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The international panel at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure. From left: Antonio Huneeus (Chile/France/Russia), Nick Pope (U.K.), Grant Cameron (Canada), Sun Shili (China) and Roberto Pinotti (Italy). (Credit: Citizen Hearing on Disclosure)

UFOs in Chile, France and Russia – Citizen Hearing Transcripts

Open Minds journalist, Antonio Huneeus, is one of the panel members speaking at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure this week. Yesterday he presented to the committee of 6 former congress members on UFO activity and government reactions in Chile, France and Russia. You can read the text of his testimony below.

South America: Chile

In recent years Chile has become one of the world’s leading nations in the official study and recognition of the UFO phenomenon. UFO agencies or departments have been traditionally under the Air Force in most countries. In France, as we shall see in the next session, the effort is under the space agency, but Chile has taken a novel approach which makes logical sense: its committee known as CEFAA (Committee for the Study of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena) is under the Civil Aviation agency DGAC. In other words, it’s like if the FAA, the Federal Aviation Administration, had a UFO department. Civil aviation agencies all over the world deal with aircraft safety and navigation and UFOs, though not regulated by human governmental agencies, are primarily flying in the air and could pose a threat to aviation safety.

Chile has a rich history of UFO cases, some of them highly strange, like an incident involving a group of seven soldiers and a corporal near Putre in Chile’s northern Atacama region near the border with Peru in 1977, the so-called time warp case of Corporal Valdes, which became the subject of my very first article on UFOs back in 1977. In the 1980s, Gustavo Rodriguez, an air traffic controller, began to collect cases involving pilots who would call the control tower asking if there was any traffic that could explain lights or objects they were seeing during the course of their flights. There were also incidents involving the scramble of military jets, a situation common to many countries of the world.

In the mid-90s Rodríguez received the support of Gen. Ramón Vega, a former Commander-in-Chief of the Chilean Air Force and later a senator. I had the opportunity of meeting both Gustavo Rodríguez and Gen. Vega during several trips to Santiago in the 1990s. I gave the general, in fact, a copy of the Laurance Rockefeller-sponsored UFO Briefing Document which I had coauthored and which perhaps played a small role in marshaling the evidence for the creation of CEFAA in 1997. During its first months, however, CEFAA seemed rudderless until Air Force General (Ret.) Ricardo Bermúdez was named director. Gen. Bermúdez was the director of the Technical School of Aeronautics, which trains air traffic controllers, and it was at this school—which I visited many times—where the Commission was housed for a number of years. CEFAA’s mission is to:

Record and analyze all relevant reports concerning UAP [Unidentified Aerial Phenomena] occurring within the national territory, on the basis of a serious, objective and scientific analysis with the purpose of determining any possible risk to air operations.

In 2002 CEFAA became essentially inactive for a number of years, but in December of 2009 the DGAC announced that CEFAA was being reactivated and once again Gen. Bermúdez was brought back to direct it and Gustavo Rodríguez to serve as secretary. The Committee’s headquarters was moved to a new location at the National Aeronautical and Space Museum near the old airport of Los Cerrillos in Santiago. One of the first things they did was to launch an official website [http://www.cefaa.cl/web/home.html], which is by far the best of all the South American official agencies. It contains several UFO aircraft incidents with audio recordings of pilot-control tower communications, videos, documents, articles, and other data.

CEFAA has an “External Committee of Advisors” which includes eight top scientists from the Chilean Commission of Nuclear Energy, Aerospace Medicine at Santiago University, astronomers from the Metropolitan and Catholic Universities, a plasma physicist from Santiago University, a geographer and expert of satellite imagery from Chile State University, and two psychologists. There is also a CEFAA Internal Committee which includes experts on Operations Safety, Air Control Center, Meteorology, Air Accidents Investigations, Aerospace Engineering and Audiovisual. They also have representatives from each branch of the armed forces and the police.

On August 11, 2008, the Chilean government passed Law 20.285 known as “Transparency Law.” In some respects it works similarly to our Freedom of Information Act—government agencies have 20 days to responds to queries from the public regarding public records—but in some respects it goes beyond the FOIA. With the exception of matters dealing with national security and foreign relations, the Transparency Law was designed so government agencies can act in an open and transparent manner even in cases where they received no queries from the public. CEFAA has fully complied with the requirements of the Transparency Law, and as explained by Gen. Bermúdez, “this is the way we deal with the phenomenon, openly and freely.”

CEFAA has documented many UFO cases involving commercial and military pilots. One of the more interesting ones known as the Pelican case occurred on June 24, 2010 and it involved three different aircraft—two airliners and a navy plane called Pelican. As put by Gen. Bermúdez at a lecture he gave at the International UFO Congress in Fountain Hills, Arizona, in 2012,

three airplanes witnessed the same phenomenon, two commercial planes are approaching Santiago, the military plane is coming 300 miles from the north, and an object is cruising his airway. The pilot reports something he sees camouflaged in erratic motion. In the audio communication, one can hear the pilot saying, “ROGER…At this moment I can’t see it anymore…I could see a traffic loud and clear…it looked like a cloud… Camouflaged as a cloud but with erratic motion.

This case, as well as another one in Punta Arenas detected by primary radar in 2011, is important because you have different professional pilots reporting the same object. As explained by Gen. Bermúdez:

Think for a moment, if one experienced commercial pilot reports to me that something flew across in front of his airplane, I pay careful attention; but now if a second commercial pilot reports the same a few seconds later, I become interested; but if a third pilot, a military one, confirms the same fact, I tend to believe it. In this case, do we have one UFO close to the airplanes, or we have two UFOs? If we have one, its incredible speed doesn’t correspond to anything we have now.

During the same lecture at the International UFO Congress, Gen. Bermúdez released a multiple video case taken at the El Bosque base in Santiago, where the Air Force Academy is located, which made world headlines. This was because several videos were taken during an important ceremony for the change of the Commander of the Chilean Air Force on November 4, 2010, attended by the President, all the commanders of the armed forces and top brass, the Minister of Defense and other cabinet members, the diplomatic corps and many other important officials including Gen. Bermúdez himself. The ceremony is popular with the public and widely photographed and filmed because it includes the air parade by all the different squadrons of the Chilean Air Force. It must be clarified, however, that none of the dignitaries or public saw the UFOs at the time. These were discovered later as people began to review the footage they had taken. I am enclosing an interview I did with Gen. Bermúdez, published in Open Minds magazine issue 16, Oct.-Nov. 2012, where he explains the methodology of CEFAA as well as many of their best UFO cases, including the multiple footage case of El Bosque.

Chile has shown that a serious and open official investigation of UFOs can be conducted in a serious and scientific manner. Some of the ingredients include cooperation among different government agencies, scientific and academic institutions and even the civilian UFO community. Official and private investigators can and should cooperate instead of fighting with each other. This same model has taken place in other South American countries like Uruguay, Brazil, Argentina, Peru and Ecuador. Another key component is to establish official cooperation among different countries since UFOs don’t seem to care about national boundaries and are reported widely all over the world. For this reason, CEFAA and CRIDOVNI, the official UFO agency run by the Uruguayan Air Force since 1978, signed an official agreement of cooperation and exchange of data in 2012.

The United States likes to think that it’s always ahead in all areas of society, but I am afraid that this is not the case in the field of ufology. Other countries are moving ahead with an open and transparent investigation of this phenomenon. The unknown nature of the phenomenon itself and the likelihood that it originates not on this Earth requires a change of attitude and a level of openness that seems to be amiss in this country. Let me finish with a quote from my interview with Gen. Bermúdez:

The official conclusion is that the anomalous aerial phenomenon known as unidentified flying objects is real and is present within the controlled airspace and outside the controlled airspace. It is also present in the sea—we have some reports from our navy in that respect. It is present everywhere, and therefore it is necessary to share the information in order to have more background and be able to study it more scientifically, so that we can give real information to the people and not rely on what is shown on TV and in sensationalist media.

Thank you very much.


The international panel at the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure. From left: Antonio Huneeus (Chile/France/Russia), Nick Pope (U.K.), Grant Cameron (Canada), Sun Shili (China) and Roberto Pinotti (Italy). (Credit: Citizen Hearing on Disclosure)

Other Countries: France & Russia

Good afternoon, distinguished members and panelists of the Citizen Hearing on UFOs. Today we are discussing official investigations from various countries around the world. Among those nations that have conducted some kind of official UFO research besides the United States and South America–which have been dealt in previous sessions–we can mention Russia, the United Kingdom, France, Belgium, Spain, Italy, Sweden, Denmark, Ukraine, Poland, Australia and New Zealand to cite a few. We have with us experts that will discuss some of these countries like Italy, the UK, Canada and China, but no representatives from the other nations, so I will cover briefly the history of official investigations of two particularly important countries–France and Russia–which have a rich amount of material in this field.

Let’s start with France, a country that has one of the oldest, continuous and most rational approaches to the UFO problem. Some military investigations in France go back to the fifties, but the current program really took off in the mid-seventies, when a series of important steps were taken by the French government. In 1974, the Minister of Defense, Robert Galley, admitted in a famous radio interview that “the mass of reports coming in from the Gendarmerie” were “pretty disturbing.” The Minister added that, “I believe that the attitude of spirit that we must adopt vis-à-vis this phenomena is an open one, that is to say that it doesn’t consist in denying apriori, as our ancestors of previous centuries did deny many things that seem nowadays perfectly elementary.”

The National Gendarmerie, which is a national police force similar to our state troopers, had been investigating UFO incidents since the sixties, including a famous UFO landing and close encounter of the third kind (CE-III), cases where humanoid beings or UFO occupants are seen in connection with a sighting, in Valensole in 1965. Ten years later, the Gendarmerie formalized its UFO protocols by issuing instructions that gendarmes throughout the French territory, including those overseas like French Guyana or Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean, should respond and investigate any UFO incident reported by French citizens. These protocols are still current.

In 1977, the Institute of High Studies of National Defense or IHEDN, a key think tank of the French military, released an important study which recommended the establishment of a permanent agency to study UFOs. This was accomplished later that year when the CNES, the French space agency equivalent to our NASA, created the Study Group of Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena (GEPAN) under the direction of aerospace engineer Claude Poher, who had conducted UFO research on his own for a number of years. One of his first tasks was to conduct a statistical study of 354 UFO cases collected by the Gendarmerie, 25% of which remained unexplained.

On the morning of January 8, 1981, GEPAN’s most important case took place: a UFO landed on the property of a farmer in Trans-en-Provence in the Var region of southwest France. Although the case had only one witness, the farmer Renato Nicolai, the case became important because of the physical evidence left by the UFO on the alfalfa field, which was analyzed scientifically by a number of French laboratories. Among other things, the alfalfa leaves lost from 30 to 50 percent of chlorophyll and the traces on the terrain “were still perceptible 40 days after the event,” according to the official report. Stranger still was what an official GEPAN chart characterized as “Time / Space effect.” Prof. Bounias, one of the scientists who conducted the analysis, explained that while the plants were physiologically young, after the UFO landing they “presented the biochemical characteristics of leaves of an advanced age: old leaves!” The final Conclusion in the GEPAN chart was, “physical phenomenon of unexplained nature; High probability of electro-magnetic mode of propulsion.”

Despite this and other significant cases investigated and documented by GEPAN, the agency was downgraded in the mid-eighties and the name was changed to SEPRA, an acronym for the reentry of atmospheric objects, although the agency continued to investigate UFO cases under the direction of Jean-Jacques Velasco, who was the case investigator of the Trans-en-Provence incident. In 2007, however, a new reorganization took place and the name was changed again to GEIPAN, Study and Information Group of Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena. GEIPAN also launched a comprehensive website and began the process of releasing all of its documents, which are now available within the CNES portal.

Parallel to the official GEIPAN and Gendarmerie investigations, there has also been some highly interesting semi-official reports from groups connected to the French military, intelligence and aeronautical establishments. The first and most famous one was the so-called COMETA Report of 1999, entitled “UFOs and Defense: What Should We Prepare For?” Although not an official government report in the strict sense of the word, COMETA was composed of a group of retired high-ranking military and intelligence officers under the direction of retired Major General Denis Letty. Their conclusions that UFOs were definitely real and most likely of extraterrestrial origin were very strong.

More recently, another quasi-official organization, the 3AF, which stands for the Aeronautical and Astronomical Association of France, created a high-level study group known as the Sigma Commission under the direction of Alain Boudier. Sigma has recently completed a long report, again confirming the existence of a real UFO phenomenon of likely ET origin, but the final report has not yet been released to the public, although this is expected to occur soon. We attach instead a Preliminary Report issued in 2010, which we translated and published in the openminds.tv website a while ago.

From all this material briefly outlined in this presentation, you can see that the French are undoubtedly among the leading nations to conduct significant UFO research both officially and semi-officially. Instead of burying their heads in the sand pretending that the UFO phenomenon doesn’t exist or it’s not important, France, the cradle of rationalism in the modern era, have taken an aggressive approach towards solving this phenomenon.

Let me outline now very briefly the history of UFO research in Russia and the old Soviet Union. In the early days of communism the subject of UFOs was heavily censored, although some research was conducted privately by a few scientists such as the late Prof. Felix Zigel, an astronomer with the Moscow Aviation Institute who is considered the father of Russian ufology. Things began to change after a highly publicized event in Petrozovadosk in Karelia, northern Russia, in September of 1977, which led to the creation of a Commission for the study of Anomalous Phenomena attached to the USSR Academy of Sciences. This Commission was public since it solicited reports from the Soviet citizenry. Not known to the public, however, was a second secret study conducted by the KGB and the Soviet Ministry of Defense, although its existence was not revealed until after the breakdown of the USSR in 1990. Eventually some military and KGB files from this commission were released in the nineties, including incidents involving UFOs flying over nuclear facilities.

One of the most interesting cases in the KGB file is a multiple-witness CE-I (Close Encounter of the First Kind) at a top secret army missile base in the district of Kapustin Yar, Astrakhan Region, on the night of July 28-29, 1989. The file is surely incomplete, but still offers an interesting glimpse into the maneuverability of UFOs. The dossier consists of the depositions of seven military witnesses (two junior officers, a corporal and four privates) plus illustrations of the object by the observers, and a brief case summary by an unnamed KGB officer. One of the depositions mentions a disc-shaped object moving “in the directions of the rocket weapons depot” and then hovering over the depot and emitting  “a bright beam.” Another case from 1982 involved a series of sightings of UFOs over a nuclear missile base near Usovo, Ukraine, which coincided with a malfunction of the computerized console controlling the launch of nuclear weapons. This was obviously of great concern to the Soviet military and it’s quite similar to the events at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana discussed in another session of these Hearings.

It is perhaps due to these kinds of incidents involving nuclear weapons that a curious clause about “unidentified objects” was added to an Agreement on Measures to Reduce the Risk of Nuclear War between the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialists Republics. The Agreement was part of the policy of detente during the Nixon and early Brezhnev administrations. It was signed on September 30, 1971 by Secretary of State, William Rogers, and Foreign Minister, Andrei Gromyko.

The Agreement has nine articles on issues such as informing each other “against the accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons under its control,” notification in advance of missile launches that go beyond the national territory of each country, and other measures of cooperation in order to avert “the risk of outbreak of nuclear war.” Article 3 reads:

 The Parties undertake to notify each other immediately in the event of detection by missile warning systems of unidentified objects [emphasis added], or in the event of signs of interference with these systems or with related communications facilities, if such occurrences could create a risk of outbreak of nuclear war between the two countries.

Several UFO cases involving Russian cosmonauts have also become public over the years. One of the most interesting was a report by cosmonaut Major-General Vladimir Kovalyonok from the Salyut-6 space station on May 5, 1981. The sighting of a pulsating “round object which resembled a melon” and then became like a barbell and “didn’t resemble any cosmic objects I’m familiar with,” was admitted on the record in a videotaped interview by the cosmonaut many years later. Another cosmonaut, Major-General Pavel Popovich, even became at one point the President of the All-Union Ufology Association of the Commonwealth of Independent States. A quote from a 1992 paper by Gen. Popovich provides an appropriate ending to this brief presentation. He wrote:

The UFO sightings have become the constant component of human activity and require a serious global study. In order to realize the position of man on earth and in the universe, ufology, the scientific study of the UFO phenomenon, should take place in the midst of other sciences dealing with man and the world…

Thank you very much.

About Antonio Huneeus

Open Minds Investigative Reporter J. Antonio Huneeus has covered the UFO field from an international perspective for over 30 years. His articles have appeared in dozens of publications in the U.S., Latin America, Europe and Japan. He was also the co-author of the Laurance Rockefeller-funded “UFO Briefing Document – The Best Available Evidence” and edited the book “A Study Guide to UFOs, Psychic & Paranormal Phenomena in the USSR.” Huneeus studied French at the Sorbonne University in Paris and Journalism at the University of Chile in Santiago in the 1970s. He has lectured at dozens of UFO Conferences all over the world and been interviewed by many media outlets including The Washington Post, the Sy-Fy and History Channels, Nippon-TV, etc. He received the “Ufologist of the Year” award at the National UFO Conference in Miami Beach in 1990 and the “Courage in Journalism” award at the X-Conference in Gaithersburg, Maryland, in 2007.

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