Smithsonian Channel’s UFOs Declassified: Simple Debunking or CIA Disinformation?


I’m Not A UFO Expert But I Play One on TV


“This is the second article I’ve written regarding what is clearly a UFO-debunking series on the Smithsonian Channel. The first one, titled I’m Not a UFO Expert but I Play One on TV, addressed the Smithsonian organization’s longstanding efforts to dismiss the reality of the UFO phenomenon via its publication of factually-inaccurate, propagandistic books and by broadcasting intentionally-biased “documentaries” on the subject. reports..

Perhaps significantly, the late Frederick C. Durant III, who served as an assistant director of the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum for many years, had also worked for the CIA and authored the 1953 Robertson Panel Report, summarizing a group of agency-sponsored scientists’ recommendations that UFOs be secretly debunked and the mass media utilized to achieve that end.

Regarding Smithsonian’s UFOs Declassified series—which repeatedly engages in the misstatement of facts, the omission of other key facts, and the use of unqualified “experts” to dismiss the reality of UFOs as an anomalous phenomenon—the question is whether this abysmal offering, episode after episode, is merely the product of uninformed, biased network executives and their contracted producers, or instead due to the efforts of hidden instigators covertly working for the CIA.

While skeptics may scoff at the latter suggestion, the agency’s decades-long practice of embedding its employees in legitimate media companies—with or without the knowledge of those organizations’ management—has been firmly established and was briefly investigated by the U.S. Senate, in 1975, during the Church Committee hearings. Watergate reporter Carl Bernstein’s examination of this ominous situation is a must-read for anyone wishing to understand how much clandestine influence the CIA has exerted on U.S. print and broadcast organizations since World War II.

In any case, given the evidence, the Robertson Panel’s recommendations were apparently implemented, and the CIA’s decades-long use of the media to discredit the UFO phenomenon is now well documented in The Missing Times: News Media Complicity in the UFO Cover-Up, by the late journalist Terry Hansen, available at Amazon as a $2.99 e-book.

For example, as Hansen wrote, “[There is] new evidence that CBS TV was among the CIA’s ‘media assets’ that participated in this covert UFO-debunking program. In 1966, CBS broadcast UFOs: Friend, Foe or Fantasy, narrated by Walter Cronkite, as part of its ‘CBS Reports’ documentary series. Cronkite assured his viewers, using false and misleading information, that all UFO reports were due to mistaken perceptions. In short, there was nothing for the public to worry about, he said. A hand-written letter by Robertson Panel member Dr. Thornton Page, discovered in the Smithsonian’s archives by Prof. Michael Swords, confirms the CIA’s long-suspected role in the program. In the 1966 letter, Page related to a CIA associate that he ‘helped organize the CBS TV show around the Robertson Panel’s conclusions.’”1

This illustration of the agency’s covert efforts to mislead the American public on the UFO topic, using the mass media, is only one of many that have now come to light. Moreover, and importantly, the history of the CIA’s still-classified interest in UFOs, and what appears to be its central role in the official cover-up by various groups within U.S. government, has been exposed by a variety of means, including document releases via the Freedom of Information Act, inadvertent leaks, and the occasional admission by one former agency employee or another. All of these have been examined in a chapter of my book, UFOs and Nukes, which has recently been posted online.

In short, the official version of history—whereby the CIA was only peripherally concerned by the UFO phenomenon, leaving the investigation of it to the U.S. Air Force—has been convincingly exposed as pure fiction. Nevertheless, the mainstream media continue to publish and broadcast stories originating from the agency—as recently as 2014—which serve to cast doubt on the UFO reality while simultaneously downplaying or ignoring CIA’s ongoing, still-hidden interest in the subject.

Regardless, a recent, suspiciously-spun episode of Smithsonian Channel’s UFOs Declassified, titled “Pilot Eyewitness”, presents three well-known cases involving commercial pilots who sighted one or more UFOs near their aircraft and, after superficially examining each incident, dismisses two of them as due to errors in human perception, suspect witness testimony and/or the misinterpretation of radar data.

The exception was the 2007 incident over the English Channel, during which Aurigny Air Services pilot Ray Bowyer reported seeing two huge, cigar-shaped UFOs which also appeared on ground-based radar. According to the show’s producers, that case will probably “forever remain a mystery”, which is the safest way to avoid saying that the two enormous craft—observed by the pilots of two different aircraft and all of the passengers in one of them—were, as the evidence strongly suggests, bona fide UFOs.

But the case that caught my attention—the one which best exposes the TV series’ continuing efforts to dismiss the phenomenon’s anomalous nature, while at the same time misrepresenting the real purpose behind extreme military and intelligence community interest in UFOs—is the 1986 Japan Airlines incident over Alaska.

Pursuing the debunking mission that UFOs Declassified so diligently embraces, the producers made a point of mentioning the following, supposedly problematic aspects of the case:

The veteran pilot, Captain Kenju Terauchi, was the only one, in a crew of three, to report a structured craft—a huge, dark, walnut-shaped ship having lights around a central rim—whereas the others only reported the lights.

The inference being that Terauchi only imagined an unlit craft to which the lights were attached—a phantom that didn’t really exist.

But Dr. Richard Haines, a retired psychologist and Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) researcher who interviewed Terauchi at length, says, “He was on the left side where the huge object was positioned and I don’t believe his First Officer left his seat to come over to look out of that window.” In other words, if Terauchi provided a more detailed sighting report than the others, it was due to his having a better look at the unknown craft.

(The producers mention the planet Jupiter as a potential source for the lights that everyone aboard reported—an obviously inadequate explanation given that Terauchi had been ordered to maneuver his aircraft through a full 360-degree turn, to see whether the lights would still be visible out his window. They were, the whole time, indicating that the lights/object had mimicked the aircraft’s circular maneuver and could not possibly be a planet, which would have instead remained stationary, at a fixed point in the sky, disappearing from view as the aircraft made its turn. Bizarrely, the producers had even mentioned Terauchi performing this maneuver earlier in the show. Consequently, their subsequent suggestion that the misidentification of Jupiter might offer a solution to the sighting was an obvious attempt to baffle the audience with bullshit.)

The show’s producers also attempted to discredit Captain Terauchi by mentioning his having acknowledged that he had seen other unidentified aerial objects during his careers as both a military and a commercial pilot—as if this fact somehow automatically meant that he was an unreliable observer. Terauchi was a “repeater” the narrator solemnly intoned, clearly implying that his testimony could not be trusted: Someone who reports one UFO is suspect; anyone reporting more than one sighting is quite clearly not credible.

In reality, however, large numbers of commercial pilots have reported seeing UFOs, often more than once, but usually only after they had retired, due to the widespread public stigma attached to those who describe seeing strange things in the sky. Indeed, as the pilots themselves have repeatedly said—during interviews appearing in various documentary films in recent years—their careers would probably have been over if they had been as candid as Terauchi.

This very valid concern was dramatically reinforced in 1953, when the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff—the heads of the military services—promulgated regulation JANAP-146, which ordered military and commercial pilots who had sighted a UFO to immediately file, while still airborne, a CIRVIS (Communications Instructions for Reporting Vital Intelligence Sightings) report. The purpose of such real-time reporting, including a required mention of the unidentified aerial object’s altitude and direction of flight, was to allow the nearest U.S. Air Force base to launch fighters to investigate the sighting.”

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