The Central Intelligence Agency says it has finally come clean about UFOs. To absolutely no one's surprise, it knew more than it ever let on.
"Over half of all UFO reports from the late 1950s through the 1960s were accounted for by manned reconnaissance flights," says Gerald K. Haines, a historian for the National Reconnaissance Office who studied secret CIA UFO files for an internal CIA study that examined the spy agency's involvement in UFOs through the 1990s.
Why lie about UFOs? "The Soviets could use UFO reports to touch off mass hysteria and panic in the United States and overload the U.S. air warning system so that it could not distinguish real targets from phantom UFOs," Haines says.
If Cold War hysteria seems to be a less than satisfactory explanation, perhaps it is because there really is more to the story.
POPULAR MECHANICS has learned from nonclassified sources that the United States had a serious reason for wanting the public to keep believing that the strange lights in the sky were of unearthly origin. The government kept the UFO myth alive to disguise the embarrassing fact that during the hottest days of the Cold War, America's two most secret intelligence gathering assets–the A-12 and SR-71 spyplanes–flew toward hostile terrain with the equivalent of cow bells dangling from their necks.
The deception of the public began in the early 1950s. It involved the then highly secret, and to this day little-known, A-12. If you think you saw an SR-71 Blackbird at an air and space museum, the odds are you were actually looking at an A-12. The idea for the plane was conceived in 1954 by CIA director Allen Dulles. The objective of this secret program, according to aviation historian Paul F. Crickmore, was to build a spyplane capable of flying higher and faster than the U-2. (cont.)