Stanton T. Friedman. Top Secret/MAJIC, Michael O'Mara, 1997.

The front cover describes the author as "Nuclear Physicist Stanton T. Friedman". The author tells us about his early life, his involvement with classified nuclear propulsion projects and how his interest in UFOs began in the late 1950s. At one time he was employed briefly to "back-engineer flying saucers" (!) at McDonnell Douglas under Dr Robert Wood, a scientist with a long-time interest in UFOs.

Friedman soon became a true nuts and bolts ETHer, loudly proclaiming the government conspiracy thesis, and in the 1970s coined the term 'Cosmic Watergate', which now features prominently in his lectures and writings. With numerous lectures, articles, papers, books and even a CDROM he is totally dedicated to this central thesis, to the point of obsession.

This book is the extraordinary detective story of a dedicated man's quest to resolve the question of the (in)famous Majestic-12, or MJ-12, papers that surfaced in June 1987. Although much was written on these documents at the time, very few ufologists now take them seriously. The majority have non time for them and dismiss them out of hand. Even Tim Good, once a firm believer in them, has now reversed his stance. Friedman, one of the trio who first promoted MJ-12 in the USA, has one advantage: he has done exhaustive research in official libraries and archives (far more than anyone else) for at least 15 years, examining a mass of official documents of every conceivable kind.

His pro MJ-12 arguments look convincing at first. In fact all of them are refutable, but it is most unlikely that anyone, whether scientist or ufologist, will take the trouble to rebut them, To perform this would require a book in itself and such a book would not sell a single copy; nobody gets credit for exposing credulity.

At several places I get the impression that Stan, and of course others, have been taken for a monumental ride over MJ-12, and that Stan was made to look a sucker from the start, For instance, he has always claimed that the double life of Donald Menzel, the only real surprise member on the MJ-12 list, was completely unknown until he (Friedman) began researching it after the names of the twelve were first revealed to him in early 1985, Since no forger could possibly have known about Menzel's hidden life, Friedman concludes that the fact that Menzel appears on the MJ-12 list is a powerful indicator that the papers are genuine.

Menzel's three anti-UFO books were therefore pure deception and disinformation. Friedman never considers the possibility that the forger put Menzel on the MJ-12 list as a try-on, throwing a challenge to the UFO movement - to see how many suckers would fall for it. On page 233 he gives 13 items under Menzel's "connections and talents", all of which were, he says, unknown to anyone before 1985. In fact most of these "talents", such as being an expert cryptanalyst and being an expert at Japanese, are entirely irrelevant. They are only relevant if one is already a committed believer in crashed saucers and the "Cosmic Watergate".

This is the crucial point. Menzel's claimed "continuous association with the NSA for 30 years" and his Top Secret Ultra clearance with the US Navy are listed. So is the fact that Menzel made frequent trips to New Mexico on government business in 1947-48, and the fact that he suddenly left a job in the summer of 1947 to join "some very highly classified project" (as told by an unnamed scientist to the author 35 years later). Menzel was indeed a consultant in 1947-48 in New Mexico on classified work for the USAF; it had nothing whatever to do with Roswell or crashed saucers.

The forger had no need to know about Menzel's double life to list him on MJ-12. Had Stan checked on the other MJ-12 members he would have doubtless unearthed similar associations and "secret lives . Menzel's inclusion is thus a complete red herring, and Stan's painstaking research on him to confirm MJ-12's existence was a wasted effort, and an expensive one to boot.

On page 70 Friedman remarks about the "incredible coincidence" of someone before him finding out a date of a meeting between Truman and Walter Bedell Smith of the CIA on 1 August 1950. Only an insider, he says, could have pulled such a date out of the air. Is he really so naive as not to twig that another ufologist had obviously done the same research a bit earlier, and had thus put the critical date on the MJ-12 papers? Moreover, I think Friedman knows full well who that person is. No it was not an insider or indeed anyone within the intelligence community.

On page 24 we learn that Bill Moore, soon after initially receiving the MJ-12 stuff in December 1984, read out the names of the 12 over the phone to Friedman. Friedman then immediately called to mind Wilbert Smith's self-styled "Top Secret" memo of November 1950 naming Vannevar Bush, which related how UFOs were supposedly classified higher than the H-Bomb; Stan then realised how all the names bar one (Menzel) were perfectly fitted for the MJ-12 task. Everything seemed to fall into place; the "Cosmic Watergate" was thus confirmed.

A less gullible researcher, not obsessed with conspiracy mania, would have realised at once that the appearance of Bush, and others, on the list pointed the opposite way, namely that a clever ufologist had used the Smith memo as a starting point and then built up an elaborate forgery from it (as I showed in Orbiter and UFO Brigantia in 1990), Friedman knows full well that the Smith memo was circulating within UFO circles long before 1984, since it was he who first distributed it.

Similarly, General Twining's "sudden" departure for New Mexico during the period of the Roswell crash is taken as virtual proof that he was heavily involved with this incident (page 42). There is a perfectly simple explanation for Twining's presence in New Mexico at the time (which, like Menzel, was nowhere near Roswell), as Robert Todd has shown. A document has been found giving the answer and this was mentioned in the 1994 USAF Roswell Report, but Stan Friedman chooses to ignore it.

The Truman signature? It was Stan who first drew attention in 1987 to its remarkable similarity to a signature on another, genuine, Truman memo (without displaying it for comparison). He avoided saying how he had located this memo long before 1984 and had given it to Bill Moore. In 1989 when the genuine memo was finally rediscovered (by Phil Klass) Friedman went overboard to persuade everyone that the two signatures were not alike after all!

The Robert Cutler memo, by virtue of its identical phraseology to an earlier, genuine Cutler memo, is likewise paraded as genuine when all that has happened is that once again the same clever ufologist, who had got hold of the original memo (most probably directly from Friedman), simply reused the Cutler phrase to make the phoney memo look authentic.

Friedman totally ignores the hard evidence showing that Admiral Hillenkoetter, after quitting NICAP and after reading Menzel's second book, had virtually become a UFO sceptic by 1963. He even wrote to Menzel thanking him for the book and congratulating him on its contents; addressing him as "Dr Menzel" and signing himself "R.H. Hillenkoetter". In fact the two men scarcely knew each other. Some actions for a man who knew all about the Roswell crash and served as a close buddy to Menzel on the some top secret committee for 16 years!

One can go on and on. The conclusion is always the same, i.e. whenever an "unusual" coincidence of dates, names or events is found it is taken as further evidence of MJ-12's validity. The obsession with conspiracy and cover-ups is so ingrained in the author that I suspect that even if the forger were to make a public confession, Friedman would claim it was all a disinformation plot by the CIA, NSA or whatever.

On page 143 Friedman lists what he calls his top ten "debunker principles of logic". All without exception could equally well be described as "believer principles of logic". Moreover in the book Stan is clearly guilty of employing (or misusing) every one of his own principles.

Some further MJ-12 documents have appeared since the "big three" were released in 1987, including a hilarious 30-page Group Operations Manual, And how did it arrive? Anonymously on a roll of 35 mm film, exactly as the original documents! Friedman says research on this "awaits funding". The only certain thing that can be said about it is that it is all destined for the garbage can of ufological 'junk mail'.

To give him credit, Stan Friedman has little time for Bob Lazar and the Area 51 tales. Nor does he have any faith in the Santilli autopsy film. Roswell is different - the greatest story of all time. There were two crashes, not one. And the truth will out, probably by the millennium. Funny, but I have heard that the truth about alien abductions is also expected at about that time.

Roll on 2001. Arthur C. Clarke, are you listening?  -- Reviewed by Christopher Allen, from Magonia 59, April 1997.

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