MJ-12: Above Top Secret, Below Top Drawer

Dennis Stacy
Magonia 28, January 1988
In drama, the fatal flaw of a character is often the essential ingredient around which the whole tragic recipe revolves. In the documentary or non-fiction world, however, it is just as often the slam of the oven door that causes the whole soufflé to collapse. The latter seems to be the case with Above Top Secret, a prodigious project ultimately marred by reliance on US government ‘UF0′ documents of a considerably dubious nature.
The appearance here of the controversial Majestic Twelve, or MJ-12, material relating to a reputed super-secret government UFO agency charged with unlocking the secrets of crashed and retrieved UFOs, along with their alien occupants, is doubly disappointing because it will inevitably detract from what in many regards is an otherwise impressive performance by Mr Good. If the MJ-12 documents in particular turn out to be a complete fabrication, as seems increasingly likely, the farrago will provide sceptics and professional debunkers alike with a new round of potent ammunition, aimed squarely at the ‘best’ that UFO proponents supposedly have to offer. What’s more, they will not even have to pull the trigger; that and the smoking gun will have been provided them by Good in England and Moore and company in America.

Battle lines in the USA have already been drawn. Oddly enough, the sceptics, e.g. Philip Klass, seem as content as the believers to dispute the validity of the material according to whether all the t’s have been crossed and i’s dotted. The result is similar to a recent mock trial held here in which a tribunal of Supreme Court judges argued over the authorship of Shakespeare’s plays. In both instances the disputed documents exist. The question is whether they establish the existence of Shakespeare in one case, and UFOs in the possession of the American government in the other. The answers may be forever lost because of our inability in both instances to discover the process whereby the said documents were made public. In other words, where and from whom did the MJ-12 material originate?
At the moment the audience is concentrating on the performance itself. But behind every Majic act of note lies a master magician

Alas, none of our living sources are proving very helpful in the matter, which is not the same as saying they could be. Still, the mystery of how the MJ-12 papers came to be is getting largely overlooked in the race to establish secondary matters, whether they fulfil the form and content of similar documents from the same individuals and ‘agencies of the era in question, and so on. My purpose is to see if we can’t point scrutiny where it belongs, namely at the original source of the documents themselves.

But first, a brief background of ‘MJ-12′. The documents released by Good and William L. Moore (in association with Jamie Shandera, a Los Angeles TV producer, and ETH proponent Stanton Friedman), purport to be a briefing paper prepared by Admiral Roscoe H. Hillenkoetter (MJ-1) for president-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower, who was succeeding Harry Truman in office. The cover page, dated ’18 November, 1952′ and headed ‘National Security Information’ was stamped ‘Top Secret/ Majic’ and ‘Eyes Only’. Page 2 characterized Operation Majestic-12 (Majic-12) as ‘a TOP SECRET Research and Development/ Intelligence operation responsible directly and only to the President of the United States’. Majic-12 had been established ‘by special classified executive order of President Truman on 24 September, 1947, upon recommendation by Dr Vannevar Bush and Secretary James Forrestal’.

A list of all-male membership of Majic-12 followed, led off by Hillenkoetter, consisting of a veritable military and scientific Who’s Who of the day, including noted UFO debunker and Harvard astronomer Donald H. Menzel (shades of Cedric Allingham),

Generals Hoyt S. Vandenberg and Nathan F. Twining, Drs Detlev Bronk, Lloyd V. Berkner, Jerome Hunsaker and five others. On 22 May 1949, Secretary of Defense James V. Forrestal (‘MJ-3′) had committed suicide while in hospital (more fodder for paranoids), and had subsequently been replaced by General Walter B. Smith.
Space prohibits a consideration of all their credentials (see Good, pages 250-252), but those of HiIlenkoetter [right], presumably the author of the MJ-12 documents, are particularly worth recounting. After a distinguished World War II career in Naval Intelligence, Truman appointed him Director of the new Central Intelligence Group, soon the CIA, on 1 May 1947, a post he held until 1950. More offices and awards followed. Hillenkoetter retired from the Navy in June 1957. In the same year he joined the Board of Governors of NICAP, the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena, which flourished during the 1950s as the largest civilian UFO group ever (membership at one point, 5000). The fact that the first director in CIA history would later help front a popular UFO group has been considered odd to say the least, and fuelled many a midnight conspiracy theory. A better ‘mole’ could hardly be imagined.

The Majic ‘briefing’ itself seemingly substantiates the Roswell incident reported in the book of the same name by WiIIiam L. Moore and ‘co-author’ Charles Berlitz:

On 07 July, 1947, a secret operation was begun to assure recovery of the wreckage of this object for scientific study. During the course of this operation, aerial reconnaissance discovered that four small human-like beings had apparently ejected from the craft at some point before it exploded. These had fallen to earth about two miles east of the wreckage site. All four were dead and badly decomposed due to action by predators and exposure to the elements during the approximately one week time period which had elapsed before their discovery.
The paper also says that:
On 06 December, 1950, a second object, probably of similar origin, impacted the earth at high speed in the El Indio-Guerrero area of the Texas-Mexican border after following a long trajectory through the atmosphere. By the time a search team arrived, what remained of the object had been almost totally incinerated.
The final page of the briefing was a table of contents listing eight attachments, ‘A’ to ‘H’, composed of Truman’s original executive order establishing Majic-12, three status reports, a Preliminary Analytical Report’, ‘Blue Team Report #5′, ‘Contingency, Plan MJ 1949-04P/78: 31 JAN 49′, and ‘Maps and Photographic Folio (Extractions)’. Of the eight attachments referred to, only ‘A’, Truman’s executive order addressed to the late Secretary of Defense, was included with the MJ-12 documents released to the public.

And that is Majic in a nutshell, more than enough to establish the validity of flying saucers from space, alien occupants, crash/retrievals, government cover-up and all the other UFO accoutrements of the last four decades, enough in fact to put ufology out of business forever. All that remained was to convince America’s investigative journalists of the reality of the MJ-12 briefing papers; they in turn would alert the general public and responsible politicians, if such creatures there be, and before Philip Klass could say ‘Bah! Humbug!’ the truth with a capital T would be out, finally!

As events have evolved, however, none of us is out of a job, save Steuart Campbell, who’s already provided his own solution to the UFO phenomenon anyway. The question remains: Whence the documents? As you might have guessed by now, none of the above-mentioned papers have surfaced in the Truman or Eisenhower Presidential Libraries, or the National Archives in Washington. Klass’s counter-arguments have centred on misplaced commas, anachronistic terminology and similar printed peccadilloes as proof of falsification. Moore et al. have retorted by resorting to negative proofs, since they can’t prove the authenticity of the papers themselves. This involves mainly turning up similar gaffes in other papers of the times. What objective evidence has surfaced is itself suspect, which we will get to in a moment.

Again, whence the documents? After devoting over 400 pages of text to a secondary matter (if, after all, Majic is real), Mr Good is strangely reticent on the MJ-12 papers themselves, which appear to have been added to ATS at the last moment. On pace 250 MJ-12 itself is referred to only – as ‘information acquired from an intelligence source in 1985…’ His description of the subsequently surfacing MJ-12 papers is apparently in error here, as he refers to ‘a nine-page document dated 18 September 1947… signed by Truman’. As we have seen, the briefing paper itself was dated November 1952; only the executive order supposedly signed by Truman (‘Attachment A’) dated from September and even then Good has his dates mixed up; the actual copy reproduced in ATS (page 547) carries a date of September 24.

Two pages later Good notes: ‘My enquiries into the authenticity of the Majestic 12 document during a research trip to the United States in 1986 have led me to believe that the group did indeed exist, and the document seems authentic enough. Unfortunately, all the members are now deceased, and my questions addressed to a former director of the CIA, as well as two ex-Presidents, remain unanswered’, which is hardly surprising. Elsewhere, MJ-12 is routinely referenced as an established bona fide fact by Good, with nary a glance over his shoulder. Back on page 250 and again on page 540, Good says copies of the actual documents were only made available to him in 1987. Then how did he enquire into the authenticity of the ‘Majestic 12 document’ during his 1986 research trip to the United States? The only answer is that he was enquiring into a chimera of MJ-12 initially, i.e. word of the agency’s existence from an unnamed source. 

William Moore, who first released the same MJ-12 documents to the press in the States, has more to say about their origins, but not much. In his own press release, dated 29 May 1987, Moore writes that ‘the accompanying document arrived in the mail in a plain brown wrapper at the residence of Jaime Shandera in December, 1984′. (‘Plain brown wrapper’ in this country is a standard, stand-up comic reference to X-rated, or adult, material. Does this make MJ-12 the first confirmed example of UFO pornography?) Good gives us no clue as to the form in which he first received his MJ-12 material; Moore tells us it came to Shandera as a roll of undeveloped film, a surprising medium that (cleverly?) leaves a lot to be desired in terms of effectively establishing the authenticity of its contents.

Shandera. it should be pointed out, was hardly a household name in American ufology until Moore’s press release and his subsequent visibility at the MUFON symposium held at the American University in Washington. DC. in June 1987. Moore’s turgid press announcement says only that in 1982, after he ‘had worked more than a year and a half on his own, the three (Moore. Shandera and Friedman) teamed up on a research project that would take them further into the strange world of government involvement with Unidentified Flying Objects than anyone in the civilian field is known to have ever gone before’.

Moore and Friedman are both well-known UFO investigators, frequently before the public at large. It remains a minor mystery. then, why the unexposed roll of film with the MJ-12 document and Attachment A. – apparently exactly the same material that Good received (in person?) an ocean away – was mailed to Shandera. Issues and origins were further complicated when Moore et al, presumably truing to flush out information by a sort of time-release capsule approach, mailed out various copies of the MJ-12 paper with their own simulated blackouts! Did Good receive one of these ‘censored’ copies via Moore or an intermediary? Since our UFO sleuths have fouled the well from which we all drink we may never be able to straighten this one out unless the document is confirmed by a wholly independent third source. At this point it is almost superfluous to compare Good’s version with Moore’s, unless the principals are willing to provide a more accurate and detailed chronology of Majic events.

As if things were not complicated enough as it is, in printed comments on Above Top Secret (ATS) Jenny Randles refers (Northern UFO News No.126. July-August 1987, page 3) cryptically to having been approached ‘by someone offering similar (but actually more extensive) files’, while she was compiling the recent exclamation mark-filled ‘The UFO Conspiracy but ‘concerned.., that it might be a “set up” [she] kept it out of the book, however dramatic it was’.

Meanwhile the ‘objective’ evidence mentioned earlier floated to the surface, from no less an authoritative source than America’s own office of National Archives. Moore had learned that the NA was scheduling a periodic release of files to the public from the period in question and asked to be notified when a date was confirmed. Reportedly, he and Shandera were there on ‘opening day’. After searching through file folders containing more than 1800 documents, nature called. While Moore was in the loo (presumably they took shifts), Shandera found a single page of paper, admittedly unrelated to anything else in the folder, that has since become known as ‘the Cutler memorandum’, after its ‘author’, Robert Cutler, Special Assistant to the President (Eisenhower).

Dated 14 July 1954, it is addressed to General Nathan Twining (‘MJ-4′) and headed ‘TOP SECRET RESTRICTED/SECURITY INFORMATION’ and ‘SUBJECT: NSC/MJ-12 Special Studies Project’. NSC refers to National Security Council, the selfsame group of inner-circle presidential advisers that would later embarrass Ronald Reagan. The text of the one-paragraph letter says essentially that ‘the President has decide that the MJ-12 SSP briefing should take place during the already scheduled White House meeting of July 16, rather than following it as previously intended’. The memorandum is seemingly authenticated by an official NA stamp in the lower left corner. Even if the Cutler memorandum is real as found, it still does not establish the indisputable validity of Majic as a top secret UFO committee, only that a Special Studies Project MJ-12 did indeed exist. From the memorandum itself. MJ-12 could just as easily have concerned the H-bomb or any other ‘mundane’ subject.

As with the preceding papers, however, arguments as to its validity have focused primarily on wording, watermarks, type-style, print colour and similar minutiae of holographic science. Klass found that Cutler was on a tour of European military bases during the disputed time period when he was supposed to have signed the memorandum. Moore counters that his assistants were left in charge, per normal operating procedure, with orders to clear his ‘out’ basket; signing Cutler’s name to the document in question in no way invalidates its authenticity, and so on, one side scoring a minor point, the other retaliating with an equally minor victory.

As a result of ongoing publicity, so many Freedom of Information Act requests regarding MJ-12 have poured into the Archives that the agency felt compelled to issue an unprecedented report on the subject, denying, of course, any knowledge of same, or the possession of any additional documents.

Meanwhile. the origins of the MJ-12 material slip slowly into the obscurity of history. While the hounds give hunt in one direction, the fox is back in the manor, tumbling the master’s mistress in his own bed. Let the holographic chase proceed apace. But in parallel let’s have a detailed and chronological account of the documents’ origins from the principals involved in making them public.

At the moment the audience is concentrating on the performance itself. But behind every Majic act of note lies a master magician.