Stone's ThrowUAP

My Interview with Acclaimed ‘Phenomenon’ Director James Fox

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Lockheed Martin: ‘Questions About UAPs Are Best Addressed by the U.S. Government’

This is the second installment in a series about the scientifically unexplained. 

Apparently even when you hold the illustrious position in the United States government of deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, you have to skulk around a bit to get at the truth when it comes to UFOs.

Christopher Mellon, who served in that exulted position during the Clinton and George W. Bush Administrations, surreptitiously met with a source in the Pentagon parking lot less than a decade ago to obtain a potentially earthshaking package.

The package contained three videos recorded by U.S. Navy pilots between 2004 and 2015.

Although Mellon later revealed he helped provide material to The New York Times for the publication’s game-changing expose in December 2017 about a Pentagon UFO program, he contends the Gray Lady’s eventual coverage failed to capture the bigger story.

The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), revealed by The Times, was a covert initiative funded by the U.S. government to investigate UFOs, now widely referred to in official circles as “unexplained anomalous phenomena,” or UAP. Some agencies use the ‘A’ in the acronym to mean aerial.

While revelations reported in The Times about the UFO program were deeply significant, the focus on that component of the story failed to grab readers by the lapels and scream: DUDE, WE ARE NOT ALONE!

It felt like The Times hedged more than slightly, not wanting to get too far out in front of the societally acceptable, even while producing world-class, groundbreaking journalism on the topic. (Or, perhaps, corners of The Times are buried deep in stubborn yet understandable disbelief of the most unbelievable.)

“In the end, I have to say, I was still extraordinarily disappointed with The New York Times because they focused on this small, AATIP program,” Mellon stated in The Phenomenon, a jaw-dropping 2020 documentary that examines UAP. “And the real story, in my mind at least, should have been, these things are real. They’re here. This is happening now.”

Filmmaker James Fox, right, interviewed former President Bill Clinton’s White House Chief of Staff John Podesta for “The Phenomenon.” Podesta is a longtime advocate for government transparency on UFOs.

Prepare, Accept, Understand 

I had the extraordinary opportunity last week to interview James Fox, the film’s accomplished director.

My conversation with Fox materialized after I asked scientist Robert Powell, co-founder of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (interviewed for last week’s Stone’s Throw column on the Hudson Valley’s UFO history), if he had a documentary to flag for any hardcore, “nothing-to-see-here-folks” deniers who might challenge the reporting. (In fairness and generally speaking, I was a lifelong agnostic on UFOs myself until initiating a deep dive three weeks ago.)

The scientist then introduced me to the filmmaker.

As for Mellon, who anchors the film’s opening scene, he was no mid-level bureaucrat.

He served in his high-level Pentagon position for Democratic and Republican presidential administrations, working closely with other security officials, intelligence agencies and the military branches.

“We need to begin to prepare, to accept and understand that we are not alone in the universe,” the widely respected, seemingly sober-minded Mellon dramatically asserts in Fox’s film.

The Phenomenon’ 

During my phone interview with Fox last week, the filmmaker explained how his fascination with UFOs began in the mid-1990s, as he recognized that amidst the foolish alien sensationalism, there were also credible eyewitness accounts and unexplained phenomena that warranted serious investigation.

Determined to create the “seminal feature-length documentary film on the topic,” he embarked on a journey that spanned a quarter-century, facing setbacks and learning from mistakes along the way.

Eventually, “The Phenomenon” emerged as the culmination of his decades-long pursuit.

I wondered how much powerful evidence Fox might have secured in his research that still hasn’t been widely shared on a credible platform.

Fox collected no shortage of compelling and persuasive material. Much got understandably left on the cutting room floor.

He highlighted a significant case he featured but didn’t have time to delve into deeply in his movie, an incident involving an Apr. 24, 1964, encounter in Socorro, N.M.

It involved police officer Lonnie Zamora.

“And it was a close encounter of the third kind,” Fox said. “That’s when the witness claims (an encounter with) entities or creatures, or whatever you want to call them, aliens associated to the craft. And I featured it in ‘The Phenomenon.’ But there was so much to it. It was such a complex case, and there were so many aspects of that incident, that case, that I just couldn’t squeeze in to ‘The Phenomenon.’”

In fact, the encounter was even reported on by a respected local newspaper, El Defensor Chieftain, at the time of the incident.

“City Policeman Lonnie Zamora, a highly reliable source, saw a four-legged, egg-shaped object, and two persons in a gully a mile south of the courthouse shortly before 6 p.m. Friday,” the lead paragraph of the contemporary breaking news report began, in a thorough account currently available on the publication’s website. “He saw the object rise straight up and take off, and disappear beyond Six-Mile Canyon to the west.”

Majority Rules

I was also eager to learn more from Fox about astonishing statements in his film delivered by the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, the powerful Nevada Democrat.

In 2007, it was Reid who persuaded two colleagues, Republican Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Democratic Sen. Daniel Inoue of Hawaii, to secretly allocate millions of dollars from Department of Defense funds to investigate UFOs.

This secret program operated from the W. Bush Administration through the Obama years and even into Trump’s first year in office in 2017.

Fox asks Reid in the film if a higher intelligence might have interfered with our most powerful weapons, our nuclear arsenal.

“If (the weapons) had been called upon by the President to launch, couldn’t (have) done it,” Reid incredibly reveals in one scene of the film, which Fox told me occurred in a sideline conversation, with the director filming and milking every last second of interview time with the busy former Majority Leader.

And here’s the crazy thing we haven’t yet reckoned with as a species: what Reid acknowledges in the documentary could, in theory, reshape our entire understanding of not just national defense but also every walk of human life. It’s admittedly too much to genuinely process or accept.

Fox, at left, also spoke to late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid for his acclaimed 2020 documentary, “The Phenomenon.” In the film, Reid discussed the alleged ability of extraterrestrial intelligence to interfere with our nuclear arsenal.

Higher Power 

I know I’m supposed to be terrified by the senator’s description of a nuclear arsenal that possibly exists outside total human control. In plain English, Reid described veto power by an unknown intelligence over our missile launch capabilities.

But erratic, violent human beings controlling the world’s nuclear arsenal for the long-term is also a frightening prospect we’ve been living with for the past eight decades.

It seems reasonable to wonder whether our safety at least might rest in slightly safer hands if there’s a more advanced intelligence with the ability (and the long shot interest) to possibly save us from ourselves.

We’ve come close to Armageddon-style danger multiple times in relatively recent U.S. history, including but not limited to the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962.

I asked Fox if he agreed with the general premise.

“I found it comforting that there was a higher intelligence – or that there appears to be a higher intelligence – overseeing what we’re doing,” Fox concurred.

Needless to say, if you work in national security, you can’t and shouldn’t rely on this view. It’s the last matter where we’d want anyone depending on unproven conclusions. But, either way, erratic human fingers on a world-annihilating trigger might very well present the gravest threat.

Reid also confirmed to Fox how the leaked information to The New York Times represented a fraction of what the government knows about the phenomenon.

“And to have someone of his stature, of his level of credibility, confirm what many of us have suspected for many, many years, that the evidence leaked out of the Pentagon and onto the front page of The New York Times was merely the tip of the iceberg,” Fox said. “So that was a massive revelation in the film and something that we could have gone far more into detail about, something that I’m actually following up on a new production.”

Fox’s new project, with a working title of “UAP: What We Now Know,” is intended to bring viewers up to date on revelations on the topic subsequent to the 2017 New York Times expose.

Follow the Money 

Carl Sagan’s famous aphorism isn’t wrong: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and it’s important to keep building the case. But even though there’s danger in prematurely embracing extraordinary claims, there’s also real danger in stubbornly dismissing extraordinary claims, let alone ignoring extraordinary evidence.

As someone who is instinctively doubtful of almost all grand conspiracy theories, I’ve previously questioned how the government could possibly keep such a major secret bottled up. But then a couple components of the situation occurred to me.

First of all, in researching some of the undisputed historical facts, you learn that certain significant revelations have already been established and confirmed anyway, with some roaring lions way out of the cage.

And while I can’t personally imagine warring factions of elected officials keeping any serious secrets over a course of generations, it’s far less hard to imagine a small group of military officials and self-interested private contractors keeping a Coke recipe-equivalent secret locked in the vault decade after decade.

Again, some of these staggering details aren’t just emanating from the dark corners of the internet. Former Air Force personnel, for example, testified in 2010, at a National Press Club briefing, to another intelligence neutralizing American and Russian nuclear missiles.

Air Force veterans have described an orange flying disc, in 1967, turning off 10 warheads at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana.

But the stories just sort of come and go, especially without any persistent, mainstream TV news coverage over the years forcing our hands at a long-term national dialogue via an O. J.-style media blitz.

Let’s face it: We all know there’s almost always a “follow-the-money” component to most any coverup. Why assume otherwise with UFOs?

With that thought in mind, I asked Fox which unaccountable, private companies might be directly involved, according to his sources, given the filmmaker’s direct access to very powerful people.

“I’ve heard Lockheed MartinBoeing and the other company I heard (was) Raytheon,” Fox replied.

My e-mails seeking comment from Boeing and Raytheon, two industry behemoths, were not returned. But a spokesperson for Lockheed Martin, also one of the largest aerospace and defense companies on the planet, didn’t deny or confirm possession of extraterrestrial assets when I asked about Fox’s source-based assertion.

“Questions about UAPs are best addressed by the U.S. government,” the Lockheed Martin spokesperson would only say in an e-mail reply to my list of questions.

I alerted a Defense Department spokesperson to Lockheed’s suggestion.

The spokesperson, Sue Gough, provided a prepared statement on Sunday night.

The carefully parsed statement emphasized how that, to date, the department’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office (AARO) has found no verifiable evidence to substantiate claims regarding the existence of programs or reverse-engineering of extraterrestrial materials.

But the statement also stressed the Pentagon’s commitment to following the data, conducting a thorough investigation, and remaining open to potential future findings.

“DoD takes public interest in UAP seriously,” reads the conclusion of the five paragraph statement, which was similar or identical to other press statements I’ve seen the department issue on the topic. “The Department is fully committed to openness and accountability to the American people, which it must balance with its obligation to protect sensitive information, sources and methods.”

Fox shared this original print of a famous image taken in Scotland, in 1990. It was taken by two hikers near Calvine, and is considered one of the best UFO photos ever taken.

The Insider 

As the world learned last month, David Charles Grusch, a highly-respected former intelligence official (now a congressional whistleblower), says he has given our government a vast array of classified details about secret U.S. programs, as first reported by award-winning journalists Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean for The Debrief.

Grusch says he’s provided particulars about our retrieval of intact and partially intact spacecraft of non-human origin. And, oh yeah, he noted to NewsNation, we’ve also secured the bodies of dead aliens.

When the military recovers crashed spacecraft, “Sometimes you encounter dead pilots and believe it or not, as fantastical as that sounds, it’s true,” Grusch said in the interview with the TV news outlet.

“These are retrieving non-human origin technical vehicles, call it spacecraft if you will, non-human exotic origin vehicles that have either landed or crashed,” Grusch, a veteran of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, also said in his NewsNation interview, speaking to investigative journalist Ross Coulthart.

The Pentagon, while denying the explosive claims, has also allowed for some rhetorical breathing room in its bureaucratically-parsed press statements.

The Defense Department’s All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office, which investigates UFOs, is preparing a report to Congress for next June, with a review of related records and testimony.

“AARO regularly reports on its progress to the Congress, to include both its contemporary findings and its historical research on past USG UAP efforts,” the quote provided by the Department of Defense spokesperson also said, echoing prior press statements. “DoD takes its congressional reporting requirements seriously and is committed to timely and thorough reporting to Congress. This would include any scenario in which AARO were to uncover defendable and verifiable evidence of something extraterrestrial in origin.”

It is worth noting how if much of what Grusch claims is true, a Pentagon press contact would almost certainly reside many miles from the unvarnished truth, especially given the fact that AARO itself is allegedly among those getting the runaround.

If accepting the decorated combat veteran’s account, it’s entirely reasonable to conclude that a private military contractor or contractors possess these extraordinary assets, with next to no genuine oversight from anyone in government.

Grusch also isn’t alone. Florida Sen. Marco Rubio revealed to NewsNation late last month how other high-level sources with firsthand knowledge have shared whistleblower testimony after first being vetted as a matter of protocol by the inspector general.

And think about it: What would be the business or military motivation to spill the beans to geopolitical adversaries and/or industry competitors?

“You can’t share with your friends without sharing (with) your enemies,” Fox said in our interview. “And if you can harness that technology – I’m not saying that they have – successfully or not, but if you can harness that technology, think about the advantage you have. I mean, these things aren’t flying around on jet fuel, I can tell you that much.”

In fact, it seems more far-fetched to conclude all of this drip-drip actually involves a stealth military project kept under wraps for the past 80-plus years.

“So that would be an extraordinary tale that there’s been some unknown government agency that’s been hiding this revolutionary technology, creating these objects that don’t have any wings, don’t have any tail, don’t have any visible means of propulsion, don’t have any exhaust vent, don’t create hardly any air disturbance, any noise,” Fox observed. “They can fly rings around our fastest jet. They have the ability to hover, accelerate from a standstill to out of sight at the blink of an eye.”

Coulthart, the award-winning Australian journalist who interviewed Grusch, evocatively elaborated on some of the UAP science in a podcast appearance last week, detailing the findings of Luis Elizondo, former director of the now-defunct AATIP program.

“In some cases, (UAP have) been tracked doing literally instantaneous right-hand turns at huge speeds that would turn you and me into pea soup if we were inside that aircraft,” Coulthart said. “They’re also capable of trans-medium travel air-to-water, water-to-air, and indeed, air-to-orbit into outer space. This is phenomena that have been tracked using Earth-based sensor systems and eyewitnesses. They’re also capable of stealth mode, which is capable of disguising themselves, making themselves invisible.”

In addition, he emphasized the significance of the fact that the inspector general has already vetted whistleblower stories, allowing the process to proceed, marking a significant legitimacy threshold many in the media have missed.

I Don’t Get No Respect 

In footage featured in “The Phenomenon,” former President Bill Clinton acknowledged at an unrelated event how even U.S. presidents are viewed by top government and military careerists as temporary custodians, without full access to the deepest depths of the vault.

“I did attempt to find out if there were any secret government documents that revealed things and if there were, they were concealed from me too,” Clinton acknowledges in the footage from the Hong Kong-based CLSA investment forum. “I wouldn’t be the first president that underlings have lied to or that career bureaucrats have waited out. But there may be some career person sitting around somewhere hiding these dark secrets, even from elected Presidents. But, if so, they successfully eluded me, and I’m almost embarrassed to tell you I did try to find out.”

Clinton’s concession aligns with a point revealed in 1995’s “UFO Briefing Document: The Best Available Evidence,” which was funded by prominent philanthropist (and UFO enthusiast) Laurance Rockefeller and presented to Congress.

Authored by Don Berliner, the document was intended for world leaders and concluded how “it is conceivable that even the President himself is not fully briefed on matters classified as above top secret.”

Clinton was far from the first president to be stiff-armed by resistant brass when trying to suss out and chase down details. Fox knows that fact firsthand from presidential sources.

“I interviewed (former President) Gerald Ford,” Fox told me. “I got some statements from (former President) Jimmy Carter on camera at a book signing. He looked into it. He also had a sighting of his own. He wasn’t happy with the answers he was getting. Gerald Ford pushed for congressional hearings back in the ‘60s when there was a massive landing case that happened in Michigan.”

In fact, when poking around the Ford Library Museum, I quickly found a treasure trove of UFO-related documents, including a detailed Mar. 28, 1966, letter Ford sent to colleagues in the House of Representatives: “In the firm belief that the American public deserves a better explanation than that thus far given by the Air Force, I strongly recommend that there be a committee investigation of the UFO phenomena,” Ford states in a portion of the letter.

Ford referenced a UPI story out of Ann Arbor, Mich. dated Mar. 21, 1966, reporting that “at least 40 persons, including 12 policemen, said today that they saw a strange flying object guarded by four sister ships land in a swamp near here Sunday night.”

“Are we to assume that everyone who says he has seen UFO’s is an unreliable witness?” Ford asks in his letter to Rep. George P. Miller, chairman of the Science and Astronautics Committee, as well as Rep. L. Mendel Rivers, chairman of the Armed Services Committee.

Just imagine dismissing the testimony of a dozen cops and 40 credible Joes and Jones in a murder or rape investigation. Inconceivable.

Schumer: ‘Right to Learn’ 

With so much intrigue about claims old and new, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is currently pushing related legislation.

Just last week, The New York Times reported on the senior senator’s effort to create a commission charged with helping to declassify government documents about UFOs.

“The American public has a right to learn about technologies of unknown origins, non-human intelligence, and unexplainable phenomena,” a portion of Schumer’s prepared statement reads.

News also broke last week that the Republican-run House Oversight Committee would schedule long-awaited UFO hearings for the last week of this month.

Even renowned figures such as the late Apollo 14 moon-landing astronaut Dr. Edgar Mitchell, who happened to grow up in the Roswell area (home of the famous 1947 reported crash incident), confronted resistance in high places.

Later in life, Mitchell became acquainted with Jesse Marcel Jr., the son of an intelligence officer, Maj. Jesse Marcel, who had been on the scene of the 1947 reported crash. The major had allegedly showed his wife and son some of the crash material at the time, before bringing it to the base.

The astronaut had grown fascinated with the incident, and much of what he was learning from many of his fellow Roswell area natives in hushed tones at local social events. He convened a meeting in 1997 with high-level Pentagon intelligence officers in Washington.

“Although we had adequate confirmation from officialdom following this meeting that our experiences were valid and that there had been an ongoing investigation and official denial of alien presence, even this meeting at the Pentagon and its aftermath were subject to the usual obfuscation and denial,” Mitchell wrote in January 2009, included as a forward in the book “Witness to Roswell” by Thomas J. Carey and Donald R. Schmitt.

Colonel Coleman

I also asked Fox if he could tell me the most memorable testimony he’s ever heard personally.

He pointed to an interview with Col. William T. Coleman, a former World War II pilot and public spokesperson for Project Blue Book, which was an Air Force study of UFOs from March 1952 to its end on Dec. 17, 1969.

Project Blue Book recorded 12,618 reported sightings, 701 of which remain unidentified, according to military records currently available in the National Archives.

Coleman recounted to Fox a gripping encounter with a disc-shaped craft in 1955, while piloting a B-25 bomber over Alabama.

“Nine minutes of this hot pursuit with a disc in a plane and almost colliding with it at treetop level,” Fox said. “That was a pretty compelling encounter.”

I also asked Fox for any other government documents hiding in plain sight about UFOs, and he told me about the Twining memo.

In 1947, reports of flying discs in U.S. airspace sparked intrigue. A military man by the name of Gen. Nathan Twining confirmed their existence while still uncertain of their origin.

“The phenomenon reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious,” Twining wrote to Brig. Gen. George Schulgen in a memo titled “AMC Opinion Concerning ‘Flying Discs.’”

The memo indicated that the baffling unidentified objects seen in the skies by military personnel weren’t astronomical or weather-related phenomenon.

“But even so, most people have never heard of the Gen. Nathan Twining memo of 1947, and it’s in black and white right there that they’re saying that the phenomenon is real,” Fox said.

He then added: “You could ask anybody around you on the street, ‘Have you ever heard (what) the Gen. Nathan Twining memo says (about) UFOs?’ (and) you’re going to get 99.99 percent of the population go, ‘No, I’ve never heard of it.’”

Men in Black

Throughout my conversation with Fox, he emphasized his commitment to credibility and presenting compelling evidence to support his claims.

Rather than drawing personal conclusions, he provides a platform for credible witnesses to share their experiences, focusing on cases with multiple eyewitness testimonies, particularly from military personnel.

“I generally focus on (those) that have more to lose and nothing to gain,” Fox explained of his due diligence process in selecting sources to spotlight.

But I can’t close out this column without touching on an extraordinary Sept. 16, 1994, case in Zimbabwe, detailed in “The Phenomenon.”

Dozens of children at the Ariel School reported interactions with diminutive extraterrestrials after having seen one or more silver disc-shaped objects landing just beyond the far edge of their playground.

In the documentary, we see the witnesses interviewed on the BBC, when they were children.

More remarkably, we also hear from many of the same eyewitnesses as adults.

The witnesses revisited memories from nearly two decades ago, gathered together in the documentary to discuss the life-changing shared experience, traveling from all corners of the globe.

As a child, Salma Siddick, a student at the school, said she was an arm’s length away from the otherworldly, less than four feet from a being.

“He had a big head and big black eyes and was dressed in a black body suit,” Siddick said as a child in the BBC broadcast.

Her contemporary account remained the same.

“I stand by what I saw,” Siddick, a human rights lawyer, asserts in the film. “There was no reason for any of us to make that up.” (The same can be said for military whistleblowers and so many others).

You really just have to watch these interviews to absorb the genuine nature of the accounts.

Remember, in a court of law, witness testimony is called evidence. Witness testimony is what we’ve used to send people to the electric chair.

Some argue that while there may be unidentified objects, they are unlikely to be alien spacecraft due to the challenges of space travel, the vast distances involved and the lack of contact or more concrete evidence despite countless sightings.

But many scientists point to the remarkable progress in exoplanet research, the identification of habitable zones and the tantalizing possibility of biosignatures on other planets as factors that will bolster the case, complemented by human testimony of encounters and UAP evidence.

Future Flat Earthers

And as much as vetted anecdotal evidence possesses great value, we don’t have to rely on these stories alone. There are government-acknowledged cases of UAP such as the high-profile 2004 incident with the USS Nimitz, when Navy pilots recorded a Tic Tac candy-shaped object achieving humanly impossible speeds, maneuverability and acceleration.

In “The Phenomenon,” viewers also learn of recovered debris from UFO cases, and we meet Dr. Jacques Vallée and Nobel Prize nominee Dr. Gary Nolan. The scientists discuss fragments of material displaying inexplicable isotopic compositions.

Oddly, while watching that segment of the film last week, I happened to hear about the developing story of a Harvard professor, Avi Loeb, who discovered what he seems certain are fragments of alien technology from a meteor that plunged into waters off of Papua, New Guinea in 2014.

Whether we want to accept it or not, potent evidence already exists, widely and publicly acknowledged by top-level officials in the know.

This is just speculation but I think we’re getting relatively close (measured in years, not decades) to a forced public, full-throated, essentially undisputed consensus among military officials, NASA, independent scientists, legacy media and political leaders, eventually moving the future lingering debunkers into the fringe of the flat Earth society.

Final Thoughts 

There’s another element to stipulate here.

While the facts are the facts, the vast unknown in this entire equation is infinite. Any inferences we draw should also consider the limits of our understanding.

That said, if related questions aren’t asked of presidential candidates and other political figures next election season, we’re just still ignoring a new reality standing right in front of our faces.

Yet the mirage is starting to fade.

The temptation to ignore the facts might be understandable, especially given all the many blanket denials from the top over the years.

But it’s past time to accept the evidence even as we demand more details.

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