Out of the Blue: UFOs and the Freedom of Information Act

The existence of UFOs may seem like the exclusive domain of science fiction, but as Representative John Moss of California laid the groundwork for legislation that eventually became the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966, he didn’t discriminate in his pursuit to open as much government information as possible to the public.

During the 1950s and 1960s, as the House held hearings and debated the scope of Moss’s legislation, the Special Government Information Subcommittee and the Foreign Operations and Government Subcommittee (FOGI) of the Committee on Government Operations, both of which were chaired by Moss, addressed a deceptively simple problem. Every year the federal government produced vast amounts of information. But of that mountain of data, the subcommittee needed to know what the government could (or should) release, as well as what federal officials should (or had) to restrict.

A sample page from Project Blue Book depicting an alleged UFO sighting.The subcommittees fielded thousands of requests from the public, newspapers, and other Members of Congress on every imaginable topic, from Amelia Earhart to ballistic missiles to frozen foods. Of the organizations that contacted the FOGI Subcommittee, two stand out: Flying Saucers International and the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. Surprising? Yes, but consider this: In the decade before FOIA became law, the United States and the Soviet Union spent an immense amount of money developing programs to send defense technology and eventually people into outer space. By mid-century, whatever existed beyond Earth’s atmosphere actually seemed within reach, and the idea—the very possibility—that “unidentified flying objects” were zooming around the galaxy captured the public imagination. Many people who believed in UFOs were also convinced the Air Force knew about them too, and that the military had kept their existence secret. Anxious Americans considered this a major problem: What if the Russians somehow got access to extraterrestrial technology and used it against the United States? And didn’t defense personnel need confirmation that UFOs existed and the training to distinguish them from planes and missiles so that accidental war with the Soviet Union might be prevented?

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Freedom of Information Dead on Arrival — Another Covid Casualty

“Democracy Dies in Darkness”–Washington Post
“It’s not dark yet, but it’s getting there”–Bob Dylan

Another fallout from the Covid crisis is that you can no longer reach public officials and bureaucrats. Phone calls go unanswered and there seems to be a pervasive disinterest in responding to emails now.

This is significant in terms of transparency and the public’s right to be informed. What we are seeing now in daily media reports, wildly contradicting each other as to the nature of the Covid crisis, is compounded by the unaccountability engendered by public officials, who seem to have discarded any semblance of concern about “the public’s right to know.”

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