John Alexander (Winning the War, 2003) knows more than you do—at least about the stuff you’re not supposed to know. Before spending seven years at Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he was instrumental in developing the military’s nonlethal weapons program, he was a colonel in the Army, working at the Pentagon and essentially becoming the military’s Fox Mulder. Alexander was the guy behind some of the Army’s more unconventional projects—psychokinesis, remote viewing, even orgone energy weather manipulation. He also became the military’s defacto expert on UFOs, helping to put together a loose-knit crew called the Advance Theoretical Physics (ATP) group, a purposefully misnamed band of Pentagon brass, aerospace engineers and defense contractors that studied the evidence surrounding various UFO sightings and stories. His new book starts with that group’s discoveries and delves into the science and conspiracy theories surrounding ufology.
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How did you become interested in UFOs?
This started in 1947 when I was a kid, when the first reports came out and were hitting the press. It got my attention.
You talk about your own UFO experience in the book, but you downplay it.
It wasn’t terribly significant. But my brothers and son have had experiences, and they were very ordinary in that they weren’t reported—not to any sort of authority. But the flip side from my perspective is that I trust these guys.
At times it seems like the ufology community is as intent on attacking the findings and credibility of each other as it is investigating UFO phenomena.
I have, for years, stated that, if I was a skeptic, I would do nothing. I’d sit on the sidelines and watch the UFO community eat itself up. They attack everything—and certainly me.
Why is that?
A lot of it gets to the secrecy issue. There is so much nonsense out there and the secrecy propagates that. I am absolutely convinced that we overclassify. I was at an OSD-level [Office of the Secretary of Defense] meeting and [Donald] Rumsfeld sent out what he called a “snowflake.” It asked, “How do we know if we’re winning the war on terror?” And that was secret. And if that was, then the New York Times should be top secret. And that just plays into the hand of those who see the conspiracies in everything. No one is able to challenge most of what they say.
You had access, though.
I’ve been able to see the classified documents and what is already out in the public. I’ve compared the two, and 98 percent of the information the government has is already public. The rest is ways and means—the parameters of the satellite, etc. You want to keep that secret. The rest is out there.
You talk about UFOs being a “tar baby” issue for politicians and public figures despite public belief in UFOs and, as you state, 7 percent of the country claiming to have seen one. Why is the belief in something that is, by its definition, merely unidentified, so stigmatized?
I wish I could say. No amount of evidence can overcome this. Part of it is the Condon Report [a 1968 Air Force-commissioned study of UFOs at the University of Colorado that downplayed sightings and the scientific study of them]. And I have a phrase: there’s no limit to crazy. What I mean is that there are these stories that come out that are demonstratively not true. The skeptics just jump on those.
Was it politically dangerous for you to start investigating UFOs while you were at the Pentagon?
I had already had several politically dangerous positions in the Pentagon. After I made major I was never handled the normal way in the Pentagon. I had some wild assignments. And at time didn’t believe I would get promoted again. But studying UFOs wasn’t my full-time job. I was doing some very serious things at the time and was evidently doing them well. I had powerful people looking out for me so I could do things like ATP.
Were you surprised by number of people who joined you?
The point was that we were very careful. We protected the identities of those that wanted to remain anonymous. Those that wanted to be known were known. To the highest people, this was a very sensitive thing.
Are you trying to make some of the same points now that you were trying to make then?
The main points I’m making are for people with common sense. This is not the greatest story never told. I’ve been addressing the disclosure issue; the issue of UFOs has been disclosed many times and nothing bad happened. Two specific cases are what the French did and the British did: released information that was pretty spectacular, but nothing really changed. And the predictions that things would be chaotic, it didn’t really happen. So when people say they want more disclosure, well, it’s already happened. Even world leaders have said these things are real. President Carter said that. [Soviet President Mikhail] Gorbachev said so. What more do you want? I’m trying to get this across.
UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities
Thomas Dunne / Feb. 15, 2011 / 9780312648343 / $25.99