The man behind the UK’s UFO desk doesn’t hold back in new interview

UFO

MYSTERY WIRE — The UFO mystery is an international phenomenon. Here in the U.S., the Pentagon carried out a secret investigation of UFOs for decades.

A similar investigation was carried out by Britain’s Ministry of Defense.  But are the two countries sharing UFO information? 

THE MAN AT THE UFO DESK

For 21 years, Nick Pope worked for Britain’s Ministry of Defense (MOD), three of those years on what was called the UFO desk where he responded to questions from the public and media about crop circles, UFO incidents, and other mysterious inquiries. Pope says he also worked as an investigator on many UFO cases submitted to the MOD. 

Nick Pope

Britain’s UFO investigations reportedly ended in 2009 and Pope says about 95% of the once-secret files have been released, but that may not be the end of it.

“I think more information has been exchanged,” Pope said during an interview with Mystery Wire when asked if he thinks the UK and US are sharing information. “I’ve seen media reports suggesting that the UAP Task force has for some time now been sharing its interim conclusions and some of the raw data about UFOs, across five-eyes nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States). And there have certainly been reports of some of that information going on the secure servers to which the British GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), have access.”

In late June the UK House of Lords held an open debate about UFO investigations. “They took rather a negative and robust line and Baroness Goldie for the Ministry of Defense stood up in the House of Lords and she said, we see no reason to restart investigations in this,” Pope said. “I mean, my old section, the plug was pulled on investigations at the end of 2009. And she stood up recently and said no, we’re not going to do this again. We looked at this for decades, were convinced that there’s nothing of sort of defense threat. So we are not going to re-engage. And I said, at the time when I was asked by the media that I thought this was a huge mistake.”

THE DEVIL’S OWN

When it comes to recovered crash debris and metamaterials, Pope said investigating this in the UK and trying to get to information behind closed doors is difficult because of a similar issue investigative journalists deal with here in the US.

“I saw this myself in the UK, the people who are dealing with this, they came up through the military or through the government, then they retired or got headhunted into the military.” Pope said. “They kept their security clearance. And they’re doing it outside of the system. And yeah, it’s the Devil’s own, unfortunate turn of phrase given what we were discussing previously, but it’s the Devil’s own business, to try and pry it out of their hands and into the system. And of course, with all of this, they’re always thinking, well, the more people you share it with, the more likely it’s going to leak to the media, the more likely it is that if there’s a spy, passing information to a foreign power, that it’s going to get out. And of course, as you’ve seen from the letters from people like Harry Reid, they talk about the catastrophic damage to the national interest that would result if any of these technologies did get into the hands of an adversarial nation.”

REMAINING OPTIMISTIC

With this year’s UFO report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) it has spurred a new interest in the UFO topic, leading to national news outlets reporting on the issue and television networks scrambling to produce relevant content. “I think we are in new territory,” Pope told Mystery Wire. “A phrase that I’ve often used about this and others, too, is that this subject has absolutely transitioned out of the fringe and into the mainstream.”

Pope also said while there are still some issues there is still a stigma to overcome. “If you think where we were, you know, three and a half, four years ago, essentially in a position where if a journalist had called up, DOD public affairs and said, What’s your line on UFOs? The response would have been, nobody’s interested. And nobody’s investigating.”

But he remains encouraged that the UFO topic is not a partisan political issue currently. “I’m hugely encouraged by this,” Pope said. “And I’m also hugely encouraged by the fact that after ODNI published this preliminary assessment, and it’s important to say it is only a preliminary assessment, that lots of people in Congress spoke out about this and said, well this is a start, but there’s more work to do. And we must keep our foot on the gas pedal with this. And sure enough, as I think you’ve reported and know anyway, I mean, this is now in the intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022.”

Pope plans to share what he knows as the keynote speaker at the MUFON (Mutual UFO Network) International Symposium, one of the premier UFO gatherings in the world. It begins on Friday, August 27 and runs through the weekend.


MYSTERY WIRE DOCUMENTS
2013 UK UFO file release

RELATED: UK National Archives UFO Files 2008 – 2012


George Knapp
Nick Pope, it’s always great to see you.

Nick Pope 
Thank you. It’s good to be on the show and great to have a chat about all this at this absolutely fascinating time for this topic.

George Knapp  
I don’t know if you’ll remember this. In fact, I’m sure you probably won’t. But in 1994, myself and some colleagues went to the UK to chase some crop circles during crop circle season. And we’d heard these stories from UK researchers that they were under surveillance by the Ministry of Defense. And so I figured, well, heck, I’m in London, I’m gonna go ahead and call the Ministry of Defense, and I called up the MOD, with some UFO crop circle related questions. And the person they I got to speak to was you. I have it on my notes.

Nick Pope  
Yes, yeah. I was the guilty party. I was the, I guess the interface between the department and both the media and the public for this. So it was quite a wide brief actually, because as well as handling the policy and the investigations, as I say I had to deal with correspondence, the lines to take with the media. So it was quite an interesting time for sure.

George Knapp 
How many years were you on the UFO desk?

Nick Pope  
It was actually just three, I was doing that job from 91 to 94. So everyone kind of thinks that this is the only thing I did at the Ministry of Defense. But that’s absolutely not true. I was there at the MOD for 21 years as a civilian employee. So my time on the UFO project was really just one posting in a much wider career there.

George Knapp  
Because you came from that background and had that work experience, are you labeled as a secret agent, a debunker, as an intelligence agent on a long term mission now? Even now, or is that all gone?

Nick Pope 
Oh, no, it’s very much alive. And if you search on the internet for phrases like ‘Nick Pope still secretly working for the government,’ ‘once a spook always a spook’ I saw the other day. Yeah, it absolutely goes on. And particularly because I and a number of people, when we do media work, we give a sort of insider perspective on how governments view this phenomenon. And it’s not an official view. But obviously, with my background, it is seen through that lens, I can only see it through that lens. And so I talk about it in terms of threats and opportunities, which is just the lens through which government looks at a whole bunch of things. But because of that I have been accused, particularly in the last year or so, of being part of a small group of people who allegedly it’s our job to ramp up the threat narrative and to be all sorts of war mongering and fear mongering about this. And that has, I guess, fueled the rumors that I’m still secretly working for the MOD.

George Knapp
I see that as a real valuable point of view to have in understanding how governments respond to the overall mystery. I do see you attacked for a variety of things online, as we all are. Anybody in this field take some bumps and bruises. Were there secrets that you knew that existed but you did not have access to related to UFOs? I mean, here in the US, it’s a need to know basis, there are stovepipes of information. So are there bits and pieces that you’ve had hints of, wisps of that you’d really like to know more, but have never known for sure.

Nick Pope 
It’s difficult to be certain on that. I mean, this is one of those areas where you certainly can’t prove a negative, I mean as you say, somebody has access to classified information is determined by two things. And that’s certainly in the UK, but also in the US and in most nations. And firstly, it’s your security clearance, the level of that clearance and I had a TS/SCI clearance. So I think I pretty much had everything I needed there. And the second one, of course, the need to know principle so you can have the highest clearance in the whole department. But if it’s not your particular part of ship, you won’t get in. Now I’d like to think that I had both the clearance and the need to know, but as I say it’s one of those areas where I don’t know what I don’t know. And of course I can’t prove that there was a level above and beyond me, someone sitting in a basement office somewhere doing things on this that I didn’t know about. So for example, and I articulated this myself in relation to AATIP. I said, well people have found a UFO program, but have they necessarily found the UFO program, maybe there are more programs in multiple agencies.

George Knapp
Yeah, yes. You know, it seems like the last 10 years, maybe not quite that long. But the UK, we’ve seen these periodic announcements where the UK Ministry of Defense is releasing its UFO files. We’re given all this stuff away this time. Yeah, this is the last remnants of our UFO files, and then they keep releasing more. Do you have a sense of where they are in terms of what’s been released and what might still remain behind closed doors?

Nick Pope 
Really, this time, it is about 95%. Done. What’s happened before, it’s been almost literally a comedy of errors with them saying, okay, that’s all the files, and then finding more. Sometimes, because things exist across multiple divisions. So for example, the division where I worked, we had a bunch of files, but the air defense division at Ministry of Defense headquarters that dealt with radar, they basically had almost like a mirror set of files, the same information, because of course, every single investigation we did, we brought in the radar experts, because one of the first questions is, Hey, did you track anything? So they kept finding more files, and people slapped in more and more Freedom of Information Act requests, and people looked in the back of dusty old cupboards, and oh, look, we found another one. But this time hand on heart, we really are almost completely there. And I think it is true to say that almost literally the only files yet to have been released are some public correspondence files, some Freedom of Information Act requests and responses, fairly modern. So nearly done, but not quite. But yeah, I mean, what started as a good news story about open government and Freedom of Information became a public relations disaster, because it really looked as if we were dragging our feet. And, by the way, before I start any more conspiracy theories, I say we for two reasons, firstly, because you can’t work anywhere for 21 years without, you know, just thinking. That’s what you do. But secondly, I did come out early, I took early retirement in 2006, I did come back to help with the file release program, and do a whole bunch of interviews to promote it. But as I say, we turned a good news story about open government into a bad news story about bureaucracy and delay.

George Knapp
Can you give me your take on the relationship between the US and the UK? Our defense department, your ministry of defense on this issue. Seems like over the years, the UK, Australia, Canada, our closest allies have sort of followed the lead of the US Department of Defense on the UFO issue in terms of how transparent to be, Is that still the case? And if so, do you think … or was it ever the case? And if so, if it is still the case? Is there any change in attitude within the Ministry of Defense, in light of changes that have happened here, the transparency that sort of at least opened up a little bit in the US?

Nick Pope 
Well, interestingly, there has actually been a sort of parting of the ways between the US and the UK on this. And you’re quite right, I mean, obviously, previously, one would expect, although it didn’t often happen, but some degree of cooperation and certainly a common front in policy between maybe the Five Eyes nations (Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States) and talking about intelligence sharing more generally. And again, one would hope and expect that the so-called special relationship between the US and the UK would be a factor, but unfortunately, it’s not. And what happened literally in the last few weeks, there was a debate about this in the House of Lords. So one part of the UK Parliament and the Ministry of Defense, when they responded to a question about the ODNI report to Congress in the US. And the question was basically, well, what does the UK know and think about this? And given that the US government is effectively re-engaging, or at least, perhaps I’ll say, acknowledging the engagement to an extent that wasn’t previously the case. Will the UK do the same? But they took rather a negative and robust line and Baroness Goldie for the Ministry of Defense stood up in the House of Lords and she said, we see no reason to restart investigations in this. I mean, my old section, the plug was pulled on investigations at the end of 2009. And she stood up recently and said no, we’re not going to do this again. We looked at this for decades, were convinced that there’s nothing of sort of defense threat. So we are not going to re-engage. And I said, at the time when I was asked by the media that I thought this was a huge mistake. Firstly, I was not even convinced they taken that decision on the basis, the full classified report, I suspect that some desk officer with no corporate memory of policy on this topic, because as I say, we pulled the plug in 2009 just simply read the same unclassified nine page summary that the media and the public saw and said no, nothing here for us. Very disappointing.

George Knapp
Well, I mean, that nine page report, as disappointing as it is, to some people was very encouraging, at least from my perspective, in the change that it represents, and change an attitude from our DOD over the decades, it was a remarkable abrupt about face. I wonder if there was an exchange of information separate from just that nine page report between the two governments?

Nick Pope 
I think more information has been exchanged. And certainly this, I’ve seen media reports suggesting that the UAP Task Force has for some time now been sharing its interim conclusions and some of the raw data about UFOs, across Five Eyes nations. And there have certainly been reports of some of that information going on the secure servers to which the British GCHQ (Government Communications Headquarters), have access. So one of our intelligence agencies, so we have the information. But the question, as always, is what use are we going to make of that information? And if the British government, the Ministry of Defense, the intelligence community in the UK, has lost its corporate memory, the potential to turn this raw data into actionable intelligence is perhaps negatively impacted. So I think that’s one issue. But like you, actually, I took more comfort from the nine page, unclassified summary, than I think the UFO community did, because I think you and I read between the lines on this or we know the language that’s used, and certainly when I saw phrases, and I’m paraphrasing, but when I saw phrases like potential national security challenge, air safety threat, when I saw particularly the the references to a handful of cases showing the hallmarks of advanced technology, and specifically picking out things like radio frequency, energy and signature management, I mean, I looked at that, I was like, wow, I’m surprised that even made it into the unclassified report.

George Knapp  
Give me your lay of the land. You’ve lived in the US now for a number of years and follow all these issues very closely. Give me your sense of the lay of the land, the developments of the last couple of years, how the landscape has changed, where it might lead, you know, we always hear in the UFO community, everything is a plot. It’s all this information, that we’re all being fooled, nothing can be true. I have been greatly encouraged by the changes, the last couple of years. How the attitude of the media has changed, the interest by Congress, support open public support for the UAP Task Force or where it might go. So give me your take on where things are now versus five years ago.

Nick Pope 
Well, I absolutely share your optimistic perspective on this. I think we are in new territory. A phrase that I’ve often used about this and others, too, is that this subject has absolutely transitioned out of the fringe and into the mainstream. There are still some issues. There’s still some stigma to overcome. But absolutely, I mean, if you think where we were, you know, three and a half, four years ago, essentially in a position where if a journalist had called up, DOD public affairs, And said, What’s your line on UFOs? The response would have been, nobody’s interested. And nobody’s investigating. And now of course, what a lot of water under the bridge, AATIP, the US Navy, videos, the photos, the intelligence community personnel speaking out on the record about their involvement in some of these programs, people like Harry Reid, who was involved in setting them up speaking out. Some documents, not as many as we would like, but something of a paper trail backing this up. And of course, critically, the DOD, putting some of this on their own website. Press releases confirming that the Navy videos are genuine, and that they’re still unidentified, confirmation of the existence of the UAP Task Force of the Congressional interest. And the people who are speaking out about this. Now, I mean, everyone from former President Barack Obama to former DNI John Ratcliffe. So again, important to note that this is right across the political spectrum, it’s no one party issue. This is bipartisan. So I’m hugely encouraged by this. And I’m also hugely encouraged by the fact that after ODNI published this preliminary assessment, and it’s important to say it is only a preliminary assessment, that lots of people in Congress spoke out about this and said, well this is a start, but there’s more work to do. And we must keep our foot on the gas pedal with this. And sure enough, as I think you’ve reported and know anyway, I mean, this is now in the intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022. So the request is that there must be quarterly reports on this. So my goodness, yes, it has been an absolute change. But, in all of this, I still get the sense that within the system, as there has always been not just in the US, but in the UK, and I’ve lived it, there are factions on this issue. There’s a bit of a skeptic versus belief a dogfight. And now we’re beginning to see some pushback.

George Knapp  
Yeah, we’re seeing it in the media too. Seems like every week there’s another UFO special on some network or another. I’m featured in one on Showtime, a four partner, JJ Abrams, executive producer, very high profile, looks like it’s greatly edited. I have not seen it yet. But I’ve heard a lot of feedback from it. And it’s the same old debunking stuff. The whole thing is disinformation. The people like Lou Elizondo, and Chris Mellon, are counter intelligence agents, they’re taking us all for a ride, you’ve been around the topic long enough to know that everyone who surfaces in this field gets accused of that at some time or another.

Nick Pope
Absolutely, you can’t have done this subject for the government directly or indirectly without being the bad guy. And I’ve been accused of it Lou has Chris has I know you’ve been dragged in as well and accused because of your role in breaking some of these stories. And you know better than I. I mean, you’re just, you know, somebody who digs out information. And then you do what you do as an investigative journalist and a reporter and you want to put the information out there. And yeah, sure, sometimes you want to say what you think about it, but often you just dump it into the public domain and say, here it is, make what you will of it. But because you have ties to some of the people who’ve been involved in these programs, you get tarred with that brush, you get accused of being a disinformation agent, and I haven’t seen that show either. I wasn’t in that one. I mean, a couple of other upcoming ones, which I think you’re gonna hit literally in the next few days. I’ve lost track of this. I don’t know how they’ll turn out. But I think it’s like at the moment. It’s like, all the major networks are looking at this. And they’re saying, hey, we need to put our own show out there. So a lot of people scrambling around to quickly get something. The one you did. I mean, one of the ones you did, this JJ Abrams one, I know, had been in the pipeline for a long time, maybe with some of the things going on in Congress they did a quick last minute edit. I don’t know.

George Knapp
You know, we mentioned about the UAP Task Force this Intelligence document or a suggestion or legislation that was proposed to give them expanded powers. I thought that was really interesting. Again, sort of reading between the lines. We had heard rumblings that the Task Force had cast a wide net trying to as Congress ordered them to try to get files from all different entities inside the defense establishment, but that they had run into some roadblocks, that there was pushback. Notably, the Air Force has been silent since these revelations, change and policies have come out over the last couple of years. The suggestion now that they put it in legislation that gives the task force expanded powers to get access to things that they have not had access to before, is a pretty big step forward I think.

Nick Pope  
It is a big step forward. But there’s still this attitudinal problem to overcome. And part of it is just an inbuilt skepticism. Part of it is, and I don’t know if we should even go down this route. But of course, there have been stories, and I’ve seen this from Lue. And I’ve come across similar things in the UK, that there is a small faction, somewhere in the government that thinks that this is real, but that it’s demonic. So you’ve got to deal with the pushback firstly, from the hard nosed skeptics who think it’s not real, but then from the people who think it’s real, but then it’s something else, and something that we shouldn’t be feeding by studying and giving it energy. So it’s a very, very complex situation. But I think, you know, it is good that this has gone into the act, but as in all of this, you will continue to get this pushback until and unless you get really strong leadership, because it’s one thing to stick it in the act. But it’s another thing to have somebody in the system at senior level driving this pushing their people and saying, look, if we’re not getting cooperation from the Air Force, I’m going to pick up the phone, and I’m going to call a four star general. And I’m going to kick rear ends and take names.

George Knapp
You know, I don’t know where you are on the crash retrieval materials, meta materials that are reportedly stashed here or there, I don’t believe that that kind of material would be in the hands of the military. But it’s more likely to be put into private hands as a buffer between the public and accountability and these strange materials, bodies wreckage, maybe entire craft. Would it be your assumption that if such materials exist, that there would be considerable reluctance on the part of those who have the stuff to give it up?

Nick Pope 
There’d be huge reluctance to give it up. I think firstly, anyone involved in the kind of highly classified deeply compartmentalized program that would obviously be, is jealously guarding to guard that anyway, it’s just hardwired into those people, whether it’s UFOs, or whatever it is. I mean, you said earlier, I think, working in silos. And that’s exactly the way it is. And you’re completely right about giving it this extra layer of protection, taking it even further outside the scope of the Freedom of Information Act, making congressional oversight from people like the armed services committees and the intelligence committees even more difficult by putting these programs into the private sector. And sometimes in the private sector. And I saw this myself in the UK, the people who are dealing with this, they came up through the military or through the government, then they retired or got headhunted into the military. They kept their security clearance. And they’re doing it outside of the system. And yeah, it’s the devil’s own, unfortunate turn of phrase given what we were discussing previously, but it’s the devil’s own business, to try and prise it out of their hands and into the system. And of course, with all of this, they’re always thinking, well, the more people you share it with, the more likely it’s going to leak to the media, the more likely it is that if there’s a spy, passing information to a foreign power, that it’s going to get out. And of course, as you’ve seen from the letters from people like Harry Reid, they talk about the catastrophic damage to the national interest that would result if any of these technologies did get into the hands of an adversarial nation. So I understand the reluctance, and it’s absolutely a factor.

George Knapp 
You’re coming to Las Vegas, you’ll be speaking at the International MUFON Symposium here in Las Vegas. What’s the title of your talk? What are you going to cover? And when do you speak?

Nick Pope 
Well, I’m doing the keynote, actually, I think it’s Friday night at the banquet. And so I’m just going to be roving around with a microphone and I might, my presentation actually is going to touch on many of the issues that we’ve talked about in this conversation. So it’s going to be a stock take of where we are and it’s good to be looking at this through the personal lens of somebody who’s done this for the British government. So hopefully, it’s going to be an insider perspective. But what I’m going to try and do is not only take stock of where we are, but try and do a project forward into where we might be in a year or two’s time. I’m going to talk about the pushback, I’m going to talk about how it’s going to need strong leadership from within the system, but also from various people in Congress to make sure we don’t lose momentum on any of this. And one of the things that I really want to highlight is the biggest, I think one of the biggest single challenges that the UAP Task Force has had and continues to have is finding out what information already exists. Because they’ve got to go to every one of the, what is it 17 or 18, constituent parts of the US intelligence community and into the private sector too and first of all, they’ve got to say, who has historic files on this? Maybe dating back to the 40s. But archival material buried somewhere or the other maybe not even digitized. So first of all, we need that. And secondly, we need to know which one of all of these agencies has a current program, or programs that deal with any of this because one of the most noticeable things about the ODNI report was that it was very modern. And I understand why. But, it’s almost as if the people writing it had forgotten that this is a story with an 80 year backstory. Where’s that backstory? It’s not in the nine page summary. And I understand why it’s not. It can’t be. I mean, you’ve got to start somewhere, you’ve got to focus on something. But that backstory, that near on 80 year backstory is there. And the challenge is going to be for the UAP Task Force to find out. You know where is the signal amidst the noise, and there’s a heck of a lot of noise, as we all know. But the signals there too, and they’ve got to find it. And it’s a huge challenge.

George Knapp  
One last question, Nick, you and I were on a TV show a couple of months ago, sitting on a panel, and we’re asked, I guess an obvious but uncomfortable question is what is it, what’s behind it? You know, what’s the explanation? Which of course, maybe you know, somebody who knows the answer, I do not. After 30 years of chasing this, I don’t know anyone who knows for sure. So we give our opinions as generic as they may be. Let me ask you this in a different way. Is this solvable? Can we reach a conclusion? Because, you know, some of the friends that I have here, Bigelow and his staff who worked on BAASS, AAWSAP, and NIDS, they looked at it as a much broader mystery than things flying around in the sky, nuts and bolts craft, and that you can’t figure out the big picture by only studying that. Have you considered the possibility that maybe this thing is always going to be just tantalizingly out of our reach, that it may be about the journey as opposed to figuring out an ultimate answer?

Nick Pope 
I have considered that. Yes. And I think absolutely, one sees it even in the nine page report, the acknowledgement that there’s probably not going to be a single neat solution to that. And I suspect that conclusion had its roots in some of the work that Robert Bigelow did and NIDS and BAASS and some of the people involved with that bringing in some of the things from Skinwalker for example. And having said that, I’m gonna give you a yes or no answer, because I’m a bureaucrat at heart, so why not? So firstly, the optimist in me says that any problem should be solvable. So why not? Maybe it just seems out of reach. Like sometimes if you’re climbing a mountain, and you think you’re getting to the top, and then you get to that bit and then you see there’s another crest a few 100 meters ahead of you, but eventually that mountain will have a true summit. So that’s one possibility. But the pessimist in me says, Yeah, maybe it is beyond our grasp and not beyond our grasp, because there isn’t necessarily a peak to the mountain but because of our human limitations. And going back to that three hour special that you and I sat on my answer to that final question, what do you think it is? My answer was, well, maybe it’s something for which currently, of state of human development and intellect, we have neither the language to describe nor the conceptual ability to understand. And the Astronomer Royal, once in the United Kingdom said about extraterrestrials, it might be like trying to explain quantum physics to a chimpanzee. Only this time, we’re the chimpanzees.

George Knapp   
My answer was sort of vague. You know, I think I said non-human intelligence. The real answer could be, it’s probably more than one thing. There’s more than one answer, but we’re gonna stick it out. I’m sure you’re sticking with it. And I am, too. And I look forward to seeing you at MUFON in Las Vegas a couple of days from now.

Nick Pope 
Absolutely. I’m looking forward to it. Looking forward to reconnecting with you, meeting the people in person and sharing some really fascinating information.

George Knapp  
Thanks, Nick, talk to you again. 

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