Thursday, July 21, 2016

UFO Sightings and Job Security

Got a telephone call the other morning from a guy who had seen a UFO, or rather multiple UFOs, but had not reported them because he feared for his job. He was sure that if he reported them, his superiors would deem him unworthy of his position, or more to the point, think that he was crazy because, as we all know, only crazy people, or drunks, see UFOs.

I suggested that very few people had ever lost a job because they had reported UFOs. True, I know the stories of Air Force pilots who reported UFOs and had been taken off flight status. I knew of one case where an Air Force Reserve officer had not only reported a landed UFO but also having seen a member of the flight crew, that is an alien, and while he didn’t lose his reserve position because of it, the Air Force worked very hard to smear him. The Air Force theory was that all this was a plot for him to get noticed by Hollywood and a job as a writer of either movies or television shows. I don’t know of anyone who reported a UFO and was then offered a job as a writer… Keyhoe doesn’t count because he wasn’t reporting UFOs, he was reporting on them (and I don’t think he ever wrote a Hollywood screenplay).

Anyway, as I thought about that and my own experience, I wondered about this losing a job. When I first entered the Air Force, I held a secret clearance as do all officers and most NCOs. But when I moved to an intelligence job, that required a top secret clearance. Although the Air Force was aware of my UFO writings, and my criticism of the Air Force for hiding information and covering up the facts, I was granted the clearance. It was renewed each time it was required, though I had continued writing about UFOs and had been less than enthusiastic about the Air Force investigations and the Condon Committee conclusions.

I left the active reserve in 1985 but after 9/11 joined the National Guard. I was again appointed as an intelligence officer which required a new background investigation. By that time, I had not only written dozens of magazine articles, often critical of the Air Force, not to mention many books with the same idea. I suggested the investigation of UFOs had been less than competent, often bungled by those who lacked training or just didn’t care and frequently smacked of cover up. For evidence there are hundreds of examples, and while it can be suggested that most of the trouble is a systemic belief that there is no alien visitation and therefore anything showing otherwise must be flawed, it can also be argued that these problems are the result of poor attitude. Evidence to the contrary of the idea of alien visitation was overlooked, denied, buried or just lost.

But that’s not the point here. It is that my writings, appearances on national television and radio saying the same things, seemed to make no difference in granting of my security clearances. In other words, my belief that we might have been visited by alien creatures didn’t affect the granting of the security clearances. I have always thought that my relatively high profile in the UFO community would make me a target for some sort of repercussions but it didn’t. The only adverse thing said to me was that while serving with the National Guard and especially on active duty that maybe I shouldn’t include my rank on those books and articles… which applied to writings outside the military arena. I could use my rank on stories submitted about our experiences in Iraq which was allowed by regulation. If I was writing about UFOs, while it wasn’t strictly prohibited, I did avoid using my military rank. Once I retired, well, that was a different story.

The point of all this is that while the fellow I talked to believed that he would risk his job by telling his UFO experiences, I doubt that. Most of the time these things aren’t noticed. Sure there are other examples in which people have lost jobs, but is usually an outgrowth of publicity or their fellows harassing then about their experiences rather than some sort of suppression of UFO information. The names of several police officers spring to mind here but it doesn’t seem to be a conspiracy against them so much as just a harassment of them by their friends who don’t believe the story.

Those are unusual circumstances. Most people tell their UFO experiences without serious repercussions, and I experienced none, even when vetted for a top secret clearance. But then, I suppose, I could say that was my experience and isn’t necessarily yours. Still, there isn’t any real evidence that some sort of systematic suppression of those who claim to have seen UFOs… in today’s world, I just don’t think anyone really cares about who has seen or not seen a UFO. 


Larry said...

Part 1

My experience matches yours. I held security clearances continuously for about 35 years during my career at NASA, slowly working my way up from Secret (in the beginning) to Top Secret, with caveats, and DOE Restricted Data, by the end. I was certainly not even close to being as high profile as you have been on the subject of UFOs, but neither did I ever try to hide it or deny it to my co-workers or superiors, if the topic ever came up. I never caught even a whiff of repercussion.

However, I would like to share a story about a friend and colleague (fellow aerospace engineer) who was a civilian employee of the Naval Research Lab who had an even more interesting case. His day job was designing and building Unpiloted Air Vehicles (UAVs) for the Navy. Many of these projects were either unclassified or classified at a very low level. At the very beginning of his career, however, when he was a young man he had the opportunity to get involved in special access projects working for various three letter agencies (TLAs), including the CIA. Since it was exciting work and carried bonus pay with it, he volunteered early and often and was quickly recognized within the clandestine community for the quality of his work.

Like me, he was a closet government scientist-UFO investigator (and sometimes UFO witness) and all his friends, co-workers, and supervisors knew it. Whenever he was on a business trip to the West Coast or I was on a business trip to the East Coast, we would find a way to slice off some time to discuss our mutual interest in UFOs and share our latest stories. As time went by and we both progressed through our careers his clearance level was always at least 1 and sometimes 2 steps ahead of mine, and by the time he got to mid-career he was often approached directly by high-level officials (one and two star flag officer equivalents) within the TLAs to work on their latest black program. This was the kind of job where you work in a vault all day at an undisclosed location, you are body searched entering and leaving, there are guards and guns at every door, all the material you work on never leaves the vault, everyone operates under an assumed name, the project has many levels of cover story, and everyone is subject to polygraph tests routinely.

In that kind of environment, your employer gets very touchy if you appear to be keeping secrets from them, even secrets about your lifestyle, which includes hobbies and pastimes. He didn’t want to get into a situation where he agreed to work on some clandestine project and then get bounced out of it if the TLA suddenly learned of his interest in UFOs. So, he was very forthright in telling them all about his interest in UFOs, including his suspicion that the government was hiding information about the subject and he asked them point blank if it was OK for him to take that position and still work on their projects. To his surprise, they told him without hesitation that it was perfectly OK. As far as they were concerned, he said, he could “believe in flying saucers” or not believe in them.

Larry said...

Part 2
But, my friend told me, it even went a little farther than that. When his project was completed, his employer wanted to reward him for a job well done. Knowing of his interest in the subject, they arranged for him to read some of the documents that had been released to the public under FOIA—but in their unredacted form. This was a peek—however small—beneath the curtain of official secrecy. I believe my friend was referring to some of the documents pertaining to the CIA infiltration of civilian UFO groups that were being published in the literature at that time and that various UFO personalities had been citing as “proof” that there was a conspiracy against UFO groups. According to my friend, the only things that were redacted were names and other identifying features of agents that could have divulged means and methods. The infiltration of the UFO groups by the TLAs was real, but was done strictly for the purpose of the CIC keeping track of any agents of foreign powers that might be involved. There were no “smoking guns” regarding the UFO subject itself in the documents he saw.

At the end of the day, my friend and I concluded that the TLAs do not consider an interest in UFOs indicative of being either mentally imbalanced or subversive; rather, they take a very pragmatic and non-judgmental position on the whole subject.

Brian B said...

" today’s world, I just don’t think anyone really cares about who has seen or not seen a UFO."

I agree. Based on my experience nobody really cares or not. I've discussed plenty of paranormal events with various coworkers over the years and never found someone who felt uncomfortable with it, nor did I fear for my job(s).

In fact, in a few cases people told me about their paranormal experiences just by me raising the subject.

Jim Robinson said...

An interest in UFOs does seem to be pretty safe these days. However, way back in the fifties I was threatened with unnamed dire consequences by an Astronomy professor if I so much as uttered the term "UFO" in an instrumentation class. His reasoning was that such nonsense was utterly impossible, hence any discussion was a complete waste of time.

PS. I seem to recall that James McDonald once lost an atmospheric research contract thanks to the intervention of one Philip J. Klass.

Mr. Sweepy said...


Thank you sharing your story. I agree with the ideas you expressed about secret projects and the security. This leads to another set of questions about NASA and their security within their software and computers. There was a British guy named Gary McKinnon (I might be incorrect on the name spelling) and was supposedly caught hacking in the top secret computer servers and I think NASA was mentioned.

Having been in the internet publishing business and we are extremely security conscience (my partner worked for Microsoft and Explorer development for 7 years). I would think NASA's security would even be higher in security by a factor of 5 or 10 times for top secret programs. I do believe any computer server can be hack but it might take inside help to do so or very stupid mistakes.

My question, based on your knowledge, do you believe that this McKinnon guy could have hack to the highest levels of NASA or other top secret programs on his own? Personally, I had my doubts beforehand and I have a higher level of doubt after reading about the black vault part of your story.

KRandle said...

Jim -

Klass, using his clout as a senior editor at Aviation Week & Space Technology wrote to the Navy alleging that McDonald had inappropriately used Navy fund to investigate UFOs in Australia. It is clear from the investigation that McDonald had done no such thing. While in Australia, he did spend some of his free time in researching certain questions. The Navy found he had done nothing wrong, but they were afraid of the powerful Aviation Week so that they cancelled McDonald's contracts (I'm writing from memory here and it might have been that they never issued him another contract to research atmospheric phenomena... at any rate, I did an article on this blog about several instances in which Klass interfered with people's lives and livelihood because he didn't like them investigating UFOs and though their superiors and employees should be warned about them. Certainly not the way to act in polite society... I might no like what you say, but I shouldn't actively attempt to suppress that information by contacting employees who have nothing to do with those opinions. Not unlike firing someone because he or she doesn't hold the same political beliefs as you or practice the same religion as you.

Brian B said...

@ Jim

"My question, based on your knowledge, do you believe that this McKinnon guy could have hack to the highest levels of NASA or other top secret programs on his own?"

Maybe. Government systems are generally not as secure as we think. Especially a NASA system. The NSA and CIA are a different story though.

McKinnon seems pretty honest in all of his interviews. His story is consistently the same. Moreover he was hunted by the US Government and needed his own government to intervene to get him off the hook and that took years. No reason for the US to persue him if he didn't actually hack in.

What he really saw is another question though.

Mark said...

I've always liked the idea that what McKinnon saw was disinformation left on servers specifically in case someone like him did break in - better to have him rooting through faked UFO files than missile plans or whatever. I have no idea if that's plausible, but I like it as a story.

purrlgurrl said...

I was a government contractor. On my lunch hour I routinely browsed UFO Websites, not because it was in any way part of my job, but because it's an area of personal interest and was something to do while eating my sandwich. On several occasions the agency director came to speak with me and saw what was up on my screen. There were never any repercussions, reprimands, or issues with my security clearance because of my interest in UFOs. In fact, one of the federal staffers in our office saw something he couldn't explain and we all talked about openly it in the office. No fallout other than a "time to get back to work" from the director, which would have come if we were talking about Game of Thrones or the Superbowl.

I'm beginning to feel the "fear of losing one's job" line automatically makes a report highly suspicious. I've noticed this excuse for not reporting at the time is usually used in reports filed years after the alleged incident. Makes me go "hmmmmmmm".