street, which means that sometimes the information breaks for us rather than against us. Skeptics like to trot out the University of Colorado study of UFOs that was commissioned by the Air Force in the 1960s. They like to say that here is what we all wanted, a scientific investigation of UFOs except that came to the conclusion that we have not been visited.

Unfortunately, the Condon Committee, as it has become called, was neither a good investigation nor a very scientific one. The conclusions were drawn before the check was even signed, and Dr. Edward U. Condon, the chairman, knew what answers the Air Force wanted. All he had to do was slant the information in that direction.

When we look at the whole of the committee’s final report, (grandly entitled, Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects and published by Bantam Books in1969) we find strange problems... 30 percent of the sightings unexplained and some of the explanations less than helpful. In one case it was described as a phenomenon that was so rare it had never been seen before or since (which could, of course, mean it was a flying saucer in the classic sense) but they fail to explain what that phenomenon was. But, I think this underscores the point that the Condon Committee was, and is, bad science. The conclusions, written by Condon, do not come from the evidence included in the report but from Air Force direction prior to the beginning of that investigation. The contradictions have since become part of the whole story of the Condon Committee.

Condon, in his sort of executive summary of the overall report, wrote, for example, "It has been contended that the subject has been shrouded in official secrecy. We have no evidence of secrecy concerning UFO reports."

Then how to explain the case files that were labeled as secret? Clearly there was secrecy and there were secret studies (Air Intelligence Report No. 100-203-79 as just a single example, declassified long after the Condon Report was published). The question is if this was "an intelligent policy of delay in releasing data so that the public does not become confused by premature publication of incomplete studies or reports," or if there was something more nefarious involved here. The point is there were secret studies of UFOs, some were not released for years and the documentation that Condon and his committee reviewed was still classified in 1969. After 1976, when the Project Blue Book files were finally declassified, we find all sorts of secrecy imposed and not necessary as an intelligent policy.

Let’s take a look at some of this that has come to light since the publication of the Condon Report and see if we can prove that there was something of a conspiracy to find specific information during the investigation.

On January 16, 1967, before the real work began, Lieutenant Colonel Robert R. Hippler, of the Science Division, Directorate of Science and Technology, part of the HQ, USAF in Washington, D.C. wrote to Dr. Edward U. Condon. The letter was received by the committee on January 23.

Hippler wrote:

This is an informal letter expressing some thoughts on our round- table discussion on the UFO program, and does not constitute the formal letter requested by John Coleman.

There are two items which leave me a little uneasy. The first is the Wertheimer Hypothesis, and its corollary that one cannot "prove" the negative on extraterrestrial visitations. The second is an apparently obscure understanding of what the Air Force wants. Since I will discuss this second item, you will see why this is an informal letter expressing my own opinion–and hence is not binding on you.

On the first item, I wish to present a slightly different approach. When we first took over the UFO program, the first order of business, even before approaching AFOSR, was to assure ourselves that the situation was as straightforward as logic indicated it should be. In other words, we too looked to see if by some chance the intelligence people have information other than what exists in Blue Book files. There were no surprises. While there exist some things which may forever remain unknowable in the universe, certainly an extraterrestrial visitation must fall in the "knowable" category. An alien would not come light years merely to pick up surreptitiously some rocks, or melt holes in reservoir ice (al la Edwards). He would have long since gone through the geologic bit, and would be fairly knowledgeable of the make-up of stars and planets. You have stated that President Truman was unaware of the Manhattan Project until he became President. In that same time period, physicists not connected with the project were aware of the possibilities and knew that something was going on.

No one knows of a visitation. It should therefore follow there has been no visitation to date. As you are aware, if UFOs are an Air Force "sacred cow," the other services in the usual competitive spirit would not be constrained by this "sacred cow." Nor is
the "fear of panic" holding anyone’s tongue. No one is reticent about the horror of an ICBM attack. Words such as "end of civilization" have been used many times.

This brings us to the second item. When you have looked into some sightings and examined some Blue Book records and become acquainted with the true state of affairs, you must consider the cost of the Air Force program on UFOs, and determine if the taxpayer should support this for the next decade. It will be at least that long before another independent study can be mounted to see if the Air Force can get out from under this program. If the contract is up before you have laid the proper groundwork for a proper recommendation, an extension of the contract would be less costly than another decade of operating Project Blue Book.

Hippler signed his name.

Robert Low, in his response wrote:

And here, I’m going to quote only sections because some of the response was simply, "yes, you’re right."

For the skeptics, Low wrote :

Maybe we will find that extraterrestrial visitations have occurred, but there’s no way to demonstrate that they haven’t. This is a logical problem that can’t be skirted, and I’m sure, if we were to miss the point, the National Academy would set us straight.

...We don’t know what technology exists on other planets. I think one can assert, however, that, for a spaceship to get to the earth from a planet outside the solar system, it would be necessary to employ a technology from more advanced than we enjoy. Since we have no knowledge of that technology, speculation on it brings one right into science fiction, and once one has crossed that boundary the sky is the limit. He can argue anything, and the rules of scientific evidence and methodology have been abandoned. So there is no point in stepping across the boundary, except to engage in idle speculation! Such speculation isn’t useful in helping to close in on an answer to the problem of whether there have been extraterrestrial visitors or not. And probability won’t help.

You mention that the fear of panic is not holding anyone’s tongue. That’s an extremely good point; I had not thought of it. On the second page, you indicate what you believe the Air Force wants of us, and I am very glad to have your opinion. In fact, you have answered quite directly the question that I have asked - you may remember that I came back to it a couple of times - at our meeting on Thursday evening, January 12.

Low then signed off, after suggesting that he and Condon would be in Washington, D.C. and they could "perhaps" get together.

This attitude (of getting rid of Blue Book as suggested by Hippler) that had been established in official communications for a long time. For example on April 1, 1960 (Yeah, the timing sucks):

I have tried to get Bluebook out of ATIC for 10 years... and do not agree that the loss of prestige to the UFO project is a disadvantage...

Francis Archer, a scientific advisor to Blue Book in a letter to Major General Dougher at the Pentagon...

And in 1962, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Friend, at the time chief of Project Blue Book wrote should be handed over to a civilian agency that would word its report in such a way as to allow the Air Force to drop its study.

Edward Trapnell, an assistant to the Secretary of the Air Force, when talking to Dr. Robert Calkins of the Brookings Institute said that they should find a civilian committee to study the problem and then have them conclude it the way the Air Force wanted. One of the stipulations was that the organization, whatever it might be, should say some positive things about the Air Force handling of the UFO investigation.

Now, I realize that reasonable men and women can disagree as to the interpretation of these letters. However, given the other documents from the Blue Book files, the Archer and Trapnell letters, for example, I see an attempt to end Blue Book with the sham of an "objective" scientific study. The course for Condon was laid before Condon and the boys in Colorado even entered the picture.

The language in both Hippler’s and Low’s letters can be seen as benign, but it can also suggest an attempt by Hippler to tell Low what they want to find and what recommendation they want. End the study of UFOs by the Air Force. Get the Air Force off the hook for UFO investigations. The other letters and documents prove that this is the case.

In fact, just three days after that letter was received, Condon delivered a lecture to scientists in Corning, New York telling them, "It is my inclination right now to recommend that the government get out of this business. My attitude right now is that there is nothing in it. But I am not supposed to reach a conclusion for another year."

My point remains, the Condon Committee is bad science. Yes, it should be read, but it should be understood that it does not adequately answer the questions that it set out to answer. And when skeptics point to it as a scientific study, we should be prepared to point that it was not scientific. It was propaganda.


Janina said...

I don't have an very deep comeback to your assessment of the Hippler Letter -that is a little beyond me-but I have seen an upclose view of extra terrestials if that is what you can really call them and it's not all that special. They are spirit beings that do strange things-you could even say they are evil angels cruising the earth for lack of something better to do. I have my own blog which sounds a bit dull only everything I am saying is true but hard to believe. Read it- It is a rather ordinary description of what happened to me, all of these things get old rather fast. I have no hard and fast explanations for things just a description of my experiences. I really don't even know if you would be interested in reading it but it's there if you want to read it. It is not earthshaking by any means! I really don't want to get involved with UFOs other than to tell my story, it may help piece together the puzzle we are faced with. Of course the name used is not my own but a derivative.I am only doing that so that I really don't get involved-not because my story is questionable. It really is a scary thing to get involved in because so many people have such strange ideas about what these things are about. I really do believe that they are tied into the end of time somehow.
Thanks for reading this.

Kandinsky said...

I've just been reading the January 12th '67 Panel Briefing. Hippler comes across as surprisingly honest and reluctant to engage in deceptions or induced sightings. He even balks at applying ridicule to the witnesses of the phenomena (page 18).

I'm genuinely surprised, as the USAF has since become a negative influence to the subject. They are now both deceptive and ridiculing.

I take your point that Hippler wanted to be relieved of BB and the Wertheimer Hypothesis promised no end in sight.

It was the honesty I perceived that led me to this 'old' blog as I curiously looked for more information about the man. His interjections in the briefing stood out more than others.

Thanks for your insight.