English Flying Saucers and FOIA

Last week we learned about a case involving the use of the US Freedom of Informtion Act (FOIA)(5 U.S.C. ยง552) to get information from NASA. That particular FOIA request covered business records of the agency.

Across the pond, under the UK's
newly-enacted FOIA (which "received Royal Assent" in November 2000, but only entered fully into force in January 2005 -- and what took the UK so long to fully enact a FOI regime?), a clever British alien hunter quickly employed the law to obtain a very different type of space-related information from his government.

The UK FOIA request filer, who asked the Ministry of Defense to provide "details of its plans for 'dealing with the arrival of extra-terrestrials," may not have found what he hoped. This week the
Ministry released a 400-page report which confirmed "a secret study completed in December 2000 had found no evidence that 'flying saucers' or unidentified flying objects were anything other than natural phenomena."

(By the way, if you gotta release a secret report under a FOIA request, go all the way. According to Reuters, the Ministry will post the document, "Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in the UK Air Defense Region," on
its Web site on May 15. And if you can't wait until then, check out the report of England's Flying Saucer Working Party from 1951, already on the MoD's site, and in the British National Archives, no FOIA request needed, which had already concluded "all UFO sightings could be explained as misidentifications of ordinary objects or phenomena, optical illusions, psychological delusions or hoaxes.")

Not a good week for alien wranglers; unless you count this as hot new grist for the conspiracy/cover-up mill. Cool.

(Here in the States we've been using FOIA for years to hunt for evidence of aliens. For example, I haven't seen it but this
CD-ROM apparently includes documents of the NSA, FBI, etc. released under FOIA which relate to "UFOs, space aliens, extraterrestrials, and other unusual phenomena...")

Meanwhile, as the
BBC reported in its overview of the UK FOIA's initial impact, despite slowness and backlog, "the verdict on the first year is, in some ways, positive. New information of real value is reaching the public for the first time."

Jolly good.

(But wait -- without flying saucers over England, how can we explain those crop circles?)

* * *

Happy belated 80th birthday from Space Law Probe to Her Majesty the Queen. ;)

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