by Richard M. Dolan [Excerpted]
The UFO problem is a real one. It has involved military personnel around the world for more than fifty years, and is wrapped in secrecy. Over the years, however, enough pieces of the puzzle have emerged to give us a sense of what the picture looks like. What I have tried to do is very simple: to use as many of those pieces as possible in constructing a clear, straightforward, historical narrative of the UFO problem, focusing on the national security dimensions.
Because the subject of UFOs has become little more than a cultural joke, it is important to stress at the outset why it is not a joke, not entertainment, but something worthy of serious attention.
Although stories of strange objects in the sky go far back in time, the problem received little attention until World War II. At that time, military personnel from Allied and Axis countries reported unconventional objects in the sky, eventually known as foo fighters. In retrospect, this development is not so surprising. First, human aviation had become widespread for the first time. Above the clouds, thousands of pilots suddenly had the kind of visibility that no one ever had before. A second reason was the invention of radar, which extended the range of human vision by electronic means. Moreover, it seemed reasonable to assume that the odd sightings were related to the war itself, perhaps experimental technology.
One might have expected such sightings to vanish after the war’s end in 1945. Instead, they increased. In Europe in 1946, then America in 1947, people saw and reported objects that could not be explained in any conventional sense. Wherever sightings occurred, military authorities dominated the investigations, and for perfectly understandable reasons. Unknown objects, frequently tracked on radar and observed visually, were flying within one’s national borders and, in the case of the United States, over sensitive military installations. The war was over. What was going on here?
Initially, some Americans feared that the Soviet Union might be behind the “flying saucer” wave. This possibility was studied, then rejected. At a time when the world’s fastest aircraft approached the speed of 600 mph, some of these objects exceeded – or appeared to exceed – 1,000 mph. What’s more, they manoeuvred like no aircraft could, including right angle turns, stopping on a dime, and accelerating instantly. Could the Soviets really have built something like that? If so, why fly them over all over America and Western Europe? To experts, the idea seemed farfetched at best, and fifty years later, their conclusion stands.
If not Soviet, could the objects have been American? The possibility was studied and rejected for the same reasons. The speed of sound was not broken until October of 1947: was it really credible that, prior to this, the Americans had secretly discovered a hypersonic anti-gravity technology?
During the UFO wave of 1947, all indications are that there were multiple, simultaneous investigations within the American military and intelligence community of these flying saucers. Although the Air Force was officially charged with investigating them, it was never the only game in town. Every service reported and investigated sightings. The FBI investigated UFOs for a while, and by 1948 at the latest, the CIA initiated an ongoing interest.
By the end of 1947, a contingent of analysts at the Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base believed that UFOs were extraterrestrial. ATIC was the Air Force’s chief center for evaluating new technology, and as such was a key player in the early investigation of UFOs. By the summer of 1948, this team prepared an “Estimate of the Situation” that landed on the desk of Air Force Commander Hoyt Vandenberg, stating the extraterrestrial thesis. As the story goes, Vandenberg rejected it, either for lack of proof, or because it did not state his desired conclusion. Either way, he made it clear that the Air Force would not accept speculation about extraterrestrials as a solution to UFOs.
Of course, people continued to see these things and wonder what they were. In the summer of 1952, for instance, UFO sightings were so frequent and often of such high quality, it actually appeared to some in the Air Force that an invasion might be under way. Could it really be aliens?
With some help from the secret CIA-sponsored Robertson Panel of January 1953, the Air Force greatly improved censorship over the problem. Still, it never quite went away. Civilian organizations emerged to collect and analyze interesting UFO reports. Complicating matters was the fact that the Air Force had backed itself into a corner. Despite its public contempt for UFOs, it had committed itself to monitoring them as a possible national security threat. Those who criticized the Air Force’s statements about UFOs – and there were many such people – frequently asked, if saucers posed no threat to national security, and existed only in the imagination, why did the Air Force create Project Blue Book to study the reports?
Then came the great UFO wave of 1965 and 1966. The density and quality of sightings made it clear that the Air Force could no longer hide behind weather balloons, swamp gas, or ball lightning. At the same time, it became equally impossible to withstand public scrutiny of the problem. The Air Force therefore funded a scientific study of UFOs by the University of Colorado, known more generally as the Condon Committee, to “settle” the matter once and for all. After two years of suspense, the committee concluded that UFOs were not worthy of scientific study, essentially nonsense. Critics responded that the study itself was worthless, with conclusions that did not match its own data. Moreover, the committee had bad blood among its own members, which resulted in the removal of the “pro-UFO” contingent mid-way through the project. It strongly appeared that the project’s leadership was set on a negative conclusion from the beginning. Rumours spread about control over the committee, either by the Air Force or CIA.
As messy as the Condon Committee was, its report gave the Air Force precisely what it needed: justification to close Blue Book. In December, 1969, the Air Force announced it no longer investigated UFOs. The major civilian investigative organizations also declined rapidly, and people who saw UFOs now had scarcely anywhere to turn.
Let us pause here to assess the situation. What we can see is that, at some point during the mid-1940s, the intelligence apparatus of the United States, as well as of several other nations, had reason to believe that there were artefacts in the skies that did not originate from America, Russia, Germany, or any other country. Within the U.S., these objects violated some highly sensitive military air space, and did not appear to be natural phenomena. One may presume that the affected national security authorities made it an immediate obsession to determine the nature and purpose of these objects, and we may infer that the issue probably became a deep secret by 1946, or 1947 at the latest.
Some will dismiss this all as “conspiracy theory,” one of many dotting the American landscape. In popular culture, the very term serves as an automatic dismissal, as though no one ever acts in secret. Let us bring some perspective and common sense to this issue. The United States is comprised of large organizations – corporations, bureaucracies, “interest groups” and the like – which are conspiratorial by nature. That is, they are hierarchical, their important decisions are made in secret by a few key decision-makers, and they are not above lying about their activities. Such is the nature of organizational behaviour. “Conspiracy,” in this key sense, is a way of life around the globe.
Within the world’s military and intelligence apparatuses, this tendency is magnified to the greatest extreme. During the 1940s, while the military and its scientists developed the world’s most awesome weapons in complete secrecy, the UFO problem descended, as it were, into their lap. Would they be interested in unknown objects snooping around their restricted air space? Would they want to restrict the information they acquired? There is no definite answer, but the known facts indicate this was so.
If we assume, then, that there is a UFO conspiracy, we may ask where it is. Is there a central control group, for example, managing the problem? Perhaps yes, perhaps no. It is possible, even plausible, that no one holding public office today knows what is going on. It may be that a UFO control group existed at one time within the U.S. Department of Defense or the CIA, but there is no absolute reason why such a situation must exist today. Not only is secrecy within those circles axiomatic, but information is so highly compartmentalized that it is easy to imagine how various strands of UFO information could fall into dozens of semi-isolated domains.
Within the military, secrecy remains the rule regarding UFOs. Closing down Project Blue Book did not end UFO reports or investigations. Indeed, the Air Force neglected to mention in its 1969 announcement that Blue Book had never been the main body investigating UFOs; after 1952, its existence was purely a public relations endeavour. Investigations of UFOs continued, and military facilities dealing with super-sensitive information (such as the fabled Area 51 in Groom Dry Lake, Nevada) continued to be the source of UFO-related rumours. But a member of the military would be foolish in the extreme to be caught discussing any of this with the public. In the words of 133rd Airborne Wing officer James Goodell:
“When you go to work on those locations, you sign away your constitutional rights. You sign a piece of paper saying that if you violate your security agreement, and you discuss programs that you were working on, without a trial, without the right of appeal, you’re going to go to the Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary for twenty years. That’s a real big incentive to keep your mouth shut.”
This refers to the “Oath Upon Inadvertent Exposure to Classified Security Data or Information.” Taken by all personnel exposed to classified information of any kind, it is binding for life, under all circumstances. 
The military has taken the UFO issue deep under cover. For the last thirty years, requests to the Air Force or other government bodies about UFOs have elicited the same response:
“From 1947 to 1969, the Air Force investigated Unidentified Flying Objects under Project Blue Book. The project, headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was terminated Dec. 17, 1969. Of a total of 12,618 sightings reported to Project Blue Book, 701 remained “unidentified.”
“The decision to discontinue UFO investigations was based on an evaluation of a report prepared by the University of Colorado entitled, “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects;” a review of the University of Colorado’s report by the National Academy of Sciences; previous UFO studies and Air Force experience investigating UFO reports during the 1940s, ’50s and ’60s.
“As a result of these investigations, studies and experience gained from investigating UFO reports since 1948, the conclusions of Project Blue Book were: (1) no UFO reported, investigated and evaluated by the Air Force was ever an indication of threat to our national security; (2) there was no evidence submitted to or discovered by the Air Force that sightings categorized as “unidentified” represented technological developments or principles beyond the range of modern scientific knowledge; and (3) there was no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as “unidentified” were extraterrestrial vehicles.
“With the termination of Project Blue Book, the Air Force regulation establishing and controlling the program for investigating and analyzing UFOs was rescinded….
“Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations by the Air Force. Given the current environment of steadily decreasing defence budgets, it is unlikely the Air Force would become involved in such a costly project in the foreseeable future.” 
“We think we’re Luke Skywalker,” says a friend of mine, “when we’re actually Darth Vader.” America is a country with a bad conscience, nominally a republic and free society, but in reality an empire and oligarchy, vaguely aware of its own oppression, within and without. I have used the term national security state” to describe its structures of power. It is a convenient way to express the military and intelligence communities, as well as the worlds that feed upon them, such as defence contractors and other underground, nebulous entities. Its fundamental traits are secrecy, wealth, independence, power, and duplicity.
The UFO cover-up (precisely the right phrase) is one secret among many within the American national security state. Like other areas within its domain, the UFO problem has been handled secretly, with great deception, and significant resources. The secrecy stems from a pervasive and fundamental element of life in our world: that those who are at the top of the heap will always take whatever steps necessary to maintain the status quo.
1. Secrecy. Nearly everything of significance undertaken by America’s military and intelligence community in the past half-century has occurred in secrecy. The undertaking to build an atomic weapon, better known as the Manhattan Project, remains the great model for all subsequent activities. For four years not a single member of Congress even knew about it, although its final cost exceeded the then-incredible total of $2 billion. During and after the Second World War, other important projects, such as the development of biological weapons, the importation of Nazi scientists, terminal mind control experiments, nationwide interception of mail and cable transmissions of an unwitting populace, infiltration of the media and universities, secret coups, secret wars, and assassinations all took place far removed not only from the American public, but most members of Congress and a few Presidents. Indeed, several of the most powerful intelligence agencies were themselves established in secrecy, unknown by the public or Congress for many years.
2. Wealth. Since the 1940s, the U.S. Defense and Intelligence establishment has had more money at its disposal than most nations. In addition to official dollars, much of the money is undocumented. From its beginning, the CIA was engaged in a variety of off-the-record “business” activities that generated large sums of cash. The connections of the CIA with global organized crime (and thus de facto with the international narcotics trade) has been well-established and documented for many years.  In addition, the CIA maintained its own private airline fleet which generated a tidy sum of unvouchered funds primarily out of Asia. Finally, much of the original money to run the American intelligence community came from very wealthy and established American families, who have long maintained an interest in funding national security operations important to their interests.
3. Independence. In theory, civilian oversight exists over the U.S. national security establishment. The President is the military Commander-in-Chief. Congress has official oversight over the CIA. The FBI must answer to the Justice Department. In practice, little of this fond theory applied during the period under review. One reason has to do with the secrecy: the compartmentalization of information within military and intelligence circles. “Top Secret” clearance does not clear one for all Top Secret information. Sensitive information is available on a need to know basis. Two CIA officers in adjoining rooms at the Langley Headquarters can be involved in completely different top secret activities, each completely ignorant of the other’s doings. Such compartmentalization not only increases secrecy, but independence from the wrong (e.g. official) kinds of oversight.
Great latitude of activity is not merely the prerogative of the CIA. During the 1950s, President and five-star general Dwight Eisenhower effectively lost control of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. The situation deteriorated so much that during his final two years in office, Eisenhower asked repeatedly to get an audience with the head Strategic Air Command to learn what America’s nuclear retaliatory plan was. What he finally learned in 1960, his final year in office, horrified him. If a revered military hero such as Eisenhower could not control America’s nuclear arsenal, nor get a straight answer from the Pentagon, how on earth could Presidents Truman, Kennedy, Johnson, or Nixon regarding comparable matters?
4. Power. Secrecy, wealth, and independence add up to power. Through the years, the national security state has gained access to the world’s most sophisticated technology, sealed off millions of acres of land from public access or scrutiny, acquired unlimited snooping ability within U.S. borders and beyond, conducted overt or clandestine actions against other nations, and prosecuted wars without serious media scrutiny. Domestically, it maintains influence over elected officials and communities hoping for some of the billions of defence dollars.
5. Duplicity. Deception is a key element of warfare, and when winning is all that matters, the conventional morality held by ordinary people becomes an impediment. The examples of public deception by national security elements are too many to summarize here, but are provided in the ensuing chapters.
Excerpted from Richard M. Dolan’s book entitled National Security State: An Unclassified History Volume One: 1941 to 1973.