Correspondence with the Office of the
Australian Minister for Defence
© Keith Basterfield
Long-term readers of the Newsletters of the Disclosure Australia Project may recall that the Project published an in-depth interview with a former Department of Defence employee, Harry Turner, back in 2004. Among other things, Harry confirmed that he was in the Directorate of Scientific and Technical Intelligence (DSTI) of the Joint Intelligence Bureau (JIB) in 1968. He stated that he was the unofficial liaison point between JIB and the Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) on the subject of UFOs.
In 2005, wondering if would be possible to obtain official confirmation of any scientific research on UFOs carried out by the Department, I directed a letter to Robert Hill, then Minister for Defence, as follows:
“Over the last two years I have been locating and examining federal Government files relating to the subject of Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS), utlising both the Archive and FOI Acts.
I understand that up until 1994 the Department of Defence (DOD) was the federal government agency tasked with the collection and analysis of such reports from the general public. I further understand that in 1994 the DOD ceased this function and that from that date reports of UAS by members of the public to the DOD are referred to civilian UFO research organisations.
The current DOD website (at http://www.defence.gov.au access contacts under UAS) has a statement of the current position of the Dept. on UAS reports, which states in part:
“Current Defence policy on UAS where members of the public may have questions on, or seek to report sightings is to direct them to their local police authorities or civil Unidentified Flying Object (UFO) research organisations…”
DOD files I have examined demonstrate that between the 1950’s and early 1990’s, besides reports from the general public, the department received reports from members of the DOD, civilian airline crew and air traffic controllers.
I would therefore seek your response to the following questions:
1. If current UAS reports from the general public are referred onwards, what happens to reports made by members of the DOD, civilian airline crew and air traffic controllers?
2. How many reports have been made since 1994 to the DOD from members of the DOD, civilian airline crew and air traffic controllers?
3. If there have been any such reports made by members of the DOD, civilian airline crew and air traffic controllers since 1994 may I obtain full details of these?
4. Since 1994, has the DOD maintained any personnel whose duties include the monitoring, collection or analysis of UAS reports from members of the DOD, civilian airline crew and air traffic controllers?
5. In the years between 1947 and 1994 did the DOD ever conduct any scientific research into the subject of UAS, and if so, who conducted this research and what where their findings?
6. Given that the RAAF was the area of the DOD involved with the collection and analysis of UAS reports between 1947 and 1994, and publicly announced it was ceasing this function in 1994; did any other area of the DOD continue with this role between 1994 and today?
7. Has any area of the DOD conducted any scientific research into the subject of UAS between 1994 and today, and if so, who conducted this research and what were their findings?
I look forward to your response.”
A response, dated 18 November 2005 was received and read as follows:
“As you have correctly asserted, the Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) formely had a responsibility for investigating and assessing the validity of UAS. However, after careful examination of the factual data and historical records that had been gathered over many years, it was determined that the collective evidence did not warrant the continued allocation of resources by the RAAF to investigate and report on UAS. Subsequently, the RAAF ceased this function.
I can advise that Defence does not accept UAS reports, but directs any such reports to local police authorities or civil unidentified flying object research organisations, through the relevant state telephone directory. I can also advise that defence does not maintain records on UAS or on the number (if any) of attempts to report them. Neither does the RAAF maintain any personnel whose duties include the monitoring, collection or analysis of UAS reports from any source. In addition, Defence has never conducted any scientific research into UAS.”
So this was the Department of Defence’s definitive response, namely that: “Defence has never conducted any scientific research into UAS.”
An interesting read!
This is where the matter rested until I read a book in early 2007. “The Weapons Detective” by author Rod Barton was published in Melbourne in 2006 by Black Inc. Agenda. Barton was said to be “…recently retired Australian defence scientific intelligence officer” who worked in the Department of Defence. In 1977 he was transferred to the nuclear section of the Scientific and Technical Intelligence area of the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO.)
Barton states that the head of the nuclear section was one Harry Turner. Barton writes
“At the time of my joining the section, his abiding passion was the mystery of UFOs and he pursued the investigation of sightings using JIO resources. Although Bob Mathams was not happy about this, he turned a blind eye on the assumption that he could not have stopped Harry anyway.”
Here for the first time was a former JIO officer stating that another JIO officer had been investigating UFOs and independent confirmation of what Turner had told us in 2004. Barton went on to write “…Harry collected much of the reporting that came through RAAF Intelligence.”
I decided that these in-house comments suggested that perhaps the Department of Defence had indeed been conducting scientific research on UFOs.
So, on the 29 April 2007 I again wrote to the current Minister of Defence as follows:
“In a letter (copy attached) dated 18 November 2005, Senator the Hon Robert Hill, the then Minister of Defence responded to a series of questions I had directed to him concerning research I have been undertaking into the topic of “Unusual Aerial Sightings” (UAS).
One of the main aims of my research was to try and answer the question “Did the Department of Defence (DOD) ever conduct scientific research into UAS? My own research to date has led me to believe that the answer is no, the DOD did not conduct any scientific research. This negative answer was also given to me in the Minister’s letter of 2005.
However, a newly published book suggests otherwise. The book titled “The Weapons Detective” is written by Rod Barton (Black Inc. Agenda, Melbourne, 2006.) Author Barton is stated to be a “…recently retired Australian defence scientific intelligence officer.” The author further provides the information that in 1977 he was transferred to the nuclear section of the Scientific and Technical Intelligence area of the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO.)
On page 10 of the book (photocopy attached) Barton writes that, in relation to the subject of UFOs (UAS), that the head of the nuclear section “…pursued the investigation of sightings using JIO resources…collected much of the reporting that came through RAAF Intelligence.”
This suggests to me that at least one JIO staff member was conducting scientific research into UAS, contrary to the former Minister of Defence’s assertion, and my original belief.
In order to attempt to resolve this apparent contradiction I would seek your assistance by way of a response to the following questions, please. Where I refer to JIO, I also include its predecessor, the JIB; and its successor the DIO.
(1) Can you confirm the statement made by author Rod Barton that in 1977 he was a JIO staff member in the “nuclear section” of the Scientific and Technical Intelligence area?
(2) Given that the RAAF Directorate of Air Force Intelligence (DAFI) was tasked with receipt of, and investigation of UAS reports made to the Government between the early 1950’s and 1994, what was the relationship, if any, between DAFI and JIO in regards to the investigation of UAS reports?
(3) Did JIO undertake analysis of, or other scientific research on, UAS?
(4) If so, what were the findings, if any, of any scientific research carried out by JIO staff regarding UAS?
(5) Can you confirm that the then head of the “nuclear section” did in fact undertake scientific research into the subject of UAS?
(6) If so, when did this research commence and conclude?
(7) What was the nature of this research?
(8) Does any written JIO documentation still exist on the topic of UAS?
(9) If so, may I obtain a copy, to further my understanding of the Government’s interest in this topic? I have previously searched through National Archives of Australia files, and submitted several applications under the FOI Act to the DOD. However, none of the documents located concerning UAS was generated by the JIO. If access is denied to any such document which might be located I would appreciate advice under what grounds access is denied.
Thank you for your assistance in looking to resolve this apparent contradiction.”
A response was received, dated 4 June 2007 which read:
“Thank you for your letter of 29 April 2007 to the Minister for Defence, the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MP, regarding questions about possible involvement of Defence personnel in the investigation of Unusual Aerial Sightings (UAS). The Minister has asked me to respond on his behalf.
With respect to your queries about Mr Rod Barton’s book, I am unable to comment on the employment history of specific individuals. However, no Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) or Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) personnel have undertaken any official inquires into UAS. If any research into UAS was carried out by JIO or DIO personnel as Mr Barton’s book suggests, DIO has no record of such tasking or research.
RAAF’s Directorate of Air Force Intelligence did not work with JIO on UAS reports between the 1950s and 1994. As JIO did not conduct official scientific investigations into UAS phenomenon, there are no records held by DIO of such activities or investigations. Investigations of this nature lie beyond the remit of JIO.”
Some official memos found:
Following this letter I re-examined the Department of Air’s UAS Policy file 554/1/30 parts 1-3 then wrote another letter to the DOD as follows:
“Thank you for the letter dated 4 Jun 2007, from your adviser Lachlan M Colquhoun (copy attached) regarding my letter of 29 Apr 2007.
“I have re-examined RAAF file 554/1/30 parts 1 to 3 titled “ Investigation of Flying Saucers-Policy” which is publicly available in the National Archives of Australia (NAA.) A number of documents on this file mentions Defence Science; the JIO and Mr O H Turner of the JIO. These are as follows:
Attachment one NAA digital image p84 of file 554/1/30 Part 3 is a summary paper.
Commenting on Mr Turner “…he again approached DAFI from his new position in the Scientific Intelligence section of JIB. Permission was again given for him to investigate the UFO files…This permission was given unofficially by D/DAFI (Ops), with the Director’s agreement.”
This indicates to me that a JIB Scientific Intelligence officer was in fact researching DAFI files with DAFI’s concurrence.
Attachment two NAA digital image p162 of file 554/1/30 Part 2 a memo from DAFI dated 2 Jun 69
“In an attempt to obtain slightly more scientific data on sightings, the Defence Science Section…The use of these forms will enable a decision to be made by Defence Science personnel as to whether the sighting warrants further investigation. As Defence Science are the advisors on the reports…”
This indicates to me that JIB/JIO were actively involved in analysing UAS reports.
Attachment three NAA digital image p76 of file 554/1/30 part 2 a memo from DAFI to JIO dated 15 Jan 70.
“Further to teletalk Mr McMichael…”
The DIO’s current website lists Mr A W McMichael as Director JIB 1968-1969 and JIO Director 1978-1982. This indicates to me that DAFI and JIO were communicating about UAS in 1970.
Attachment four folio 16 of 554/1/30 part 3 a DAFI file note dated 24 Aug 73
These file notes report on a DAFI meeting, albeit labeled “unofficial” which involved Mr O H Turner, a member of JIO.
This sampling of documents taken together appear to indicate that at least between 1968 and 1973 DAFI and the JIB/JIO did indeed mutually work on UAS reports. The 1969 and 1970 documents strongly argue that the working relationship was an “official” one.
My questions today are:
(1) Given that even a cursory examination of the RAAF’s policy file on UAS reveals that there appears to have been a working relationship between DAFI and JIO on the subject of UAS, do you still maintain that “ RAAF’s Directorate of Air Force Intelligence did not work with JIO on UAS reports …”? (your quote.)
(2) Your letter stated that “…no Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) or Defence Intelligence Organisation (DIO) personnel have undertaken any official inquiries into UAS…” Does this mean that Mr Turner’s JIO research was completely “unofficial” despite apparently being undertaken in official time and utilising JIO resources?
(3) If “unofficial” how do you reconcile his advice given on a revised UAS report form May 1969 - ( attachment one) being “officially” adopted by DAFI? How do you reconcile him being given access to “official” DAFI UAS reports?
(4) I would appreciate your current answer to my original question “In the years between 1947 and 1994 did the DOD ever conduct any scientific research into the subject of UAS, and if so, who conducted this research and what were their findings?”
I fully appreciate that your response to the above will necessitate your deeper examination of RAAF and JIB/JIO historical files and speaking to current and former DAFI/JIB/JIO personnel, which will take some time, but I look forward to your detailed responses to aid my research.
I might add in closing that the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence has recently released their year 2000 report into UK UAS sightings, which was undertaken by their Scientific & Technical area. The report, memo 55/2/00 is available on the internet at
In view of the historically close links between the UK and Australian Defence Scientific & Technical areas, it would not be surprising if the Australian DOD did conduct scientific research into UAS, and not be inappropriate to acknowledge this, at this time.
Thank you again for your time.”
A reply dated 25 July 2007 read as follows:
“Thank you for your letter of 13 June 2007 to the Minister of Defence, the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MP, concerning your ongoing research into unusual aerial sightings (UAS). The Minister has asked me to respond on his behalf.
With respect to the issues in which you seek clarification, my advice remains that the Defence Intelligence Organisation has no record of formal tasking or scientific research into UAS. To assist in your research I recommend you consider applying to the National Archives of Australia for access to the following file:
Title: ‘Scientific Intelligence-General-Unidentified Flying Objects’
This file contains some correspondence sent to the Joint Intelligence Organisation (JIO) and held in accordance with legislative requirements. It doe not contain official JIO research or tasking. It also confirms that the JIO did not have sufficient resources to devote to UAS investigations, and that investigating UAS incidents was not a JIO priority. The file will remain security classified until it is reviewed and released in accordance with the Archives Act (Cwlth) 1983.
Access to Commonwealth records which are at least 30 years old may be obtained in accordance with Part V, Division 3 of the Archives Act. For further information concerning access to Commonwealth records I suggest you contact the National Archives of Australia who will be able to assist you with your enquiries.
I have enclosed the National Archives Service charter and some fact sheets to aid your enquiries.
I trust this information will be of assistance to you.
Lachlan M Colquohoun
Off to the Archives:
The day following the revelation that there was a JIB file on UFOs which stretched over a 15 year period, I visited the Adelaide office of the National Archives of Australia and submitted a request for access to the file whose details were contained in the letter from the Minister’s office.
At this stage I also alerted the Australian UFO community to the existence of this file via an email to the researchers area of the Auforn Yahoo list.
Now, it is a matter of waiting, probably for several months, to see if the Archives are able to (a) locate the file; (b) have the file examined and security cleared; and (c) released to me.