The United Kingdom's Ministry of Defense released 6,700 pages worth of UFO related documents today. The documents span a period of 43 years; the Ministry's UFO program (DI55) closed in 2009. The Ministry of Defense says it was not, of course, looking to substantiate the extraterrestrial origins of any unidentified flying object but only to assess the possible threats to national security such objects might pose. This file includes a DI55 intelligence officer explaining in 1979 that actual visits to "an insignificant planet" like Earth by extraterrestrials "would probably not occur more than once in a thousand years or so, even if one assumes that every intelligent community made say 10 launches a year," concluding that the "thousands of visits in the last decade or so are far too large to be credible."
The program's secrecy, though, spurred conspiracy theories about what the government was hiding about UFOs. Today's disclosures suggest not much. In fact, many of the more recent documents involve the Ministry of Defense debunking claims by so-called ufologists. The 50th anniversary of the Roswell incident, probably the most famous of alleged alien encounters on Earth, especially, prompted interested in the British government's work. This file, for example, contains a letter from one ufologist, Nick Redfern, who urged then Prime Minister Tony Blair to release the government's UFO documents. Redfern wrote to Blair:
Regardless of one's opinions as to whether or not elements of the British Government and military are actively participating in a 'cover-up' of UFO data, I would urge you to consider making available for public scrutiny all of the many and varied UFO reports and associated data compiled by the Government which is currently withheld. To date, those files which have been released cover the period 1950-1968. I would urge those files covering the period 1969-1998 be declassified – if only to allay the very real rumours pointing towards an official cover-up of data.
The files present a pretty compelling case against unnecessary government secrecy. The files make the British government's UFO work appear mundane and even boiler-plate; they're only sexy because they were once classified. One of the files even contains a 1997 response to an inquiry about whether the CIA or the U.S. government shared any information on Roswell with the British:
[A] search of all existing UAP files showed no record of any meetings/briefings with the CIA, or any other agency. Similarly we have no data on the alleged "Roswell Incident" or any "crashed UFO incidents in the UK."
…In short DI 55 has no records of any UAP/UFO "crashes" in either the UK or US and have never, a [sic] far as we can tell from existing files, received and [sic] briefs from any US agencies, including the CIA."
Jesse Walker wrote about the UK's UFO files for Reason back in 2006, when the UK declassified other documents that pointed to the existence of DI55.
Highlights of the file contents are here. There are many UFO sightings among the files, none substantiated as extraterrestrial in origin. If you do find something interesting in the lengthy files, let us know in the comments!