When Phil Klass died last year, more than a few people said words to the effect of: “Now that he’s dead we’ll be able to check his files and find out if he was working for the government.”
Well, the FBI has released its files on Klass (the files can be found here, thanks to CUFON). A few pages were withheld in the interests of national security, which probably has nothing to do with UFOs and everything to do with some of the material about which Klass wrote, and was looked into for national security violations for having done so, as well as redacted information within the released files, most of which seems to relate to personal information, or sources and methods.
So – was Klass an agent of the FBI?
The materials in the FBI files show that the FBI thought Klass was a pest, and that they didn’t have a great deal of respect for him or his opinions.
For example, a memo dated 21 February 1975 reveals that on the 18th of February, 1975, Klass called the Editor of the FBI Law Enforcement Bulletin to complain about an article by famed ufologist Dr. J. Allen Hynek, “The UFO Mystery”, which has appeared in the February, 1975 issue. According to the memo, Klass “derided” the decision to publish the article, suggested that by doing so the FBI had “given its endorsement to a hoax (that UFOs are extra-terrestrial in origin),” and called Hynek a “fraud”. Klass then stated that he had “investigated UFO sightings with the thoroughness of the FBI over a period of many years” (a statement which must have amused the FBI), and had not found “one shred of evidence that they were from beyond earth’s atmosphere”.
When Klass was informed of the FBI’s positive view of Dr. Hynek, especially that he was affiliated with a leading university (Northwestern), Klass replied, “He won’t be for long!”
This didn’t affect the FBI’s assessment of Dr. Hynek, as is clear from the memo: “All of his writings and public statements that were examined prior to the publication of his article in the Bulletin disclose a meticulously objective and scientific view of the UFO phenomenon.”
In other words, the exact opposite of the FBI’s view of Klass. The memo concludes by stating that, “In view of Klass’s intemperate criticism and often irrational statements he made to support it, we should be most circumspect in any future contacts with him.”
This was a remark that followed Klass from that point on whenever he dealt with the FBI, often being referred to in later memos. For example, when Klass wrote two letters in 1987, the first to question whether the FBI employed psychics, and the second to complain about a psychic being brought in to lecture to students at the FBI Academy, the memo attached to the letters and the FBI’s responses includes the reminder that the 1975 memo had stated ‘in view of Klass’ intemperate criticism and often irrational statements… it was recommended that the Bureau be most circumspect in any future contacts with him.”
Undeterred, Klass followed up on 14 June, 1975, with a letter to FBI Director Clarence Kelley (pictured, at left) in which he wrote:
“The enclosed photo-copy of a headline and feature story in a recent issue of the tabloid “The National Tattler” is a portent of the sort of “FBI endorsement” for the flying-saucer myth that you can expect to see, repeatedly, as a result of the article on UFOs carried by the February issue of the Law Enforcement Bulletin. That article was written by Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the spiritual leader of the vocal group of “believers” and “kooks” who claim that we are being visited by extraterrestrial spaceships. While the FBI did not endorse Hynek’s views per se, the decision to publish his article and to alert law enforcement agencies as to what to do “if they land,” has embroiled the agency for all time.”
“The Hynek article published by the FBI encourages law enforcement officers to take the time – from much more pressing duties – to take calls from people who report seeing UFOs and to in turn relay such calls to Hynek’s own UFO group. Surely in these times law enforcement officers have more useful things to occupy their time and attention.”
At the end of the letter, Klass offered to write an article for the Law Enforcement Bulletin that would present the “other side” of the UFO issue.
Kelley’s response was contained in a letter he wrote dated 23 June, 1975:
“Quite contrary to the news clipping you enclosed, Dr. Hynek’s article has been accurately and rationally reported by the media throughout the country. None of the responsible media, to my knowledge, have ignored the clearly stated theme of the article: ‘[r]egardless of the source of UFOs or their legitimacy, these sightings represented a real problem for law enforcement…’ to whom persons normally first report their observations. This is the only premise the FBI has endorsed in publishing the article. I could not agree more with your implication that law enforcement personnel should look after their primary responsibility – crime, not UFOs. This is precisely the reason we believe the Center for UFO Studies can help free law enforcement personnel from investigating and reporting on phenomena unassociated with crime.”
Fairly kind words re: CUFOS from the FBI, and certainly not the disparagement of the UFO phenomenon for which Klass was no doubt hoping (Kelley politely declined Klass’s offer to write an article in response to Hynek’s).
Privately, FBI officials were scathing about Klass. Attached to the Kelley letter is a memo that states:
“Klass is well known to us… [He] is deficient in all points of his argument, particularly concerning the credentials of Dr. Hynek which would scarcely be better. Hynek has been associated professorially with some of the finest universities in this country and is recognized in the most prestigious scientific circles. On the otherhand, Klass has no such sterling reputation and has twice been under FBI investigation in connection with the unauthorized publication of classified information. Both of these cases have been closed.”
This latter point, about Klass publishing classified materials without authorization, is ironic, given his role in the MJ-12 circus. Other memos in the file reveal that the only reason Klass wasn’t prosecuted is that the classified information he had used could not be declassified for the purposes of prosecution (Memo, 11 May, 1976).
Lucky for Klass.
What can be gleaned from these files is a portrait of a man who was neither respected nor liked by the FBI, who was in fact seen as an “accusatory and argumentative” trouble-maker, and who could not be trusted, given both his previous publishing of classified material and his “intemperate criticism and irrational statements” (i.e. he was a loose cannon).
In the vernacular?
He could be a mean-spirited pain in the ass – no surprise there to many ufologists – but he was also about as far from being an FBI agent as you could get.