8th August 2008
Firstly, thanks are due to Eric Rush, Michael Naisbett, Martin Shough, and Robert Moore for their valuable contribution of time and effort in compiling the document index. This was a tedious and eye-straining task, but it makes identification and location of documents much easier for those willing to examine them.For the purposes of this update I shall use the same categories as I used in my initial coverage of the release.
Quality of scans
As reported previously, the negative images were caused by a processing error which should not be repeated on subsequent releases. My initial view was that the quality of the scans were largely comparable to paper records already available at TNA. One file turned out to be an exception - DEFE31-174 has about 20% of it's pages illegible, far more than I would normally expect. I raised this with TNA, but their response was to request paper copies at twenty pence or so a page - in the order of £14 for the affected pages. Also, I don't understand how printed copies of poor (blank in many cases) pages would be any easier to read than the scans themselves?
Redaction policyAlthough the documents are in some cases excessively or erratically redacted, the nature of the redacted information turned out to be not worth the effort of complaining about in most cases. I did request a review of the decision to retain three entire pages (enclosure 115 of DEFE31/173), the outcome of which was that the decision was upheld and that the enclosure was mis-filed and unrelated to UFOs.
I have been led on a wild goose chase about apparently missing pages from the files. Firstly, I was unsure who to contact in regard to these files, so I asked the Departmental Records Officer. He advised me to contact The National Archives. I thought it might be the case that TNA would forward my enquiries to DI55, so I was not especially surprised by this.
When I contacted TNA, I was told that in order to find out if pages existed, I would need to request copies of them! Even after pointing out how ridiculous this suggestion was, I was eventually pressured into trying to do this but when I tried to order the documents, they came up as 'closed' and wouldn't allow me to place an order. Luckily, I eventually managed to communicate with someone who knew how to do complicated things like tieing shoelaces, and they told me that I needed to refer my questions directly to DI55.
I then asked DI55 if the following pages were present in their copy of the unredacted scans of the documents:
which are all absent from the TNA versions of the files. The response from DI55 is that they are also not present in the unredacted copies held by them. I currently have an enquiry lodged with the departmental records officer at the MoD as to the likely fate of these documents, without which I have to question the integrity of the files.
I have to say that this is the worst batch of documents I have ever had the misfortune to view from the MoD for several reasons.
There is absolutely no indication of any meaningful follow-up of any of the reports by the MoD, even those which superficially appear to be interesting. If there had of been, some of those which appear interesting would have been positively identified, for instance, the report in enclosure 150 from DEFE31/173 which was submitted by a police officer and depicts a classic flying saucer replete with flashing lights (just like the ones you sometimes see outside supermarkets) which was probably the star Arcturus! Other reports include date, time and/or location discrepancies which would have been brought to light had they been investigated.
There is a general sense of disinterest in the released batch - enclosures in some cases have been haphazardly added, correspondents are seen to complain that they haven't had replies to letters they sent six months earlier, and there are very few notes suggesting possible solutions to any of the reports.
There could be some partial justification for the apparent lack of dilligence. In 1985, Michael Heseltine, Secretary of State for Defence, was involved in a bitter row with Margaret Thatcher (the Prime Minister) over the fate of British company Westland Helicopters. The "Westland affair" eventually cost Heseltine his post, and no doubt Sec(AS) was heavily involved in the politicking which was going on at the time. The following year the Chernobyl nuclear accident occurred, a Briton was kidnapped in Lebanon, diplomatic relations were severed with Syria following the discovery of explosives on an Israeli aircraft at Heathrow and I daresay that Sec(AS) were again kept very busy.Two items in the files explicitly reveal the lack of MoD interest in UFOs at the time.
Although not intended as an exhaustive list of reports which appear interesting, the following caught my eye as having been worthy of some follow-up (but there is no evidence to show that they were followed up at all), or of some interest:
That's about it - no doubt there is material of interest which has not been explicitly discussed above or highlighted in the catalogue, if anyone does find especially interesting documents in these files which have not been highlighted, I would be delighted to hear about them.
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