It was 1997, the 50th anniversary of the suspected flying saucer crash at Roswell, New Mexico, and the heyday of the paranormal mystery series The X-Files. The English-speaking world was gripped by UFO-mania. But what seemed a delightful mystery to some was becoming a headache for the spooks at Britain’s Defence Intelligence Staff.
Analysts at the DI55 office, the department lumbered with the UFO brief, were being peppered with requests from ufologists – and even parliamentary questions – for information on flying saucers, taking up time they felt would be better spent on terrestrial defence matters. So top brass decided to undertake a definitive study of the unit’s collection of reported UFO sightings to establish, once and for all, whether there was anything in them.
The study replaced one mystery with another after its author determined that the UFO sightings were a result of unexplained plasma formations in the atmosphere. Nevertheless, DI55 announced afterwards that it would no longer accept UFO reports.
The documents show the deliberations behind the research, which began in 1997 and collated the previous decade’s worth of UFO sightings – known in the technical jargon of DIS as unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs) – into a database. The identities of all the officers involved in the conversation, which lasted several years, are redacted. Many other excerpts are blacked out, with exemptions cited including risks to national security and international relations.
“The increasing media attention given to this subject in recent months has almost doubled the work of the desk officers involved to the detriment of other tasks more directly relevant to the work of the branch,” one memo says, adding that it was now time to “reappraise the situation” to clarify DIS’s role in the issue.
Officials complain about the cost in time and money of investigating sightings and responding to questions. “The problem is unlikely to subside, especially as the US brings into service over the next decade high flying …
via the Guardian