UFOs, Aliens and the Thoughts of the National Security Agency on Extraterrestrial Life

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Of the many and various UFO / extraterrestrial-themed documents and papers that have surfaced under the terms of the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, one of the more interesting ones is Communication with Extraterrestrial Intelligence. It was written back in the 1960s (specifically in 1965) by a man named Lambros D. Callimahos. He was a cryptologist with the National Security Agency – Edward Snowden’s former employer. On September 23, 1965, Callimahos took part in a panel-style debate on the subject of his paper at a conference on military electronics in Washington, D.C. Also present for the debate was Dr. John C. Lilly, perhaps best known for his work with dolphins and in the fields of psychedelics and altered states. Others included an astronomer, Francis S.J. Heyden. The American Astronomical Society note of Heyden: “Heyden’s earliest research was performed in the fields of galactic structure and variable stars. He collaborated. with Fr. L.C. McHugh S.J. in photographing star fields in the Southern Milky Way. These images were combined into an Atlas, which has become a basic reference tool for students of galactic structure.” And there was a noted linguist too, Dr. Paul Garvin. The event was moderated by a Dr. Harold Wooster, at the time the Director of Information Services of the U.S. Air Force Office of Scientific Research.

Callimahos’ words make for intriguing reading: “We are not alone in the universe. A few years ago, this notion seemed farfetched; today, the existence of extraterrestrial intelligence is taken for granted by most scientists. Sir Bernard Lovell, one of the world’s leading radio astronomers, has calculated that, even allowing for a margin of error of 5000 per cent, there must be in our own galaxy about 100 million stars which have planets of the right chemistry, dimensions, and temperature to support organic evolution.” He continued: “If we consider that our own galaxy, the Milky Way, is but one of at least a billion other galaxies similar to ours in the observable universe, the number of stars that could support some form of life is, to reach a word, astronomical. As to advanced (by miserable earth standards) forms of life, Dr. Frank D. Drake of the National Radio Astronomy Observatory at Green Bank, West Virginia, has stated that, putting all our knowledge together, the number of civilizations which could have arisen by now is about one billion. The next question is, ‘Where is everybody?’”

Note: this photo of the planet Mars was taken by an employee of NASA. And, NASA is an arm of the U.S. government. As a result of that, NASA considers the photo to be in the public domain.

Callimahos added: “The nearest neighbor to our solar system is Alpha Centauri, only 4.3 light years away; but, according to Dr. Su-Shu Huang of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, its planetary system is probably too young for the emergence of life. Two other heavenly friends, Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti, about 11 light years away, are stronger contenders for harboring life.” He expanded, in somewhat speculative fashion, but undeniably fascinating fashion too: “Nevertheless, if superior civilizations are abundant, the nearest would probably be at least 100 light years away; therefore, it would take 200 years for a reply to be forthcoming, a small matter of seven generations. This should, however, make little difference to us, in view of the enormous potential gain from our contact with a superior civilization.

“Unless we’re terribly conceited (a very unscientific demeanor), we must assume that the ‘others’ are far more advanced than we are. Even a 50-year gap would be tremendous; a 500 year gap staggers the imagination, and as for a 5000-year gap… (By the way, if they are as much as 50 years behind us, forget it!) It is quite possible that ‘others’ have satellite probes in space, retransmitting to ‘them” anything that sounds non-random to the probe. But they have probably called us several thousand years ago, and are waiting for an answer; or worse yet, they have given up; or, more probably, they have reached such impressive technological advances that they have destroyed themselves. Callimahos turned his attentions to the kind of work that was then in place to try and find evidence of alien life: “Epsilon Eridani and Tau Ceti were the targets on which Dr. [Frank] Drake [of SETI, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence] focused his attention in the Spring on 1960 in Project Ozma, an attempt to detect possible intelligent signals from outer space. The frequency selected for listening was 1420.405752 megacycles per second, or a wave length of 21 cm.”

“This particular frequency, postulated independently by two professors on the faculty of Cornell University, Giuseppe Cocconi and Philip Morrison, happens to be the radiation frequency of atomic or free hydrogen which permeates space in great clouds; moreover, this frequency is within the range of radio frequencies able to pass through the earth’s atmosphere. Presumably, the significance of this frequency would be known to other intelligent beings in the universe who understand radio theory. We’re still talking about radio waves as the communication medium; other possible media might be masers, lasers, or the as yet undiscovered and unnamed ‘rasers.’ A technology superior to ours might even have learned how to modulate a beam of neutrinos (weightless, uncharged particles that physicists on earth find it difficult even to detect); if so, ‘they’ may have to wait a century or two before we learn how to build a neutrino receiver.”

“I’ll close with these thought-provoking words from Callimahos: “…after we resolve our pressing scientific questions, it might be appropriate to make discreet inquiries as to how we could live in harmony and peace with our fellow man­­ – that is if we aren’t eaten or otherwise ingested by the superior civilization that had the good fortune to contact us. But as far as the cryptologist is concerned, he (and generations of his descendants who might experience the supreme thrill of their lives when we hear from ‘them’) must keep a level head, not get excited, and be prepared to cope with problems the like of which he has never seen – out of this world, so to speak.” Three years later, in 1968, Lambros Callimahos wrote another paper on alien life and UFOs, also for the National Security Agency. This one was titled UFO Hypothesis Survival Questions. It addressed a variety of theories designed to explain the nature of the UFO phenomenon. It began as follows: “It is the purpose of this monograph to consider briefly some of the human survival implication suggested by the various principle hypothesis concerning the nature of the phenomena loosely categorized as UFO. All flying, sailing or maneuvering aerial objects whether glowing, pulsating, or of a constant metallic hue, whose shape is somewhat, circular or cigarish [sic].”

Under a heading titled “All UFOs are Hoaxes,” Callimahos said: “From the time when hoaxes were first noted in history, they were characterized by infrequency of occurrence and usually by a considerable restriction of their geographical extent. Rarely have men of science, while acting within their professional capacities, perpetrated hoaxes. The fact that UFO phenomena have been witnessed all over the world from ancient times, and by considerable numbers of reputable scientists in recent times, indicates rather strongly that UFOs are not all hoaxes (2). If anything, rather than diminishing, the modern trend is toward increased reports, from all sources. In one three month period in 1953 (June, July and August) Air Force records show 35 sightings whose nature could not be determined (3). If UFO’s, contrary to all indications and expectations, are indeed hoaxes–hoaxes of a worldwide dimension–hoaxes of increasing frequency, then a human mental aberration of alarming proportions would seem to be developing. Such an aberration would seem to have serious implications for nations equipped with nuclear toys–and should require immediate and careful study by scientists.”

Callimahos then turned his attentions to the matter of hallucinations: “People, of course, do hallucinate. Although groups of people hallucinating is rare, it has been known to happen. Machines have their own form of hallucination; the radar, in particular, ‘sees’ temperature inversions. But a considerable number of instances exist in which there are groups of people and a radar or radars seeing the same thing at the same time; sometimes a person and gun camera confirm each other’s testimony. On occasion, physical evidence of a circumstantial nature was reported to have been found to support witnessed sightings. A continuing high percentage of reports of unusual aerial objects are being reported by people in responsible positions in science, government, and industry. The sum of such evidence seems to argue strongly against all UFOs being hallucinations.

Note: This photograph of our Moon was taken by a NASA employee. NASA is an arm of the U.S. Government.

NASA considers the photo to be in the public domain.

“In spite of all the evidence to the contrary, if UFOs did turn out to be largely illusionary, the psychological implications for man would certainly bring into strong question his ability to distinguish reality from fantasy. The negative effect on man’s ability to survive in an increasingly complex world would be considerable – making it imperative that such a growing impairment of the human capacity for rational judgment be subjected to immediate and thorough scientific study so that the illness could be controlled before it reaches epidemic proportions (For comments on mass hysteria and UFO’s see source 8 below which contains a statement by Dr. Robert L. Hall, a social, psychologist formerly with the Personnel and Training Research Center and the Program Director, Sociology and Psychology, National Science Foundation.).”

As for the possibility that UFOs are purely natural phenomena, there is this from Callimahos’ paper: “If this hypothesis is correct, the capability of air warning systems to correctly diagnose an attack situation is open to serious question. Many UFOs have been reported by trained military observers to behave like high speed, high performance, high altitude rockets or aircraft. The apparent solidity and craft-like shape of the objects have often been subject to radar confirmation (9). If such reports can appear to trained military men as rockets or aircraft and if such objects should come over the Arctic from the direction of Russia on the United States, they could trigger ‘false reports of missile attacks.’ “Many responsible military officers have developed a mental ‘blind spot’ to objects which appear to have characteristics of UFOs. Such an attitude is an open invitation to the enemy to build a replica of the phenomena in order to penetrate the ‘hole’ in his adversaries’ defenses –Was this the purpose of the lens shaped reentry vehicle tested by the USAF in 1960 and recently featured in the Washington, D.C. Evening Star, dated 24 September 1968, page A4?

“Sometimes the phenomena appear to defy radar detection and to cause massive electromagnetic interference. Surely it is very important to discover the nature of these objects or plasmas before any prospective enemy can use their properties to build a device or system to circumvent or jam our air and space detection systems–Any nation certainly could use a system or device to penetrate enemy defenses.” Another angle that Callimahos addressed was that of at least some UFOs being secret weapons of the world’s military. His thoughts on this particular theory follow: “The above-referenced U.S. Air Force reenetry vehicle and an often publicized leave little doubt as to the validity of this hypothesis. Undoubtedly, all UFOs should be carefully scrutinized to ferret out such enemy (or ‘friendly’) projects. Otherwise a nation faces the very strong possibility of being intimidated by a new secret ‘doomsday’ weapon. According to some eminent scientists closely associated with the study of this phenomenon, this hypothesis cannot be disregarded. The well documented sightings over Washington, D.C. in 1952 strongly support his view. This hypothesis has a number of far-reaching human survival implications:

“a. If “they” discover you, it is an old but hardly invalid rule of thumb, ‘they’ are your technological superiors. Human history has shown us time and again the tragic results of a confrontation between a technologically superior civilization and a technologically inferior people. The ‘inferior’ is usually subject to physical conquest. “b. Often in the past, a technologically superior people are also possessors of a more virile or aggressive culture. In a confrontation between two peoples of significantly different culture levels, those having the inferior or less virile culture most often suffer a tragic loss of identity and are absorbed by the other people. “c. Some peoples who were technologically and/or culturally inferior to other nations have survived–have maintained their identity–have equalized the differences between them and their adversaries. The Japanese people have given us an excellent example of the methods required to achieve such survival:  “(1) full and honest acceptance of the nature of the inferiorities separating you from the advantages of the other peoples,  “(2) complete national solidarity in all positions taken in dealing with the other culture, (3) highly controlled and limited intercourse with the other side–doing only those things advantageous to the foreigner which you are absolutely forced to do by the circumstances, (4) a correct but friendly attitude toward the other people, “(5) A national eagerness to learn everything possible about the other citizens–its technological and cultural strengths and weaknesses. This often involves sending selected groups and individuals to the other’s country to become one of his kind, or even to help him in his wars against other adversaries. “(6) Adopting as many of the advantages of the opposing people as you can, and doing it as fast as possible – while still protecting your own identity by molding each new knowledge increment into your own cultural cast.”

In a final “Comment” section of his thought-provoking theories and observations, Callimahos left his fellow employees of the NSA with these words: “Although this paper has hardly exhausted the possible hypotheses related to the UFO phenomena, those mentioned above are the principal ones presently put forward. All of them have serious survival implications. The final answer to this mystery will probably include more than one of the above hypotheses. “Up until this time, the leisurely scientific approach has too often taken precedence in dealing with UFO questions. If you are walking along a forest path and someone yells ‘rattler’ your reaction would be immediate and defensive. You would not take time to speculate before you act. You would have to treat the alarm as if it were a real and immediate threat to your survival. Investigation would become an intensive emergency action to isolate the threat and to determine its precise nature. It would be geared to developing adequate defensive measures in a minimum amount of time. It would seem a little more of this survival attitude is called for in dealing with the UFO problem.

“Observations of chimpanzees while in a captive environment have shown that the animals tend to become confused and disoriented. Since they do not usually have adult chimps to teach them how to be good apes, they are not even sure of their behavior. Often their actions are patterned after human behavior and would have virtually no survival value in the wild. Lacking the challenge of environmental adaptation, the bodies of the animals atrophy and become subject to many diseases — mostly unknown in their wild counterparts. Reactions to stimulus usually become less responsive and suitable. Sex becomes a year-long preoccupation instead of a seasonal madness. “Do the captivity characteristics of modern civilization cause a similar lessening of man’s adaptive capability, of his health, of his ability to recognize reality, of his ability to survive? Perhaps the UFO question might even make man undertake studies which could enable him to construct a society which is most conducive to developing a completely human being, healthy in all respects of mind and body – and, most important, able to recognize and adapt to real environmental situations.”

More than fifty years after Lambros Callimahos’ paper was published – and once held under tight security by the NSA – one has to ponder on the extent to which the agency’s staff has further investigated the matter of UFOs. So far, no one in the NSA is saying.

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