(This was first published in Ufologist Vol. 12, No. 6, March-April 2009)
This is a follow-up to my 2007 article What Really Crashed at Roswell in which I agreed with the Air Force’s conclusion that a Project Mogul balloon train had crashed near Roswell in 1947.
Although I agree with them in this case, this does not mean that the Air Force is completely innocent when it comes to UFOs. They have lied to the public and spread disinformation. Some of the beliefs about a UFO conspiracy, such as the MJ-12 documents, Dulce and Area 51, can be traced back to disinformation created by the Air force Office of Special Investigations.
Their apparent reasons for doing this was to misdirect UFO researchers who were inadvertently getting too close to classified military projects.
In a sense, there is a UFO cover up, but it is not the sort of cover up which many UFO believers think there is.
Project Blue Book and the U2 Spy Plane
When the Air Force did tell the truth about Roswell, in spite of the evidence, a lot of people simply did not believe them. There is a widespread distrust of the Air Force when it comes to UFOs. I believe this partly has its roots in the way the Air Force handled reports of sightings of the U2 spy plane.
As I mentioned in What Really Crashed at Roswell, the CIA has now admitted that from the late 1950s to the 60s over half of UFO reports were actually sightings of the U2 spy plane flying overhead. The Air Force’s Project Blue Book officers, who were asked to investigate these sightings, knew what they really were, but they could not tell the witnesses they had actually seen a top secret plane which they were not supposed to know existed. So they had to come up with some other explanation which was often not very convincing and led people to believe that the Air Force was hiding the truth, which they were. However, the truth was that the witnesses had seen a U2, not that aliens were visiting Earth. (1)
The National Security Agency’s UFO Documents
During the 1970s and 80s several UFO groups tried to use the Freedom of Information Act to get the National Security Agency to release its UFO files, but the NSA refused on the grounds of national security. In 1982 a group called Citizens Against UFO Secrecy appealed to the Supreme Court to release the files. The NSA submitted an affidavit to the judge explaining why the files should not be released and the UFO group’s lawyers were not even allowed to read the affidavit. The judge agreed with the NSA and refused to release the files. CAUS managed to get a copy of the affidavit released, but 412 of its 582 lines had been blacked out.
In 1998 Stanton Friedman toured Australia, talking about what he called the “Cosmic Watergate”. Like he has done elsewhere, he held up copies of this censored NSA affidavit and the audience would have assumed that it was proof the NSA was covering up the truth about UFOs and aliens.
In a 2007 issue of Ufologist Friedman was still talking about the censored NSA documents as though they were proof of a UFO cover up (2).
However, in 1996 the NSA declassified a lot of previously classified material, including this affidavit. Now only about a quarter of it was blacked out but you could tell that it said that the UFO documents dealt with NSA intercepts of Soviet air defence transmissions between 1958 and 1979. When the Soviet radar operators reported an unknown flying object, the NSA translators, who were listening in, would translate this as “unidentified flying object”, which technically it was. However, most of these “unidentified flying objects” were only balloons with radar reflectors attached, not spaceships. (3)
The reason it was an issue of national security was that if these documents had been released in 1982, the Soviet Union would have realised that the NSA was decoding their air force transmissions. In 1996 after the fall of the Soviet Union, it was now safe to release them.
Friedman would have known this in 1998, but he covered it up and did not tell his audience.
The Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the MJ 12 Documents
While one branch of the US Air Force has convincingly disproved the idea that anything extraterrestrial crashed at Roswell, another branch, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations has spread misinformation about Roswell, aliens and a UFO cover up. One of the people, which they used to spread this misinformation, was William Moore, co-author of The Roswell Incident.
In 1980 Moore was on a promotional tour for The Roswell Incident when he was approached by two agents of the Air Force Office of Special Investigations. One of them was Sgt. Richard Doty who was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base near Albuquerque, New Mexico. Moore never learned the name of the other agent, who called himself by the codename Falcon, but he may have been Doty’s superior, Colonel Barry Hennessey (4).
Falcon and Doty told Moore that they were part of a group of intelligence agents who were opposed to all the government secrecy about UFOs and they wanted to get the truth out, and they had chosen Moore to do it through. The “truth” was really disinformation, intended to mislead UFO researchers.
In return, they wanted Moore to spy on other UFO researchers and report on the rumours and theories circulating in the UFO community. They also wanted Moore to pass on the research which he and Stanton Friedman had done on Roswell and UFOs. Moore rather foolishly agreed to this arrangement.
Instead of publishing a non-fiction book, which revealed the supposed truth about the UFO cover up, Doty and Moore decided to do it in the form of a novel, which would reveal the “truth” as part of the plot – like The Da Vinci
Code purports to do, as just as accurate. This novel was going to be about a government agent who is trying to fight the cover up about aliens and crashed UFOs (5). This was around 1982 and it resembles the plot of the television program The X-Files which came out over 10 years later. There is a connection. Doty later became a consultant for The X-Files. He wrote the screenplay for one episode and appeared as an extra in two others (6).
The novel was finished around 1983, but it was never published. It was originally going to be called MAJIK-12. This is significant because soon afterwards, supposedly real government documents started showing up from a secret committee called MJ-12, Majic 12 or Majestic 12.
In 1984 a role of film was sent to Jamie Shandera, a film producer who knew Moore. The package had an Albuquerque postmark where Doty was based. Shandera had the film developed. It contained photos of two documents. One of them was supposed to be a briefing paper for President Eisenhower from November 1952. It said that in July 1947 a UFO and alien bodies had been recovered by the military north of Roswell and Majestic 12, a committee made up of 12 military personnel and scientists, had been established to cover it up and control knowledge of UFOs.
At first glance, this sounded like what the believers had been saying for years, that there was a UFO cover up. However, apart from Stanton Friedman, most UFO researchers have concluded that the MJ-12 documents are forgeries. There are obvious mistakes with the briefing paper, such as the dates are not written in the proper military format and “Admiral Hillenkoetter” was given the wrong rank. He was a Rear-Admiral. (7)
Another mistake is the paper gets the distance wrong between Roswell and the crash site on the Foster Ranch. It says it was 75 miles, when it was only 62. This same mistake in The Roswell Incident which Moore co-wrote (8).
Any teacher will tell you that when two students make the same mistake, there is a good chance one of them is copying the other. What seems to have happened is that Moore passed the research, which he and Friedman had done on Roswell, including the mistakes, to Doty. After the first attempt at spreading UFO disinformation through the novel MAJIK-12 had fallen through, Doty or someone else in the Air Force Office of Special Investigations then sed their research to produce fake documents about a UFO cover up by a secret committee with a similar name as the novel.
It looks like they even got the names of most of the supposed committee members from Moore and Freidman’s research. When they were researching Roswell, they assumed there had been a cover up and they worked out who would have been a part of this cover up, the high ranking military personnel and top scientist of the time, if it had existed (9). They came up with a list of names which was among the research which Moore gave to Doty.
When the MJ-12 briefing document appeared in 1984, 11 of the 12 names on the committee were people they had already assumed were part of the cover up. Doty had taken their research and recycled it back to them (10).
As mentioned earlier, Friedman is one of the few UFO researchers who still thinks the MJ-12 documents are authentic. He believes they are authentic because they seem to corroborate the research which he and Moore had carried out. They corroborate his research because it is his research which Moore had given to Doty who then used it to produce fake UFO documents.
Another case of Doty using Moore’s research took place in April 1983 when Doty arranged a meeting with Linda Howe, a UFO researcher, at Kirtland Air Force Base. Doty showed Howe a document titled, “Briefing Paper for the President of the United States”, which she was allowed to read, but not take notes. This was not the same as the MJ-12 briefing paper for Eisenhower. It sounds like an earlier draft. It mentioned a UFO crash at Roswell in 1949, not 1947, and another crash at Aztec, New Mexico.
However, all UFO researchers agree that the Aztec crash in 1948 was a hoax. If this document, which Doty showed Howe, claimed this hoax actually happened, it cannot be an authentic document.
Moore had told Doty about the Aztec hoax a few months earlier. When he heard about this document, he realised that Doty had taken what he had told him and used it in a fake document (11).
Paul Bennewitz and the Dulce Hoax
One of the UFO researchers, who Moore was asked to spy on, was Paul Bennewitz. He was a physicist who ran an electronics company, Thunder Scientific, which was literally next to Kirtland Air Force Base where Doty was stationed.
In 1979 Bennewitz, who was already a UFO believer, started to see strange lights flying very quickly over the base’s land and with his electronics equipment, he could pick up coded transmissions coming from the area. These were most likely unmanned surveillance drones being test flown and secret satellite communications (12). However, Bennewitz thought they were UFOs and alien transmissions, and he believed that aliens had established a base on the Air Force’s land.
Bennewitz warned Kirtland about what he believed was an alien invasion and they sent Sgt. Doty to visit Bennewitz where he saw the antennas which Bennewitz had pointed at the base.
A meeting was arranged at Kirtland in November 1980 where Bennewitz presented his findings to the base commander and others about what he believed were aliens taking over. However, they must have known that he really inadvertently spying on their own classified projects. So, they told Bennewitz that they very interested in his research and then devised a plan to misdirect him and divert his attention away from Kirtland.
Over the next couple of years, the Air Force Office of Special Investigations and the National Security Agency fed Bennewitz disinformation about a UFO conspiracy. William Moore was used to pass on some of this disinformation and report on Bennewitz’s response. They told him that in 1947 a UFO had crashed near Roswell and a secret treaty had been made between the US government and the aliens. In return for alien technology, the government would let the aliens carry out abductions. There was an underground base occupied by the aliens at Dulce in northern New Mexico. They told him that the aliens had broken the treaty and that they had tried to retake Dulce from the aliens, resulting in an underground battle between Special Forces and the aliens.
The Air Force even went out to the mountains outside Dulce, put some old storage tanks and shacks there, and stuck some fake air vents into the ground. Then, Doty flew Bennewitz over in a helicopter to show him where the underground base supposedly was (13).
They also told him that the Air Force had crafts based on alien technology at Area 51 in Nevada (14).
The National Security Agency even appears to have given him a grant of $75,000 to continue his research (15). This was about the same time UFO groups were pressuring the NSA through the Freedom of Information Act to release tis “UFO” files. The NSA knew that doing this would have threatened national security by letting the Soviets know they could monitor their defence transmissions. Perhaps, the NSA was hoping that promoting this disinformation about aliens and a UFO cover up would direct UFO researchers’ attention away from their legitimately classified material.
Bennewitz believed all this and tried to warn others about the alien invasion at Dulce. He even wrote to President Reagan and the White House sent back a standard reply, saying that the Air Force had investigated UFOs and determined that they posed no threat to national security (16).
Bennewitz also told Linda Howe, the UFO documentary maker. The AFOSI were concerned that Howe would mention the secret transmissions from Kirtland which Bennewitz had intercepted in a new documentary she was making for HBO. At this time Doty showed her the fake “Briefing Paper for the President of the United States”, which was mentioned earlier, with its claims of UFO crashes and cover ups. They were apparently hoping that she would take more interest in the fake cover up than the real classified transmissions which Bennewitz had discovered. After the AFOSI had strung Howe along for several months, HBO withdrew funding for the documentary (17).
The result of this disinformation campaign was that in August 1988 Bennewitz, who did not sound that stable in the first place, had a nervous breakdown. His family had him committed to a local mental hospital for about a month. After he was released, his family tried to keep him away from the whole subject of UFOs for his sanity’s sake.
Some years later Doty, who was no longer in the Air Force, managed to visit Bennewitz and admitted he had been ordered to lie to him. Bennewitz did not believe him and still believed what he had originally told him was true (18).
In 1989 at a MUFON conference in Las Vegas, William Moore, who probably had a guilty conscience over what happened to Bennewitz, gave a two hour speech in which he admitted to spreading misinformation and spying on other UFO researchers. He also said there were several other UFO researchers who were doing the same thing, but he did not name them.
That should have been the end of the matter, but by that time the disinformation about MJ-12 and Dulce had taken on a life of its own, and other UFO researchers and conspiracy theorists were building on it and incorporating it into their own claims.
John Lear and Area 51
John Lear, a former pilot for the CIA, whose father invented the Lear Jet, interviewed Bennewitz several times (19). In 1987 he released “The Lear Statement” on the ParaNet, the forerunner of the Internet. Lear said that there had been UFO crashes at Roswell, Aztec and elsewhere, that MJ-12 had made a secret treaty with the aliens who later broke it and there had been an underground battle with the aliens at Dulce. He also claimed that another underground base had been built for the aliens at Area 51 in Nevada (20).
In 1988 Area 51 was mentioned on television for the first time on a special “UFO Cover Up – Live”. It included two silhouetted figures, claiming to be government agents, who were probably Richard Doty, who was no longer in the Air Force, and Colonel Robert Collins of the Defense Intelligence Agency (21). They said that Area 51 had been taken over by aliens and made the bizarre claim that the aliens liked Tibetan music and strawberry ice cream.
The “urban legend”, that the Air Force has crafts based on alien technology like in the movie Independence Day, largely grew out of John Lear’s claims which were largely based on what Bennewitz had told him and this was part of the disinformation campaign waged against him by the Air Force. So, instead of Area 51 being something the Air Force does not want people to know about, the stories about UFOs and aliens at Area 51 can be traced back to Air Force disinformation.
Admittedly, people, who manage to get as close as they can to Area 51 without being arrested, do sometimes see strange things flying in the distance. These are not necessarily based on alien technology. They are more likely to be some secret project like the Aurora, a stealth spy plane which officially does not exist (22).
Rather than discouraging belief in UFOs and aliens, the US Air Force is presumably happy for people to believe in them if it means that if they happen to see a classified aircraft (the U2 in the 1950s or the Aurora today), they instead think they have seen an alien spaceship, so that not many people take them seriously.
More UFO Disinformation?
Although Richard Doty is no longer in the Air Force, he is still making claims about a UFO cover up. In 2005 Doty and Richard Collins, who had appeared with him on the “UFO Cover Up – Live” program, co-authored a book about the UFO cover up, MJ-12 and Area 51, called Exempt from Disclosure, in which Doty said he had witnessed an interview with an alien at Los Alamos. In an article in the February 2006 issue of UFO Magazine Doty said there had been two UFO crashes near Roswell and in 1965 12 military personnel had gone on an “exchange program” to the planet Serpo orbiting Zeta Reticuli about 40 light years away (23). In spite of his past actions, some UFO believers still think there may be some truth to Doty’s new claims (24).
Along with Doty, Collins and Lear, former military personnel, William Cooper, author of Behold, a Pale Horse, and Philip Corso, author of The Day
after Roswell, have also published what is supposedly the truth about the UFO cover up. The UFO cover up is supposed to highly classified. Anyone, who tried to publish real classified government secrets, would be arrested by the FBI very quickly. The fact, that this does not happen and, in spite of the claims of a cover up and threats, anyone can say anything they want about UFOs, Roswell and a conspiracy, suggests that either the authorities know these claims are nonsense and it is pointless to prosecute them, or that these claims have government approval and they are additional cases of government disinformation about UFOS.
Claims about MJ-12, treaties with aliens and underground bases can still be found in books and on the Internet (25). People read them and they think they are learning the secret truth about UFOs, what the government does not want them to know. In, fact, what they are reading is based on or derived from government disinformation which was originally intended to misdirect UFO researchers who were inadvertently getting too close to classified military projects.
I believe intelligence have the right to protect classified information. I would rather only the Americans had the stealth bomber, than the Chinese or North Koreans as well. However, in the callous way they did it here, innocent people, like Paul Bennewitz, who were only looking for the truth about UFOs, had their lives destroyed.
(1) Gerald Haines, “CIA’s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90”,
(2) Tom Horn, “On the Road to Roswell 2007: A Discussion with Nuclear Physicist Stanton T. Friedman”, Ufologist, Vol. 11, No. 2, 2007, p 21
(3) “Stanton Friedman; A Commentary”, http://www.roswellfiles.com/storytellers/Friedman.htm
(4) Brad Sparks and Barry Greenwood, “The Secret Pratt Tapes and the Origins of MJ-12”, MUFON 2007 International UFO Symposium Proceedings, Mutual UFO Network, Colorado, 2007, p 95
(5) Ibid, p 83
(6) Greg Bishop, Project Beta, Paraview, New York, 2005 p 83
(7) “The Majestic-12 Papers, An Analysis”, http://www.roswellfiles.com/FOIA/majestic12.htm
(8) “The Secret Pratt Tapes and the Origins of MJ-12”, op cit., p 103, Charles Berlitz and William Moore, The Roswell Incident, Granada, London, 1980, p 35
(9) Stanton Friedman, Top Secret/Majic, Marlowe, New York, 1996, p 130-131
(10) “The Secret Pratt Tapes and the Origins of MJ-12”, op cit., p 100
(11) Ibid., p 107-108
(12) Project Beta, op cit., p 35-44, 87-88
(13) Ibid., p 158-160
(14) Ibid., p 198
(15) Ibid., p 44
(16) Ibid., p 139
(17) Ibid., p 204-207, “The Secret Pratt Tapes and the Origin of MJ-12”, op cit., p 107-108
(18) Project Beta, op cit., p 227
(19) Ibid., p 109
(20) “Lear’s Aliens (Original Statement)”, http://www.ufomind.com/area51/people/lear/original/html
(21) Ibid., p 212, Phil Patton, Travels in Dreamland, The Secret History of Area 51, Orion, London, 1997, p 167
(22) Travels in Dreamland, op cit., p 34-40
(23) Richard Doty, untitled, UFO Magazine, February 2006, p 32-34, http://www.ufoconspiracy.com/reports/doty-serpo.pdf
(24) Michael Salla, “Exopolitical Comment # 41, Richard Doty and Project Serpo: “Public Acclimation” or “Deception Program”?”, http://www.exopolitics.org/Exo-Comment-41.htm