Close encounters of the FOIA kind

Robert Hastings takes a measured tone when he describes the topic of his lectures: unidentified flying objects. He certainly would not want to seem like some kind of wild-eyed prophet come to tell us how extraterrestrials may be our ticket for the pleasure-boat ride into the Age of Aquarius.

“My program is very conservative in tone, very nuts and bolts,” he said in a telephone interview. “What I present publicly, I can document. If I am asked to speculate on this or that, I will, but I will stress that I am speculating at that point.”

His program, which features government documents released through Freedom of Information Act requests, could be pretty dry if it concerned something like NAFTA or Dick Cheney’s energy policy hearings, but Hastings’ slide show and lecture focus on the Holy Grail for the-truth-is-out-there types: government observations of and interactions with aliens from outer space.

“These are documents on UFOs held not only by the Air Force but by the intelligence community—CIA, FBI,” Hastings said. “The documents indicate beyond a reasonable doubt that UFOs do indeed exist. They are neither American nor Russian secret weapons. The documents make quite clear that, despite repeated denials by the government to the public, explaining them away as misidentified manmade or natural phenomena, [they exist]. In reality, behind the scenes, the government fully accepts the reality of these objects and is quite concerned by some of the things that have happened over the years.”

Many skeptics would say those were fighting words, but Hastings has the documents to back up his assertions. He says his documents focus mainly on two types of close encounters: sightings around nuclear-weapons facilities and aerial intercept attempts by military jet fighters. In some cases, there are hundreds of documents related to particular incidents.

Of course, Hastings wouldn’t be a successful lecturer if there weren’t other anecdotes to titillate the curious.

“I am not a Roswell investigator, per se; however, I have traveled to some of the sites. I live in New Mexico, and I interviewed, in the 1980s, some of the principle former military persons who were involved in that. They maintain adamantly that this indeed was a crashed flying saucer. In fact, I close my program with a FBI document from March of 1950 in which the then-director of the FBI, J. Edgar Hoover, was informed that ‘crashed flying saucers,’ quote-unquote, plural, had crashed and been recovered in New Mexico.”

Robert Hastings’ lecture will be at 7 p.m. Sept. 23 in the Alumni Room at the Jot Travis Student Union. It is free to the public. It’s a 30-minute slide show followed by a one-hour lecture.