The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) plans to release its classified files regarding UFO sightings to the public.
According to an article in yesterday's Guardian, the MoD will publish its files dating back to 1967 "within weeks", following the French government's decision to do so in March.
David Clarke, a lecturer in journalism at Sheffield Hallam University and author of Flying Saucerers: A Social History of UFOlogy, reckoned that opening the MoD's files could calm down the conspiracy theorists. "The more of this stuff that they put on their website or put in the national archives, the less it will cost the taxpayer, because at the moment people are writing in about individual incidents and they are having to respond," he told the Guardian.
In fact, it seems unlikely that any true conspiracy theorist worth his tinfoil hat would be pacified by anything short of spaceships and dead aliens on display in the Science Museum - and even then there would surely be some asserting that the real good stuff was being kept hidden.
In particular, a lot of people believe that the UK's version of Area 51/Roswell took place at Rendlesham Forest in 1980. The MoD has already made available reams of old bumf covering the incident, much of which is splendid conspiracy fodder: mysterious glowing objects, farm animals going into a frenzy, curious depressions left in the ground. And - aha! - cameras recording the air-defence radar picture were switched off at the time. If that's not evidence of a secret government conspiracy, we don't know what is. Even better, there is talk of heightened radiation levels in the forest.
It's hard to imagine any new documentation convincing people that nothing happened there. If the MoD is lucky it might see a slight drop in Freedom of Information Act requests and general time wasting, but quite likely not. As the Air Staff officer who handles such requests revealed last year, the level of public interest in UFOs is much more affected by the film industry than it is by anything that the MoD or (presumably) even the aliens may get up to. ®