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National Archives UFO Files

The Ministry of Defence is currently declassifying its UFO files and releasing them to the National Archives. Nick Pope worked on these files and has been involved in the release programme.

In late 2007 the MoD made a policy decision to release its entire archive of UFO files. There were four reasons for this:

 •    The MoD was receiving more Freedom of Information Act requests on UFOs than on any other subject.
 •    The French government had released their UFO files in 2007, setting a precedent that would have been difficult to ignore.
 •    MoD believed this would be a good way to demonstrate their commitment to the Freedom of Information Act and to open government.
 •    MoD hoped that releasing the files would defuse the accusation that they were covering up information on UFOs.

The first reason was the key one. Hundreds of people were bombarding the MoD with FOI requests and the administrative burden of responding to the hundreds of requests was becoming unbearable. MoD realised that if they released the files proactively, most FOI requests could be dealt with by simply referring people to the National Archives. In December 2007 the MoD confirmed to Nick Pope that the policy decision had been taken and he duly broke the story in the media.

There are around 200 files in all, including ones from the Defence Intelligence Staff. Files vary in size, but some contain several hundred individual pages of documentation. There are files covering sighting reports, public correspondence, policy issues and discussions concerning how to handle the subject in Parliament and with the media. MoD decided not to release the material all in one go, mainly because of the administrative burden of redacting the files, i.e. deleting any information covered by the various exemptions to the Freedom of Information Act, ensuring that classified information and personal data isn't released.

As Nick Pope had worked on these files, the National Archives asked him to assist with the release programme by helping select a range of cases to highlight to the media: some explained, some unexplained and some humorous. They also asked him to make a short film to promote the release.

The first batch of files was released on 14th May 2008 and eight further releases have occurred. The programme is not expected to be completed until early 2013 when the final batch of files will be released.

Nick Pope has written feature articles about the release of these files for The Times, The Guardian, The Sun and The Mirror. He has been interviewed on the subject by a vast range of TV and radio shows, including Newsnight, ITN News, CNN News, Larry King Live, Good Morning America, Sky News, GMTV and Radio 4’s Today programme.

Nick Pope’s overall assessment of this material is as follows:

“These are the real-life X-Files. Most UFO sightings had conventional explanations, but a small percentage remained unexplained. These included cases where UFOs were seen by police officers, chased by pilots and tracked on radar. Whatever you think about UFOs, the release of these files shines a light on one of the most intriguing subjects ever studied by the British government”.

More details on these newly released UFO files from the UK government can be found here.

The National Archives promotional video where Nick Pope announces the release of the MoD UFO files