By: David Bloomberg
Re: 1/2 GAO Report and Congressman Schiff
The GAO Roswell report and Congressman Schiff.
Philip J. Klass
11/21/95 Skeptical Inquirer
An 18-month search completed last summer of United States government
documents - including once highly classified minutes of meetings of the
National Security Council - conducted by the General Accounting Office
at the request of Representative Steven Schiff of New Mexico, failed to
find anything to indicate that the government recovered a crashed
flying saucer north of Roswell, New Mexico, in mid-1947. The
investigation was conducted by GAO's National Security and
International Affairs Division, which has access to the most highly
The GAO investigators discovered nothing to challenge the conclusions
of a 1994 report by the United States Air Force, based on its own
extensive investigation. The Air Force concluded that the unusual
material recovered from a ranch north of Roswell was debris from a
train of balloons, radar tracking targets, and other devices associated
with a then top secret Project Mogul. [SI, Vol. 19, No. 1,
But you could get a vastly different impression from the news release
issued by Schiff on July 28, 1995, which formed the basis of many news
media stories, including one filed by the Associated Press. Schiff's
two-page news release carried the headline: "SCHIFF RECEIVES, RELEASES
ROSWELL REPORT (missing documents leave unanswered questions)."
The release began: "Congressman Steve Schiff today released the
General Accounting Office (GAO) report detailing the results of a
records audit relating to events surrounding a crash in 1947, near
Roswell, N.M., and the military response. The 20-page report is the
result of constituent information requests to Congressman Schiff and
the difficulty he had getting answers from the Department of Defense in
the now 48-year-old controversy.
"Schiff said important documents, which may have shed more light on
what happened at Roswell, are missing. 'The GAO report states that the
outgoing messages from Roswell Army Air Field (RAAF) for this period of
time were destroyed without proper authority.' [Emphasis added.] Schiff
pointed out that these messages would have shown how military officials
in Roswell were explaining to their superiors exactly what happened."
Based on the wording of Schiff's news release, one might conclude
that the "missing" outgoing RAAF teletype messages were only for a
brief period in early July of 1947. But the GAO reOPports its auditors
were unable to locate any outgoing RAAF messages for a three-year
period extending from October 1946 through December 1949.
During an interview with Schiff in his Washington office on July 29,
1995, I noted that Pentagon officials first learned from news wire
service reports - rather than official channels - that the Roswell Army
Air Field (RAAF) had announced recovery of one of the then mysterious
"flying disks." Because the flying disks might have been Soviet spy
vehicles, I asked the Congressman if it would not have been more
logical for Pentagon officials to have called the RAAF base commander
on the telephone rather than take time to compose and transmit a
teletype inquiry. Schiff replied: "I think they would have done it by
Schiff's news release failed to mention that when the GAO examined
once highly classified minutes of meetings of the National Security
Council for 1947 and 1948, it found no mention of the Roswell
incident. I asked Schiff: "If the U.S. government had recovered an alien
spacecraft in New Mexico in July of 1947, do you not believe that that
extraordinary event would have been discussed at National Security
Schiff responded: "I would have to say, but let me say first, my
endeavor has never been to look for UFOs or aliens as such. My endeavor
has been to look to see what was in the government records insofar as
they could be reconstructed at this point, which after 50 years is
problematic. And I went to the GAO because the Department of Defense
would not be cooperative in that regard - in fact, I believe, gave me
the run-around when I requested the information."
When I pressed Schiff to answer my question, he responded: "It would
be such an unusual event...that I'm not sure how it would be handled
and even if it were presented to the national leaders and National
Security Council, I'm not sure I would necessarily say that you could
say how they would handle the minutes of such a meeting." In other
words, Schiff is uncertain whether recovery of an alien spacecraft -
which could be the precursor of an attack on Earth - would be reported
to and discussed by the president and National Security Council. And
even if discussed, Schiff is unsure whether there would be any mention
of the incident in any of the highly classified minutes of NSC
The GAO report included a copy of an outgoing teletype message from
the Dallas bureau of the Federal Bureau of Investigation to FBI
headquarters, sent at 6:17 p.m. on July 8, 1947, that read:
EIGHTH AIR FORCE, TELEPHONICALLY ADVISED THIS OFFICE THAT AN OBJECT
PURPORTING TO BE A FLYING DISC WAS RECOVERED NEAR ROSWELL, NEW MEXICO,
THIS DATE. THE DISC IS HEXAGONAL IN SHAPE AND WAS SUSPENDED FROM A
BALLOON BY CABLE FURTHER ADVISED THAT THE OBJECT RESEMBLES A HIGH
ALTITUDE WEATHER BALLOON WITH A RADAR REFLECTOR. . . .
The GAO report also includes a copy of the "Combined History, 509th
Bomb Group and Roswell Army Air Field, 1 July 1947 to 31 July 1947."
This once-classified document reports: "The Office of Public
Information was kept quite busy during the month answering inquiries on
the 'flying disc' which was reported to be in the possession of the
509th Bomb Group. The object turned out to be a radar tracking
The Congressman's news release briefly summarizes these documents but
dismisses their importance in the following words: "Even though the
weather balloon story has since been discredited by the US Air Force,
Schiff suggested that the authors of those communications may have been
repeating what they were told rather than consciously adding to what
some believe is a 'cover-up.'"
The Congressman was quoted as saying: "At least this effort caused
the Air Force to acknowledge that the crashed vehicle was no weather
balloon. That explanation never fit the fact of high military security
used at the time." Clearly, Schiff has not carefully studied the 1994
Air Force report and seemingly believes that RAAF's action in issuing a
news release saying it had recovered a flying disk can be characterized
as "high military security."
The original Air Force identification of the debris - discovered by
rancher "Mac" Brazel - as the remnants of a weather balloon and radar
tracking target, was made on July 8, 1947, in the office of Brigadier
General Roger Ramey, Eighth Air Force commander at Fort Worth by
Weather Officer Irving Newton. At the time, neither officer had the
security clearance necessary to know about a then top secret
experimental program, called Project Mogul, which was then under way at
the Alamogordo Army Air Field in New Mexico. The project's objective
was to explore the feasibility of using high-altitude balloons
outfitted with acoustic sensors to detect when the Soviets tested their
first nuclear weapon.
On June 4, 1947, a cluster ("train") of more than 20 weather balloons
with multiple radar targets was launched from the Alamogordo Army Air
Field and was tracked to within 17 miles of the Brazel ranch before
radar contact was lost. Brazel discovered the unusual debris 10 days
later. [See SI, Vol. 19, No. 4, July-August 1995, p. 15.] The
description of the debris given by rancher Brazel on July 8, 1947, in
the offices of the Roswell Daily Record, and recent recollections of
his daughter Bessie, who helped her father collect the debris, indicate
that the debris came from this launch of a train of ordinary weather
balloons and associated equipment.
The recent investigation by the Air Force into claims of a crashed
flying saucer near Roswell was initiated in early 1994 in response to a
GAO request, and its report was released in September 1994. The Air
Force investigation officially uncovered the link to Project Mogul,
which had been discovered about two years earlier by UFO researcher
Robert Todd, and more recently by UFO researcher Karl Pflock. (Pflock's
wife, Mary Martinek, is Schiff's chief of staff and his liaison with
the GAO for its Roswell investigation.) The 1994 Air Force report, p.
21, states that "the most likely source of the wreckage recovered from
the Brazel Ranch was from one of the Project Mogul balloon trains."
In December 1992, shortly after Pflock had launched his own personal
investigation into the Roswell incident, he supplied Schiff with a
130-page briefing paper on the subject. Three months later, Schiff
wrote to then Defense Secretary Les Aspin seeking a "definitive
explanation of what transpired and why." Schiff's letter said that
based on (alleged) witness testimony, "the balloon explanation was a
cover story" and that "federal authorities sought to intimidate
witnesses and their families into silence," according to an article in
the January 14, 1994, Albuquerque Journal.
Since then, Pflock's several-year investigation has convinced him
that "at least the great majority if not all" of the debris found by
Brazel was wreckage from the cluster of balloons, radar targets and
instruments launched from Alamagordo on June 4, 1947. In Pflock's
invited talk to New Mexicans for Science and Reason in August, he said
he thinks that "most reasonable people will agree" and that he believes
that the evidence is "fairly conclusive."
When the Albuquerque Journal published an article by its Washington
correspondent, Richard Parker, who interviewed Schiff about the GAO
report, the article carried the headline: "Schiff: Roswell UFO a
Balloon." This prompted Schiff to challenge the accuracy of Parker's
article, in a letter published in the newspaper August 14, 1995.
Wrote Schiff: "With the sole exception of rejecting the original
military explanation of a crashed 'weather balloon,' which the Air
Force now disavows, I have never stated any conclusion about the
Roswell crash. . . . Of course, the 1994 Air Force explanation is a
possible answer. . . . "Schiff said that the GAO inquiry, which he
generated, "has had some notable results in addition to forcing the Air
Force to change its story."
Schiff's letter also said:
* "Two documents were uncovered which refer to a 'radar tracking
device,' (which means weather balloon) though the writers at the time
could merely have been repeating what they were told.
* "Agencies, including the CIA, stated for the first time that they
do not have information on the Roswell incident.
* "Perhaps most significantly, documents most likely to contain
helpful information, the military's outgoing messages, were not found.
It was estimated they were destroyed over 40 years ago without proper
authority. This means the military cannot explain who destroyed the
records, or why."
Schiff's published letter concluded: "Yet, from this, Parker manages
to conclude for me that the Air Force came clean. His inference is
clearly out of this world."
In early 1994, when it was first disclosed that Schiff had asked the
GAO to investigate the Roswell incident and he was interviewed by the
Albuquerque Journal, the newspaper reported that Schiff said "he
doesn't believe a UFO was recovered at the ranch." The article quoted
Schiff as saying: "If I had to guess, I would say some kind of military
Because Schiff's guess proved to be remarkably prescient, I asked him
if the GAO report and the 1994 Air Force report had increased his
earlier-stated belief that the debris discovered by rancher Brazel was
not from a UFO. He responded: "I think you're centering too much on my
beliefs in the matter," but he acknowledged that the Project Mogul
explanation "could well be what actually happened."
Schiff predicted that "the GAO report will not change anybody's mind"
about whether the government recovered a crashed flying saucer in 1947.
"People can make their own conclusions and that was my goal all along
and I have accomplished that goal," Schiff said.
Schiff has had extensive media exposure as a result of his Roswell
activities, including appearances on numerous local and network
television shows. He has twice appeared on Larry King's show (CNN) to
discuss his Roswell efforts.
Schiff said he is convinced "that people have a right to information
from their government on any subject-with the notable exception of
[information affecting national] security." This prompted me to ask if
Schiff planned to seek congressional hearings' on the all-important but
still unresolved issue of whether the United States government is
involved in a UFO cover-up. Schiff said, "I have no intention of taking
Veteran Washington aerospace journalist Philip J. Klass is author of
four books critically examining UFO claims and publisher of Skeptics
UFO Newsletter. He is chairman of CSICOP's UFO Subcommittee.