- President Jimmy Carter said he was among a group that
saw a UFO in 1969. The object seemed as bright as the moon and changed
colors, he said...
- (CNN) -- One winter night in 1965, eyewitnesses saw a
fireball streak over North America, bank, turn and crash in western Pennsylvania,
then swarms of military personnel comb the area and a tarp-covered flatbed
truck rumble out of the woods.
- Now a former White House chief of staff and an international
investigative journalist want to know what the Pentagon knows, calling
on it to release classified files about that and other incidents involving
unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
- Despite earning little credence among many in the American
population, cases of strange aerial phenomena that defy explanation abound,
whether witnessed by thousands of Arizona residents, commercial airline
pilots or a U.S. president.
- The new initiative is not setting out to prove the existence
of aliens. Rather the group wants to legitimize the scientific investigation
of unexplained aerial phenomena.
- "It is time for the government to declassify records
that are more than 25 years old and to provide scientists with data that
will assist in determining the real nature of this phenomenon," ex-Clinton
aid John Podesta said Tuesday.
- Podesta was one of numerous political and media heavyweights
on hand in Washington, DC, to announce a new group to gain access to secret
government records about UFOs.
- Specifically, the Coalition for Freedom of Information
(CFI) is pressing the Air Force for documents involving Project Moon Dust
and Operation Blue Fly, clandestine operations reported to have existed
decades ago to investigate UFOs and retrieve objects of unknown origins.
- One of the most mysterious cases, the Kecksburg, Pennsylvania
incident of December 5, 1965, is the first cited in the group's request
for records through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
- Despite an official government story that the object
was a meteorite, some eyewitnesses claimed that a military truck took an
acorn-shaped object the size of a small car from the rural Pennsylvania
crash site to an Air Force base in Ohio.
- "We can't come up with a reason why this information
is being withheld. The government won't even acknowledge that the incident
took place but we know that it did," said Leslie Kean, a California-based
freelance reporter who drafted the FOIA request.
- In the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, the government did take
the UFO search seriously and top generals considered the pros and cons
of informing the U.S. public, Kean said, citing top secret memos.
- In 1969, however, the Air Force terminated Project Blue
Book, concluding that no reported UFOs were threats to national security.
- Paradoxically, Kean notes, the military continues to
deny some requests for UFO information by citing national security concerns.
- Backed by the Sci-Fi channel, the CFI hopes to reduce
the scientific ridicule factor in this country when the topic is UFOs.
- "There's definitely evidence of strange phenomenon
in the world. These are well documented," said Kean, who has written
for The Nation, the Boston Globe and the International Herald Tribune.
- "Most people don't think that there is evidence
because they haven't look for it. There's such a little green men mindset
in this culture. It's hard to work your way through that."
- The CFI director, Ed Rollins, also works for Podesta's
public relations firm, Podestamattoon, which is coordinating the new group
at the behest of the Sci- Fi channel. He said the initiative was a call
for serious investigation, not a publicity stunt for the cable network.
- "The Sci-Fi channel has had an interest in [UFOs]
for some time. The difference here is that they are focusing attention
on the serious, factual side of the issue, and that scientists have not
had a chance to thoroughly examine it," Rollins said.
- "Of course it could help programming. But Sci-Fi
thought they had some resources they could bring to the table."
- A Pentagon spokesperson could not be reached for comment.
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