A U.N. news conference followed a 1978 presentation by scientists
on the need to establish an international study committee about UFOs.
From left are nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman, Speigel, Grenada Minister
 of Education Wellington Friday, Grenada Prime Minister Eric Gairy,
and astronomers J. Allen Hynek and Jacques Vallee.

AOL News Lee Spiegel : When Britain released 8,500 pages of previously classified UFO files last week, one set of key documents quickly caught my attention and had a profound effect on me as it took me back in time 33 years.

The file includes many pages detailing the British government's attempt in 1978 to derail the country of Grenada's plan to convince the United Nations to form a special UFO study committee. The reason these documents resonated so strongly with me is because I'm the one who produced Grenada's UFO presentation at the U.N. all those years ago.

At the time, Grenada's prime minister, Sir Eric Gairy, was trying to generate U.N. interest in his UFO committee idea, but many member nations weren't paying a lot of attention to him. Meantime, after producing a documentary record album for CBS Inc. called "UFOs: The Credibility Factor," I wanted to take the early notion of UFO disclosure to the U.N.

So I met and made a deal with Gairy, under which his country would sponsor a credible presentation at the U.N. that I would produce, to include astronomer (and former UFO consultant to the Air Force) J. Allen Hynek, French astrophysicist Jacques Vallee, nuclear physicist Stanton Friedman and Army Lt. Col. Larry Coyne, who related his story of the night he and his helicopter crew had a terrifying close encounter with a UFO.

Little did I know, until just last week, that while I spent 1978 preparing for that U.N. event, the British government was essentially trying to stop the creation of the commission I was hoping to bring to life.

One 1978 document just released in the British National Archives addresses the United Kingdom's desire to oppose a UFO committee out of fear that it would ultimately cause the U.N. to fall into some sort of disrepute:
The British delegation does not think that the establishment of an agency for research into unidentified flying objects is appropriate to the functions of the United Nations. ...

Hopefully, a confrontation with the representatives of Grenada can be avoided, but the U.K. should not hesitate to make its views known as and when appropriate. ...

Foreign and Commonwealth Office ministers expressed the view that to set up any such body would reduce the credibility of the U.N.; accordingly, the U.K. delegation was instructed to oppose.
I wondered why Britain suggested that an international commission to study UFOs "would reduce the credibility of the U.N." With that question in mind, I called Nick Pope in London. For three of the 21 years he worked in the Ministry of Defense, he was chief of the British government's UFO Project.

"I think that was a very clever piece of PR, because what they were really doing was trying to scare the U.N. itself and say to the U.N.: 'You know, this might rebound on you,' " Pope told AOL News.

Well, actually, there was no evidence that that was the case, and in fact, the people -- who, after all, the U.N. is supposed to represent, aren't they? -- are incredibly interested and always have been in this.

"So it was a complete fabrication and a very clever piece of brinkmanship to sort of scare the U.N. into thinking that setting up a commission would damage their reputation. But actually, the opposite would've been the case: The people would've said, 'This is great, this is what we want, we're interested in this.' "

Pope hadn't yet started his career at the Ministry of Defense, or MoD, when I was involved with Grenada and the UFO event at the U.N., but he's quite familiar with the documents. He speculates that MoD and Foreign and Commonwealth officials conspired to lobby, both publicly and privately, to kill the UFO proposal.

"This is completely in line with MoD's longstanding policy to downplay both the phenomenon itself and the department's involvement in it. So what you've got is behind-the-scenes machinations where defense officials and diplomats are basically plotting, casting aspersions, probably starting a whispering campaign against Sir Eric Gairy."

Despite the serious and credible speakers I brought to the United Nations, shortly after our presentation, Gairy was ousted in an early 1979 coup.

"While you had some big hitters, I think you were fighting against the dead hand of inertia -- the powers that be," said Pope. "Clearly, behind closed doors, conversations had taken place and it had been made clear that this must not happen.

"And it's interesting, though this is speculation only, to wonder whether some of the actions that the British took led either directly or indirectly to his ousting."

Ever since that series of events that led me to the United Nations in 1978, I've never doubted that what we did there was important. Astrophysicist Vallee, who served as the model for the French scientist portrayed by Francois Truffaut in the classic 1977 film "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," agrees that it wasn't a waste of our time.

"In a way, it was a high-water mark on the thinking about the phenomenon," Vallee said. "It is sort of a milestone, and I'm proud of the fact we did that. It didn't go anywhere, but at least we proposed the idea of the sharing of data."

With Pope's unique perspective of years handling and analyzing official British documents, he's not completely surprised at how the whole '78 U.N. incident was handled.

"After more than 30 years, people are still talking about it. It may have taken this latest release of UFO files to bring it back into the spotlight, but nobody can rewrite the past," Pope said.

AOL News contributor Lee Speigel (on the right, counterclockwise, third person in)
organized a meeting of military, scientific and psychological experts with U.N.
 Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim on July 14, 1978, to plan a presentation to the U.N
. Special Political Committee. Topic: the importance of establishing an international
 UFO study panel.

"This actually happened, and today's discovery that the dead hand of bureaucracy was conspiring against you perhaps enables you to say, 'We hold and have always held the moral high ground here.' Because you went in well-intentioned, believing that there was an issue that needed to be addressed (and I agree with you), and it's only now, over 30 years later, that you find that the deck was rigged."

Well, even though Pope was still a teenager back then, we both laughed as he now offered me an unofficial apology.

"I had no direct involvement in this, but on a personal level, I'm sorry that my government did that."

Thanks, Nick. I'm not one to hold a grudge, and I'm just happy to have been a part of it all.

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