Document Shredding by the FAA Destroys Valuable UFO History
by John Greenewald, Jr.
On November 17, 1986, Japanese Air Lines Flight 1628 (JAL-1628) witnessed three UFOs while flying over Alaska. At 35,000 feet elevation, and traveling about 600 miles per hour, Captain Kenju Terauchi first noticed two unidentified lights roughly 2,000 feet below his position.
Assuming it was possibly a fighter jet from the United States, he did not think much of the sighting. But in his own words, about 8 minutes later, two “space ships” suddenly appeared in front of his aircraft spewing light into the cockpit. He believes these two craft were the original lights he saw — instantly appearing in front of him.
The pilot, co-pilot and flight engineer watched the UFO for more than thirty minutes. Attempts to take photographs failed.
But as interesting is this case is, what is further intriguing is the documentation regarding it.
In 2001, I filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to the FAA for information regarding this event. Throughout the processing, they determined that I was what is called a “commercial” requester, and was going to charge me excessive fees for the search and duplication of responsive records, which totaled more than 100 pages.
This was one of hundreds of examples of game play by our U.S. Government and Military agencies while processing my FOIA requests. When you file, you fit into one of three “fee categories.” The basic definition of categories is commercial, non-commercial, or all other.
What you pay for the request and records is dependent on which category you fit into. Commercial is the most expensive, wherein you pay for everything; search, document review and duplication. Their search fees can range from $45-$85 an hour, so if they want to send you a large bill, they certainly can! (In one FOIA case, the NSA gave me an estimated cost of $8,000 just to search for records. If I paid that amount, I was told I may not even receive one page of responsive material. Think about it, $8,000 for nothing.)
After a telephone conversation with Jean Mahoney on June 5, 2001, I was told I could withdraw my request and the documents would be sent to me free of charge. Although I do not have record of it since it was sent on a crashed computer which lost its data, I know I sent an email withdrawing my request in hopes to receive the package.
The package never came. Unfortunately, I received a letter in the mail that stated, “On June 5, 2001, I contacted you to by telephone and discussed the fees for search, review, and duplication of documents pertaining to your May 9, 2001, request for UFO sightings in or around Alaska between 1981 and 1988. We have determined that you would be considered a commercial requester and would be charged for all search, review, and duplication of the records. I advised you that approximately 107 pages of documents could be made available to you outside of the FOlA without fees. These documents do not include radar tracking data and simulated radar data for JL1628. It was agreed that you would withdraw your request by either fax (907-271-2800) or E-Mail ([email protected]) and l would forward the 107 pages to you on receipt of your withdrawal.
As of this date, I have not received your withdrawal. If I have not heard from you by July 12, 2001, we will consider your request cancelled. In addition, all documents pertaining to this UFO citing [sic] will be destroyed in 30 days from the date of this letter.”
Due to irrelevant circumstances, I did not read this letter until the thirty day deadline had come and gone. Of course, I feared the worst; that the documents were destroyed.
Subsequent e-mails and letters regarding the documents went unanswered, and due to multiple other FOIA cases that I filed, I let this one slip away and forgot about it.
So recently, I decided to open up many of the past cases of The Black Vault, to see what documents might have surfaced since I originally filed. I came across this letter, remembered my original frustration, and re-filed a FOIA request to see if anything came up.
I was told that the documents were destroyed. The biggest question was why? Why is it that if the letter that was sent to me remained unanswered, that the documents would be destroyed? They claim due to their records retention schedule (how long certain records are kept) authorized such a destruction.
Was it coincidence that my letter came thirty days before they would destroy the documents? Or did my request prompt them to destroy the documents?
Although I try not to create such conspiratorial scenarios, it makes one wonder. It’s possible these documents are floating around in some investigators filing cabinets — and they are somewhat in the “public domain.” But that isn’t the point. The larger issue is that these types of games are being played while processing FOIA requests, and the true spirit of government openness and transparency is too often ignored at nearly every level. As a result – important historical records are being destroyed.
Interestingly, I was able to uncover a reference to the JAL-1628 UFO encounter through another FAA facility. Also, making anyone suspicious of how agencies are processing FOIA requests. One office says all documents relating to the event were destroyed. Another office of the SAME AGENCY says here are two pages referencing the incident.
The newly found record is what is known as an “Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing” or ASIAS report. Although not very descriptive, at least from a historical standpoint, the UFO case remains a part of documented history, at least for now.
Yet in the future, these references presumably will be destroyed, completely wiping out the fact that this event never happened. Even though the UFO community has long debated this case since it occurred, it sparks the question of how many others do we not know? The U.S. Government and Military maintains records dating back decades, even a century. Many don’t realize that classified records exist prior to World War II even beginning!
But yet a 1986 UFO encounter is something they quickly want to shred. And to think, seventeen years prior, Project Blue Book and the entire military and government powerhouse adopted the notion that UFOs were easily identifiable and explainable.