Most of these documents were released under FOIA in the ’70s, and there haven’t been that many since. There’s a really interesting one from the Belgian case. It just describes ‘De Brouwer said this and that, and De Brouwer enquired whether these were F-17 or a stealth aircraft, and we told him no.’ It’s about two pages. So it records that De Brouwer actually made the request, and it records what the US told him response.

The Iranians had a sighting in 1976, and there was a three-page, very detailed document written for the Defense Intelligence Agency about that event, just describing everything that happened. There was an assessment by a colonel named Roland Evans after the case was investigated and written up. It’s so extraordinary. He wrote that it was an “outstanding report: this case is a classic which meets all the requirements necessary for a valid study of UFO phenomena.” It really shows an extraordinarily open attitude to this whole phenomenon taken by this official.

There are other cases too—there is a Peruvian case in 1980, which is in the book as well, which has a document from the U.S. government. And they write about these cases very matter of factly: they use the word “UFO”: ‘UFO out ran the jet, pilot attempts to fire, origin of the object is unknown’—all these things.

But at the same time these reports were filed, the government was telling the general public that they had no interest in UFOs and weren’t investigating them anymore. So the documents sort of run counter to the public stance of the government since the close of its own agency back in 1970. So that’s sort of an interesting thing.

Thinking back to your Burma days, it seems that you’re still doing advocacy journalism. What would you like to see happen?

I think that’s right. What we’re proposing is that we’d set up an agency that’s modeled on France. We’re talking about an office with possibly only one staff person—whether it’s in the Department of Defense or NASA—a very small and inexpensive agency that can serve as a focal point for investigation, a focal point for greater releases of information, and who can coordinate with other government agencies around the world that are doing this.

What would be important about setting up this agency really would be that it would represent a change in attitude within the US government by acknowledging that this was a subject worthy of investigation. In 1970, they took the position that it was not. They’ve not retracted that position, and they’ve ignored all the major cases, or made up false explanations for cases that have happened since the 1970s. It could lead to resources being provided to scientists, scientists becoming more interested, scientists realizing they won’t be ridiculed anymore if they have an interest in this.

The agency people in governments around the world feel that without U.S. participation we’re really stuck. A country like France isn’t going to be able to do it themselves. After decades and decades of work we don’t need any more case reports. We need to solve it, and the only way that’s going to happen is for the U.S. to become involved.

CORRECTION: Dennis Bernstein’s name was originally misspelled.

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Clint Hendler is the managing editor of Mother Jones, and a former deputy editor of CJR.