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Science and the UFO phenomenon:

Another look at the Condon report:

24 February 1968

Dr. Edward U. Condon, Director
UFO Project
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado 80302

Dear Dr. Condon,

This letter shall be a written presentation of the points we discussed Thursday morning, 22 February 1968.

Since it is apparent to the staff of the UFO project, as well as to you, that we are in a real dilemma over the disagreement and low morale within the study as a result of the last two weeks, I feel it is necessary to examine what, in my opinion, has been the primary cause of the problems that exist. I sincerely hope that the project will continue on a very different basis than before, that communication between you and your staff will improve greatly, and that what we all want out of the study will occur; that is, a final report that everybody can be satisfied with.

It is my belief that all of the project members to a certain degree must share in the responsibility for the present situation, if for no other reason than that we haven't come to you sooner about our misgivings. However, I strongly believe that, had Bob not been the individual who directly and on a day to day basis administered the project, we would not be in this situation. I think there is an almost unanimous "lack of confidence" in him as the project coordinator and in his exercise of the power of that position. (I must emphasize at the outset that I realize each person must represent only his - or her - opinions and that when I refer to other staff members I only state my observations of their dissatisfaction.)

Listed below are my reasons and a discussion of them as to why I think Bob is responsible for the conflict and why, in my opinion, had you handled the direction of our activities, there would not have been such a serious conflict.

Bob's attitude from the beginning has been one of negativism. While I doubt that he would agree with this statement, I would expect most of the staff would. Bob showed little interest in keeping current on sightings, either by reading or talking with those who did. At one point in our study, it was agreed that a certain number of the staff would read a designated group of reports systematically and then meet to go over what they have read. In this way it was hoped that some meaningful discussion would be stimulated as to what could be said, if anything, about the reports. Saunders carefully set aside reports on a check-out basis, so that everyone on the committee would have a chance to read them. Bob checked some out, but, to my knowledge, never really read them, and certainly never encouraged the proposed discussions to actually take place. I think he, as project coordinator, should have taken the initiative to see that this program was carried out. Moreover, much of what I want to discuss later concerning Bob's premature writing of the final reports at this time deals directly with what can or cannot be said about these sighting reports. To me, too much of his time has been spent in worrying about what kind of "language" should be used in the final report so as to most cleverly avoid having to say anything definitive about the UFO problem. Very little time, on the other hand, has been spent in reviewing the data on which he might base his conclusions.

Bob complained to me once not long ago that he was supposed to be part of the committee that would meet to decide which sightings should be investigated by our field teams, but that he had not been contacted when it was time to make these decisions. I asked Norman if this was true and he categorically denied it. He stated that Bob had been consulted everytime, and, for the most part, had declined to take part. However, even if Norman had not contacted him, geographically Bob was close enough to the situation (which you were not). to participate, if that is what he really wanted, in any dialogue that the rest of the staff could complain in not being included in any decision-making process. Certainly it was Bob's responsibility to take the initiative. After all, right or wrong, he, as the project coordinator, had in his power at any time to change the procedure.

This raises the question of what Bob actually had done with his time. I fell much of it has been meaningless and apart of what should have concerned our study, given the time and the budgetary limitations.

Bob has travelled a lot. I realize that many of these trips concerned subject that were relevant to the UFO problem - relevant in the way that the staff envisions "relevance" - i.e. running down information on the Heflin case two current sightings information (very early in the project), and visits to SRI, Rand, Hippler and Ratchford. However, many of the trips seemed to me to deal with unimportant aspects of the UFO problem. Bob has given quite a few speeches (which ostensibly was not to be one of the project's responsibilities.) Some of them include the Boeing Corporation in Seattle, the Rand Corporation in Santa Monica, the American Meteorological Society in Colorado Springs, and the IEEE in Los Angeles. He has justified his "speaking tour" as being educational or university-associated or as dealing with scientific institutions. concerning the travel aspect, however, I feel the biggest misuse of his travel time was his trip to Europe. Granted there is a justification for someone to go to Europe (or South Africa, or anywhere outside the U.S.) to see what the UFO situation is internationally. On any trip to Europe I would think a visit to Michel and Bowen would have been appropriate, if not compulsory. However, visits with the Ministry of Defence, in England, the Swedish Defense Group, Loch Ness, and a man named Erich Halik in Vienna (who, as far as I can tell, only represents one large group of people from whom we get letters everyday suggesting how to build "flying saucers," solve propulsion system problems, etc.) seems to be remote from the problem of UFOs, if not altogether irrelevant, and out of time. In addition, bob has discussed his European trip with the staff, I have never seen a written trip report. In the past he has been the one who has insisted on documentation of every trip we have taken.

It can be argued, and reasonably, that Bob has had to deal with many of the straight administrative problems (i.e. finances, subcontracts, organization of the office and jobs that individuals would be doing) and that he has contributed to seeing that that kind of works gets done. Moreover, it's true that the staff was given a free hand to do just as they wished. At the same time, however, Bob initiated a good many individual projects, but did not follow through on them to any great extent, or even keep abreast of what others were doing. If he had, I do not believe that he could have justified the writing of his thoughts and conclusions for the final report when, not only it is not his report and he is not the Director, but he did not consult the people who have essentially done all the work with the data. Why is it that Craig, Saunders, Levine, Wadsworth, Ahrens, and others have arrived at such radically different conclusions from Bob's? It is not my impression that they came into the project with any particular bias concerning the UFO problem. I think that there is a fairly good consensus among the team members that there is enough data in the UFO question to warrant any further study. This is not to say, as no one of us would, that we are definitely being visited by vehicles from outer space. But to say in our final report, as I believe Bob would like to, that although we can't prove "ETI" does not exist, we can say there isn't much evidence to suggest it does, would not be correct. I do not understand how he can make such a statement when those who have done the work of digging into the sighting information do not think this is true. A dialogue would have to occur eventually in which both sides of the question are debated within the group, but to be putting this idea down on the paper in the form of conclusions and discussing them with people outside the project is presumptuous and wrong.

In the memorandum Bob wrote to David Williamson of NASA on 12 December 1967 he states:

"1. In the absence of scientific data, our answer is probably going to be that (aerial phenomena of unknown origin (UFOS) that represent phenomena or stimuli outside the range of present-day scientific knowledge) are possible but that there is nothing to support an assertion that it's true..."

"2. The second part of the letter (Dolittle's letter to J.T. Ratchford of 2 August 1967) sets up the requirement for the technical side of the study. It provides that the current state of knowledge in the physical, behavioral and social sciences be brought to bear on the public policy objective. The point here is that it is our job to do the science (but of course our finding is that, because there are no data, we can't do any proper physical science); it is the Air Force's responsibility to apply the scientific findings to the public policy decisions..."

"3. We let the Air Force of the hook, and we shouldn't, if we do other than say flatly that, using all the tools of science, we have not been able to reach any solution to the UFO problem."

The first statement raises the question of the impossibility of using science in the study of UFOs. I would think most of the staff would certainly take strong issue with that. The second statement appears to say that it is not our job or responsibility to make recommendations on the UFO question, but only to review the problem scientifically and submit it to the National Academy of Sciences. I would agree that, seen in the strictest interpretation of the contract and Doolittle's letter, that would be correct. But who of us does not feel that this is primarily a question of public responsibility and that we very definitely do have to make recommendations, at least in the sense that the UFO problem does or does not warrant further study. The third statement gives the impression that we have to reach a "solution," and that if we do not answer positively or negatively the question of ETI, we have not reached a "solution. I would think that the word "solution" means a very different thing to Bob than it does to the staff and to you, too.

The very fact that Bob has discussed so freely the UFO study with people such as Williamson, Asimov, Branscomb Higman and others and, while I do not feel there is anything inherently wrong with such discussions, it makes my wonder why, especially recently, some of us have suffered from the accusation that we did not have the right to talk to McDonald, Hynek, Hall, the Lorenzens etc. in the same way. He is not simply discussing with these persons what the project is doing and "methodology", but asking how "we" should best write the conclusions he has come to. I am impressed by the fact that it seems as if he is trying very hard to say as little as possible to the final report, but to say it in the most negative way possible. I do not think that it is an unfair conclusion on our part to say that Bob is misrepresenting us, and that we have very definite grounds for feeling that our work, as represented by him, might not have much impact or importance (I quote Dave Saunders when I say that Bob's suggestion that we could use footnotes for any minority opinions evoked Dave's response, "What do we do? Footnote the title?")

In the same sense that Bob has sought support from "outsiders" on what he is going to write in the final report, why is it unreasonable for us, feeling that what we said made very little dent on Bob's prejudged opinion, also to seek support from "outsiders?" Actually, the accusation of "prejudging" isn't the most important issue here. Even if he had not prejudged the problem, which I feel he did, his method of arriving at his conclusions would still deserve a good deal of criticism.

I admit to a great deal of involvement with persons outside the project. I don't feel that talking to any of the people mentioned earlier (McDonald, Hynek, etc.) was wrong except in the sense that sometimes it was easy to let frustration show and possibly, in terms of the exact letter of office ethics, I was not always tactful as I could have been. I was at the meeting in Denver in which Saunders, Levine, McDonald and Hynek got together to discuss the possibilities of action that might help to keep the study of UFOs going. All that was discussed there was totally independent of the C.U. [Colorado University] project and would not have been a threat to the project in any way. In addition, I know that at that meeting McDonald received a copy of Bob's memorandum written to Deans Manning and Archer, although he knew the content of it long before then. The substance of the memorandum, no matter the circumstances under which it was written or the fact that it was an internal piece of information written befo re the project started, serves mainly to substantiate to me the allegation that Bob has not done an honest job of representing himself in the UFO study.

In regard to McDonald's letter to Bob, in which he alludes several time to information that the "project members" have given him, I was present at the conversation in Tucson in March of 1967 where Bob, in the presence of both Jim Wadsworth and me, literally gave McDonald most of the information he could have asked for if he wanted to be antagonistic to the project. At that time Bob said: Condon does not have to look at the cases, that is what we (including himself) are doing. In response to McDonald's question about the number of scientists we had on the project (both from the point of view of specialties and man-hour), Bob replied that we had as many as needed and McDonald didn't need to tell us how to run the project. In addition, Bob said that you were not spending much time on the project, but that you shouldn't have to. (I believe that he thought that he could do the job. However I think the whole staff would agree that we did need you). Therefore, I find it hard to feel now that, if McDonald is right in his accusations that our project has not been run well or even scientifically, we are much more guilty than Bob in transmitting that information to him. Dave and Norm [Saunders and Levine] were told that what they did is inexcusable, that they should have communicated written information to someone outside of the project. For this they were fired. I'm saying here that if in giving McDonald the memorandum was a breach of office ethics, that Bob and the rest of us have breached that ethic, too. Bob asked me recently to see that some of the reports of cases that the C.U. project has investigated be sent to Dr. Menzel. These cases certainly contain confidential information and it is hard for me to draw the line between sending case information and sending internal memoranda - at least in principle. In any event, because of this, the project is now left with only two or three senior staff.

You have said that what Dave and Norm have done to the University in terms of ramification that would make the University look bad is despicable. I think that what they did is in a sense comparable to publishing our final report as a commercial book that would bring profit to the University. I can't imagine that the University would appear in a very good light if it looked as if we wanted to make money on this project. Yet this is what bob has been doing the past week - contacting publishers to see who will publish our report.

I think it is understandable that Dave and Norm felt an allegiance to something more than the UFO project as it existed. Up to their dismissal, I felt it, too. And so did most of the others. After the last couple of days, I agree that I, and some others have made a very tragic mistake in not coming to you long before this. But that is in retrospect, and at the time, I personally did not feel that you would have been as sympathetic to our feelings as you have been. Mistakenly or not, we felt that Bob did represent you, that he did talk to you often, and that therefore you were well-informed on what he was doing and what our position was. At the meeting we had in September following the statements you made (albeit misquoted in the Rocky Mountains News) we felt that we had "said our piece," and that our dissension was fairly open. I think that we expected that after you spend more time trying to correct what was possibly an incorrect impression to you on our part. Moreover, later that day when we were discussing the problems your statements could cause your staff, Bob excused himself from the discussion on the grounds that if he took part in our conversation concerning displeasure over what you said, he would not be able "to go back to" the administration. I do not know what his staying at the meeting and returning on his job in Regent Hall had to do with each other, but it certainly was not a very tactful way to handle the situation and did not leave us with a very good interpretation of his position.

I think I've rambled long enough, Dr. Condon, and therefore I shall end by saying that I am resigning from my position as administrative assistant to the UFO project. I greatly appreciate your listening to me Thursday as sympathetically as you did. It seems that all there is left to say is that what I have written in this letter is one of the hardest thing I've ever had to do, and that if it weren't for the fact that I believe what I have said very strongly, I would not have said it.


Mary Louise Armstrong

To better understand the above ramble, see:

Some other things some do not know or do not like to tell about the Condon Report:

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