rotten > Library > Conspiracy > Majestic-12


The possible existence of UFOs presents a sticky problem in logic. Well, not so much of a problem, as an inevitability. If you believe UFOs exist, then the following chain of deduction proceeds as surely as night follows day:

1) If UFOs are real, the government knows about them.

2) If the government knows about UFOs, the government is doing something about them.

3) If the government is doing something about UFOs, they sure as hell haven't told us about it.

For nearly as long as the term "flying saucer" has existed, there have been tales of government cover-ups. It's a bus that starts with the alleged Roswell crash, with stops at Area 51 and all points between Paranoiaville and TV Land.

For those seeking to wed UFOs with the kind of paranoid, deceitful behavior we have come to expect from the U.S. government, the story of Majestic-12 represents a high-water mark.

The story of Majestic-12 first surfaced in 1984, appropriately, when a roll of film was passed over the transom to a documentary filmmaker with no particular pedigree in UFOs or conspiracies, but whose friends were intensely into the subject. The film contained images of what purported to be classified U.S. government documents.

And what documents they were! The papers described a top secret government organization known as "Majestic 12," a cabal of some of history's most prominent names, which was in charge of protecting what the government knew about extraterrestrials and flying saucers. And according to the documents, "what the government knew" was rather a lot.

Majestic 12 was run by a clique of military and scientific personnel. Some of the names on the list were very well-known indeed. Others were not. In fact, some of the names were so obscure that the researchers examining the papers hadn't ever heard of them, although their existence (and credentials) would rapidly be confirmed.

The documents claimed that the U.S. government had recovered both wreckage and alien corpses at the alleged Roswell crash in New Mexico and at a subsequent crash in 1950. Under the orders of President Harry Truman, via the offices of Secretary of Defense James Forrestal, Majestic (or MJ-12) was created in 1947.

The documents laid out an impressive board of directors for Majestic. In addition to Forrestal, the list included:

  • Dr. Vannevar Bush, who was chairman of the World War II National Defense Research Commission and Office of Scientific Research and Development.
  • Rear Admiral-Roscoe Hillenkoetter, director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 1947 to 1950.
  • Air Force General Nathan F. Twining.
  • Air Force General Hoyt Vandenburg, who was director of the CIA shortly before the group's "official" formation.
  • Navy Rear Admiral Sidney Souers, former director of Naval Intelligence and the first director of Central Intelligence.
  • Scientists Lloyd Berkner, Jerome Hunsaker and Detlev Bronk.
  • Assistant Assistant Secretary of the Army Gordon Gray (who would later become CIA psy-ops chief).
  • Major General Robert M. Montague, who commanded atomic weapons research at a classified base in Albequerque, NM (and whose primary claim to fame otherwise is the appearance of his name on the Majestic documents).
  • Donald Menzel, a prominent Harvard astrophysics professor, most famous for his strident attacks on the intelligence of UFO believers.
With the exception of Menzel, the list looked pretty credible to its recipients at first glance. Another document purported to be a classified briefing paper addressed to President Dwight Eisenhower in 1952.

The papers were quickly disseminated into the UFO community. Even among the eager-to-believe crowd they became controversial. Subsequent "leaks" complicated the discussion by adding more and more incredulous documents to the overall cache, without any indications of where these documents were originating or whether they were all coming from the same source.

The later documents were more and more spectacular, both in the nature of their claims and the celebrity of their supposed authors. Later releases included briefings allegedly penned by Robert Oppenheimer and Albert Einstein, and some included claims that the government had recovered alien bodies and alien technology. One particularly sensational "leak" contained photographs of the contents of an "above top secret" government manual on the handling of UFO recoveries.

Stanton Friedman and William Moore, the researchers primarily pushing these materials out into the public eye, remain fairly controversial, even within UFO circles. The documents themselves have been the subject of endless analysis, with very little in the way of fruitful conclusions.

Moore was one of the first people to view the MJ-12 documents. While he has maintained their veracity, he has been involved in a couple of very public embarrassments which finally led to his "confession" that some information he had been peddling was wrong and might have been "disinformation" sent out by nefarious shadow-government types seeking to discredit UFO researchers.

Friedman is viewed either as a dogged and persevering hero, or as an intellectual fraud, depending mostly on the preconceptions of the person describing him.

The FBI investigated the MJ-12 documents in 1988, providing one of the few indisputably legit documents on the subject. Not surprisingly, the official verdict was that the documents were "completely bogus." However, it's worth noting that the investigation was not prompted by any assumption of fraud. Rather, it was launched in order to determine "whether the document had been properly declassified" and whether military secrets had been improperly revealed.

And even the FBI finding itself, declassified only after an FOIA demand, was heavily redacted. Whatever conclusions one might draw about Majestic, Area 51, Roswell and UFOs in general, there's no question that the government believes it has something to hide. Maybe that something isn't E.T.'s calling card records, but it probably isn't a comprehensive history of the use and design of weather balloons either...

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