Condon was later to advise ‘Sigma XI’, an honorary scientific fraternity that he
"recommended that the government get out of this [alien conspiracy] business … there’s nothing in
it (55)." However, this unequivocal statement was not all it seemed, for Condon
went on "But I’m not supposed to reach that conclusion for another year (56)."
He had made the statement before the committee’s work had even really begun. ON 20th February 1967, Condon, together with Dr.
Richard Low, Dr. David Saunders, Dr. William Price and Dr Rachford visited the
CIA’s ‘National Photographic Interpretation Centre’ (NPIC) as part of their
‘investigation’. The CIA were clearly rattled by the possibility of any exposure
of their UFO activities as revealed in this CIA memo dated 23rd
"Any work performed by NPIC to assist Dr. Condon in his
investigation will not be identified as work accomplished by the CIA. Dr. Condon
was advised by Mr. Lundahl [NIPC Director] to make no reference to CIA in regard
to his work effort. Dr. Condon stated that if he felt it necessary to obtain an
official CIA comment he would make a separate distinct entry into CIA not
related to contacts he has with NPIC (57)."
After the Condon Committee had concluded its work, Condon asked
UFO researcher Dr. James Harder, what he would do if he were responsible for a
project report that might conclude that UFOs really were a manifestation of
extraterrestrial intelligence as many believed. Harder replied: "I said that I thought there would be other issues than the
scientific ones, notably international repercussions and national security. He
smiled the smile of a man who sees his own opinions reflected in the opinions of
others and said that he had given the matter much thought, and had decided that
if the answer was to be a positive finding of ETH [Extraterrestrial hypothesis],
he would not make his finding, but would take the report, in his briefcase, to
the President’s Science Advisor, and have the decision made in Washington (58)."
Whatever Condon privately believed, when the voluminous report
was published in 1968, it concluded, "Our general conclusion is that nothing has
come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific
knowledge. Careful consideration of the record as it is available to us leads us
to conclude that further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in
the expectation that science will be advanced thereby (59)."
This conclusion was on page one of the report and provided the
soundbites for subsequent media coverage – after all, having read that
unexciting conclusion, who would spend time ploughing through another 964 pages
of alien conspiracy theories?
The spin doctoring of the release of the report was award winning. It was
released to the press on 8th January 1969 shortly before Richard
Nixon’s presidential inauguration, for release the following day. Faced with the
almost impossible task of digesting the massive report overnight, reporters
asked for a summary and were referred to the above conclusion. It was therefore
this conclusion that hit the deadlines and headlines.
However, the report has become a work of controversy. Even
during negotiations to establish the committee at the University of Colorado,
Robert Low, an academic Dean who was to co-ordinate the project for the
university, was expressing concern that the association between UFOs and the
university might lay it open to ridicule. Indeed, the Universities of North
Carolina, University of California and Harvard had all declined to undertake the
study for this very reason.
Low, however, had a proposal on how the university might take
on the task but maintain respectability within the academic world. "The trick
would be, I think, to describe the project so that to the public, it would
appear a totally objective study, but to the scientific community, would present
the image of a group of non-believers trying their best to be objective, but
having an almost zero expectation of finding a saucer (60)."
Unfortunately for Low, this letter was found by a member of the
Colorado Project, David Saunders, and published. He and another member of the
group were subsequently fired. Saunders, however, exacted his revenge by
publishing his own book entitled somewhat scathingly, ‘UFOs? Yes! Where the
Condon Committee Went Wrong’. Saunders stated that Condon’s conclusion and
summary were not the findings of the committee but of Condon’s own pre-existing
beliefs. Saunders pointed out that the actual report concluded that a massive
30% of the ninety-one cases the Condon committee analysed remained unsolved.
The objectivity of
Condon and his study was under fire even before the official report was
completed. On 29th July 1968 the US House Committee on Science and
Astronautics held a symposium on UFOs. Congressman William Ryan, used the forum
to launch an attack on Condon and he demanded a full investigation of the entire
Colorado Project (61). Dr J. Allen Hynek and Dr. J. McDonald (the latter who, as noted
above was later found dead in suspicious circumstances) also expressed their
dissent of Condon, however these voices of dissent went unheard. On
17th December 1969, the then Secretary of the Air Force, Robert C.
Seamans, Jr, announced that the Air Force was pulling out of the study of UFOs
and that Project Blue Book was being terminated as it could no longer be
justified " on the grounds of national security or in the interest of science
The US Air Force was finally officially out of the
alien conspiracy theories business
and no longer had to embarrass itself by explaining away both false and perhaps
real UFO encounters. That there was some form of cover-up going on is supported by
corroborative evidence from around the world. In England in 1989 the editor of
the ‘Heywood Advertiser’ revealed that following his investigations into
a 1957 ‘sighting’ in Wardle, Lancashire, his newspaper was effectively silenced.
"We went into [the case] very thoroughly indeed and no matter what continued to
report the pros and cons of the debate for several weeks.