This video below originally aired on October, 15, 2015 on KLAS in Las Vegas, NV.
The written story has been updated to reflect the current date.

MYSTERY WIRE — When current and former CIA employees got together to talk about the Area 51 military base at a public forum, it was inevitable that the topic of UFOs would come up. It did and the former CIA staffers held their ground on old claims of most UFO sightings being spy planes.

Former Area 51 CIA agent Gene Poteat

“There’s nothing secret about Area 51”

Former Area 51 CIA agent Gene Poteat

This quote from former Area 51 CIA agent Gene Poteat sums up what most of the public thinks when the topic of Area 51 comes up. But when other CIA workers talked about their time at Area 51 they struck a different tone.

When asked about excessive secrecy that has surrounded classified projects at Area 51, CIA historian Dr. David Robarge wisecracked, “I can neither confirm nor deny that secrets can be kept.” Dr. Robarge was assigned to declassify information about the aircraft built for the CIA and tested at Area 51.

For almost 70 years, the CIA has grappled with secrecy concerning UFOs. After a nationwide wave of sightings in 1952, the agency convened the so-called Robertson Panel, which spent all of 12 hours studying UFO cases and concluded UFOs are not a threat to national security.

RELATED: Area 51 and the CIA: Secrets revealed by former base worker

The Robertson Panel’s report was contained within a larger internal CIA report by F.C. Durant, a CIA officer who served as Secretary to the Panel, which summarizes the activities of the panel and its conclusions. This wider document is commonly referred to as the Durant Report.

But the panel found the reporting of UFOs might be a threat to national security, so the agency recommended a policy of debunking UFO sightings. For years, the CIA denied any interest in UFOs at all, but it now admits cover stories were used. Documents obtained via public records laws show it continued to collect UFO information at least into the 1970s.

RELATED: CIA’s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-1990

During the event at the Atomic Testing Museum in Las Vegas, filmmaker Jeremy Corbell asked if the agency is still interested in UFOs. Robarge said it is not.

Robarge told the audience about a CIA report written a few years ago in which the agency claimed most of the UFO reports of the 1950s and 1960’s were caused by spy planes from Area 51, including the gangly U-2. “He found a 75 percent correlation between black projects and UFO sightings,” Dr. Robarge said.

Dr. Bruce Maccabee, a long-time physicist for the U.S. Navy, says such a claim is flat out preposterous. “It is preposterously still preposterous,” he said.

When the CIA first made its claim a few years ago, Dr. Maccabee did what most journalists never bothered to do. He checked. Did the number of UFO reports suddenly jump when the U-2 started flying? “The number of sightings before and after 1955 were essentially the same,” Dr. Maccabee said. “There was no impact on the sighting rate due to the sudden start of U-2 flights.”

Maccabee laid out his reasoning in a paper he wrote in 1999.

In Maccabee’s paper he concludes “there is no statistical support for a sudden increase in the number of sightings at sunrise or sunset when the U-2 started flying. In fact, the number of sightings in August 1955 was lower than during the previous month. In the early 1960’s many of the U-2s were painted black or other camouflage colors thus reducing the number of U-2’s that could potentially be seen by glint reflection from the sun. Aside from the statistics it should be pointed out that many unexplained sightings involved relatively nearby, structured objects, not nearly invisible distant points of reflected light. These objects were reported to move rapidly at speeds that would far exceed in apparent speed that of the U-2, flying at about 500 mph at 70,000 ft (the U-2 would seem to move slowly, if seen at all). The documented history of the agency involvement has been known to ufologists since late 1978 when the CIA, after an FOIPA lawsuit. The history has been published in “Clear Intent” by Larry Fawcett and Barry Greenwood, in “Above Top Secret” by Timothy Good and most recently in “The FBI-UFO Connection/the REAL X-files” by Bruce Maccabee (available from the author). There is little not previously known in the new, official CIA history. The CIA history is to be available on the web page of the Center for the Study of Intelligence at (where odci = Office of the Director of Central Intelligence…. shudder!)”

In a book he wrote, Maccabee notes UFO sightings were much higher in the years before the U-2 or SR-71 were even built. To point out the obvious, the spy planes don’t exactly look like flying saucers. They don’t behave like the craft in UFO reports which hover over cars or homes or land in backyards.

There were UFO sightings long before those planes ever flew and long after they stopped. The CIA, he says, is trying to pull a fast one again.

CIA employees and contractors who toiled in secrecy at Area 51 helped win the Cold War. They did so, in part, by using disinformation and cover stories, even with their own families. It is an agency known for relying on subterfuge and misdirection, but not a lot of truth.

When Dr. Robarge was asked whether the CIA encouraged the belief that some of its spy planes might have been UFOs, he said the agency wasn’t allowed to say anything to encourage such speculation but added they didn’t do anything to discourage it either.