It felt, to Linda Moulton-Howe, as if the country might be finally on the verge of a tipping point. Moulton-Howe, a journalist and filmmaker, is a firm believer in the presence of extraterrestrial beings; ever since she produced a documentary about a series of cattle mutilations in 1980, she has been convinced that aliens were responsible and that the government is at least partially responsible for covering up such incidents.
A sign outside of Area 51, the mysteries of which continue to preoccupy believers in extraterrestrial life. Credit: Tim1337/Creative Commons
Believe what you will about Moulton-Howe’s findings and theories. But after all this time, she finally had reason to be optimistic that the election of Hillary Clinton to the presidency might prove the galvanizing event to open up at least some of the top-secret government files that conspiracy theorists and UFO enthusiasts have sought for decades. Clinton herself had told late-night host Jimmy Kimmel that she planned to do so; in several e-mails exposed by Wikileaks during the campaign, Clinton’s campaign chairman, John Podesta—pressed by former Blink-182 guitarist Tom DeLonge, among others–had also addressed the issue. Podesta, a science-fiction enthusiast himself, appeared receptive to the notion, and backed Clinton’s public promise to “ask for as many records as the United States federal government has to be declassified.” The Clinton team, experts said, was more willing to engage on this issue than any administration ever had. And so we were closer than ever, it seemed, to knowing whether aliens truly had anything to do with high-profile cases like Area 51 and Roswell.
“Podesta’s known for a long time that we’re living on a concocted planet,” Moulton-Howe says. “Hillary said to Kimmel, ‘I want to get to the bottom of the UFO files.’”
And then Donald Trump won the election.
And now, says Moulton-Howe, “your question is my question is everyone’s question.”
There are, obviously, a myriad of questions about how Donald Trump might govern as president, and while it may seem trivial by comparison to the hot-button issues that propelled Trump’s candidacy, there is now no clear indication as to whether Trump might be receptive to declassifying those files that Clinton appeared ready to open up.
“With Trump, he’s kind of a wildcard because he has no government experience,” says Roger Marsh, communications director for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), which has tracked and researched UFO sightings since 1969. “It’s not business as usual. But we’re just kind of waiting to see what he’s going to do. We’re always hopeful that he’s going to take it in a different direction.”
The Roswell UFO museum in New Mexico, the site of a 1947 crash of a United States Air Force balloon that many believe to have been part of a government cover-up of extraterrestrial life. Credit: JDeeringDavis/Creative Commons
Part of the problem, of course, is that it’s hard for politicians to take this issue seriously. In New Hampshire, in the early stages of the campaign late in 2015, journalist Daymond Steer of the Conway Daily Sun asked a number of candidates whether they might declassify files relating to UFOs. Clinton told Steer she would “get to the bottom of it,” though even then, it was hard to tell whether Clinton was joking or not. Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s Democratic primary opponent, gave what Steer described as a “flippant” response. But Steer never even had an opportunity to ask Trump the question because he never visited the offices of the Daily Sun.
It was hard to tell whether Clinton was joking or not.
“Can you step into Trump’s mind and shoes right now?” Moulton-Howe asks. “Neither can I.”
“Nobody really knows what the U.S. government knows about this situation,” Marsh says. “There’s no doubt that UFO’s are real. It’s a matter of who’s behind the manufacture of these things.”
In the meantime, organizations like MUFON—which shied away from endorsing Clinton because they consider themselves a non-political organization–are taking a wait-and-see approach. Marsh claims a number of high-level military sources, many of them retired and “nearing death,” have begun to come forward to tell their stories about UFOs.
Air Force files on the Tehran UFO incident in 1976. Credit: Captain Henry S. Shields
“They’re saying, ‘My time is almost up, and I want to come forward,” Marsh says.
MUFON will soon have its first dedicated UFO lobbyist in Washington, joining the one of the only other registered UFO lobbyists, Stephen Bassett of Paradigm Research Group. And even after the election, there is still a buzz among UFO enthusiasts that something is about to happen: Grant Cameron, who runs the website PresidentialUFO.com, which tracks the involvement of presidents with regard to UFO issues, wrote in a recent blog post that the efforts of DeLonge and others to open up those files would not be entirely stymied by Clinton’s defeat.
“When the election was over I asked if the light was still green or if it had turned red,” Cameron wrote. “I was told it was still green and bigger than ever, with big names and big money behind it. I was once again pointed to January where there would not be disclosure but a big event.”
Bassett, the UFO lobbyist, has said that Barack Obama may, in fact, reveal the presence of extraterrestrial life before he leaves office. He recently said that two days after the election, he’d received a message from a known source “within the military/intelligence community” were prepared to disclose what they know about extraterrestrials and UFOs.
“This [UFO Disclosure] will be a reality this year and across the front pages of newspapers across the world,” Bassett has said. “The most significant news story that has ever been broken.”
Or perhaps the disclosure won’t reveal anything: Bill Clinton has said the files he examined didn’t show the presence of aliens. Marsh says there is a theory among some UFO believers that “current presidents are not updated—they’re not given the real stuff.” But convinced as Marsh is that there’s something out there, he also thinks the declassification of those government files would help legitimize a field of study that has largely been regarded as a joke.
“That would be tremendous,” Marsh says. “It would push the subject legitimately into the mainstream.”