The CIA says it encouraged false Air Force explanations of UFO sightings to hide its own spyplane flights during the 1950s and 1960s, according to a recently published report. CIA historian Gerald Haines, writing in the journal "Studies in Intelligence" vol. 1, 1997, drew mainly on declassified twenty-year-old documents to illustrate the claim that early flights of the U-2 and SR-71 spyplanes could have accounted for a large share of the "unidentified" UFO sightings logged by the Air Force Project Blue Book.
Haines' text, titled "The CIA's Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90," was found posted to the internet on Saturday, August 2, 1997 and immediately became the subject of newspaper headlines and heated controversy.
The full text of Haines' report can be found on the web at http://www.odci.gov/csi/studies/97unclas/ufo.html
Typical of the mainstream news coverage was William J. Broad's August 3 story in the New York Times, which opened as follows:
"In the darkest days of the Cold War, the military lied to the American public about the true nature of many unidentified flying objects in an effort to hide its growing fleets of spy planes, a CIA study says.
"The deceptions were made in the 1950s and '60s amid a wave of UFO sightings that alarmed the public and parts of official Washington.
"The CIA study says the Air Force knew that most reports by citizens and aviation experts were based on fleeting glimpses of U-2 and SR-71 spy planes...."
In the CIA's own words, "Over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights" over the United States. "This led the Air Force to make misleading and deceptive statements to the public in order to allay public fears and to protect an extraordinarily sensitive national security project."
UFO researchers have long believed that the Air Force and intelligence community have wilfully lied to the public about UFO phenomena, and these CIA statements plainly admit that fact.
However, according to noted UFO researcher Bruce Maccabee, the CIA's claim that spyplane sightings accounted for "over half of all UFO reports" during the mid-1950s and 1960s is "preposterous."
Maccabee, a Ph.D. optical physicist whose latest book, co-authored with Gulf Breeze UFO witness Ed Walters, is "UFOs Are Real: Here's the Proof" (Avon 1997), studied the Haines article several months before it turned up on the internet. In a rebuttal dated June 3, 1997, Maccabee says that Project Blue Book's own statistical records of UFO sightings show that the introduction of the U-2 and SR-71 spyplanes made almost no difference at all in reported UFO sightings in the United States.
For example, Maccabee lists data from Project Bluebook on all reported UFO sightings from six months before to six months after the first U-2 flights began over the U.S. in August 1955. These numbers include sightings by pilots and air traffic controllers as well as by military personnel and civilians and therefore must include sightings of the U-2, if any. The numbers are:
February 1955 -- 34 reports
March 1955 -- 41 reports
April 1955 -- 33 reports
May 1955 -- 54 reports
June 1955 -- 48 reports
July 1955 -- 63 reports
[U-2 begins flying]
August 1955 -- 68 reports
September 1955 -- 57 reports
October 1955 -- 55 reports
November 1955 -- 32 reports
December 1955 -- 25 reports
January 1956 -- 43 reports
"The total number of reports during the 6 months before the start of U-2 flights is 273. The total number for the 6 months following the start (Aug - Jan) is 280. Thus there was a 2.6% increase in the number of reports following the start of U-2 flights using the six month totals," Maccabee notes. "These statistics suggest that the U-2 was causing no more than a few percent of the sightings (and may have caused NONE of the sightings!)."
It was hardly likely that the U-2 would be seen anyway, Maccabee points out.
"The U-2... flew at 60-70,000 feet and at that altitude was essentially invisible during the day. It created no contrail because of the lack of moisture at that altitude. It was, after all, designed to attract little attention from the ground as it flew at a higher altitude than could be attained by any Russian defense missiles!"
Maccabee notes that yearly statistics of UFO sightings from the mid-1950s into the early 1960s also show no correlation with the increasing numbers of U-2 and later SR-71 flights. There was a significant bulge in reported sightings in 1957, mostly in the late fall just after the Soviet Sputnik was launched. But in 1958 the number of sightings fell significantly, and fell even further in 1959 even though spyplane flights were becoming more numerous.
The CIA report says that early U-2s were silver in color and therefore would reflect sunlight and be particularly visible at around sunrise and sunset. However, Maccabee produces statistics on twilight UFO sightings for the years 1953 through 1958 that again show no significant correlation with the start of U-2 flights. By contrast, those statistics show a major increase in twilight sightings, both morning and evening, in November 1957 following the Sputnik launch.
"Clearly there is no statistical support for a sudden increase in the number of sightings at sunrise or sunset when the U-2 started flying," Maccabee says. "In fact, the number of sightings during the evening time period was lower in August, 1955, than during July."
Most of the later U-2s and all of the SR-71s were painted dull black, further reducing the likelihood that they could be seen from the ground.
In conclusion, Maccabee also notes that many unexplained UFO sightings of the period involved "relatively nearby, structured objects rather than far distant, nearly invisible points of light."
Thus, although it is edifying to learn of the CIA's admitted intent to deceive the public, it seems as though their official explanation for "more than half" of the UFO sightings in the 1950s and 1960s does not stand up under scrutiny.
Original file name: CNI - CIA'S UFOs.MACCABEE
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