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The BBC's Rob Watson in Washington
"20 witnesses: All ex-military and all deadly serious"
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Thursday, 10 May, 2001, 04:14 GMT 05:14 UK
UFO spotters slam 'US cover-up'
An alleged UFO above the Mexican city of Tecamachalco in 1997
Campaigners say the US Government hides the truth about aliens
By Washington correspondent Rob Watson

Neil Armstrong was not the first being on the moon. 

That, at any rate, is the position of the suitably sci-fi sounding Project Disclosure that launched a campaign in Washington on Wednesday.

It is aimed at persuading the US Congress to hold hearings on the existence of unidentified flying objects and extra-terrestrials. 

The campaign believes the US Government has known about the existence of UFOs for over 50 years but has been trying to hide it. 

'Alien life forms'

It was surely the strangest ever news conference hosted by Washington's august National Press Club.

Donna Hare was just one of over 20 witnesses, most of them ex-military, and all deadly serious. 

I was involved in situations where we actually did recoveries of crashed saucers.

former Army Sergeant Clifford Stone

Among them was former Army Sergeant, Clifford Stone, who said the US Government had tried to suppress what he had seen one strange day in Pennsylvania, back in 1969.

"I was involved in situations where we actually did recoveries of crashed saucers. There were bodies that were involved with some of these crashes. Also some of these were alive," he said.

"While we were doing this, we were telling the American public there was nothing to it. We were telling the world there was nothing to it," Mr Stone added.

So what, we all wondered, did they look like? Were these visitors from another world the antennaed, hideous, slime-trailing creatures of science fiction?

"You have individuals that look very much like you and myself, that could walk among us and you wouldn't even notice the difference," he said.

He claimed to have catalogued 57 different species of alien life forms.

Aliens for peace

The brains behind Project Disclosure is country doctor turned ambassador to outer space Steven Greer.

US Patriot anti-missile defence
Campaigners say aliens do not like the US missile defence plans

He says there are two reasons for the project: first, to persuade the US Government to reveal the astonishing planet-saving technology he says it has picked up from super-clever aliens, and second, to stop the Bush administration from annoying them by building weapons in space.

"We're not alone. There are life forms out there, which while they are not hostile, have clearly shown that they're not pleased with our tendency to put weapons in space," Mr Greer said.

But doesn't he think it will be tricky to walk into the White House and say to George W Bush: "Don't go ahead with missile defence. Aliens don't like it"?

"I don't think it's tricky at all. I think those discussions have happened in covert circles. I think the decision has been made to weaponise space anyway," Mr Greer added.

True believers

For the apparently very pro-alien audience, it was a news conference from heaven. 

If you got bombarded and shot down from the sky and mistreated, how would you behave?

Project instigator Steven Greer

One member of the audience said he believed people like Mr Greer much more than he believed the government.

"I know that major operators within the US Government are big liars," he said.

And when asked why extra-terrestrials had not come down and talked to the people of the world themselves, he asked, "if you got bombarded and shot down from the sky and mistreated, how would you behave?"

The press conference just confirmed the beliefs of another audience member, who said she had seen UFOs many times.

How would she respond to people who think that folks who believe in UFOs are crazy?

"They haven't seen them, and it's hard to believe anything unless you've experienced it," she said.

And that really is the problem in a nutshell.

Despite the impressive military credentials and undoubted sincerity of the witnesses, Congress is surely unlikely to move on their request for a hearing - unless a space ship lands on, or at least within sight of, Capitol Hill.

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