UK Releases Classified UFO Files
- May 2008
- NewScientist.com news service
- Ker Than
The UK is making decades’ worth of classified files relating to UFOs freely available to the public.
On Monday, the British Ministry of Defence (MOD) began a four-year-long project to transfer the files to the UK’s National Archives, which will post them for public perusal. The announcement comes about one year after France made its UFO files available online.
The project is a response to massive public interest and numerous Freedom of Information (FOI) requests about UFOs, or Unidentified Flying Objects, that have been filed over the years. Nick Pope, a former UFO investigator at the MOD, called the release “a great day for open government and freedom of information”.
When complete, the National Archive will contain some 160 UFO-related MOD files from the 1950s to 2007, representing the single largest release of records in the ministry’s history.
Eight files are currently available on a dedicated UFO page at the National Archives website. The files are from 1978 to 1987 and include reports of UFO sightings and alien encounters from civilians as well as military personnel.
The reports range from mysterious to downright bizarre. One elderly man said he was given a personal tour of an alien spacecraft by beings wearing green overalls and then was ultimately rejected for abduction because of his age.
Also included is a behind-the-scenes look at the MOD’s preparation for a 1978 debate about UFOs in the British House of Lords. Lord Strabolgi (David Kenworthy) gave the official government response in the debate, which was initiated by Lord Clancarty (Brinsley le Poer Trench), a ufologist.
“There really are many strange phenomena in the sky, and these are invariably reported by rational people,” Lord Strabolgi said in his closing remarks. “But there is a wide range of natural explanations to account for such phenomena. There is nothing to suggest to Her Majesty’s Government that such phenomena are alien spacecraft.”
David Clarke, an expert in UFO history at Sheffield Hallam University in the UK, said the Ministry of Defence took the debate, and its subject, seriously. “The papers show they went to a considerable amount of work to actually produce background briefings for Lord Strabolgi,” Clarke said in a National Archives podcast.
The files also reveal the ministry’s pragmatic approach to UFO reports. From the perspective of the British government, UFOs are worth investigating only because they might pose a threat to national security.
“As soon as they were able to say this particular UFO isn’t an enemy aircraft, they weren’t interested in pursuing it any further,” Clarke said.
The MOD’s release of its UFO files should go a long way towards debunking notions of a government cover-up, Clarke said. “It’s a good move on behalf of the Ministry of Defence to put this material in the public domain and demonstrate what they know, which doesn’t amount to much.”