Robert Powell, the unsung co-author of MUFON’s unsung Mutual UFO Network report on Stephenville, suffered his latest FOIA setback last week. That’s when the Federal Aviation Administration HQ in Washington gave final notice that his request for radar data surrounding several 2009 UFO incidents could take a hike.
No biggie — records are protected all the time, right? Except the denials are part of a trend curve running in the exact opposite direction of President Obama’s January 2009 executive order directing federal agencies to err on the side of transparency. According to the Department of Transportation’s recent summary of FOIA requests, last year the FAA snubbed 105 of 6,294 requests based on legal exemptions, versus 73 denials of 7,202 FOIAs in 2008. More deflating is how, according to Powell, the FAA didn’t even bother to itemize the specific statutes that justified its ruling.
“They just said they couldn’t release the information because it could affect national security,” Powell says from his home in Austin, Tex. Furthermore, the FAA decision appears to represent a tacit reversal of its response to MUFON’s request for Stephenville data in 2008. Back then, the FAA supplied researchers with 2.5 million radar hits that plotted not only the UFO’s course to President Bush’s Crawford ranch, but also charted the flight paths of military jets as they shadowed the object, which approached a no-fly zone without a transponder.
Two of Powell’s 2009 FOIAs concerned pilot sightings in Houston and Memphis. The third and perhaps most interesting involved half a dozen teenagers and a cop in the Kansas suburbs just west of Kansas City, Mo., on 8/21/09. Located five miles from each other when it happened, the kids and the cop caught the thing on separate cell-phone cameras.
The witnesses said it made a humming noise. They spread their arms four feet wide to describe the width of the UFO, meaning it was huge or close or both. And also meaning if the thing dipped below 1,000 feet, it probably would’ve eluded radar anyway. Assuming it wasn’t also employing steath counter-measures. Powell discounts a classified military-hardware possibility due to its low-altitude path over a dense population center.