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Exopolitical Comment # 29

Review Article: Project Beta: The Story of Paul Bennewitz, National Security, and the Creation of a Modern UFO Myth

I recently finished reading Greg Bishop's book on Paul Bennewitz and was pleasantly surprised to read about one UFO researcher's attempt to find the truth about what happened to Bennewitz and the extraterrestrial information he allegedly discovered in the period from 1978 to 1986. Bishop researches the Bennewitz saga by conducting a number of interviews with individuals who directly knew and worked with Bennewitz during the period in question. William Moore, Richard Doty, Leo Sprinkle and Gabe Valdez, according to Bishop, are the individual keys to unlocking the mystery behind the Bennewitz saga.

According to the saga unraveled by Bishop, Bennewitz through his electronics wizardry was able to find the electronic frequencies upon which some classified military projects were being conducted in the area around the Manzano Nuclear facilities near Kirtland Air Force base in New Mexico. Alert to the possibility of extraterrestrial involvement through the recent spate of cattle mutilations in the area that he had been researching, Bennewitz was to embark on a journey where he ultimately claimed that extraterrestrials had established an underground base in the area, and were showing a suspicious interest in US military facilities in the Manzano nuclear facility. Bishop relates how Bennewitz in November 1980 went through the process of passing on his information, the United States Air Force and how they took his views seriously. Too seriously for Bennewitz's ultimate well being in Bishop's opinion.

According to Bishop, the USAF Office of Special Investigations (AFOSI) soon began a campaign of systematically feeding Bennewitz disinformation about underground alien bases, captured humans, and alien hybridization programs. The goal, according to Bishop, was to so destabilize Bennewitz that he would ultimately be unable to separate the truth from the falsehoods being directed towards him and ultimately discredit himself. This apparently happened with veteran UFO researchers deserting Bennewitz and Bennewitz himself finally succumbing to a complete nervous breakdown in 1986. In this saga, Bishop clarifies the role of key individuals such as Moore and Doty in feeding Bennewitz the disinformation that ultimately led to his discrediting and abandonment by the UFO community. Both Doty and Moore befriended Bennewitz, and allegedly used this friendship to lead Bennewitz astray from whatever it was he had discovered in his research.

Bishop goes on to further argue that the disinformation fed to Bennewitz ultimately went on to be disseminated by controversial UFO researchers such as William Cooper, John Lear and others, who created a whole new genre of extraterrestrials located at underground facilities using captured humans for all sorts of nasty purposes. Bishop's point is that much of modern Ufology has been contaminated by the disinformation fed to Bennewitz, and discerning 'modern' researchers need to weed out the disinformation regurgitated by less astute 'researchers' that was originally spawned through Bennewitz. Bishop's thesis is certainly ambitious so the reasonable question to ask is, "is Bishop correct?"

There are many assumptions that Bishop makes that can be seriously criticized. First should Richard Doty and William Moore be believed that the information they fed to Bennewitz was in fact disinformation, rather than rumors of disinformation being spread to discredit Bennewitz and his legitimate claims of extraterrestrial bases with captive humans? Bishop certainly concludes the former from his interviews with Doty and Moore, and curiously doesn't consider the latter possibility as seriously worth considering. If Bennewitz was the subject of a disinformation campaign, as most agree was indeed the case, then should one find credible the testimony of individuals directly participating in such a campaign? Bishop paints a sympathetic picture of Moore as someone who unintentionally overstepped the bounds of sensible research principles and cooperated with the 'wrong side' so to speak. The same cannot be said for Richard Doty who was a professional in AFOSI and was a direct part of the campaign to discredit Bennewitz. Bishop seems too eager to accept Doty's and Moore's' versions of events that the information Bennewitz claimed concerning underground extraterrestrial bases and captive humans was in fact disinformation fed to Bennewitz.

The question Bishop doesn't answer is why should anyone believe anything claimed by Richard Doty who in his official duty for AFOSI was a professional in disseminating disinformation and discrediting UFO researchers and witnesses? As for William Moore, it is also dubious to accept his version of events where he volunteered to participate in a campaign to discredit Bennewitz in order to learn about how AFOSI interfered with UFO research. If Moore choose to believe Doty and Moore's other AFOSI handlers that Bennewitz was being fed disinformation, then it's not surprising that Moore would later contend that Bennewitz had been fed disinformation. Put simply, Bishop places too much faith in a professional in discrediting UFO witnesses/researchers, and a UFO researcher who naively believed he could benefit by being a part of the military-intelligence game. Bishop assumes that Bennewitz's claims were a result of the disinformation being fed to him, and doesn't seriously consider that Bennewitz's central claims were accurate and that rumors of disinformation were used to discredit the genuine information Bennewitz was disseminating.

Bishop's most unsympathetic assessment of Bennewitz's work came with his interviews concerning the case of Myrna Hansen, an abductee that Bennewitz claimed was being taken to the underground extraterrestrial base. Bennewitz's efforts to gain information from Myrna Hansen through the regressive hypnosis by Leo Sprinkle are depicted in terms of an increasingly neurotic Bennewitz who was using Hansen to feed his increasing paranoia about extraterrestrial bases and abducted humans. What Bishop fails to discuss is Bennewitz's expertise in electronic transmissions and his alleged success in discovering the radio frequency of the extraterrestrial implants inserted into Hansen. This kind of electronic interception device was a specialty area for Bennewitz and he actually held a number of patents in the area of electronic transmissions. This alone may explain why AFOSI was interested in Bennewitz's work since the interception and deciphering of electronic transmissions between a 'human abductee' and the extraterrestrial abductors would clearly have national security significance. Bishop totally ignores such a possibility and instead chooses to promote the idea that Bennewitz was paranoid in his dealing with Hansen and that this was a product of the disinformation being fed to him. However, since Bennewitz's work with Hansen began in May 1980, six months before he notified AFOSI of his conclusions in November, it's a stretch for Bishop to argue that Bennewitz's claims about extraterrestrials having underground bases with captured humans was a product of disinformation. Bennewitz's views were already formed well before AFOSI were notified of Bennewitz's concerns, and presumably began their campaign of discrediting Bennewitz.

Another significant act of omission in Bishop's work concerns a number of whistleblower testimonies alleging the existence of underground bases located at Dulce, New Mexico as claimed by Bennewitz. First was Bob Lazar who claims to have read a briefing document at the S4 facility about an underground base in 1979 where there was a firefight between extraterrestrials and elite security forces. Another whistleblower is Phil Schneider who went on the lecture tour in 1995 claiming to have worked in the underground construction of classified military bases, and had been directly involved in a military altercation at Dulce between extraterrestrials and elite security forces in 1979. Schneider was found dead in his apartment in January 1996 in what some claim were circumstances that resembled a contract killing. Another whistleblower is Daniel Burisch who claims to have been taken to Dulce and heard the cries of captive humans. Burisch was allegedly threatened with the prospect of joining the captive humans if he did not participate in a highly unethical retro-virus program. Yet another whistleblower is Michael Wolf who claimed that he worked at Dulce and regularly met with extraterrestrials working with there under agreements with clandestine government authorities. Arguably the most controversial whistleblower is a former allegedly security guard at Dulce, Thomas Castello, who claims in great details the alleged treatment received by captive humans by extraterrestrials at Dulce and also claims to have participated in the 1979 firefight. Despite his extraordinary claims, Bill Hamilton researched Castello's claims and found him plausible (for more analysis of whistleblower testimonies concerning Dulce, see: http://www.exopolitics.org/Dulce-Report.htm )

Bishop's claim that information circulating in the UFO community about underground extraterrestrial bases and captive humans held underground was disinformation should not be accepted without thorough research of the above whistleblowers claims. These whistleblowers allegedly had direct experience with evidence validating Bennewitz's claim of an underground extraterrestrial base at Dulce suggests that there is some merit to Bennewitz's claims. Unfortunately, Bishop doesn't examine any of these whistleblower claims and makes what appears to be the unfortunate assumption that they are not worth investigating. This kind of routine dismissal of whistleblower testimony should not be condoned and is really impermissible for anyone wanting to conduct a balanced investigation of a major event in UFO history such as the Bennewitz case. The kind of difficulties many whistleblowers have in validating their credentials or testimony should not be used as an excuse to dismiss their claims as regularly done by veteran UFO researchers. This approach used by veteran UFO researchers is inappropriate as I have argued elsewhere (see: http://www.virtuallystrange.net/ufo/updates/2005/mar/m22-020.shtml ).

Another area of concern in Bishop's book is a significant piece of information dug up by Bishop that the USAF awarded Bennewitz a grant of $75,000 to conduct research on what he had discovered by his electronic intercepts. Bishop suggests that this was part of the 'sting' operation launched against Bennewitz by AFOSI. This stretches the bounds of credibility since I have heard of no other case where a significant research grant will be awarded to a UFO researcher with the primary purpose of disinforming him while getting more information on the precise nature and conclusions of his research. What is more likely is that Bennewitz had developed the means for intercepting electronic transmissions that were of great interest to the Air Force. These transmissions may have been little more that communications used in a classified project as Bishop suggests; or may have been more exotic in terms of intercepted extraterrestrial communications which is what Bennewitz believed. It is clear that Bennewitz had discovered something with his electronic interceptions and his methods where the subject of close observation by the USAF.

It's hard to believe that the USAF would have given a grant to Bennewitz so they could find out more about how he was intercepting their own classified transmissions. They could easily have silenced Bennewitz by informing him that he had intercepted signals from a classified military project. As a loyal citizen, it's hard to imagine that Bennewitz would have done anything other than simply comply. It's more plausible that he received his grant because the Air Force wanted to learn more about what the alleged extraterrestrials were up to as Bennewitz was indeed claiming. It appears that while Bennewitz was passing on information to the USAF, he was simultaneously the recipient of an intense campaign to discredit him by claiming he was ingenuously accepting disinformation passed to him. To accept the word of those playing a direct role in discrediting Bennewitz's primary claims concerning underground extraterrestrial bases and captive humans as disinformation appears to be a dubious way of assessing the validity of Bennewitz's claims. Yet this is what Bishop does in his book.

Ultimately I come away from Bishop's book with very mixed feelings. He has done some excellent field work in uncovering much pertinent background information about the Bennewitz affair and deserves recognition for bringing this important case to the public's attention. Yet from the very first chapter of his book, Bishop has the clear goal of demonstrating that Bennewitz was the victim of a disinformation campaign and that Bennewitz's claims were too laden with disinformation to be of any service to the UFO community other than a warning of how researchers can be led astray. Bishop's citation of sources and interviews are all geared to demonstrate the truth of his thesis that the UFO community was right to dismiss the bulk of Bennewitz's extravagant claims. Unfortunately, Bishop doesn't seriously entertain the idea that Bennewitz was possibly correct, even in part, in his most extravagant claims concerning underground extraterrestrial bases with captive humans. Indeed, Bishop assumes that such claims were precisely the disinformation fed to him, when it may have been that rumors of disinformation were generated towards Bennewitz to discredit his research findings about an underground extraterrestrial base at Dulce. It's Bishop's a priori dismissal of the possibility the Bennewitz could have been correct is what most weakens his book as an impartial research study of a key historical figure in UFO research.

A more balanced assessment that seriously explores the claims made by a number of whistleblowers who allegedly directly witnessed evidence or physically visited an underground extraterrestrial base at Dulce, New Mexico, together with the claims made by Richard Doty and William Moore concerning the discrediting of Paul Bennewitz, is needed. Simply accepting Doty's and Moore's testimony that Bennewitz believed disinformation fed to him is to do a disservice to the memory of Bennewitz who was an astute observer of the UFO phenomenon and who had valid observations to make regardless of the rumors of disinformation leveled against him. Bennewitz was ultimately discredited by a clever disinformation campaign. However, it was rumors of him ingenuously spreading disinformation that were more damaging to his reputation, than his actually using the information received by AFOSI agents and assets to formulate his views about what was really occurring in underground facilities in New Mexico.

© Michael E. Salla, PhD
May 11, 2005

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