Simone Mendez was a young Air Force airman in 1981. She was granted Top Secret clearance as a telecommunications specialist with the 2069th Communications Squadron at Nellis Air Force Base of Area 51 fame.
As she explained by telephone while this writer was conducting research for the book The Greys Have Been Framed: Exploitation in the UFO Community, Mendez had an interest in UFOs before ever arriving at Nellis. She experienced a sighting years prior in her native Illinois. This resulted in forming relationships with members of the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), who Mendez continued to interact with throughout her Air Force service.
In October 1981, a male coworker, “Airman Green,” a pseudonym, approached Mendez at her off-base apartment. He had in his possession a multi-carbon copy of a purported classified transmission allegedly received at the message center where they worked. The document suggested the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) tracked a group of unknown objects originating from deep space. Some of the objects allegedly entered earth atmosphere, headed to Moscow, and hovered for over an hour. Mendez retained a copy of the form containing the message.
What unfolded over the next few months was a complex series of events that, now some 40-plus years later, are still muddled and murky. Airman Green's former girlfriend – a civilian - showed up at the apartment of Mendez in January 1982, informing Simone the mysterious document was a fake and she was to immediately accompany her to the base. Mendez voluntarily did as requested and turned over her copy to the Air Force. She then underwent months of emotionally grueling interrogation from both the FBI and Air Force Office of Special Investigations (OSI), which included threats of long-term imprisonment. Her apartment was thoroughly searched and correspondence was confiscated.
She was eventually cleared of all spying and espionage charges, but not before her security clearance was revoked. She was relegated to working in the laundry at Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma. Interestingly, OSI continued to occasionally visit her and discuss her activities, such as attendance at a MUFON conference.
It should not be difficult for most UFO enthusiasts to empathize with the precariousness of the unforeseen situation in which the 21 year-old Mendez abruptly found herself that October day in 1981. She more recently indicated she now suspects the document was, in fact, a forgery. That was the position of the Air Force as clarified and pointedly explained via FOIA documents eventually released.
Researchers such as George Hansen (The Trickster and the Paranormal) and your author suspect Mendez may have gotten caught up in a counterintelligence operation, something potentially designed to track information lines through MUFON and the UFO community and, more specifically, identify bad actors within. Think throwing a dye pack in a sinkhole and seeing where it comes out. Hansen in particular suggested that Mendez's interest in UFOs and contacts in MUFON may have not been coincidental, but exploited.
For more information on the Simone Mendez case, see Just Cause: Number 28, June, 1991: Airman Mendez vs the Bureaucracy: A Case of UFO “Espionage” and Just Cause: Number 29, September, 1991: Airman Mendez vs the Bureaucracy – Part Two. The two publications reflect the successful efforts of Mendez and researcher Barry Greenwood to obtain her service records and select material released through the FOIA, which validated her descriptions of the chain of events.
See also a 2018 interview of Mendez conducted by Paul Carr of Aerial Phenomena Investigations.
To better understand the context of the Mendez case, it is useful to consider the Wild West era of 1980s ufology and, particularly, events surrounding the Air Force's Richard Doty. It was during the same time Mendez was approached with bean-spilling records that Linda Moulton Howe, Bill Moore, and the ill-fated Paul Bennewitz do-si-doed with Doty around Kirtland Air Force Base.
Not entirely unlike Mendez, Moulton Howe was shown records by Doty, purporting to represent paradigm-shifting official documentation of an extraterrestrial presence on a grand scale. Significantly, Bennewitz was also presented with documents co-conspirators Moore and Doty would later acknowledge were false, but not before furthering the man's descent into delusional fear the planet was under attack by aliens.
Quite interestingly, Doty received no clear consequences or scrutiny for floating the fraudulent records around, and certainly not to the extent as experienced by Mendez, who was not even the creator of the document passed to her. Neither did Mendez circulate any such bogus records as was the case with Doty. Was OSI tilling the UFO community in an effort to uproot spies?
George Hansen put forth in The Trickster and the Paranormal that individuals such as Doty might be recruited for OSI precisely because of their troubled UFO pasts, not in spite of them. By the time Doty was dancing with Moore and Moulton Howe, his dubious involvement with ufology was already known and, Hansen argued, may have been viewed as advantageous: He could be easily discredited if he was caught in something that embarrassed the Office. Moreover, it was possible OSI had similar plans for Mendez after she was cleared of charges, which might explain its continuing contact with her.
For further information on the Doty entourage, see Mark Pilkington and company's Mirage Men, Greg Bishop's Project Beta, and Adam Gorightly's Saucers, Spooks and Kooks.
Other 1980s news of note includes the case of Vincente “Vinnie” DePaula. He immigrated to the United States from Cuba as a child and grew up to work in the defense industry. According to a website maintained by Ron Regehr, DePaula worked on classified satellite systems. Regehr also worked in the defense industry, and that's how he apparently met and befriended Vinnie.
In addition to career paths, the men also shared an interest in UFOs. Regehr was a longtime staple of MUFON and the UFO community. DePaula seems to have likewise become active in MUFON circles.
Vinnie DePaula subsequently had reason to draw an alien head. Whatever those reasons may have been, they involved the identity of an individual DePaula preferred to keep secret. The drawing received a certain amount of notoriety around ufology, reportedly triggering a series of interrogations conducted by the Defense Intelligence Service, or DIS, later integrated into the Defense Security Service. The DIS seemingly wanted to know who described the alien to DePaula that was portrayed in the drawing.
According to Regehr's website, four interrogations took place between April 18 and October 31, 1986, totaling 41 hours. A session initiated on August 22 reportedly went on for some 28 hours. Vinnie would later proclaim he “didn't tell them a damned thing.”
Unfortunately, FOIA requests submitted in 2015 did not bear fruit. The Defense Security Service indicated it did not retain any such records that may have been compiled by its predecessor on DePaula in 1986.
Those in MUFON circles and the surrounding community at large seemed to believe DePaula was harassed for reasons related to government investigation of extraterrestrials. This also seemed to be thought to involve his awareness of how satellite systems worked and the data that could be mined from them, presumably further informing DePaula's knowledge of alleged aliens and how their spacecraft maneuvered about the planet.
Giving everyone the benefit of the doubt that the timeline of events is close enough to accurate, alternative theories might include intelligence services becoming concerned with activities of employees. That might be the case when those issued security clearance and charged with classified satellite operations develop contacts who erode loyalties and confidence in the employer. That might be of further concern when those contacts seemingly undermine employers through the use of stories about aliens to the extent the employees conceal the identities of the contacts. It might be considered that extraction of classified information was of substantially more likely concern to intelligence agencies than pursuit of ET.
Such scenarios were by no means exclusively limited to distant yesteryear. In 2014 a video featuring an interview of scientist Boyd Bushman made a bit of a splash, at least around UFO circles, in which Bushman narrated sensational stories of the cover-up of alleged aliens. He even shared photos. Unfortunately for the late Mr. Bushman, the images of aliens were soon shown to bear striking resemblance to figurines sold at Walmart. Other images in his files were likewise adequately demonstrated to be out of context and misrepresented, or, simply put, fake.
The then-aged Bushman explained how during his career at Lockheed Martin he developed a network of contacts who exchanged stories – and obviously photos – about alleged otherworldly activities at Area 51. Bushman also made remarks about Chinese and Russian scientists collaborating with Americans, and that their interests included anti-gravity technology. Some of those scientists and he believed, Bushman added, that a great deal of classified information concealed at Area 51 should be brought out of the shadows so people could see it. Suffice it to say that's a pretty bright red flag of a position expressed by someone issued security clearance.
As a matter of fact, FOIA records released in 2016 show that in 1999, Lockheed Martin investigators became so concerned that Boyd Bushman was targeted for extraction of proprietary and/or classified government information that they notified the FBI. From the FBI records:
Additional FBI records released demonstrate the suspicious activities and subsequent questionable motives of those in Bushman's “network” who were presumably encouraging the sharing of classified information under the premise of penetrating the UFO cover-up:
In spite of what might seem to some as rather obvious instances of attempts to exploit one's interest in UFOs as a means to manipulate them, skeptics and believers alike often fail to grasp the implications. In some circumstances they no doubt simply do not understand the situations. After all, this is how people wake up to find themselves in the precarious and often legally perilous conditions in the first place: They were thinking about UFOs and didn't see it coming.
Others may have emotional aversion – as much as intellectual blinders - to the topic of UFOs as espionage tools. It tends to take all the fun out of a good goosebump-inducing tale of alien abduction or simple dismissal out of hand when fake photos and documents are involved. As Hansen suggested, the very absurdity of the circumstances potentially serves the perpetrators.
It also just doesn't fit the agenda of certain influencers or the UFO genre as a whole to drill down through the circumstances. It obviously is not in the interest of those who use the topic to exploit others to change streams and embark on increasing public awareness of the potential pitfalls of viewing the world exclusively through UFO glasses.
It has now been 70 years since the CIA funded a UFO think tank commissioned to assess the situation. While the purposes and intentions of the 1953 Robertson Panel will continue to be debated – as everything always is – within segments of the UFO subculture, perhaps the most salient section of the resulting report continues to ring true.
Although evidence of any direct threat from UFO sightings was deemed “wholly lacking,” Panel members and intelligence professionals were in agreement related dangers might well exist. That danger? Subjectivity of the public resulting in mass hysteria and greater vulnerability to possible enemy psychological warfare.