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Would Someone Please Tell the President?

(An excerpt from the book Swamp Gas Times)
by Patrick Huyghe

A lot happens behind-the-scenes in the UFO community—or rather, doesn’t happen—which the public, for the most part, never hears about. The previous piece about Bruce Maccabee and his CIA connections doesn’t even come close to telling the whole story. Much has happened since, and in preparing this book I felt the need to flesh out this “behind-the-scenes” angle a little. The following story involves a stellar cast of characters—the CIA’s own Fox Mulder, one of the richest men in America, and the President himself—as well as some not-so-stellar characters. The following sequence of events is the best I could piece together given that everyone involved, or on the periphery, seems to disagree on exactly what happened and when it happened. This piece, written in January of 2001, has not appeared anywhere previously.


Shortly after Bill Clinton became president in 1992 a number of well-connected people attempted to have the new man-in-charge reveal the government’s long-held UFO secrets. Two of these people were Laurance S. Rockefeller, the 86-year-old philanthropist and grandson of John D. Rockefeller, and Scott Jones, a retired naval intelligence officer who worked as a consultant to the Defense Nuclear Agency (1981–1985) then as a Special Assistant on “paranormal interests” to Senator Claiborne Pell (1985–1991).

Rockefeller and Jones wanted to get UFO disclosure on the president’s agenda. To accomplish this goal Rockefeller employed Washington lawyer Melvin Laird, who had been the Secretary of Defense for Richard Nixon in the early 1970s, to approach then Secretary of Defense Les Aspin. Laird did so and Aspin in turn tossed the ball to the White House science advisor, John “Jack” Gibbons. Gibbons, who claimed not to know a thing about UFOs, then asked the CIA White House liaison for information on the subject. That led to Ron Pandolfi, apparently the CIA’s real X-Files man. But Pandolfi didn’t have someone within the agency prepare the UFO briefing paper. Instead he turned to Navy physicist and UFO buff Bruce Maccabee for the task. And that’s just what Maccabee did in April of 1993.

Pandolfi provides some insight into how all this came about in an email posted on physicist Jack Sarfatti’s site on the internet. “I had one and only one conversation with Jack [Gibbons] on the issue of UFOs,” writes Pandolfi. “Jack was concerned with how to respond to requests from Rockefeller. Jack asked why in the world someone like Rockefeller would believe such nonsense. My response was that only a fellow believer could answer such a question. I offered to ask Bruce to respond, and Jack accepted. The entire conversation lasted about 30 seconds. I called Bruce and he agreed to work that evening on a briefing book. Bruce delivered the briefing book to Jack the following morning before his meeting with Rockefeller. My understanding is that Jack gave the briefing book to Rockfeller. I have no reason to believe Jack read the briefing book or made a copy.”

Why would Jack give the briefing book to Rockfeller? Macabee provides some insight into the matter on Sarfatti’s website: “My real hope for having the briefing read was based on the requirement that it be available to Gibbons before the Rocky “Horror” Scott show [this is how Maccabee refers to the Rockeffeler-Scott Jones effort, which he abbreviates elsewhere as RHS]. I assumed that my effort would bear fruit if I kept to the timeline and transmitted my briefing on time (I was at home and had to wait for a nearby store to open before I could fax the document at 8AM). Little did I know that my effort had been undercut by the decision of Gibbons and the others to set the RHS show before my briefing could get there. Then of course, after the RHS show was over Gibbons had disposed of the problem and had no reason to read the briefing.”

And what did Maccabee put in this briefing paper? Information that, he says, “would or should be startling to anyone who had never encountered the subject or who had dismissed it out of hand. Hence my inclusion of the SAC base flyovers in 1975, the Iranian Jet case in 1976, and even the Coast Guard case in 1988. My intent was to, at the very least, put a question in his mind. Could this be true?”

But it was all for naught. Gibbons wanted to shield the president from the “nuts” and apparently did a good job of it. The briefing document probably never made it into the White House, and if it did, it probably stopped at the desk of Mack McClarty, the Chief of Staff to the President.

Some believe the real briefing for Gibbons was conducted by Christopher “Kit” Green, a General Motors executive formerly of the CIA with an interest in such matters, but Green denies ever briefing the president himself on UFOs. On this subject Pandolfi comments: “Kit mentioned several short UFO-related conversations he had with Jack [Gibbons] during breaks in meetings on completely unrelated subjects. You can call these ‘mini-briefings’ if you want, but as I recall it was just Jack expressing frustration with how to avoid confrontation with Rockefeller on what Jack perceived to be a non-issue.”

The pressure from below continued on those above in September of 1993 when John Peterson, a futurist who runs the Arlington Institute, a beltway think tank for the military, presented James Woolsey, a friend of his who was then director of the CIA, with a package of heavily sanitized CIA documents on UFOs that UFOlogist and nuclear physicist Stanton T. Friedman likes to brandish about during his UFO lectures. Peterson, whose book Out of the Blue discusses the potentially huge impact of human contact with extraterrestrial intelligence, wanted to know why the documents were so heavily sanitized and Woolsey agreed to look into the matter.

Then on December 13, 1993 Steven Greer, an emergency room physician in North Carolina and avid UFO believer who runs a UFO organization called CSETI, and his wife flew to Washington D.C. to have dinner with then CIA director James Woolsey and his wife, who was then the Chief Operating Officer of the National Academy of Sciences. The host of the dinner part was none other John Peterson. Greer viewed the event as a UFO briefing for the CIA director. In his book Extraterrestrial Contact: The Evidence and Implications, Greer claims that at the meeting Woolsey and his wife recounted having seen a UFO in New Hampshire in the late 1960s, and that after about 15 minutes of Greer’s UFO presentation Woolsey had said in effect, “Yes, I know they exist.” Woolsey subsequently called Greer’s recollection of the dinner inaccurate. Woolsey and Peterson called it a dinner party. Greer says the dinner party was a cover story for the briefing. Perhaps it was a serious conversation over dinner, but who ever heard of a briefing over wine with spouses?

Peterson’s efforts paid off to some extent. At the end of 1993 Woolsey commissioned Gerald K. Haines, the National Reconnaissance Office historian, to prepare a historical review of the CIA’s UFO involvement. The Haines report entitled “A Die-Hard Issue: CIA’s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90” was later unclassified and published in a 1997 issue of the CIA journal Studies in Intelligence.

In the introduction Haines explains how he had come to his task. “In late 1993, after being pressured by UFOlogists for the release of additional CIA information on UFOs, DCI R. James Woolsey ordered another review of all Agency files on UFOs. Using CIA records compiled from that review, this study traces CIA interest and involvement in the UFO controversy from the late 1940s to 1990. It chronologically examines the Agency’s efforts to solve the mystery of UFOs, its programs that had an impact on UFO sightings, and its attempts to conceal CIA involvement in the entire UFO issue. What emerges from this examination is that, while Agency concern over UFOs was substantial until the early 1950s, CIA has since paid only limited and peripheral attention to the phenomena.” Haines says that CIA officials wanted to keep the public unaware of the agency’s interested in UFOs, fearing that it would just fuel the already heated controversy over the subject. “This concealment of CIA interest contributed greatly to later charges of a CIA conspiracy and cover,” wrote Haines.

One should note that Woolsey, frustrated by his lack of access to the president, would not be in his post as CIA director for long. Andrew Cockburn, writing in the July 23, 2000 issue of the New York Times Magazine, stated: “When a deranged pilot crashed a small plane into the White House grounds in the fall of 1994, the isolated CIA chief bitterly repeated a joke that this was Woolsey making a desperate attempt to see the president. In December 1994, convinced that he would never get support from above, he announced he was quitting.” Not only had the president failed to back him, but Woolsey encountered disloyalty within the agency itself. Lying and deception, he discovered, were institutionalized within the agency bureaucracy.

For this reason, I wonder if Woolsey ever really discussed UFOs with Clinton, despite rumors to the contrary on the internet. The mysterious Dan Smith recounts the following story: “Ron [Pandolfi] and I are driving back from Front Royal after my briefing a special forces Colonel, a devout Catholic, on UFOs, eschatons and messiahs, with Ron observing. So I ask Ron about briefing the next President. And he said that if Geo W. [Bush] wanted a briefing he could just ask his dad about it. Ok, and what would his dad tell him, Ron? Well, his dad could tell him that he had tasked Jim Woolsey to find out and get back to him. Oh, really! And what was the result, Ron? Well, Jim came back and told the President that he just didn’t need to know.”

Smith then mentions a subsequent get-together with Pandolfi: “The point of the dinner meeting was to see if Ron would confirm or not deny his original statement to me that Woolsey had told Pres. Bush that he did not have a need to know about the ‘visitor’ situation. If he would not deny it, [documentary producer] Gus Russo was prepared to take the story to [New York Times investigative reporter] Sy Hersh. Ron did deny it...”

Meanwhile Rockefeller kept pressing Clinton. Finally, during the weekend of August 19-20, 1995, Rockefeller got his chance to make his UFO pitch to the president. Bill and Hilary Clinton and Jack Gibbons had come out to Rockefeller’s Wyoming ranch in the Grand Tetons for the weekend. Clinton subsequently instructed Webster Hubbell, his associate attorney general, to look into UFOs. Hubbell disclosed the president’s request in his book, Friends in High Places. But despite the president’s request, Hubbell was unable to learn anything about the subject. At least nothing that satisfied Clinton’s curiosity.

It’s likely that the back-door full court press will continue. During the 1968 Congressional Hearings on UFOs, it was Donald Rumsfeld, now President George W. Bush’s new Defense Secretary (and President Ford’s Defense Secretary as well), who introduced astronomer and Project Blue Book scientific advisor J. Allen Hynek. Rumsfeld was Hynek’s congressman at the time. Rumfeld should expect a knock on the door any day now.

Vice-President Dick Cheney has already been quizzed on his knowledge. On April 11, 2001, while appearing on the Diane Rehm radio show on WAMU, Grant Cameron called-in this question: “There is a vicious story circulating in the UFO community that you have been “read into” the UFO program. My question is, in any of the government jobs you have had, have you ever been briefed on the subject of UFOs? If so, when was it, and what were you told?”

Cheney replied: “If I had been briefed on that, I’m sure it was probably classified and I couldn’t talk about it.” Rehm then posed a follow-up question, asking if there was any investigation within this administration with regards to UFOs. Cheney answered with a chuckle: “I have not come across the subject since I’ve been back in government, since January 20th [2001]. I’ve been in a lot of meetings, but I don’t recall one on UFOs.”

Eventually UFO buffs will grow up and stop trying to collar the president (or the next best thing). When it comes to UFOs, it’s obvious he doesn’t know much more than the rest of us. Of course, some people claim that the president is deliberately kept out of the loop when it comes to UFOs, that those few in-the-know are controlling the information and misinformation, its secrecy and release, and have done so for the past half century. This close-knit group is supposedly called MJ-12. But the documents supposedly revealing the existence of this super top-secret group are not convincing and are probably a hoax—at best part of the misinformation being spread on the subject. There never was such a group and no such group of insiders who knows “the truth” about UFOs exists today. It’s a fantasy. And not a very good one at that.

But if I’m wrong, would someone please tell the president?

Copyright 2001 Patrick Huyghe