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on September 7, 2010
This rebuttal to Oberg's piece, an expanded version of his "review" here, was posted to MSNBC:

By Leslie Kean
Special to [...]

When I wrote my book about officially documented UFO reports, I fully expected the skeptics to react. That's why I was careful to focus only on the very best evidence from the most credible sources in "UFOs: Generals, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record." Since 95 percent of all sightings are eventually identified, the book is concerned only with the remaining 5 percent -- those UFO events that have been thoroughly investigated, involve multiple witnesses and ample data, but still cannot be explained.

That didn't stop James Oberg, a space analyst for NBC News, from complaining that the book was based on a "questionable foundation."

In the biographical note appended to his commentary, he notes that he spent 22 years at NASA's Mission Control and has written books about space policy and exploration. But he neglects to inform readers of something UFO researchers already know all too well: that he is a founding fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI, formerly CSICOP), a group whose aim is to debunk UFOs and any other unexplained phenomena that challenge our familiar ways of thinking.

For many years, Oberg, while retaining his stance as an objective student of the UFO phenomenon, has been a consistently vocal skeptic. His long list of articles dealing with UFOs date from the 1970s and are posted on his website under the heading "space folklore," which accurately sums up his attitude towards the subject. He may be qualified to serve as an unbiased, expert consultant on Russian or Chinese missile systems, but not on UFOs.

Story: UFO book based on questionable foundation: [...]

His objection to my many varied cases has to do with his notion that pilots are poor observers. To buttress this idea, he quotes J. Allen Hynek referring to questionable statistics compiled in the 1960s by Project Blue Book. He also cites Russian researchers describing two events in 1982 when pilot sightings were accurately identified as "military balloons" after the fact.

This is not surprising, since the vast majority of sightings can be explained, and this kind of identification is made all the time. However, such solved sightings -- whether made by pilots or anyone else -- have absolutely nothing to do with the cases presented in my book.

I wonder if Oberg gave "UFOs" a careful read. He spent many paragraphs quoting me concerning a report on aviation cases by French researcher Dominique Weinstein. The problem is, those are not my quotes. The chapter from which he extracted them was written by Jean-Jacques Velasco, head of the French government`s UFO agency for over 20 years, as is obvious in his byline and narrative about French research.

Oberg gleefully proclaims that I have "faithfully vouched for" the cases in Weinstein's list, but actually, I have respectfully allowed Velasco to write his own chapter. (About half the chapters in my book were written by highly credentialed authorities and expert witnesses.) If Oberg wants to discuss the Weinstein study, he'll have to contact Velasco.

Oberg's fixation on the question of the reliability of pilots as witnesses is not raised by the generals and aviation experts I have interviewed -- officials who have studied pilot cases and interviewed pilot witnesses for decades. As described in "UFOs," French Air Force Maj. Gen. Denis Letty initiated an extensive study of UFO data because competent pilots he knew personally were confronted by the phenomenon. Chilean Gen. Ricardo Bermudez was instrumental in the founding of his country`s official UFO investigative agency in 1997 because of inexplicable sightings involving pilots.

Richard Haines, who has written more than 70 papers in leading scientific journals and published more than 25 U.S. government reports for NASA, was formerly chief of the space agency's Space Human Factors Office and served for 21 years as a retired senior aerospace scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center. Having studied pilot sightings and related aviation safety issues for more than 30 years, and having personally interviewed hundreds of pilots during that time, Haines has concluded that pilots are indeed excellent witnesses, given their thorough training, expertise and hours of flying time.

Haines is now chief scientist for the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena [...]. Sadly, most pilots never report their sightings, as he points out in "UFOs."

Most importantly, the aerial cases documented in "UFOs" -- and many more on the record elsewhere -- involve multiple factors such as:

*Sightings of long duration, allowing for accurate voice transmissions and the refinement of the initial identification.
*Multiple witnesses -- co-pilot, crew, passengers, other aircraft in different locations, and occasionally observers from the ground.
*Onboard radar and ground radar recording the presence of a physical object, often corresponding exactly to the visual sighting.
*Direct physical effects on the aircraft, such as equipment malfunction.

As an example, Brig. Gen. Jose Periera of Brazil, commander of air force operations until 2005, reports on an "array of UFOs" observed over his country in 1986. Two pilots chased one of the objects for 30 minutes. Numerous other pilots saw the objects. Radar recorded them. Six jets were scrambled from two Brazilian air force bases to pursue them. Some of the pilots made visual contact corresponding to radar registrations. Both military and commercial pilots were involved. Onboard as well as ground radar systems confirmed the presence of the objects.

"We have the correlation of independent readings from different sources," Periera writes. "These data have nothing to do with human eyes. When, along with the radar, a pilot`s pair of eyes sees that same thing, and then another pilot`s, and so on, the incident has real credibility and stands on a solid foundation."

In 2007, airline captain Ray Bowyer saw two gigantic, bright yellow objects suspended over the English Channel, which he observed carefully for 15 minutes. His passengers saw them, another pilot on a second aircraft was also a witness, and an object was registered on radar.

In 1986, three Japan Airlines pilots watched a series of UFOs for 30 minutes, communicating with air traffic control while radar operators picked up the objects in corresponding locations.

I could go on with many more examples, presented in detail in the book.

Oberg says pilots may misinterpret visual phenomena when forced to make a split-second diagnosis before taking immediate action -- very rare cases, I would assume -- and no one would disagree with that. But, just as was the case with the solved Russian sightings I discussed earlier, this is entirely beside the point with respect to my book, because the cases presented do not involve such a scenario.

In addition, "UFOs: General, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record" presents many other cases that do not involve pilots at all -- but often military personnel and police officers -- including:

*The famous 1980 incident near RAF Bentwaters in Britain, involving the landing of a UFO and objects sending beams of light to the ground.
*The 1981 "Trans-en-Provence" landing case in France, investigated by the official French agency GEPAN.
*Belgian Maj. Gen. Wilfried De Brouwer`s report on the wave of sightings in Belgium in 1989-90, which includes a spectacular photograph.
*The 1993 "Cosford Incident" involving a UFO over two Air Force bases in Britain, investigated by the Ministry of Defense.
*The 1997 Phoenix Lights incident that former Arizona Gov. Fife Symington described.

These are just a few of a host of cases with abundant data that don't rely on pilot observations -- and which are still unsolved. It`s the aggregate of cases, the accumulation of evidence and the long-running but unsuccessful attempts of qualified experts to resolve them that establishes the reality of a yet-unexplained physical phenomenon with extraordinary capabilities.

Oberg says that "if investigators are unable to find the explanation for a particular UFO case, that doesn't constitute proof that the case is unexplainable." Fair enough. Perhaps there is some prosaic explanation still to be discovered. There`s always that possibility, no matter how small.

But we remain in a state of ignorance concerning UFOs, leaving us with the conclusion presented in the book: We need a systematic, scientific investigation of the skies that actively looks for these mysterious and elusive objects. In the meantime, all I ask is that devout skeptics like Oberg read the entire book before raising objections that actually have no bearing on the matter at hand.

Investigative journalist Leslie Kean is the author of the New York Times bestseller "UFOs: General, Pilots and Government Officials Go on the Record" (Harmony/Crown). Her work has appeared in many publications including The Nation, International Herald Tribune and the Boston Globe. She is also the co-author of "Burma's Revolution of the Spirit" and co-founder of the Coalition for Freedom of Information.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon August 15, 2010
Leslie Kean is an independent investigative journalist known for pioneering human rights work in Burma. As Director of the Coalition for Freedom of Information, between 2005 and 2009 she fought and won a FOIA federal lawsuit against NASA to release "lost" records on the 1965 Kecksburg PA incident. She is patient, persistent, tenacious and skeptical. Her new book, ten years in the making and two years in the writing, has received open endorsement from so many leading politicians and scientists that it just might be a game-changer.

The intended audience is not the committed reader steeped in the lore of UFOs or discussions of the ETH and competing origin-hypotheses. Plenty of books explore these subjects and their readership is, against the mainstream, pitifully small and marginalised. Such works, however well-researched, are often self-published or condemned to share shelf-space with political CTs, channelling and new-age mush, undeservedly consigned to the ghetto of the kooky, ridiculed fringe.

Readers familiar with the works of Allen Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Tim Good, Jerry Clark, Stan Friedman, Richard Dolan and writers of similar calibre will find little new here, though they will find a few interesting nuggets. They are already persuaded of the evidence, and not the target audience for this book. These writers, collectively, have never effected political attitude-change: the contributors to this book are such serious, credible, high-profile people they just might.

Kean's target audience is professional academia, those involved in politics and the media, the skeptically-minded scientist with little familiarity with the subject matter due to its long contamination with fringe elements, and the concerned, civic-minded man or woman in the street who has never read a book on the issue and knows little of the powerful evidence for the existence of persistent strange aerial phenomena. The book is carefully crafted to bring the subject out of the UFO conference fringe and place it firmly centre-stage into the political and academic mainstream where it belongs; to make it a respectable and important subject for discussion. The argument is: These are responsible officials going on the record, and here is serious evidence of something real. You are irresponsible if you ignore this subject, or allow it to continue to be marginalised.

To this end, the book's tone is deliberately sceptical. The tag-line "Generals, Pilots and Government Officials go on the Record" describes exactly the content: only incontestable cases with multiple official witnesses plus supporting evidence have been chosen for inclusion. The author worked for years to contact and gain the confidence of these military pilots and high-profile government officials and to bring them together at the National Press Club in DC in November 2007. High priority is given to cases involving air force encounters; documented, confirmed, official. The contributors are truly international, confirming the global reach of the phenomenon.

This cautious tone, the international perspective and the author's avoidance of contamination by book jacket-cover endorsement from anyone associated with the "UFO community" sets this book apart from other work on the subject. This will be extremely difficult for a debunker to deal with, and that is the intention. Journalistic standards are high, so there are no "anonymous whistleblowers", no ID kept secret, nothing flaky or un-checkable. These establishment people have gone ON THE RECORD, and write in total around half the content of the 302 pages of the book. Introducing the section written by Nick Pope, Kean writes: "He is yet another example of the many officials and military officers who, as they became acquainted with UFO investigations by accident, flexed their skeptical muscles only to find themselves absorbed by the unexpected power of the evidence they had initially expected to disprove." The accumulated evidence presented is virtually un-debunkable.

Kean contrasts the relatively open way the UFO subject has been managed in recent decades by nations such as France, Belgium, the UK, Brazil, Peru and others, with the history of stonewalling and ridicule from all government and military bodies in the USA. Since the closing of Blue Book, the phenomenon no longer officially exists in the USA even though pilots, operators of military facilities and ordinary folk encounter it all the time. It's an Orwellian environment. What is to be done?

In the third and final section of the book, the author explores the nature of UFO secrecy in the US. She sticks to the facts as known and documented, and acknowledges the unsupported speculations frequently put out by various people in the UFO field about the cover-up inhibit understanding of the issue and serve to marginalise the subject. Her reasoning is logical, thorough and grounded.

In Chapter 26, "Engaging the US Government," Kean lays out the reasoned objective sought by the CFI:

"The coalition is asking for responsible action on the part of the United States concerning UFOs. We make this request not as an accusation of wrongdoing in the past, but as an invitation to join an international, cooperative venture under way now...we are seeking the creation of a small government agency to investigate UFO incidents, and to act as a focal point for action at home and for research worldwide."

Her objective is to bring about legitimization of the subject, so that scientific interest might be encouraged and government grants enable scientists in the academic, research and aviation fields to pursue serious study free of ridicule. She is not impotently shouting for "Disclosure" whilst remaining forever shut outside. She, and the impressive contributors to this book, ask for official recognition of the UFO issue as real, and for the establishment of a small agency to co-ordinate international study as a first step. No assumptions about the origin of the phenomenon are made: just that it exists, and needs to be acknowledged as real. It's a reasoned, achievable objective, unarguable in the face of the unassailable evidence presented here. That's why this book might be the catalyst for permanent recognition of legitimacy: in other words, a game-changer.

The production quality of the book is first class and the writing from all contributors literate, straightforward and completely free of typos. It has a logical structure, is an easy and absorbing read containing nothing extraneous, concerned with the facts and testimonies. It builds a compelling argument. If you haven't read it yet, maybe you should.
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on September 1, 2010
I read this book yesterday. I am in the target demographic--like most Americans, of course I thought UFO's were strictly in the realm of science fiction. This book has upended everything I thought I knew about the real world. The research is impeccable, the witnesses are more than trustworthy--this book is shocking and will completely change the perspective of anyone who reads it, except for those who already are true believers.

With my own scientific background I am intensely curious to learn more about the bloodwork done on the Peruvian fighter pilot. But even without knowing more, this book has utterly changed me.

I sincerely hope this book becomes a bestseller, because the public, particularly the American public, has a right to know these facts.
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on October 6, 2010
I enjoyed reading this book, but found myself shaking my head at certain points.

First the good: The book is filled with compelling testimony from very believable witnesses and it makes a fine companion to the documentary, "I Know What I Saw."

Now, the less good: Keane seems to want to bend over backwards not to offend the U.S. govt. or USAF, repeating several times that there is no reason to believe that these folks are actually party to a conspiracy to deceive the people regarding UFOs.

Further, she goes out of her way to slam research by those who feel otherwise. Though she doesn't name names, I couldn't help but feel she was thinking of Richard Dolan's outstanding book, UFOs and the National Security State as such an offender.

Also, the repeated assertion that she doesn't know where UFOs come from or what they are, while sensible, got old. I do wish that she had suggested a list of possibilities that she was considering. I mean, if UFOs are real, and human beings from Earth didn't make them, as the book strongly suggests, then where do they come from? She offhandedly mentions--more than once--the extraterrestrial hypothesis and the inter-dimensional hypothesis, but pretty much leaves us hanging. I doubt very seriously that Keane truly has no strong feelings on where these things originate. I believe that it's disingenuous for her to imply otherwise.

All that said, I did like the book and would recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject, especially someone still sitting on the fence.
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on August 31, 2010
I haven't read a book about UFOs since my college days, but when Michio Kaku recommends a book on this topic, I take notice. The impressive favorable reviews for this book are from many very credible and unlikely people, such as Fife Symington, former governor of Arizona.

The author's basic premise is that there appear to be physical objects in our collective airspace that perform in ways that challenge our understanding of some very basic principles of present-day science. After a brief introduction she wisely turns the floor over to some apparently sane and rational people who occupy positions of some importance in the military and scientific circles, each of whom has had some experience with airbourne anomalies that appear to be physical objects which interfere with both commercial and military aviation on occasion.

The author calls for an objective, scientific, coordinated examination of these cases. She has no use for the term UFO, which has been co-opted by the abduction, cattle mutilation, and alien autopsy folks, ands asks that we discard the UFO label and it's baggage, and simply return to the basic question of what it is that we have been seeing in our skies for this past half century or more. The author recommends a concerted effort to explore the inner space of our atmosphere in as open a way as we have the outer space of our solar system.

In an age of terror, she makes several points that cannot be ignored. Her well documented observation that intrusions into restricted airspace are essentially disregarded if attributed to a UFO is disturbing, especially for sensitive locations such as nuclear weapon storage facilities, or missile silos. She also makes the surprising point that radar systems are calibrated to ignore returns that fall outside of "normal" parameters for the objects being observed, so that operators are not confused by weather phenomenon or things that cannot be conventional aircraft. There are many other points made here that bring this book into the genre of intelligent popular science for a wide audience.

This book made me think seriously about this topic for the first time in years, and opened my eyes to my own blind prejudice. A thoughtful and intelligent book with a clear call to action. If you have never read a book on this subject, this is probably the place to start. For a different perspective, you might try UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities which takes more of a debunker position. Both are fascinating reads.

If your interest is sustained, another book in the same genre by C.D.B Bryan called Close Encounters of the Fourth Kind: A Reporter's Notebook on Alien Abduction, UFOs, and the Conference at M.I.T. deals with issues of government cover-up and abductions, but is far more restrained than most books dealing with this topic.
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on September 20, 2010
Quite honestly, this is the first book on the UFO subject which I've read. I was never fully a skeptic, nor was I fully a believer. This book has pushed me out of my comfortable zone, and forced me to make a decision. While reading the events described in the book, I kept asking myself why is this the first time I'm reading about this? I frustratedly set out on the internet to seek out supporting articles to back up the content.

Much to my surprise, everything I researched matched the content of the book. In fact, the author seemingly chose cases to present which could be easily researched. I can't help but ask; Why is this the first time I'm learning of these incredibly documented events? Why are so many credible witnesses ignored? And most importantly, how could I have remained so ignorant for so long?

Fortunately, the author was able to answer these questions and others. I can confidently say, I am no longer a believer. To believe in something is to accept as true, something for which there is no evidence. The events cataloged in this book are matters of fact, in the public records and in the media.

I now know that UFOs/UAPs are real. If you want a book which will challenge your existing beliefs with [easily researched and supported] cold facts, this is the book for you.
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on September 15, 2010
When I saw the review by Michio Kaku (a highly respected physicist), I knew I had to pick up this book. I am interested in the UFO phenomenon, but usually balk at many of the books that are out there as they, in an essence, are too "out there". This book is well researched and lays out a clear and concise argument that the UFO phenomenon does exist and that the US should be more open to researching the phenomenon as other countries have. Something that is reiterated in the book is that there is no "belief" in UFOs; UFOs are a reality (fact). There are Flying Objects out there that are Unidentifiable and, until they are identified through scientific means, will be labeled as a "UFO" (or the new term "UAP - Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon"). Of the UFO reports given to those governments and organizations that track such data, 90% - 95% can be identified as a known phenomenon (planets; meteors; yes, even the occasional weather balloon). But what of that 5% - 10% that can't be explained? These are the true "UFO"s that require additional research to determine what, exactly, pilots, military personnel, government personnel and your average Joe is seeing that current science cannot explain.
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on August 18, 2010
In the Introduction to her book, author Leslie Kean states she uses the term UFO (Unidentified Flying Objects) and UAP (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) interchangeably even though she realizes that UAP is the broader term. She might have been better served if she had maintained a strict separation. In those residual cases that truly are unidentified, not only do the objects appear not to "fly" in the normal sense of the word (aerodynamically), but there is the distinct possibility that they are not "objects" in the normal sense of that word either. In addition, as she points out, that the term UFO has come (incorrectly) to connote "extraterrestrial" to such an extent that its strictly correct meaning is now probably lost for good. "UFO" is dated and should be consigned to the scrap heap along with "flying saucer." UAP reflects current thinking best, but probably wouldn't be as catchy for the title for her book.

The book is well written and carefully researched over a considerable period of time, but despite advocating "militant agnosticism," a preference for the extraterrestrial hypothesis by the author, and many of the contributors, is implicit. Some of the contributors don't even attempt a neutral position.

Also in the Introduction, the author states that what is being observed is "a solid physical phenomenon" and she reiterates this position at various other places in following chapters. This may be one adjective too many. It could be a physical phenomenon without being solid. Many of the observed characteristics which are so puzzling for an object which is, in fact, solid are easily explained by an apparent object which is virtual. Without violating any of the currently understood laws of physics, what I am suggesting is some kind of interactive holographic projection (IHP). How do you do that? Good question!

For a particularly astute piece of analysis on this, search on "Particle Beams and Saucer Dreams," an on-line essay by Tom Mahood. This essay speculates about events observed over Area 51 in the late 1980s and early 1990s and points the way to what may have become a highly developed black budget project.

In Chapter 23 Author Kean does an excellent job of introducing us to the world of classified information and touches on the category of Unacknowledged Special Access Programs (UASAPs). So, let's pursue that for a moment. Suppose, following the line of thought developed by Tom Mahood, that a technology has been stumbled upon that has highly significant strategic implications. Maybe it's some combination of a particle beam's ability to produce a ball of plasma in the atmosphere that can be maneuvered with ease, and also has the ability of the standard cathode ray tube as found in traditional TV sets to produce a detailed image. That's just a wild guess based upon existing technologies, but whatever it is, it has profound implications. They will, of course, need to test this thing, trying it under different circumstances, possibility even putting it in a satellite. We know that there are many classified satellites that the military has put into orbit. The problem is that these tests are highly visible and people are bound to see them from time to time. As Mahood says at the end of his essay "You can hide the program but you can't hide the physics." In order to avoid having to explain what is going on, some kind of disinformation cover is required. Serendipity comes to the rescue, that kind of cover already exists -- it's UFOs! Now all the military/government complex has to do is cast aspersions on the whole idea of UFOs and they're home free.

Most of the above constitutes a domestic technology explanation for UAPs, but does that mean the extraterrestrial hypothesis is invalid? It does not. There is no reason why extraterrestrials wouldn't make use of the same technology and we would have to expect that it would be in a highly developed state coming from that quarter. For more speculation along this line search on: "Alien Spacecraft: Real, Physical or Virtual?" or go to The UFO Experience Reconsidered: Science and Speculation

Congratulations are in order to author Leslie Kean for providing a clearly written framework for thought on this subject.
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on September 11, 2014
I am an unsolved mysteries fanatic, and this book satisfied my want to learn more about the especially unexplainable UFO sightings. Kean did well by talking to pilots and law enforcement officials, and avoiding the fanatics. The descriptions of the encounters are very technical and kind of boring after a while, but this book is trying to present a "scientific" basis for studying UFOs so it make sense.

However I think this book would be much more effective if she were more neutral and did not try to advance a (hypo)thesis. I followed up with many of her examples with Google/Wikipedia because Kean made me genuinely curious, and I determined that a simple in-depth discussion of each event, including quotes from skeptics (who Kean leaves out completely) would have made Kean more credible. For example, the famous photo from the Belgian UFO Wave of 1989-90 that Kean and the experts she cites accept as authentic was thoroughly debunked a year after this book was published; with the Rendlesham Forest Incident, it appears one of the witnesses contradicted himself and other witnesses in a series of public statements and later claimed to have "encountered" the aliens again later in life (the witness is mentioned by Kean, his unreliability is not); she also uses Fife Symington, the disgraced former Governor of Arizona, as a credible witness of an "otherworldy craft," leaving me to wonder if Fife is trying to make some sort of comeback with his statements?

In conclusion, this book should have been more even-handed, as Kean is undermined by further research and does not respond to skeptics effectively -- if at all.
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on September 14, 2010
If you have never read a book about UFOs and have always wondered whether there is anything to the subject then this is definitely the book you should read first. Leslie Kean does not set out to prove that UFOs are controlled by aliens. No-one has enough evidence to make that kind of claim, and sensibly, Kean is aiming at convincing readers of something more modest. Namely, that there have been a number of sightings of exotic and strange flying objects that have been seen by a large number of people simultaneously, including persons in positions of high responsibility. These sightings have very real implications for air safety, defence and science.

One of the outstanding features of the book is that high-ranking military personnel, commercial airline pilots, public servants, and political leaders, from all over the world have contributed chapters to the book, explaining in their own words what they have witnessed themselves or evidence they have had access to on these sightings, including literally thousands of credible eyewitness reports, radar evidence, photographic and film evidence, and the effects of electromagnetic radiation. These are serious people who have been responsible for the defence of nations and the lives of people under their care. What they have to say is mind-boggling and difficult to dismiss; they are courageously drawing our attention to something extraordinary that warrants further investigation and has the potential to change the way we see ourselves and our place in the universe. This is a fascinating book about a subject that has so often been dismissed by ridicule and obfuscation, and it is a credit to Leslie Kean that she has brought the matter to renewed public attention in a sober and intelligent way.
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