Covert Agenda

Nicholas Redfern. A Covert Agenda, Simon and Schuster, 1997.
In the prologue to this book the author states: "Through the use of both official documentation and witness testimony, it is my hope that what you are about to read will conclusively prove that since the late 1940s, British Governments have been acutely aware that our planet has been targeted" for visitation by creatures from elsewhere."

This suggests that we will be presented with startling and convincing UFO evidence never previously revealed. Needless to say, anyone who hopes for this will be disappointed.

Redfern uses the technique pioneered by Donald Keyhoe in the early 1950s, although his style owes more to Timothy Good. He gives accounts of official reports and tells us what he has discovered about how the Ministry of Defence (MoD) deals with them. He suggests that the government is gradually preparing us so that they can reveal the truth, which is that UFOs are alien space craft, just as Keyhoe told us all those years ago. And we are still waiting.

If it is true that the evidence for extraterrestrial visitors (ETs) is convincing then the best approach would be to select the most detailed unexplained reports and discuss them in some depth, showing in what ways alternative explanations are unsatisfactory. Unfortunately Redfern gives the impression of regarding one source as being almost as good as another. Witnesses are assumed to be reliable simply because they are professional people, such as pilots or police officers.

No attempts are made to assess the quality of the reports to see if they are as impressive as they appear to be. Let us take an example from an official report of an incident which occurred at RAF Topcliffe on 19 September 1952: Meteor aircraft observed at approx. 500 feet and descending. White object was seen 5 miles astern at approx. 15000 feet and moving at comparatively slow speed on similar course. The weather at the time was described as clear skies, sunshine and unlimited visibility.

Given an unidentified object seen in the sky in such conditions, how does one go about making a reliable estimate of its distance and altitude? I would say that this is an impossible task. If you don't know what the object is then you don't know how big it is, and thus you have no way of estimating how far away it is - not even if you are an RAF pilot.

There are a number of other reports which include wildly unreliable estimates of height and distance, including the following delightfully self-contradictory one: When he was questioned, Mr Ruck-Keene said that he was unable to judge the distance of the object without knowing its size, but estimated that it was around five miles from his location and at an altitude of 3,000 feet.

Cases involving radar can seem impressive and some are described in this book. But no consideration is given to the possibility of anomalous radar propagation and other technical problems involved in the interpretation of radar images. The true explanations of some of these radar reports may be highly complex, and amateur ufologists are not given sufficient technical information, and do not possess the resources, to investigate them. Anyway, most readers of UFO books do not want explanations, they want the ETs, so that's what they get.

No amount of sighting reports, even well-witnessed, unexplained ones, are going to provide proof of the reality of ETs visiting us, as Redfern admits. But what if the British Government has crashed saucers in its possession - undeniable evidence of UFO reality? I read this chapter eagerly, impatient to see the revelations that would make Roswell seem insignificant. So, where do we start? Er, Roswell, actually. But we are also promised a handful of other reports which suggest that several alien vehicles have come to grief on British soil.

One of these UFOs was a Foo Fighter which crashed in Britain during the Second World War. The source of this information is a fellow who told Leonard Stringfield that he had seen alien bodies at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, after a UFO crash in Arizona. This man had also heard rumours about the crash of the Foo Fighter. This was confirmed by John Lear, who told him that the object was later strapped to a B-17 and flown to the USA for analysis.

We also learn that British military personnel were involved in the recovery of a UFO which crashed on German soil in the early 1960s . And the source for this one? Robert Dean, who has divulged an extraordinary amount of information concerning NATO's involvement in the UFO puzzle.

Apart from a few other reports from such notoriously unreliable characters as Stringfield and Dean, there are accounts of things crashing to the ground and being retrieved by military personnel. Well, bits and pieces do sometimes fall off military planes, and there are such things as remotely piloted aircraft which may come down where they are not supposed to, but such possibilities are unlikely to excite the average punter.

We are given no evidence that would convince any reasonably sane person that the MoD is in possession of crashed UFOs and living or dead ETs. This idea is strictly for the lunatics whose idea of fun is to go trespassing on MoD property: their absurd exploits can be read about in the glossy UFO magazines.

Redfem obviously wants to rise above the idiotic trash presented in such publications, so he gives us a lot of interesting material about the organisation of the MoD and security services and how they are, or may be, involved in the investigation of UFO reports. It is thus a pity that he takes such an apparently uncritical view of many of the reports he presents, and gives the impression of taking seriously some of the more crackpot theories.

For example, he was told by a woman working for Marconi at Frimley that one night a security guard had encountered a humanoid (but decidedly non-human) creature in an office, reading top secret files. This apparition quickly de-materialised - presumably beamed up by Scottie. He then goes on to mention the remote-viewing notions once entertained by the US Defense Intelligence Agency and comments: "Perhaps, somewhere else in the universe, such techniques have already been perfected, to the extent that a living organism can now literally come and go at will, completely unhindered by our seemingly rigid physical laws". Oh, come off it! If the ETs could do this, then why would they need their flying saucers?

A Covert Agenda contains material that has the makings of a serious work on UFO reports and official investigations of them, but it makes so many concessions to uncritical UFO believers that serious readers will be put off. Of course, if Redfern had thrown out all the rubbish, or assessed it in a rational, scientific manner, the publishers would not have been interested. They know that there are a lot of nutters out there. -- Reviewed by John Harney, first published in Magonia 62, February 1998.

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