Richard Thieme, an expert on computer security who counts the Pentagon and the National Security Agency among his clients, the Fox Point resident was an Episcopal cleric who is now, says CNN, a member of "the cyber avant-garde." He's challenged audiences around the world with speeches that mind-meld together spirituality, culture and 21st-century science.
The latest challenge from Thieme? "UFOs and Government: A Historical Inquiry" (Anomalist Books; $29.95), a 580-page epic sure to become the bible of Unidentified Flying Object research.
Thieme joined "The UFO History Group" consortium of researchers/writers, including Michael Swords and Robert Powell, who spent four years delving into the response the U.S. government and other world agencies have given the UFO phenomenon. The group used government documents and other archival sources to explore what military and intelligence insiders think about UFOs and their possible threat to world security.
The book includes Wisconsin UFO sightings - a 1951 report from St. Croix and Marinette in 1956.
"UFOs and Government" readers might find the book unsettling for what it reveals about how governments operate and about the UFO phenomenon itself.
Here's what Thieme has to say about the subject.
Q. How did you get involved in this project?
A. I was invited by Robert Powell, one of the main organizers. He knew I was a writer and speaker and had been quietly investigating the subject for 30 years. I had talked to a fighter pilot decorated in Vietnam, and the subject of UFOs came up and the close encounters, and I said, "What I read is that you chase them and we can't catch them." He said, "That's right." He kind of turned away. He didn't like having things we can't catch. I used my situation as a priest to have conversations with people in security and intelligence and with people in Wisconsin - credible people who saw credible things. I used my skills as a thinker and researcher to separate the considerable amount of chaff from the wheat. I did editing and rewriting chapters for the book.
Q. What were some of the obstacles you faced in collecting information? Any Men in Black knock on your door?
A. No Men in Black. Everything in the book is documented within the government. We include nearly 1,000 references in nearly 600 pages and as little speculation as possible. We don't discuss aliens. We leave the readers to conclude based on the government's own documents what they think might be real about this.
Q. Give me some adjectives to describe the way the U.S. government has handled the UFO issue?
A. Disingenuously. Ultimately with contempt for the reasoning ability of normal citizens, with disregard for credible officers who made credible reports and were dismissed as idiots. These were life-changing experiences for people.
Q. Describe the history of the U.S. government and military response.
A. The response to the phenomenon generally was to formulate as a policy decision to ridicule and debunk reports in the interest of national security. The CIA and Air Force made a reasonable decision in light of the Soviet Union threat to spoof the phenomenon, to cover a possible nuclear attack. And the reason that was a concern was that in 1952, there were so many sightings over Washington, D.C., so dramatic, that the calls coming into the Pentagon overwhelmed the switchboard and there was a genuine concern that there was a denial of service attack giving the Soviet Union a jump in an attack. The Robertson Panel made the decision to ridicule people. Illusion, misdirection and ridicule are the three legs of the stool of deception. I've talked to pilots who saw a UFO and their superiors said, "You must have been drinking." All you needed to do is have your eyesight or your drinking questioned and you didn't fly again. I'm willing to talk about this subject because I don't have much to lose.
Q. What is the biggest revelation you found in your research?
A. That the documentation represents a compelling, accurate historical narrative of at best government obfuscation and at worst manipulation of the facts in the interest of national security.
Q. If I say "Roswell Event," you say . . . ?
A. We have a sidebar about it in the book. There is no single coherent narrative that connects all of the dots in the Roswell UFO case, so we remain agnostic.
Q. How does the U.S. government's handling compare to that of other countries?
A. We have a chapter, and we have little sections on Belgium and Brazil, where there have been major events. Other countries pursued this in light of their own national frameworks, but the U.S. has taken the lead. We know that the Belgians and French present compelling cases that are inexplicable in conventional terms. The French conducted a national inquiry using the national police force. We have statements from members of other governments advocating a global response to the phenomenon using the United Nations. But the French government is withholding documents.
Q. So are UFOs really extraterrestrial visitors?
A. We can neither confirm or deny that hypothesis, but the extraterrestrial hypothesis is suggested as one reasonable explanation for the data that challenged the government to respond for the last 60 years. An informed, critical reader, we hope, will conclude that if the nose of the camel is inside the tent there might be a camel outside the tent.
I don't think there is any way to read this scholarly work without concluding that the Air Force lied, that the phenomenon is real and that the extraterrestrial hypothesis is on the table. The sociological and psychological question that remains for us investigators is: "How is it that reasonable, seemingly open-minded people can confront the data we present and dismiss it with a smirk or the statement: 'It can't be possible' "?
Thieme will discuss his book at the Waterford Library at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 5 ( via jsonline.com ).