The RAF’s secret ‘X-files’ of reported UFO sightings in British skies are to be placed online for the first time – according to the media.
| This was the hyperbolic story published by the Mail Online, Metro, The Sun, Fox News and assorted others on Monday, 27 January 2020.
Their source was the Press Association who made a request under the Freedom of Information Act for data on UFO sightings reported to the Ministry of Defence since the closure of their UFO unit in November 2009.
The MoD responded to a similar FOI request from me, on 23 January 2018, as follows:
By David Clarke
“The MoD ceased investigating UFO reports after 2009 because they served no defence benefit. Nonetheless, the Department has continued to receive requests for UFO records from members of the public and, occasionally, reports of their own UFO sightings. Therefore, while the MoD does hold information relating to UFOs since 2009, these consist solely of emails and letters from members of the public and the Department’s responses.”
Self-styled ‘former head of the [non-existent] British government UFO project’ Nick Pope is quoted by the MailOnline as saying he is pleased the public are going to be given an insight into ‘our work on these real-life X-files‘.
Sadly nothing could be further from the truth. As the MoD have made clear on numerous occasions, no work has been done on these ‘real life X-files’ since the admin office that logged calls was cut in 2009.
Originally MoD intended to retain any letters received after 30 November 2009 for just 30 days and then destroy them, ‘largely removing any future FOI liability and negate the need to release future files’.
But it seems they overlooked their own ‘Guidance to Record Reviewers’, issued in 2011. This lists records on UFOs as being ‘historically significant’ and protected from destruction. My 2013 blog post UFO Files – saved! explains how this decision came about.
Therefore, the records currently being scanned for release online via a dedicated gov.uk webpage consist entirely of:
a) letters and emails reporting mainly ‘lights in the sky’ received by MoD since the closure of their UFO desk in November 2009, with personal information (names and addresses) redacted. In effect exactly the same type of ‘report’ that can be found in the records released before 2009 available here and here.
b) duplicate copies of a standard letter that is issued in response to public inquiries that blankly states the MoD’s official line on the subject. This says they have no information or expertise on the subject of extraterrestrial life and all their surviving historical UFO records have now been transferred to The National Archives.
In summary, there is definitely nothing remotely ‘top secret’ being hidden away within these records and, as this link to MoD UFO reports 1997-2009 proves it is also not the first time – as incorrectly claimed – the UK MoD has made this type of material available online.
This is just the latest example of the UK media seeking out a story, any story!, about UFOs and aliens, in this case as light relief from the bleak January news agenda full of Brexit, epidemics and other miseries.
As one former Fleet Street journalist once said, “sometimes it just seems like it’s the right time to run another UFO story”.
And if there is no story, then just make one up.
It is of course pleasing that someone, somewhere, in the UK defence establishment is prepared to collate and publish records of this kind.
But missing from these so-called ‘X-files’ is any content that reveals how the MoD and RAF respond to reports of unidentified aerial phenomena reported by military personnel and air defence radar stations.
This material, if it exists, has now been removed from the reach of the Freedom of Information Act. If there are any real journalists out there, this is where you should be looking for a story.