Beam Me Up, Scotty, or Nothing to See Here, Folks

(UFO Conference—Part 3)
Nick Pope was the keynote speaker at the Ozark Mountain UFO Conference I most wanted to see. Pope is a former employee of the British Ministry of Defense, as part of the Secretariat Air Staff, commonly known as the UFO Desk. Because of his official investigations of UFOs and other mysteries for the British government, he has been referred to as the real Fox Mulder (“The X-Files” TV series).
 
The master of ceremonies at the conference introduced Nick Pope by saying, “If you haven’t seen him on television, you haven’t been watching.” The times I have seen him, he has been measured and insightful, and I hoped to question him directly.
 
At the beginning of his presentation, Pope addressed the March 8, 2024, report by the Pentagon's All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO). In a corresponding press release, Pentagon Press Secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder stated: “AARO has found no evidence that any U.S. government investigation, academic-sponsored research, or official review panel has confirmed that any sighting of a UAP represented extraterrestrial technology."
 
The Department of Defense report is at odds with the July 2023 Congressional Subcommittee on National Security hearing, wherein retired Maj. David Grusch, a former Air Force intelligence officer, testified the government had retrieved “non-human biologics” and reverse-engineered technology from UFO crash sites. 
 
In an apparent attempt to refute David Grusch’s testimony, the Pentagon Press Secretary also stated: “To date, AARO has found no verifiable evidence for claims that the U.S. government and private companies have access to or have been reverse-engineering extraterrestrial technology.” Nick Pope observed the report was a clear case of “The Empire Strikes Back” and an attempt to dissuade Congress from further investigating UFOs.
 
As to David Grusch, Pope says before Grusch testified there was a serious vetting process, and three intelligence sources told Pope that Grusch was a “deep asset whose job was to interview witnesses and go to insiders to find out what they knew.” Moreover, after his testimony, Grusch was subjected to various levels of “dirty tricks” to discredit him.
 
From my review of the 63-page report, the significant aspect was not the rehashing of Project Blue Book or the Roswell event with the usual bromides that “. . . observers unknowingly having witnessed new technological advancements and testing and reporting them as UFOs.” No doubt, this has happened, but the casual dismissal of the unexplained sightings in effect said, “Nothing to see here, folks.” Namely, Section IX of the report maintains “Although many UAP reports remain unsolved, AARO assesses that if additional, quality data were available, most of these cases also could be identified and resolved as ordinary objects or phenomena.”
 
In my career, I have read a lot of “government-speak,” and this is an example of pure sophistry—a fancy word for a plausible but misleading argument. It sidesteps addressing the admitted numerous unresolved reports, such as the video from a fighter jet gunsight camera of the gravity-defying, mysterious object darting about at high speeds that caused “excited utterances” from the pilot, and the infamous USS Nimitz “Tic Tac” incident, as just two examples. 
 
It may be that intelligence and defense agencies do not want to admit their lack of knowledge: that unexplainable things are flying around our skies and there is nothing they can do about it. Garrett M. Graff, author of a book about the government search for UFOs and alien life, says in a 2023 article in The Atlantic, “After reading thousands of pages of government reports, I believe that the government’s uneasiness over its sheer ignorance drives its secrecy. It just doesn’t know very much.”
 
Nick Pope raised additional reasons a government might want to hide information. One contention is it would disrupt society. Religious and other belief systems would be upended. It would certainly create loopholes for criminals: “An ET made me do it.” 
Another reason he cites is military defense strategy. If one country has a military advantage (or lack of one) it may want to hide it, or on the other hand, bolster it to suggest greater superiority. 
 
For example, if the U.S. does have captured technology, it would not want to admit to a tactical or strategic advantage with adversaries. If the advantage were advertised, adversaries might put all their efforts into obtaining it. After the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan, Russia ramped up its efforts and detonated its own A-bomb in August 1949.
 
Pope ventured into some of the darker “sci-fi” reasons rumored in the UFO community that are too frightening to disclose. Perhaps the phenomenon is a sentient artificial intelligence, with questionable intent. Or extraterrestrials are not merely visiting, but are already here (and have been for a long time), wielding influence with the powers that be. And some say they are demonic. 
 
On the lighter side, he hopes ETs are alien anthropologists who are just observing Earth inhabitants, which would answer the question why they have not landed on the Whitehouse lawn—it would disturb the natural setting. 
 
At the end of Pope’s presentation, the emcee indicated that anyone who wanted to ask a question had to come to the front of the auditorium and use his microphone. My big moment had arrived, and my mind went blank on what question to ask. I had previously made notes but I could not find them nor remember the contents. Regardless, I knew if I did not seize the moment, I would forever regret it. Sometime between standing up and walking to the front of the auditorium, I cobbled together some thoughts.
 
With the microphone in hand in front of 400 people, I identified myself and said, “Mr. Pope, I have a two-part question. First, are the UFOs interplanetary or interdimensional?” His response: “That is a perfect question for the end of my presentation. The answer is both.”
 
I followed up. “The second part: Can you cite an example of a UFO event that might cause a skeptic to reconsider the notion of UFOs? His response: “The Cosford Incident in 1993.” He had investigated the matter for the British government and provided a quick summary for the audience. 
 
“On March 30-31, there were a series of UFO sightings in the UK involving over a hundred witnesses. Many were police officers and military personnel. The UFO also flew directly over two RAF bases.”
 
At Nick’s direction, I read his online account. One witness described the UFO as a triangular-shaped craft “looking like two Concordes flying side by side and joined together.” An RAF meteorological officer saw the UFO and estimated its size as “midway between a C-130 Hercules transport aircraft and a Boeing 747.” An experienced RAF officer told Nick that what he saw “was quite unlike anything he had ever seen in his life.” 
 
The Brits wondered if this might have been a U.S. military prototype and contacted Washington through the British Embassy. Nick says, “The answer I got back was extraordinary. The Americans had been having their own sightings of these large, triangular-shaped UFOs and wanted to know if the RAF might have such a craft, capable of moving from a virtual hover to speeds of several thousand mph in an instant.”
 
Several other keynote speakers at the conference were interesting and informative, but in the interest of brevity, I will only mention one more. Marc D’Antonio has a degree in astronomy and serves as MUFON’s chief photo and video analyst, and has worked on top-secret projects for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Frankly, listening to him felt like being in a physics class, but he told a revealing story about the Cormorant Project, a previously classified program in his resume.
 
The Cormorant is a drone aircraft that can be shot out of a U.S. Navy Ohio-class submarine’s 7-foot-diameter torpedo tubes. Inside the tube its wings remain folded, but after it surfaces on the water, the wings unfold and it flies off.
 
During a training exercise off the California coast, numerous people saw the Cormorant and began calling TV stations reporting a UFO sighting. D’Antonio saw the TV reports and called his boss in Washington DC. “Chief, civilians saw a Cormorant and are reporting it as a UFO.” Marc said he will never forget the gravelly response he got: “Let ‘em think that.”
 
Like the Cormorant, many UFO sightings in the past have been of experimental and advanced aircraft such as the U-2 spy plane, the B-2 Stealth Bomber, and drones. Other claims can be explained as atmospheric or meteorologic phenomena. Many, however, remain unexplained, and the government’s explanation leaves some folks, such as U.S. Congressman Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., dissatisfied.
 
This morning (May 17, 2024) I learned from a digital article by reporter Chris Eberhart that Burchett plans to introduce legislation requiring federal departments to declassify all UFO documents. Burchett is quoted saying, “It's simple. They spend all this time telling us they don't exist, then release the files, dagnabbit." 
 
On thing for sure, plenty remains for believers and skeptics to debate, but, to borrow a phrase, the truth is out there.
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