A couple of recent articles – one published in The Guardian, the other by David Clarke in his blog – shed new light on the process by which the UK Ministry of Defence went about closing its UFO desk in 2009.
According to Clarke, the evidence indicates that in the 1990s and 2000s there were some associated with British intelligence investigations who believed that research into unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) was warranted (the chief justification being concern over threats to national security). Nevertheless, a consensus had emerged around the mid-nineties that there remained little reason to continue the investigations. The focus of state officials then largely shifted toward two goals: (1) finding a way to end state-sponsored UFO investigation and (2) doing so in a manner that would avoid sparking a resurgence in UFO interest.
All in all, these findings – while important – are not all together surprising from a historical standpoint. My own research and the research of other historians and ufologists – most notably Kate Dorsch at the University of Pennsylvania – indicates that the work of the rather infamous Condon Committee in the U.S. during the years 1966-1968 was aimed at achieving the very same ends. And the recent revelations about the Pentagon’s Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (2008-2012) show there too that while some in the program believed there to be value in its work, others surrounding it considered it a waste of time and money.
To my mind, the most intriguing aspect of all this is the way in which all those involved considered the public relations side of things a primary focus. Sparking, maintaining, and thwarting public interest in UFOs and the possibility of extraterrestrial visitation have been a constant concern throughout the history of the UFO phenomenon. This is why, in my estimation, why one cannot write its history without paying close attention to not only the messengers, but also the media.