By Richard H. Hall
Prepared for January 19-21, 2002, "Think Tank"
sponsored by Fund for UFO Research)
Abstract. In his chapter
of the University of Kansas Press book UFOs and Abductions, edited by
David Jacobs (2000), Don Donderi argues that the scientific establishment
is not well equipped to deal with the UFO subject, nor is it the only
method or procedure used in our society to establish truth. Other
approaches include the methods used by the legal system and by the
military intelligence community. Taking his insights as a point of
departure, I suggest ways in which they could be translated into a
promising new way of calling attention to the serious UFO data. Primarily
I suggest the organization of a National Public Fact-Finding Commission
made up of prominent Americans who would hear presentations of the data
over a period of time, and ultimately issue a report making
recommendations. I discuss how such a Commission might be organized, how
it would operate, and what it might be able to accomplish. Also, I
emphasize that a hypothetical Commission would not be an alternative to (a
substitute for) a more thorough scientific study, but instead a way of
helping to bring about the application of more and better science to UFOs.
Introduction. Having reviewed the various submissions by
attendees, I strongly agree that new initiatives are needed to revitalize
scientifically oriented UFO research and investigation. The non-response
of the scientific establishment, the news media, and government agencies,
as well as the continued lack of or drying up of financial support, leave
us in a crisis situation. "We don't get no respect," nor do we receive
anything approaching adequate funding for even beginning to deal with the
complexities of "the UFO problem." Why should "we" (depends on the meaning
of the word "we") when "we" either embrace or passively co-exist with
kooks, con-men, and New Age mush-brains. Until we who stand for careful,
scientific study of UFOs clearly differentiate ourselves from the
unscientific, and sometimes even anti-scientific, elements it seems highly
doubtful that we will ever get anywhere. They becloud all attempts at
serious, factual discussion of the evidence.
works. To put our meeting in context, I will briefly review some very
worthwhile projects currently underway. This meeting certainly is a
worthwhile effort to seek new approaches. However, the Fund and the UFO
Research Coalition also are engaged in what to me appears to be the most
objective, scientific attempt to capture real-time data on UFO abduction
incidents, and publication of various important reports. Bob Bigelow's
National Institute for Discovery Science has been aggressively
investigating UFO-related incidents, and in the process has utilized not
only scientists, but also such people as retired police detectives and
former members of the military intelligence community, in keeping with Don
Donderi's insights. NARCAP, the pilot-sighting network, potentially is a
very important proactive effort to gather real-time data. On another front
altogether, the Sign Historical Group (along with some independent
investigators) has been exhuming historical documents and records that
shed new light on the early history of UFOs. A new initiative is underway
to gather signatures for a petition to the United Nations asking for some
simple steps to encourage member nations to be open and forthright about
Case Book. I strongly endorse Eddie Bullard's proposal
for a carefully derived "Case Book" of meticulously investigated cases.
This approach was scheduled to be used by the University of Colorado UFO
Project, but was never implemented. Once a Case Book is produced, among
the many uses that it could be put to would be to actively seek dialogue
with members of academic science departments during which the scientists
would first be asked to explain the reasons for their (presumed)
skepticism, and then exposed to the Case Book and asked to sit down across
the table and discuss the Case Book. Similarly, meetings could be sought
with editors of major daily newspapers, science editors, or Members of
Congress, as appropriate or desirable. By this means the focus would
remain where it belongs, on UFO cases rather than on opinion, speculation,
exotic propulsion schemes, and the like.
Commission. In the context of all these ongoing efforts, and new
proposals, I envision the formation of a nonpartisan National Public
Fact-Finding Commission that would be only one prong of a multi-pronged
attack on the problem. (Part of a "full-court press" to the
basketball-literate amongst us.) What it could provide is a focal point
for public discussion of UFOs as a scientific issue, news coverage because
of the caliber of the people involved and possibly also of individual
cases that, under the circumstances and presented in a new context, strike
a chord that they haven't before, and presumably the Commission meetings
would also stir controversy and attempted rebuttals...all fodder for the
news media and likely to stir up dormant interest in the subject. Perhaps
most important of all, such a Commission could provide a comfortable forum
for important witnesses to speak out when they have not felt able to do so
in the past for fear of ridicule or job loss.
Elements of the
(1) Commissioners (prominent Americans and public
figures from various professions, including Government, the judiciary,
legal profession, business, politics, science...).
Counselors (to organize and coordinate all presentations to the
Commission, and to vet potential witnesses; candidates for Chief Counsel:
Don Donderi; Mike Swords).
(3) Presenters (well-informed and
articulate persons who would make presentations of specific or collective
evidence and data; e.g., Walter Webb, Jennie Zeidman).
Witnesses (to testify on personal knowledge of specific cases; e.g., Lt.
Col.Coyne; Col. Halt; DIA guy re: Iran case; Delbert Newhouse; Joachim P.
Kuettner; David R. Saunders; Robert Salas, ICBM site missile officer).
Just to illustrate the concept, the following represent the caliber of
the people I envision serving as Commissioners (obviously some of these
would be more likely real-life candidates than others):
William S. Cohen
(former science editor, Christian Science Monitor)
Adm. William J. Crowe
[Other suggestions are invited]
The Commission would meet for something like one year to 18
months, enough time to allow for thorough presentations and discussion of
data. Depending on funding available, it might meet every two months or
every three months. It would be a quasi-judicial proceeding whereby the
panel of Commissioners would listen to presentations of data and study
exhibits, question the presenters, and call for any other witnesses they
wish who might have a different perspective. Commissioners would not
comment on a daily basis unless they wished to do so as individuals. The
meetings would be open and public, with a press gallery and seating for
interested members of the public. Any exhibits presented in the course of
testimony would be available to the public unless the witness required
anonymity or there were other overriding reasons for withholding the
information. This is only a broad outline; many specific details would
need to be worked out.
stated mission of the Commission would be to hear testimony from concerned
members of the public in regard to their experiences related to UFO
sightings. A major goal would be to clarify the factual evidence as
reported by credible witnesses, and to resolve controversy about the ways
in which human institutions have dealt with the subject, in the national
public interest. Public education would be an important element of it, as
would the setting of an example in regard to witnesses receiving a fair
hearing without ridicule, and full public reporting of the relevant data.
The Commission would not be asked to pass judgment on the “reality” or
nature of UFOs. Their final product would be a report on findings and
recommendations for public policy in regard to future official handling of
UFO reports. What, if anything, should the Government and/or other
institutions of society do to ensure adequate investigation, analysis, and
full public release of UFO sightings reported by credible observers?
What Would It Accomplish?
If the Commissioners
were generally perceived as being fair-minded and respected members of
society without regard to political party lines, their very willingness to
participate would be newsworthy. As the public proceedings progressed,
there would be all sorts of news generated by the sessions. Just picture
Jennie Zeidman presenting her findings on the 1973 helicopter-UFO
encounter in Ohio, and Lt. Col. Coyle appearing as a witness. Never mind
that the cases are "old," the mere fact that a panel of respected
Americans was listening to the presentation would generate not only news,
but new attention to the UFO subject as, after all, possibly being worthy
of another look. The Case Book, NARCAP, NIDS, and other initiatives could
be pressing forward on parallel tracks, and in some instances could
participate in the work of the Commission.