Recently, the FBI opened a new website, "The Vault," that lets you view a variety of documents, including those regarding UFOs. I looked into one document that appears to include a phony UFO story and mentioned how important it is to be extremely careful when looking at UFO documents and how it's critical to know the background of this information.
While researching materials for his new book, "A Celebration of Freedom: JFK and the New Frontier" (Wasteland Press), Atlanta, Ga., history teacher William Lester used the Freedom of Information Act to get some previously classified documents.
Two of them were written by Kennedy on the same date, Nov. 12, 1963 -- 10 days before his assassination. One was to the CIA director, asking for UFO files (See JFK Doc 2); the other was to the NASA administrator, with Kennedy expressing a desire for cooperation with the former Soviet Union on mutual outer space activities (See JFK Doc 3).
"One of his concerns was that a lot of these UFOs were being seen over the Soviet Union and he was very concerned that the Soviets might misinterpret these UFOs as U.S. aggression, believing that it was some of our technology," Lester told AOL News.
"I think this is one of the reasons why he wanted to get his hands on this information and get it away from the jurisdiction of NASA so he could say to the Soviets, 'Look, that's not us, we're not doing it, we're not being provocative. In fact, just to show you that it's not us, what do you think about us working together on the exploration of space?'" Lester added.
Also in his book, Lester reprints an intriguing letter written by Maxwell W. Hunter of the National Aeronautics and Space Council (from the executive office of the president) to Robert F. Packard of the Office of International Scientific Affairs.
Hunter was a pioneer rocket scientist and scientific adviser to both Presidents Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson. He wrote this 1963 letter, titled "Thoughts on the Space Alien Race Question."
This is not the first time these and more provocative UFO-related documents have surfaced over the last several decades. Many files point to earlier presidents, Harry S. Truman and Dwight D. Eisenhower, as also being interested in the UFO subject.
Perhaps the most intensely scrutinized documents ever to emerge on UFOs have come to be known as the Majestic 12 or MJ-12. This was a reference to a top-secret group of military officials and scientists allegedly appointed by Truman in 1947 to keep close tabs on the activities of alien beings on Earth after a reported UFO crash near Roswell, N.M.
Let's try to sort out the facts.
In 1984, the MJ-12 documents first appeared when a UFO researcher, Jaime Shandera, received a plain brown envelope that contained a roll of 35mm black-and-white film that developed into a multipage 1952 document -- presumably created for Eisenhower -- regarding something called "Operation Majestic 12."
When the MJ-12 documents were eventually made public around 1987, skeptics poured out of the woodwork, condemning the documents as fraudulent and totally dismissing them.
To get some much needed credible information about the documents, I turned to Linda Moulton Howe, a renowned investigative reporter who explored the MJ-12 materials in 2008. An excellent, in-depth series of reports on her efforts to uncover the truth of the MJ-12 story can be found at her Earthfiles website.
"It's the Catch-22 circle that counter-intel is so good at and they depend on it to divert 99 1/2 percent of the public and the media. And that is, you just put out the word 'This is a hoax' and the population accepts it, and they know that, and they have done this," said Howe, a multiple Emmy Award-winning TV producer and critically acclaimed author of numerous books, including "Glimpses of Other Realities, Volumes I and II" (Linda Moulton Howe Productions).
"So, whether it's swamp gas, weather balloons, hoaxes of hubcaps being thrown up into the air -- the government's efforts back in the late '40s and early '50s became preposterous and cartoonish to try to get control of a subject that they knew was absolutely critical," Howe told AOL News.
The controversy surrounding MJ-12 is a prime example of the age-old "he said, she said" battle in the universe of UFO believers and skeptics.
But MJ-12 has taken on a life of its own because of the large volume of documents and the attention to detail within, including the verification process conducted by serious researchers into specific files that suggest government officials were unhappy with Kennedy's interest in UFOs.
I contacted the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston, searching for information about JFK's UFO interest. I was told they didn't catalogue that kind of thing there, but they gave me the names of five Kennedy biographer/historians -- Robert Dallek, James Giglio, Doris Kearns Goodwin, Michael O'Brien and Laurence Leamer.
When I reached out to them for any information they might provide, the responses ranged from "I can't help you," "I had not uncovered any information relating to JFK's interest in UFOs" and "I'm afraid I know nothing about JFK's interest in UFOs" to "I don't know anything about it. Maybe when he heard 'unidentified foreign objects,' he thought they were European women."
So, I kept digging.
And Howe connected me with the man she worked closely with in 2008 on the MJ-12 documents. The conversation I had with physicist/aeronautical engineer Robert Wood, former deputy director of McDonnell Douglas -- the major aerospace manufacturer and defense contractor -- really opened my eyes.
In the 1960s, Wood led a McDonnell Douglas team to study UFOs and he's put a huge amount of investigative work into the MJ-12 documents. His website offers a stunning display of MJ-12 items, complete with individual document analysis, and he's collaborated with Howe to piece together and authenticate these eye-opening files.
After a 43-year career with McDonnell Douglas, Wood retired in 1993. That, coupled with more than three decades of investigating UFOs, makes him a highly credible voice about the phenomenon.
At McDonnell Douglas, "We had authority to look at how UFOs might work, with gravity-controlled devices. And I hired (nuclear physicist) Stanton Friedman -- it was the first job he ever had that paid him to study UFOs," Wood said about the man widely considered the hardest-working UFO investigator today, who offers his own critique of MJ-12 skepticism and debunkers.
"There are those who believe (despite evidence to the contrary) that no alien spacecraft have ever visited Earth. Therefore, any documents saying that they have must be false," Friedman pointed out. "No need to do a detailed investigation, to spend time in archives, research the people involved, etc. They must be fraudulent!"
Under the auspices of McDonnell Douglas, Friedman worked closely with Wood looking into reports, including stories told by alleged UFO abductees. "We didn't get any breakthroughs and our report was never submitted to the government -- it was a McDonnell Douglas project -- and so we never told the government about it," Wood said.
In the 1990s, Wood obtained a series of the MJ-12 documents, including something known as the "burned" memo -- believed to have been written in the early 1960s -- that was reportedly saved from being burned, presumably to forever hide important UFO information, including parts that referred to Kennedy.
The memo contains a reference to "Lancer," which was John F. Kennedy's Secret Service code name.
The first page of the now-infamous burned memo (See JFK Doc 4), reportedly written by the director of Central Intelligence, said:
"As you must know, Lancer has made some inquiries regarding our activities, which we cannot allow. Please submit your views no later than October. Your action to this matter is critical to the continuance of the group."
To authenticate the documents, Wood turned to forensics and linguistics specialists who carefully looked at things like the paper they were printed on, ink age, watermarks, font types and other markings.
"I hired a forensics company to check the age of the ink and to check several other things that you can date, using the same techniques you'd use in a court of law," Wood explained. "And all the critics who wave their arms and say, 'Well, you can duplicate anything,' they forget about the fact that these documents actually showed up in the public domain long before our sophisticated techniques got on the market.
"I never figured out who the original document leaker was or what they thought I would do with it, other than what I've done, which has been to discuss it professionally, ethically and from a point of view of intellectual curiosity."
After gathering all their information, Wood and his son, Ryan, produced a 2008 television documentary, "The Secret," shown on the then Sci Fi Channel.
After exhaustive hands-on analysis of the MJ-12 documents, including the volatile burned memo, Wood came to some striking conclusions:
"I think the most important set of documents are the ones that show that we started this program in 1942, after recovering the first craft in 1941 -- at the beginning of the war, just a few days after Pearl Harbor.
"The second most important set of documents, I think, is the one that links this to the JFK assassination, and that's the burned memo.
"And the third most important documents were the ones that deal with what we were doing about it in the '50s, how we were going to absorb the technology and reverse-engineer it, and how it would affect our entire structure of technology.
"That's my assessment of its relative importance. The most important idea that people have not grasped at all is that this program started in early 1942. The second most important idea is that the program is not under the control of the president and when the president was about to leak it, they bumped him off."
Wood's implication that JFK was killed because of his interest in UFOs is startling, to say the least. But he's not the only person who considers this a possibility.
"I think Kennedy was very interested in UFOs on several fronts," Lester suggested after finishing his book on Kennedy's life.
"There seemed to be kind of an idealistic scientific angle to it, but there was also this hardcore tactical angle that he was trying to successfully play, in what were very volatile times.
"It's almost impossible for me to believe that there's no connection. Now I couldn't go into a courtroom and prove that there was a direct correlation, but I find it hard to believe that there's no connection there."
If this is all true, then it opens the biggest can of worms ever. And yet, Wood's background and integrity shouldn't be taken lightly.
"People always ask me, 'How would the government keep a secret,' because everybody knows that governments don't keep secrets," Wood said.
"As I got involved in classified work, I concluded a couple of things: the higher your clearance level and the more sophisticated the program was, the smarter the people were in the room, almost without exception.
"These guys get smarter and smarter the more complex it is or the more secret it is, and therefore, they are very clever and have a lot of enjoyment in figuring out how to accomplish their missions, which is to keep the public in the dark."
"There's another dimension here that people don't always integrate and that is, what's the aliens' role in this matter? I'm satisfied there's at least six kinds and they each have their own agendas. It seems like the only thing that's the same is that none of them really want to come out and openly admit that they're here."
Are the MJ-12 documents real or phony? So much mystery still swirls around the assassination of JFK. For conspiracy theorists this is only more fuel on the fire. To be sure, the debate will continue. But for now, with the information presented here, you can make up your own mind.
At the very least, it'll give you something to wonder about.
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