FBI attempts to explain UFO memo

FBI.gov

I can’t decide which part of this story is more interesting, that the most popular file in the FBI’s Vault is a short memo referencing flying saucers, or that the FBI thinks that some sixty years later they can assuage the frenzy of ufologists and paranormal investigators with hand-waving explanations.

Of course, this isn’t the first time the government has disavowed as opposed to disclosed. But let’s face it, if this one-page memo from 1950 is the lynchpin in the case for government knowledge of extraterrestrials, it’s not a particularly overwhelming indictment. Though addressed to FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover from Guy Hottel (then head of the FBI’s Washington, D.C., field office), it purports second-hand allegations from a redacted informant, and starts with the incredulous tone of ‘so-called flying saucers’ and concludes ‘no further evaluation was attempted.’

Via Yahoo News:

The file, published by the vault in April 2011 under the Freedom of Information Act, has been viewed nearly a million times, the FBI said, in part because media outlets “erroneously reported that the FBI had posted proof of a UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico [in 1947] and the recovery of wreckage and alien corpses.”

“A bizarre memo that appears to prove that aliens did land in New Mexico prior to 1950 has been published by the FBI,” the Daily Mail declared in 2011.

“The Hottel memo does not prove the existence of UFOs,” the bureau said in a blog post on its website this week. “It is simply a second- or third-hand claim that we never investigated.”

And the Hottel memo isn’t new, the FBI said. “It was first released publicly in the late 1970s and had been posted on the FBI website for several years prior to the launch of the Vault.”

Besides, the FBI notes, the Hottel memo is dated nearly three years after the infamous events in Roswell in July 1947.

“There is no reason to believe the two are connected,” the bureau said. “The FBI has only occasionally been involved in investigating reports of UFOs and extraterrestrials. For a few years after the Roswell incident, Director Hoover did order his agents—the request of the Air Force—verify any UFO sightings. That practice ended in July 1950, four months after the Hottel memo, suggesting that our Washington Field Office didn’t think enough of that flying saucer story to look into it.”

Now, I’m not taking a stance on UFOs either way, but time could be better spent in the archives than on this brief item of minor historical note, which surely by now has been dissected every which way from Roswell. If anything, this should be a lesson to intelligentsia on the potential blowback of overzealous redaction.

It’s also no news that the Daily Mail would find any excuse to sensationalize a snippet into some supernatural epic.

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