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UFOs on the record

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Interview with Leslie Kean

by Jason Francis

Author, journalist and co-founder of a group calling for increased government openness to and media coverage of UFO information, Leslie Kean discusses her most interesting cases and what needs to happen if we are to find the truth about the UFO phenomenon.  January/February 2013

Leslie Kean is an independent investigative journalist who has covered the subject of UFOs since the year 2000. In 2002, she co-founded the Coalition for Freedom of Information, a group promoting more government openness on information pertaining to UFOs, and for responsible UFO coverage by the media. In 2007, Kean co-organized a landmark international press conference in Washington DC on official UFO investigations, which received media coverage around the world. She is the author of the New York Times bestseller, UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go On The Record (Harmony Books, 2010), which formed the basis of a television documentary on the History Channel, 'Secret Access: UFOs on the Record'. Jason Francis interviewed Leslie Kean for Share International.

Editor's note: Since its inception Share International has presented more detailed and concrete information on the existence of UFOs than discussed in this interview. However, we recognize that Leslie Kean's approach is very useful in terms of promoting greater public and media awareness of UFOs and their work.

Cover of Leslie Kean's book on UFOs
Cover of Leslie Kean's book on UFOs.

Share International: What began your interest in the subject of UFOs as an investigative reporter?

Leslie Kean: It began in 1999 when I was working at a public radio station in California and a colleague from France sent me an English translation of the COMETA report. The report was put together by a group of retired French military officials, including four generals and an admiral, the former head of the National Space Study Center in France, which is the equivalent of NASA [National Aeronautic Space Administration] in America, and a group of scientists and engineers - an impressive, high-level group of people.

The COMETA report examined official data on UFOs. It explored the national security implications of exceptional cases that had been officially investigated. The committee looked at about five per cent of all sightings - those for which there is enough information to determine that they can't be explained by conventional means. Most sightings can be explained, but for the five per cent that can't, the most valid, rational hypothesis was what they called the "extraterrestrial hypothesis". They laid out some of the cases in their report and looked at the implications of what this all meant.

As a journalist, I was taken by the fact that generals and an admiral would be saying that we are likely being visited by extraterrestrial spacecraft. That is essentially what they were saying. They said that it was only a hypothesis, and couldn't be proven. Nonetheless, I thought it was a big story for people at that high level to make a statement like that. I wrote a story about this report and did some research around related issues in America, and published that story in the Boston Globe in the spring of 2000. The COMETA report got me interested in the subject of UFOs, and I've been pursuing it ever since.

SI: Was the COMETA report released to the public, and if so, what reaction did the public have to the likelihood that a percentage of UFOs were vehicles from another planet? In the US we are told people would panic.

LK: The full text of the report was published in a special issue of a French magazine. It sold very well. The point you're making is important because in other countries government officials, governments or retired officials have made statements like this and people don't panic. They go about their lives. This has happened in other countries as well as in France. It happened in Belgium, the UK and many South American countries where officials have acknowledged the reality of specific cases that cannot be explained. In America our own government will not acknowledge that something is unexplained and even create an hypothesis about it. Instead they try to explain it away by some silly explanation.

UFO at the Chicago airport

SI: Speaking of silly explanations that the US government uses to try to explain away a UFO sighting, could you tell us about one of the cases you describe in your book, the UFO event that unfolded at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago in 2006?

LK: The O'Hare case is an important illustration of how the US government handles these situations, in contrast to how governments in other countries handle them. The incident occurred on 7 November 2006 at about 4.30 to 5.00 in the afternoon. There was suddenly a metallic-looking, disk-shaped object hovering over Gate C17 at the United Airlines terminal. Pilots, maintenance people, crews, and people who were moving planes from one runway to another saw it from the ground. Managers were alerted, people came out and looked up, and a lot of people saw this strange-looking thing hovering. There are actually audio recordings of a United Airlines manager calling into the radar tower asking if they are picking up this object and reporting it is being seen. Unfortunately, radar did not pick up this object. But there were many witnesses and the sighting lasted for about five minutes, maybe longer. The object was hovering just below a dense cloud bank, which began at about 1,800 feet. Suddenly it shot straight up, cutting a crisp hole in the cloud bank just around the edges of the object. If you were directly below that hole you could actually see the blue sky through the cloud bank, which some people reported.

Obviously this was not some kind of conventional aircraft because we do not have the technology that can go straight up in the blink of an eye and cut a hole in a cloud. The problem was that the witnesses had nowhere to go with their reports. There was no government interest, no investigation. Two witnesses did report their sightings to a civilian UFO research group, and their reports ended up at the Chicago Tribune.

A Chicago Tribune reporter did a more in-depth investigation and it appeared on the front page of the newspaper. Dr Richard Haines' group, the National Aviation Reporting Center for Anomalous Phenomenon, did an even more in-depth study, which lasted a couple of months. In their report, they said they could not explain what the object was, and concluded it was something anomalous.

The government's response was interesting. They informed the public that this was "weather", which is absolutely ludicrous because obviously these trained observers would know what weather looked like. It was drizzling at the time and nothing special was going on with the weather. I called the FAA spokesperson who said this was weather and asked, "What kind of weather were you talking about when you said it was weather?" He said, "My best guess is that it was a hole-punch cloud." A hole-punch cloud is a very rare phenomenon, but it does occur. It is a hole that is formed in clouds when ice crystals from a cloud above fall on a cloud below and sort of melt a hole in the cloud below.

I called up many weather specialists, physicists, and atmospheric scientists and found out what the conditions would need to be for a hole-punch cloud to form. I learned that it was not cold enough that day at O'Hare for a hole-punch cloud to form. It has to be below freezing for such a phenomenon to occur. Indeed, it was significantly warmer - it was in the 50s - at O'Hare International Airport.

So we have on record the FAA telling us that the phenomenon that occurred on that day was actually something that it could not possibly be. That was all they did with this case. They put out a completely bogus explanation and left it at that. To me, what is important about this case is observing the absurd ways that these kinds of situations are managed by the US government and realizing this is not what occurs in other countries when events like this happen.*

UFOs over Europe

SI: In addition to the O'Hare sighting, are there other UFOs cases in your book that you find particularly compelling and credible?

LK: One of the cases I think is very convincing and fascinating is the wave of sightings over Belgium, which took place in 1989 and 1990. Most UFO sightings are a one-time event, but in this situation the objects kept coming back repeatedly over a year or year-and-a-half. Many people were able to see them.

The government was mobilized, the Air Force in particular, to understand what these objects were. This was not kept secret from the public. In fact, the government was actively involved and open about their involvement. There is an incredible amount of data on the objects that were seen and how they behaved. Scientists were involved in co-operating with the government to collect the data from witnesses. I have drawings by witnesses and details about it in my book. Many of the witnesses were police officers and military people.

General Wilfried de Brouwer, who wrote a chapter in my book about this case, was a colonel at the time and was involved in leading the investigation by the Air Force. He approached the United States government to see if this was our aircraft and was told it definitely was not. In any case, we didn't have the technology that these objects demonstrated, nobody had at the time, and we still don't today. That case remains unsolved. I've always loved that case because it was so well-documented, partly because the objects kept coming back and making it easy for people to document them.

Another fascinating and important case is the Rendlesham Forest event. It took place in 1980 at a US Air Force base in England, and involved the actual landing of a craft. ** Three security policemen saw something land. One of the policemen [Sergeant Jim Penniston] got extremely close and touched it. He recorded the contact in his notebook and drew pictures of the object. It was a very unusual triangular object, which eventually took off at tremendous speed and zigzagged through the trees. It left all kinds of physical evidence on the ground, which was able to be studied, collected and documented: holes in the ground, elevated radiation levels, and broken tree branches where it came down through the tree canopy.

Two days later more UFOs were seen in the same location at the same base. The Deputy Base Commander, Colonel Charles Holt, was out with a tape recorder and recorded the events that he saw taking place. It's considered a famous tape that he made of seeing all kinds of strange objects. Some of them were shooting beams down very close to his feet. There were elliptical objects in groups, which broke up into different sizes, just extraordinary. Here we are at a US Air Force base where this is all happening and military people are documenting it. Two of the witnesses in that case wrote chapters about it in my book. Those are two exceptional, well-documented cases, but there are others in the book as well.

Leslie Kean speaking to the press
Leslie Kean speaking to the press.

SI: Since you wrote your book, have you come across any other UFO encounters that are especially noteworthy? And are you investigating these events as you did the sightings described in your book?

LK: Quite a few people have written me since the book came out. Many times it is a former military person who writes and says, "I had a sighting back in the 1970s and never told anybody about it, but since I read your book I would like to share it with you." I have had many emails and dialogues like that with people.

I have also become interested in the work going on in Chile. I have been to Chile twice and I have written two articles in the last year about an interesting case that occurred there. It involves videos of objects taken at an air show at an Air Force base in 2010.

Chile has an official agency [the Committee for the Study of Aerial Anomalous Phenomena] with four full-time staff people who are part of their Civil Aviation Authority, which is the equivalent to our FAA, and they are extremely busy. The entire country takes the subject seriously. All the branches in government have a relationship to this particular office. Everything is reported and accepted by everyone there as being real and worthy of study. It's an interesting agency and Chile is doing the best job of any government in the world right now in terms of handling these cases. I have been looking at a lot of cases they have in their files and some newer ones. Actually, I am about to write a story on another case that happened recently in Chile. [This article, and a later update, have since appeared in the Huffington Post.]

Getting to the bottom of the matter

SI: Within US government circles or elsewhere, are you aware of any call for a serious investigation of the UFO phenomenon?

LK: I'm the only person I know who is making an effort. I am making an effort with a coalition of people I work with to get a very small office established within the US government. It has involved bringing people into Washington DC and having meetings and briefings with people in positions of authority who are willing to entertain the subject. It has involved trying to get the word out, trying to educate people in Washington about why this is important and what we should do about it. It's a slow process. Hardly anybody in Washington even thinks about this subject. They have so much on their plate. They are not informed about UFOs. The job of people who want there to be some sort of structural change, and change in policy, is to inform officials what is going on. That's a lot of the motivation I had in writing my book. I want it to be used to try and bring about change among those people.

SI: What will it take to get the US government to admit to the truth behind UFOs?

LK: There are a lot of other governments already officially investigating this phenomenon, and they acknowledge that it is real. There are many governments in South America that have done that, the French agency has done that, the UK has put out statements. These governments want the United States to come on board with the rest of the world in an international effort. What is holding us back is the United States' unwillingness to participate. If we did get this small office set up in the US government, similar to those in other countries (I've learned a lot about how these other government agencies operate) - it could change the entire climate of research going on around the world and get a lot more done.

SI: After spending over a decade investigating the UFO phenomenon, what conclusions have you reached?

LK: I have come to the conclusion that, number one, there is a real physical phenomenon taking place. We know it is physical because it shows up on radar, leaves marks on the ground, has been photographed and has affected aircraft. There is no doubt that there is something physical there.

The other conclusion is that it appears to be under intelligent control a lot of the time in how it operates and maneuvers. It also seems to demonstrate a technology that we do not have or are familiar with in terms of our capabilities. We have hypotheses as to what they might be, but we do not have a definitive scientific explanation yet. That's what we need to solve it, but we have a genuine mystery here that needs to be attended to by our best scientists. We need to try to get to the bottom of what it really is.

More information:

* Benjamin Creme's Master confirmed in the January/February and March 2007 issues of Share International that the UFO seen over O'Hare International Airport in Chicago in November 2006 was a spacecraft from Mars.

** Benjamin Creme's Master confirmed in the January/February 2003 issue of Share International that the object that landed in Rendlesham Forest in Britain in 1980 was: "a 'sensor' and storer of information rather than a spaceship. It was engaged in what could be called a 'scientific survey'. Its base is Mars."


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