For most people, Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs), now commonly referred to as Unidentified Aerospace Phenomena (UAP) have been the stuff of fiction... Until claims made by a U.S. intelligence whistleblower, just a few days ago, referring to the possession by the U.S. of devices of non-human origin, put the subject back on the table with a bang, prompting the media to take a more serious look.
As credible as he seems, David Grusch isn't the first official to speak out on the subject. Just over fifty years ago, an Australian physicist by the name of Harry Turner wrote an explosive report on UFOs.
This once-secret, highly topical document is now freely available on the Australian National Archives website. Like so many others, it was published through the Freedom Of Information Act (FOIA) procedure ((The FOIA is a mechanism enabling any citizen to obtain the publication of any document relating to a specific subject, with exceptions linked to national security. It was passed in 1966 in the USA, but exists in various forms in other countries, such as Australia.)) . Other UFO-related documents are also available from other official sources, such as the public archives of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
The Harry Turner Bombshell
Then head of his country's nuclear intelligence division within the Joint Intelligence Office (JIO), Harry Turner authored a report on UFOs, which he passed on to his director, R.W. Furlonger, on May 25, 1971.
Turner makes things clear from page 1: “The two documents attached are intended to focus on aspects of the UFO problem that have tended to remain hidden.” Many surprises indeed ensue for the average reader as he navigates through the report, consisting of two parts, as depicted by Harry Turner in his intro:
- A report on the US attitude to UFOs, dated May 1971;
- Evidence of the use of weapons systems by UFOs, dated January 1970.
UFOs and the Americans
Harry Turner first offers a brief, dense and fascinating summary on the American posture on UFOs - five short paragraphs for as many key points which take the reader straight into a new world, where scientists and military personnel replace conspiracy theorists.
1 - For the USAF, extraterrestrials are the only explanation
Harry Turner gets off to a strong start: “The early analyses of UFO reports by USAF ((United States Air Force)) intelligence indicated that real phenomena were being reported which had flight characteristics so far in advance of US aircraft that only an extra-terrestrial origin could be envisaged.” The weather balloon hypothesis, so often suggested by the USAF to explain away UFO sightings, now seems insufficient. Turner adds that a component of the CIA (the Office of Scientific Intelligence (OSI)) has been studying UFO reports “with the intention of determining the UFO propulsion methods.”
2 - A campaign to discredit UFOs
Turner then writes that, as early as 1953, the very same CIA persuaded the USAF to “use its UFO investigation program ((Project Blue Book, 1947-1969)) as a means of publicly debunking UFOs”, adding that the agency feared an overload of communication channels in the event of a new wave of UFOs like the one observed the previous year, which could have benefited the USSR.
The physicist goes on: the CIA also asked the USAF to “allocate funds for the Avro advanced “saucer aircraft and the launching of a crash programme into anti-gravity power.” The man at the head of the Australian nuclear intelligence division points out that “to initiate such programmes decades ahead of normal scientific development would indicate that the US Government acknowledged the existence of advanced ‘aircraft’ which presumably used a gravity-control method of propulsion”. He also adds that “an additional motivation could have been the fear that the USSR would achieve this goal before the US”. This would explain the urgency conveyed by the CIA to the USAF.
3 - Secret agenda, complacent allies and discordant voices
Harry Turner goes on to explain this shift in attitude towards the topic: “By erecting a façade of ridicule, the US hoped to allay public alarm, reduce the possibility of the Soviet taking advantage of UFO mass sightings for either psychological or actual warfare purposes, and act as cover for the real US programme of developing vehicles that emulate UFO performances.”
The JIO physicist, albeit working for an organization which comprises intelligence services from all three bodies of the Australian armed forces, then offers this surprising tackle :
“The RAAF ((Royal Australian Air Force)) together with many other countries of the World give credence only to the USAF public façade and appear to have uncritically accepted the associated information.” At which point Turner mentions discordant voices from inside the US, writing: “This information has been widely discredited by retiring US service personnel formerly engaged on UFO investigations, as well as by scientists and private citizens.” Later on in the report, its author names founding director of the CIA Admiral Hillenkoetter as one of the voices opposing the official line after he left the institution.
4 – The investigation ends… officially
Then mentioned is the Condon report – a document advising the USAF to shut down its UFO investigation program named Project Blue Book. “The conclusions of the Condon report conflict with its own contents and has [sic] been discredited by many reputable scientists including the UFO scientific consultant to the USAF”. Said consultant is J. Allen Hynek, lead scientist on Project Blue Book. Turner goes on: “In accordance with the recommendations of the Condon report, Project BLUE BOOK was terminated, but presumably this would have little effect on the main programme.” Note Turner's very matter-of-fact assertion that there is a covert government program studying UFOs, half a century before the existence of AATIP ((UAP study program hosted by the Pentagon, 2007-2012)) was revealed, and even longer before David Grusch's evocation of a program hidden from Congress itself.
5 – A call to action
Having painted this somewhat disturbing picture, the physicist recommends a change of attitude: “It would appear wrong for Australia to remain ignorant of the true situation. We lack an intelligence viewpoint that can assess the nature and possible consequences of the problem, a scientific viewpoint that could derive scientifically valid data from the reports and a public relations viewpoint that can honestly satisfy public interest.”
After these few breathtaking paragraphs, Harry Turner goes deeper in a detailed history, based on "official reports and statements made by the CIA, USAF, Congressional hearings and Project Blue Book records".
The second part of the report, devoted to suspected UFO weapon systems, is a compilation of cases from astronomer J. Allen Hynek and data scientist Dr Jacques Vallée, also a former Project Blue Book consultant. It is equally worth a look, and the reader is encouraged to explore it.
A plea embraced by Turner’s boss
Harry Turner's report is now freely available in its entirety on the website of the National Archives of Australia, as part of an archive containing some other documents also worth mentioning. Such is a letter from his director, R.W. Furlonger, written on the same day as Turner’s report, and addressed to the Deputy Secretary of Defense. In this letter, the man at the head of the JIO proposes a course of action for the study of UFOs.
If Furlonger's letter does not mention the Turner report, although he received it on the same day, it is conceivable that there is a correlation between the delivery of the report and his letter to the Deputy Secretary.
Did Director Furlonger write the letter because of what he read in the Turner report, suddenly determined to act? If the timing of the documents is anything to go by, that seems dubious. Indeed, how could a senior official read such a report, draw detailed recommendations from it, and officially send them to the Secretary of Defense, without taking even a day to think about it? The illustrious career of this former UN diplomat and future ambassador to Indonesia and Austria, does not suggest an impulsive and inconsistent character.
Another theory about the simultaneity between Turner's report and his director's letter is coordination between Turner and his boss. The report could, for example, have been commissioned to Turner by his director, to support the recommendations he was preparing to make to the Secretary of Defense. In any case, Director Furlonger mentions in his letter “sufficient evidence from RAAF and US reports of investigations of UFO sightings to indicate that some reports cannot readily be explained by natural phenomena or man-made activities”, and then adds: “Thorough investigation of selected Australian reports of UFO sightings seem to be warranted.” Furlonger continues: “Significant JIO resources should not be devoted to this until it can be clearly shown from the results of the investigation that a strategic intelligence interest exists.”
Is the presence of a year-old section in the Turner Report dedicated to UFO weapons a coincidence? Or are these 'weapons systems' being addressed here to generate the strategic interest mentioned by Furlonger?
Turner Vs the Air Forces
The next document in this decidedly fascinating archive offers further insight - a note addressed to Furlonger’s JIO a year earlier, from RAAF Commander T.W. Murphy. Along with the note is joined the USAF press release announcing the end of their Blue Book investigation just two weeks earlier, to which Commander Murphy adds: "In view of this conclusion and decision by the USAF, we are investigating the possibility of reducing the RAAF effort in investigating UFO reports in Australia.”
This gives further meaning to what Turner wrote the following year: “The RAAF (…) give credence only to the USAF public façade and appear to have uncritically accepted the associated information.” It is also of note that, on the very same day, Furlonger suggested in his letter that “responsibility for UFO investigations” be transferred from the RAAF to the Department of Supply.
Harry Turner's report reads like an attempt to stand up to the knee-jerk reaction of an Australian air force loyal to its American big brother - still accused today of carrying out "a disinformation campaign to discredit reported sightings of unexplained objects", as written in the article published last week in The Debrief revealing David Grusch's testimony. The whistleblower himself has talked to journalist Ross Coulthart about a "sophisticated disinformation campaign targeting the US populace".
Unlike former CIA chief Hillenkoeter, who spoke out once he was out of the system, Turner seemingly tried to oppose the American attitude on the UFO problem from within. His call for transparency wasn’t any more successful, as the RAAF was still declaring in 2021 that it was not dealing with UFOs / UAPs.
Another interesting exchange took place, just last February, between the RAAF Marshall and Australian Senator Peter Whish Wilson, in the wake of the incursion in US airspace by several objects. When asked if the RAAF had been “briefed by the Pentagon or by the UAP Task Force in recent months”, the current Marshall just replied “no sir”. A surprising notion, considering the existence of the Five Eyes intelligence alliance bonding the two countries along with Canada, New Zealand and the UK. But even more notably, it seems to contradict the White House’s John Kirby, who said, just two days before: “The U.S. is consulting with allies and partners on the challenge of identifying aerial phenomenon”.
The existence of the Turner Report shows beyond the shadow of a doubt that the US government's role in UAP has been debated within administrations for many decades. 50 years on, that debate is still ongoing. And apparently, it's far from over: according to journalist Ross Coulthart, additional whistleblowers, some of whom have actually worked in the secret programs mentioned by Grusch, are about to come forward.
Further information on Harry Turner's career can be found in the book In Plain Sight, by Australian journalist Ross Coulthart (chapter 6), from HarperCollins.