When the Condon Committee was sampling public attitudes towards UFOs, they gave this statement to a cross section of the American public: "A government agency maintains a Top Secret file of UFO reports that are deliberately withheld from the public." The respondents were supposed to answer TRUE or FALSE. A substantial majority, sixty-one percent, thought that the statement was true, while only thirty-one percent said it was false. Among teenagers, the credibility gap was even wider--73 percent believed the statement to be true.
General opinion studies conducted by the Condon Committee, and other surveys about UFO's came up with the rather paradoxal fact that there were more people who believed in a conspiracy of silence about UFOs than believed in UFOs in the first place. It has often been said that we Americans today are a bit paranoid; that we always tend to believe that something is out to get us, or something is being kept from us. It certainly seems that we were a bit paranoid about UFOs.
Most people thought vaguely in terms of an Air Force conspiracy or a CIA conspiracy or even of a world-wide scientific conspiracy. It was generally acknowledged that the reason behind such a conspiracy was a desire on the part of those in power to hide the "truth" from the public because people would panic if they knew that we were really being visited by superior creatures from another world. Conspiracy theorists constantly harkened back to the old "War of the Worlds" broadcast, and the panic it started.
Such a belief, however, is rather to simple for the true connoisseur of conspiracies. He has long rejected the simple, straightforward Air Force - CIA - science establishment - cover-up as to obvious, and really rateher ridiculous. The conspiracy connoisseur pointed out quite correctly that no government or group, no matter how powerful, could possibly supress so much sensational information for so long - no earthly group that is.
If the extraterrestrials WANTED to make themselves known then they would land in a central place, and all feeble earthly cover-up would simply be blown away. It is out of this sort of background that the legend of the Men in Black arose. It concerns strange little men in dark suits who drive around in big shiny cars and harass people who claimed to have seen a UFO.
The concrete nature of the phenomenon was accepted by the United States Air Force, who were concerned that persons passing themselves off as USAF personnel should be visiting UFO witnesses. In February 1967, Colonel George P. Freeman, Penatagon spokesman for the USAF's Project Bluebook, told UFO investigator John Keel in the course of an interview: "Mysterious men dressed in Air Force uniforms or bearing impressive credintials from government agencies, have been silencing UFO witnesses. We have checked a number of these cases, and these men are not connected to the Air Force in any way, we haven't been able to find out anything about these men. By posing as Air Force officers and governemnt agents, they are committing a Federal offence. We would sure like to catch one, unfortunately the trail is always too cold by the time we hear about these cases, But we are still trying."
Of all the interesting aspects of MIB, perhaps most intriguing is that fact that the existence of MIB has been all but officially recognized by the United States government. On March 1, 1967, Lt. General Hewitt T. Wheless, the assistant Vice Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force sent the following memorandum to a number of defense agencies, including Strategic Air Command (SAC):
Information, not verifiable, has reached Hq USAF that persons claiming to represent the Air Force or other Defense establishments, have contacted citizens who have sighted unidentified flying objects. In one reported case, an individual in civilian clothes, who represented himswelf as a member of NORAD, demanded and recieved photos belonging to a private citizen. In another, a person in an Air Force uniform approached local police and other citizens who had sighted a UFO, assembled them in a school room and told them that they did not see what they thought they saw and that they should not talk to anyone about the sighting. All military and civilian personnel and particularly Information Officers and UFO Investigating Officers who hear of such repots should immediately notify their local OSI offices.