On Jan. 10, just one day after my article on UFO secrecy appeared in this newspaper and on this Web site (“Intelligent Extraterrestrial life: The Other Inconvenient truth?” Jan. 9), I was unceremoniously dropped as a Cato Institute adjunct scholar, a position I’d held for more than 20 years.
First some background. I’m a Ph.D. economist with a national reputation in the antitrust area. I’ve written books, journal articles, and many dozens of op-ed articles over the years on a variety of public-policy issues. My association with the libertarian Cato Institute in Washington, D. C. goes back many decades. Yet they cut me away in a heartbeat because I dared call for more government disclosure on the UFO phenomenon.
I really didn’t believe that calling for more disclosure was all that controversial. After all, John Podesta, former chief of staff under Bill Clinton, has called for more government disclosure on the UFO subject. Former astronaut Ed Mitchell has repeatedly called for more disclosure, as has Gov. Bill Richardson, D-N.M. Former Canadian Minister of Defense Paul Hellyer has stated that our government knows that UFOs are interplanetary machines and that the secrecy should end. Given these bold assertions by “insiders,” I thought that I was in safe company; apparently I was wrong.
Actually the most classic call for disclosure came 48 years ago from former CIA Director Vice Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkotter. As reported in The New York Times of Feb. 28, 1960, Hillenkotter (in a letter to Congress) argued that “it is time that the truth (about UFOs) be brought out in open Congressional Hearings.” He went on to say that “through official SECRECY and ridicule, many citizens are led to believe the unknown flying objects are nonsense …” and, further, that the Air Force “has silenced its personnel” in order “to hide the facts.”
If a former CIA director could say that, why couldn’t I?
The most recent attempt to “chill” serious media interest in UFO secrecy occurred in Stephenville, Texas. Stephenville currently is a hotbed of UFO activity, and much of the newspaper reporting has been done by the Empire Tribune’s Angelia Joiner. Ms. Joiner filed some of the first stories, talked to many witnesses of the phenomenon, and even appeared on a CNN Larry King special in January.
Yet despite a worldwide interest in the sightings, Ms. Joiner recently was fired by the Empire Tribune for, among other things, openly questioning the U.S. Air Force’s improbable explanation of the sightings.
So much for courage and truth.
None of this intimidation and media censorship is new. I first became interested in UFO secrecy when CBS aired an Armstrong Circle Theater episode on UFOs on Jan. 22, 1958. On that program, an Air Force spokesman recited the standard mantra that UFOs were all nonsense and that the government wasn’t hiding anything.
Also on the program was Donald E. Keyhoe, executive director of the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena and the leading critic of an Air Force cover-up. At one point during the live broadcast, Keyhoe broke away from his pre-approved remarks and said, “And now I’m going to reveal something that has never been disclosed before …” but then his microphone suddenly went dead. The live TV audience saw his lips moving (me included) but his audio had been terminated by CBS and the U. S. Air Force under a prior agreement. Keyhoe intended to tell the American public that NICAP had proof that UFOs were real machines under intelligent control but he never got the chance. He’d been censored by those who claimed that they had nothing to hide.
In this presidential year of “hope,” let us all hope that someone, somewhere will finally be honest with the American people about unidentified flying objects. Censorship and intimidation have no place in a free and democratic society. We (they) continue this policy at our peril.
Armentano is professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford and has written op-ed articles for The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, and many other newspapers. He lives in Vero Beach.