Interview with Nick Pope

Former Head of SEC (AS)2A

5 MAY 1996
CONDUCTED BY
MARK IAN BIRDSALL & VIVIENNE OLBISON

UFO: What is Secretariat (AS)2a?

Nick Pope: It provides support to the RAF and works as a link between the RAF on one hand and Defence Ministers on the other, but also assists the public and press. It uses briefings and releases to liaise between the Service and everyone else.

UFO: When did you join this office, and indeed, were you aware of its function?

Nick Pope: I’ve been in the Ministry of Defence since 1985. We are just ‘posted around’ every two or three years to acquire experience. I had just finished various duties associated with the Gulf War and it just so happened that there was a vacancy which cropped-up. Also in this office was a chap I had worked with quite closely with Gulf War duties and he offered me the job. I was aware that UFO research was one of its functions.

UFO: Was this the reason you switched departments?

Nick Pope: I was certainly interested, it sounded fascinating, but I was quite keen to get out of my old job.

UFO: Did you have any previous interest in the UFO phenomenon prior to joining Sec(AS)2a?

Nick Pope: Very minimal. I had seen a couple of documentaries, read a Charles Berlitz book on the ‘Bermuda Triangle’. I knew very little about the subject and went in with a clean slate so-to-speak.

UFO: Open Skies, Closed Minds – why did you write the book?

Nick Pope: I had become increasingly convinced in my three year tour of duty in Sec(AS)2a that there was an extraterrestrial explanation – behind some of the UFO sightings, but I had been consistently unable to convince my bosses of the fact. I no longer work for Sec(AS)2a, but I felt there was still a great deal of work to be done. There is a very real phenomena here – not appreciated by the rest of the department and by the public as a whole. Not many people other than those outside the ‘UFO lobby’ seemed to know much more than the tabloid press.

UFO: By writing the book do you feel you are presenting the public with a greater insight?

Nick Pope: Yes, I felt it was a way of pushing the subject into the public domain. A way perhaps of telling the public, ‘look it’s not just a silly headline in the Sunday Sport’. There is something real here and indeed, it does have implications for national security. Open Skies, Closed Minds was written partly for the department as a whole, although my immediate superiors didn’t appreciate what was going on. Yet I felt that perhaps other people in the Ministry – civil servants, RAF personnel – would read it and say – yes – there is something to the subject.

UFO: When you decided to pen the book, was there any internal pressure placed on you to cease researching?

Nick Pope: There was a faction that certainly didn’t want the book to appear. I submitted the text to the Publication Clearance Branch. This department operates to clear books such as those which have appeared recently on the Gulf War. To my utter amazement – and for the first time to my knowledge – the manuscript was returned with a short letter.

UFO: What did the letter say.

Nick Pope: It said a number of things but the quote which stunned me most said that my manuscript was ‘completely unacceptable to MoD and quite beyond any suitable amendment.’

UFO: How did you react to that?

Nick Pope: With absolute amazement. I have seen some pretty aggressive books, particularly following the Gulf War, which contained some sensational information. I thought – well that’s amazing. How is it possible that SAS operations could go through the PCB without any problems, yet a book on UFOs gets everyone up in arms?

UFO: Did that decision provide you with any insight into how Whitehall as a whole views the subject? And indeed was there a conflict for example between ‘public expose’ and a loyalty to your employees?

Nick Pope: On the loyalty point, many people have said, isn’t this against the Official Secrets Act?, but since the Gulf War, there has been a great change in the way in which the Official Secrets Act has been interpreted. There used to be a blanket ban on official information, lectures and books. But since people like General Sir Peter de la Billiere published his book on the Gulf War and SAS operations other people believed if the Commander-in-Chief of British forces in the Gulf can write his book – I can too.
Returning to the first part of your question, no, I don’t think it is indicative of a cover-up. I think some people are simply covering-up their ignorance of the subject, the embarrassment factor. Some might believe that perhaps there are structured craft penetrating our airspace, and yes, we don’t know what they are. Thus it’s much easier just to write the subject off.

UFO: A few researchers have privately stated to UFO Magazine that some of the information which will be appearing in your book has been deliberately supplied by other officials in Whitehall; is this true?

Nick Pope: No, not at all. Absolutely not. Some of the material is known, some has appeared in magazines. A few cases I actually released to the public, and yes, one of the initiatives I did try to develop was pushing information on the subject into the public domain, realising that it wasn’t necessarily fair to expect people to wait thirty years for this material to crop up at the Public Record Office. Subject to witness confidentiality and a few lines using my black pen, I thought that if we had some interesting reports, lets release them!

UFO: Do you believe that some UFOs are extraterrestrial?

Nick Pope: Yes.

UFO: Is there any evidence at Whitehall which could confirm this?

Nick Pope: No. I treat this like a case in a court of law, it’s a question of building up the evidence. For example, in a murder case, the jury doesn’t see the murder happen, they don’t even see photographs or a video of the actual murder, but they do hear various bits of the puzzle brought forward; eye witness accounts, forensics, and then they are asked to make a decision based on the evidence. I think that within Whitehall – if you just look at all the files end-to-end, it builds up to a very convincing case that some UFOs are of an extraterrestrial nature. It doesn’t prove that we have bits of a ‘ship’ [UFO], there are no Ray Santilli-type alien cadavers, or that type of thing, in our cupboards!

UFO: Do your Whitehall colleagues share your opinion?

Nick Pope: Yes, but not people who necessarily have any role in the business of investigating the UFO mystery. Obviously I have spoken to hundreds of colleagues and friends and yes, some people agree with me that there must be something out there, that there is something to the phenomenon. Some people agree with the release of my book, others disagree. In many ways, the situation mirrors what happens in other large organisations. There are believers and sceptics, people who support my efforts and people who think I am a crank.

UFO: Is Sec(AS)2a simply a ‘clearing house’ for UFO reports, or is there a ‘higher office’ which disseminates reports beyond those which reached you?

Nick Pope: Sec(AS) is the end of the UFO research line in the department, that’s not to say we don’t go out to other specialist departments for additional advice. For example, to RAF radar experts and other specialists and say, please cast an expert eye over this sighting and tell me what you think. It’s often a case of two heads are better than one. There is not some great mysterious organisation which is actually getting on with the bread and butter of investigation, whilst I sent out standard letters. This is not the case, although I appreciate that the conspiracy theorists will say, you can’t prove that.

UFO: How can you prove that?

Nick Pope: Of course I can’t be certain, no one can be 100% of anything in this life. How does anyone know that UFO Magazine is not a front…? It’s a flippent point, but could you really prove it?

I believe that during my three or so years in the department I am certain I would have got a ‘whiff of it’! I was the one getting the reports from the public; the public were talking to me and had someone else been running the show they would have needed to level with me or dealt with me directly and regularly, if only to get access to the raw data that I was getting.

UFO: How many military reports did you handle?

Nick Pope: Very few, because military personnel are still slightly wary of submitting reports for fear of ridicule. I have discussed the whole UFO issue at many courses and seminars and very often Service personnel would approach me and confide in me and say things like “Oh, I was flying my jet from Germany to England somewhere over the North Sea and was suddenly over taken at high speed by this strange craft.” I would acquire such stories and ask, did you report the event?; they in turn would reply, “I don’t want to be known as ‘flying saucer Phil’ in the Mess,” that type of thing! Another factor was there was simply a lack of knowledge in the system. The national reporting system had broken down; in theory any reports that were military based or presented to civil airports or police, those reports should have been filtered to Sec(AS)2a. That was happening in some areas but in others it was not, simply because people are posted in and out quite rapidly and in the ‘hand-over’ various things get lost. What I’m saying is that some people didn’t realise that they were supposed to report their sightings.

UFO: Isn’t it true that military personnel [all forces] would rather speak to credible civilian organisations and relate details of their experiences, rather than talk to their superiors? What is the problem?

Nick Pope: That’s strange. I think maybe there’s a perception that certainly in the past that people making reports were frowned upon for the same reason as discussed a moment or so ago – ridicule. I certainly saw no evidence that that was the case. Perhaps in the 50s and 60s when there was a Cold War mentality about all of this – when half the people thought that these things were from the Soviet Union anyway, I would say how can we make an assessment when we don’t get the data? I tried to encourage people to make a report.

UFO: Including military personnel?

Nick Pope: Yes – everyone. I didn’t think that just because RAF officers made a report for example, it necessarily made their sighting more valid, although we did treat this as slightly more reliable because they are less likely to make a mistake – they are trained observers after all.

UFO: So RAF reports are treated with more urgency?

Nick Pope: Probably, but if you look at the number of reports we received – perhaps 300 a year – the military reports were a tiny percentage.

UFO: How many were military?

Nick Pope: In my three years at Sec(AS)2a, I probably received no more than a dozen. Most were associated with one particular incident when a guard patrol saw something and later on that night a meteorological officer also reported a UFO. I thought that here was a case that I could use to convince my superiors that there was something going on, so I was slightly biased towards this report. These people tend to be trained observers, but I do not think there is anything suspicious about the military not reporting UFOs. The military are a very conservative culture.

UFO: Are military bases suitably informed on how to react with a UFO situation?

Nick Pope: No. They have got the UFO sighting report form – but apart from that there is no Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs). Most things in the military have SOPs – it sets out in very simple ways what to do. Fire for example – evacuate the people from any danger and try to fight the fire – save any equipment that sort of thing. There is no equivalent document for UFOs. I did float the idea but it was made very clear to me that it was not welcome.

UFO: Who would make decisions therefore if a UFO suddenly appears over a NATO base?

Nick Pope: It would be handled in much the same way as an overflight by a conventional aircraft.

UFO: Would that not be a threat then to national security?

Nick Pope: I totally agree with you. This is where I do not take a ‘party line’. I take the view that if something is suddenly seen over a military area then our defences have already failed because nothing should get that close. We’ve got the UK Air Defence Region; which doesn’t mean the territorial limit of just twelve miles because that’s far too late if an aircraft launched missiles; we are already too late to prevent an attack.

UFO: Did you ever authorise an official investigation based on the content of any significant report during your term with Sec(AS)2a?

Nick Pope: Well, in a way every report was the subject of an official investigation. I would make a very broad evaluation and use common sense: Does the report show simply lights in the sky or is it a structured craft? I would do my level best to ‘chase down’ every single report I got, and where I came up with a solution I would pass that on. If for example you see four lights chasing around the sky and then coming back to the centre, well that sounds like one of those skytrack machines. The white, green and red light reports, well that sounds very much like aircraft lights.

UFO: Did you ever send personnel to interview members of the public following a UFO sighting?

Nick Pope: No. I would get the witness to report the sighting to me by phone or by letter. If I wanted any further information I would usually just telephone someone up.

UFO: Over the past twenty years we have asked your office (previously DS8) if the MoD has personally interviewed UFO witnesses. All your predecessors have said no. Yet we have tracked down some quite reliable witnesses who claim they were indeed visited by officials from the RAF and Whitehall. Who are these people?

Nick Pope: Are these recent cases?

UFO: We first learned of a situation in the late 1970s. A UFO descended within twenty feet or so near two young girls on the side of a snow-covered valley. Trace marks were left. The children were terrified and within a few hours the event made headline news. Within twenty-four hours Graham and Mark Birdsall had investigated the sighting, only to be informed by the parents that two RAF officers had interviewed the families and asked them to sign the Official Secrets Act. We got the story anyway, but can you explain this?

Nick Pope: I think there are possibly two sides to this. The first is what I call the ‘Walter Mitty Syndrome’, because there are undoubtedly some people who ‘get off’ dressing up in official uniforms and impersonating RAF officials. It is well documented that some people enjoy the act. Recently we have seen an increase in people impersonating police officers and more disturbingly, paramedics, and who occasionally give treatment to RTA (road traffic accident) victims. They are endangering lives. So we are aware that psychologically some people are attracted to the power and authority of such positions. With the UFO subject there is indeed this ‘air of mystery’. This could also explain some of the so-called ‘men-in-black’ sightings, where witnesses are visited by strange – almost sinister looking people. However, it’s a mistake to think of the MoD or the Air Force as a single entity, whereby all the procedures are laid down and fully documented. These organisations are huge – they are bureaucracies and in a bureaucracy sometimes the centre loses controls of the arms. It’s possible that on a local level, some Community Relations Officer might learn of a report. The official might say, this sounds like fun and check the incident out. They might have a personal interest, or might simply be keen to show an interest for PR reasons. The Services need to maintain a close relationship with the local community.

It doesn’t happen often, but it’s possible. I am certainly aware of one RAF officer who informed me that he visited a UFO witness simply because he lived so close to the base. This might then explain the other half of your question.

The case you cite is interesting, although I am not familiar with it. There is a slight chance that officials might have thought a fuel pod or something had dropped from an aircraft.

UFO: Has official British policy towards the UFO phenomenon been affected by Washington?

Nick Pope: It’s a difficult question. I was reading Ruppelt’s book, Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, the other day. He recalls back in the 1950s a string of visitors including some RAF officials. They carried several sheets of typed questions ready to fire at the Blue Book chief in an attempt to ‘get a handle’ on the subject. Britain probably learned a great deal from the US because most officials didn’t have a clue! Blue Book was equally in the dark, thus I don’t think Ruppelt could have told them anything much other than, yes we get reports – yes we can explain some of the sightings – no we can’t explain all of them.

It’s a mistake to talk about ‘policy’, because in a way it implies people sitting around a table and making decisions. It’s much more reactive than that. Also it has changed over the years; UFOs are such a tiny part of the department’s business, and indeed, they formed less than 10% of my job. A lot of course depends of the desk officer at the time, but policy has lurched around a great deal over the years from helpful and co-operative to extremely dismissive. Project Blue Book and its predecessors Sign and Grudge got bogged down in all sorts of internal policy. These three projects showed how individuals can effect the way they operate. Ruppelt admitted that he had to remove some persons for being too sceptical and some for being too pro-UFO.

UFO: Ruppelt fought a tight corner and alone on many occasions didn’t he?

Nick Pope: Yes. He was assisted by two or three people but it was a tiny, tiny organisation. The name ‘Project Blue Book’ gives the impression that the entire ATIC (Air Technical Intelligence Centre) effort based at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio was somehow working on this one mystery and that the entire USAF was assisting the programme. But this wasn’t the case.

UFO: Do British and American intelligence liaise and communicate over the phenomenon today?

Nick Pope: I made efforts to contact my opposite number in America. I went through the embassies, which is the usual way to make a ‘government-to-government’ approach. I contacted the British Embassy in Washington D.C. and asked them on my behalf to establish contact with my opposite number.

UFO: Who is your ‘opposite number’?

Nick Pope: Well this is what I was trying to find out. The answer came back that since Blue Book had shut down in 1969, “there was no official interest.” Some people will treat that remark with a fair degree of scepticism. I was certainly astonished and very surprised. I didn’t accept the answer and attacked the problem the other way around, so I made enquiries with the American Embassy in London. I felt that it was so unlikely that in the whole USA that no one would be ‘doing my job’ so to speak. I believed that they did not look in the right places. The same answer was relayed from the Embassy – “no opposite number in the USA.”

I then met a Marine Colonel and I explained my occupation. He was very interested and said, “I will see what I can do.” Two weeks later he came back and also related his surprise because he too found no opposite number.

UFO: Does this imply that Sec(AS)2a is insignificant and perhaps shows conflict with your previous statement that UFO reports are forwarded to this office and that’s where they stay?

Nick Pope: No, it means one of two things. Either that there is generally no official US interest and reports are simply handled at a local level, probably by a Community Relations Officer who submits reports to USAF bases without reference to the Department of Defense or NASA. Or, that there is indeed something more sinister going on and that the real truth about UFOs is perhaps known to a small group somewhere in officialdom in the States. But if that was the case I wouldn’t expect it to mean just Sec(AS)2a didn’t get any answers – everyone else wouldn’t either! I think it’s true to say that if there is a cover up in America, they wouldn’t tell anybody in Britain!

UFO: In 1980 one of the most extraordinary incidents involving a UFO occurred in Suffolk, just a few hundred yards from the joint USAF/RAF bases at Bentwaters and Woodbridge. DS8 was the name of the MoD’s UFO department at that time who handled the case. Your thoughts on this one?

Nick Pope: Rendlesham is the ‘Holy Grail’ of British Ufology isn’t it?

UFO: It was bigger than DS8 could handle – isn’t that true?

Nick Pope: I believe Rendlesham has an extraterrestrial explanation. I am convinced on the first night of the activity a small remote craft was seen by the guard patrol. As we all know, trace evidence was found. Colonel Halt wrote his memorandum to Whitehall…

UFO: On this insistence of a British officer?

Nick Pope: Yes, but on each joint USAF/RAF base there is an RAF Commander; but it’s really only a nominal title; these facilities are basically USAF bases. I believe for legal reasons they must have an RAF Commander who acts as the conduit between the USAF and the Ministry of Defence. My best assessment of what happened next is – absolutely nothing! The report was written on the 13th January and when it arrived at Whitehall, whoever was doing the job didn’t have the faintest idea what to do with it, probably took one look at it and said, what am I supposed to do? I am afraid to say it simply ended up in a file.

UFO: UFO Magazine has reports which reveal UFOs had been seen up to five weeks prior to the incidents around Bentwaters; these reports were made by official serving RAF radar operators who submitted data. Furthermore, Heathrow Airport also tracked UFOs over the base. There was a massive build-up of activity – it didn’t just happen overnight. Whitehall did not react?

Nick Pope: Unfortunately that is typical. It comes back to this whole business of ‘UFO’. If somebody said, you’ve got traffic in your area, an uncorrelated target… Somebody can come in and say things like, radar plays tricks… It’s incredibly easy for people to delude themselves and say there is nothing to all of this. It is easy to be a sceptic. This unfortunately applies often to those in officialdom. The standard line on Rendlesham Forest is that the incident was looked into, and nothing of defence significance was uncovered. The challenge, as it where, to the department, is that we have never seen the analysis. I suspect that’s because no shots were fired and that there didn’t appear to be any hostility shown. Someone has said, there is no defence significance. I totally disagree with that. If something has broken through our defence systems and is seen operating that close to key bases it is of extreme defence significance. How can it not be?

UFO: But people want to know: who did this analysis? And on what basis did it conclude there was no threat?

Nick Pope: These are questions you might want to pose to Sec(AS)2a!

UFO: Does this not indicate that DS8 wasn’t even a minor player in the events that followed next. Bentwaters was on full alert anyway due to the problems in Europe?

Nick Pope: I believe we had just had the situation in Poland with the trade union Solidarity, and this heightened international tension.

UFO: Yes, but both civilian and RAF radar had recorded unknown targets over Bentwaters…

Nick Pope: That’s right, I believe a Phantom aircraft actually took off to look for the targets, although this was not on the actual night of the Rendlesham Forest encounter.

UFO: Colonel Halt who made the report was in England some two years ago and brought with him a plaster cast made of one imprint left by the UFO which landed. He claimed the impression was made by a machine weighing several tons. He confirmed that the object he witnessed with other officers was intelligently controlled, but more importantly it was not British, American or indeed Soviet. Surely this is of extreme significance and the attitude of the Ministry of Defence was absolutely remarkable in respect of its response.

Nick Pope: I agree totally.

UFO: Would it not have been different given such an incident had occurred whilst you headed Sec(AS)2a? Would you have launched an investigation?

Nick Pope: I would have been on the first bloody train to Bentwaters!

UFO: What kind of support would you have given?

Nick Pope: I would have taken soil samples, and taken those to the Defence Radiological Protection Service. I would have immediately impounded the radar tapes and had them sent to me, and immediately called RAF defence experts in, we would have sat down, looked at the tapes and analysed the content to see if they showed structured craft or spurious returns. Interview statements would have followed…

UFO: But this allegedly did not happen in 1980?

Nick Pope: At the end of the day this did not happen, so far as I am aware.

UFO: Given you would have actioned all of your previous comments, and concluded that, ‘yes it was a threat to our defence structure’, would you have concealed it from the public and media?

Nick Pope: As an Executive Officer at the time I would not have been able to make a direct statement to the press; I would probably have had to brief someone up my chain of command. I would have briefed, we have a potential threat. I am very wary of saying there is a threat because until you know all the background to the UFO incident you can only use the word potential.

I come back to the point that the intruding technology is obviously more sophisticated than the defending technology. But to answer your question, I would have played no part in a cover up. I would have argued that we should make such matters public.

UFO: Perhaps DS8 did these things and there was a general clamp down of information?

Nick Pope: If that had been the case it would have inevitably leaked out. I can reveal that because there was so much interest in this case, even during my time at Sec(AS)2a, I made some efforts to have a retrospective look into it, but it was very difficult. One thing I did do was to take the raw data from the Halt memorandum and gave it to the Defence Radiological Service and I said, what do you make of these readings? [radiation information contained within the Halt letter]. It had of course occurred to me that there was background radiation anyway and suppose Halt had simply taken readings of this? The quote I got back from the board was, “what the hell happened there?” I said, what do you mean. They told me that the radiation readings were ten times what they should have been in that area. I then faxed them the full report, I think that day there were a few new converts!

UFO: Was there a cover-up?

Nick Pope: No. Not in the MoD – I think the MoD’s response was just ineffective.

UFO: That’s a very big statement?

Nick Pope: Yes, but if something of that magnitude was reported and simply placed on file, then what else can you say?

UFO: Colonel Halt informed UFO Magazine that he was astonished over the seemingly “lack of urgency.”

Nick Pope: He was quite angry I believe. That’s the impression I got talking to him.

UFO: Halt said other things happened. He confirmed an unscheduled flight had landed a day or so later from Germany. He used a phrase like ‘Special Forces’ and was fairly certain they were connected with the incidents.

Nick Pope: I am not here to play sceptic but one possibility is that this could have been related to the ‘high alert’ status over Poland. I don’t know – it’s just a possibility, but I would urge researchers to check other situations which were occurring at that time.

UFO: Nevertheless, Colon el Halt would have been aware of that flight?

Nick Pope: He might have been aware, but it won’t have been in his mind fifteen years later to think, ‘oh yes, that was just a week after the crushing of Poland’s Solidarity movement’.

UFO: Of all the case files which you have read which do you believe is the most significant?

Nick Pope: Of the cases which I looked at personally? The report which occurred during the late night and early hours of 30-31 March, 1993, three years to the day incidentally after the Belgium sightings where two F-16’s were scrambled. That is something I talk about in my book; a coincidence? Perhaps.

There was a wave of sightings – I came in on the 31 March, the telephones were ‘ringing off the hook’. Over the course of the day I took dozens and dozens of reports; there was obviously something going on. It was a major wave of sightings that had occurred over the U.K. that night. Some were simply lights in the sky, others were obviously structured craft.

UFO: What recommendations were made when these reports were being filed?

Nick Pope: I briefed this up the chain, and amazingly my Head of Division seemed to endorse my report. This was surprising because he was usually incredibly sceptical. He actually put his signature on my report which went all the way up to the Assistant Chief of the Air Staff (ACAS). It basically said, this has happened, what should we do about it? The answer came back, “well, you’ve obviously been investigating this very thoroughly but whatever it was has gone and there’s not much we can do about it now.”

UFO: Is that not just typical and frustrating?

Nick Pope: It was incredibly frustrating. The problem was this got caught up with the whole separate but related search for Aurora. I felt that the ‘flying triangle’ was extraterrestrial, and whilst others accepted the view that a structured craft had flown over the country that night, they were thinking along the lines that this was the Aurora aircraft. Now, as you may recall, a number of Parliamentary Questions have been tabled over the years about this, including: How many Aurora aircraft are based at Macrihanish, how many Aurora aircraft are authorised to fly over the U.K.? They tried to word the question in many ways. But the answer was that this was not a US aircraft.

UFO: If as it seems you have doubts over Aurora, perhaps America has indeed been testing ‘acquired technology’ in the form of one of its many ‘black projects’ over the U.K.? And indeed, given the co-operation which exists between our closest allies, why hasn’t Washington informed Whitehall?

Nick Pope: I think this type of object is not being flown by the Americans. Certainly given my knowledge in respect of the testing of ‘black project’ aircraft, the USAF would never dream of flying over the U.K. They would test fly over their own huge internal ranges. It would be absolute madness to test fly over foreign airspace – with or without permission. One keeps all your cards extremely close to your chest with these projects.

UFO: If America was however testing ‘something’ over the U.K…

Nick Pope: They would have had to apply for diplomatic clearance.

UFO: Would Washington really inform the U.K. over something like this? Perhaps this friendly nation would be ideally suited to test such a vehicle?

Nick Pope: I think that even though the ‘special relationship’ is less important now, compared to the Reagan – Thatcher years, it is still incredibly important. To send an aircraft over someone else’s airspace without authorisation would jeopardize the entire relationship, quite apart from the very obvious risks that the aircraft would be intercepted. Even a stealth aircraft is not completely ‘invisible’.

I don’t buy the idea of a flight test. They would be far more likely to test the aircraft over continental America against their own defence network, without informing the relevant people concerned. If you are trying to operate something that secret – that covert, to run the risk – first of all flying it trans-Atlantic with all the inherent risks if it comes down, you are in trouble. But also you run the risk of involving nations air forces getting involved.

UFO: Are you saying then that the hundreds of reports submitted from witnesses over the past few years of triangular-shaped objects is not representative of an American development?

Nick Pope: I believe this object is an extraterrestrial vehicle. I also believe the entire Aurora project is a ‘red herring’. We have all tried to ‘chase down’ the Aurora story. I knew that I had to make enquiries about it, because if we discovered there was indeed an Aurora, we could eliminate it from our enquiries. We made enquiries with the American Embassy, checked with the US military and other agencies. They took this very seriously, and believed a diplomatic incident might have been in the offing. They thought that if we suspected unauthorised overflights were being made it would jeopardize our relationship. We made efforts to find out what was going on. The message that came back was – ‘they didn’t have an Aurora’, ‘they were not responsible for these flights’, and what’s more, the irony of the situation was, they too were aware of the ‘flying triangle’ reports and had made enquiries to see if this was a British development.

UFO: Is it?

Nick Pope: No! I wish it was – Zero to Mach 5 in seconds!

UFO: We have seen an increase in this type of report over the past ten years, and sightings are not just being made in the US and Britain. Why do you believe that we are dealing with an extraterrestrial vehicle?

Nick Pope: I can’t prove it of course, but we must look at all the facts. When we have ‘chased down’ all the conventional explanations and come up blank, and following extremely diligent enquiries, when you have eliminated everything, one is drawn to the idea that, well if it’s not one of ours, it’s one of their’s.

UFO: Given that in two or three years time, another USAF project like the F117 or the B2 is rolled out of the hangars, how would that effect your position?

Nick Pope: I don’t think it would, because this thing is being seen consistently in many different locations throughout the world, it’s not just an isolated incident. There appears to be a very deliberate modus operandi. One also must study the absolute definitive response given on the subject of Aurora. Donald Rice, the American Secretary of the Air Force said, that there is not an Aurora aircraft, nor is there any aircraft that has capabilities remotely like those reported by UFO researchers and aviation writers. Parliamentary Questions were tabled in Britain, (are these things based here? No they are not, was the response.) These are denials which if proven false or mistaken, would result in resignations at the highest level.

UFO: Do you believe there is more than one of the alien ‘triangular vehicles’?

Nick Pope: It’s difficult to say – as it is with all of these things. It could be just a singular craft that has been very very busy, or there could be several identical craft. You simply have to look at the objects seen over Belgium in 1991 – it’s incredible.

UFO: Those particular devices violated British airspace didn’t they?

Nick Pope: Not to my knowledge. From what I understand, the argument is, ‘no it didn’t violate British airspace, but at the speeds it reached, it could have done very very quickly’.

UFO: Let’s not quibble over the odd mile or so – UK radar did track the thing. It was a major NATO incident. Given these are the facts, your department would have received a report?

Nick Pope: I don’t like to offer ‘no comment’ as an answer, but I cannot give details on the precise capabilities of British radar, for reasons of National Security.

UFO: Many researchers will take much of what you say with ‘a pinch of salt’. Have you a message for investigative organisations throughout the world?

Nick Pope: It’s a mistake to think of the ‘UFO community’ as a lobby with one voice. It’s a collection of groups covering vastly different areas. I would very much hope they enjoy Open Skies, Closed Minds, and I am being entirely truthful. I don’t claim to have all the answers, I am simply trying to add to the debate with my knowledge and bring the subject out to the ‘neutrals’ and sceptics. If I can play a small part and reach a wider public, I will feel that I have achieved something. I am not trying to set myself up as a great expert who knows all the answers.

UFO: Given Open Skies – Closed Minds is analysed by the media and viewed as an expose of the cover-up, because some people might suggest you are being disloyal, how will this affect your position with the Ministry of Defence?

Nick Pope: My position at the MoD is currently interesting.

UFO: Is Whitehall using you to disclose disinformation?

Nick Pope: No. I think that requires a level of planning and sophistication which quite frankly most of the people I worked with didn’t have. What the book exposes is not so much a cover-up, more of a chasm whereby nothing is really known about the subject, and nothing done.

UFO: One gets the impression that the MoD consider the UFO phenomenon totally irrelevant?

Nick Pope: That’s correct. Hopefully my book might change a few minds. If I can convince some people within the department that this is going on; if Defence Ministers and senior RAF Commanders read the book, I would hope (and suspect) that they would turn to their subordinates and say, ‘why didn’t I know about this’? ‘What do you think about this’? If I can get people asking questions then that would be great.

UFO: Can we trust you?

Nick Pope: There will always be the die-hard conspiracy theorists who will claim I am part of a deliberate disinformation campaign, or that I have been selected to ‘drip feed’ the truth. I can only reiterate that this is not the case. As far as I know, I am not part of any wider campaign.

UFO: Open Skies – Closed Minds, is it the content which is important, or is it the fact that its author is a former head of the MoD’s UFO office?

Nick Pope: The content is far more important than the individual. It’s not about me, I’m not an issue here, people should judge the whole thing on the content and ask, ‘does this or does this not make a convincing case for the extraterrestrial reality of some UFOs’?

UFO: What do you plan to do in the future?

Nick Pope: If I can play a small part in bringing the subject a little more respect then I will feel I have achieved something worthwhile. If I can stand up and say, look it’s not just about silly headlines in the tabloid press it’s about aircraft intercepting UFOs, the former Chief of Defence Staff saying, ‘look – there is something to this’. If I can give the UFO phenomenon some sort of official seal of approval then it will have been worth it. I am just following in the footsteps of some illustreous persons anyway, like people like Ruppelt and Hynek, who first became involved officially and then – after being ‘exposed’ to the data, believed there was a real phenomenon. I am by no means placing myself up amongst those great pioneers, but there is a history of people who have been officially involved with the UFO subject ending up as believers!

UFO: This will not be your last book?

Nick Pope: No! I am considering writing a second book specifically on the subject of abductions. The provisional title I can reveal is Crimes Against Humanity. Stanton T. Friedman sometimes flashes a quote on the screen during his lectures, it says, ‘Never Mind The Saucers, What About The Occupants?’, in a way this gets to the point. You don’t have to convince many researchers that UFOs are here and that they represent an alien presence, the question is: ‘what’s going on, and what can we do about it’? Abductions appear to represent a focus of what this is all about. It’s worthy of study. But at the moment it does have a cranky image, and often gets caught up with the controversy over regression hypnosis, false memory syndrome. But there is a great deal of evidence.

UFO: Nick Pope thank you for your honesty and good luck with your book.

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