The first meeting between Bill Moore and Richard Doty was alleged to have occurred in the fall of 1980, a few short months after the release of Moore’s best-seller, The Roswell Incident. Moore had initially met with his intelligence contact Falcon only a few weeks prior, and at the meeting Falcon introduced Moore to Doty, an agent working in the Air Force Office of Special Investigation (AFOSI). Doty and Falcon posed a question to the UFO researcher: would you lie for your government?
At the time, the AFOSI and officers at Kirtland Air Force Base had been in contact with a man named Paul Bennewitz and they were growing concerned. Bennewitz was a scientist by trade and a brilliant one at that. Without any kind of formal education, he built a successful defense research firm, Thunder Scientific, that had contracts with Kirtland. But that brilliance also led him down a dangerous path. In his pursuit of UFOs, Bennewitz created technology to intercept what he believed to be alien transmissions coming from the Manzano Weapons Storage Area (now the Kirtland Underground Munitions and Maintenance Storage Complex), a nuclear weapons testing facility built into the local Manzano Mountains.
Falcon and Doty wanted Moore to use his contacts in the UFO community to spread disinformation. The Air Force believed some American ufologists were leaking classified defense secrets related to tests of so-called black projects, military projects the government will not acknowledge publicly or include in defense appropriations bills, and they were concerned with one man in particular: Paul Bennewitz.
Moore agreed on the condition that the Air Force provide him access to the government’s real secrets on UFOs, because if they were going to get something out of the arrangement, why should he not as well? He quickly ingratiated himself with Bennewitz and began passing along forged documents on aliens and secret government programs. In at least one instance this information would show up in work Moore later claimed was legitimate. In November 1980, Doty showed Moore a teletype referencing a secret military program, Project Aquarius, and shortly after, he asked Moore to send an altered version of the document to Bennewitz. This new document stated information on Project Aquarius should be restricted to an organization known only as “MJ Twelve.”
Over the next decade, Moore continued to send disinformation to Paul Bennewitz and, in turn, the UFO community at large. As Bennewitz became further entrenched in the stories, he sunk into a spiral of confusion, fear, and paranoia. He produced a manifesto, “Project Beta”, that laid bare a rapidly expanding mythology: a race of grey aliens was at war with humans and a battle had taken place in an underground base in Dulce, New Mexico. “Project Beta” quickly spread among members of the UFO community and many of its ideas became accepted as facts. Moore facilitated this process by passing along new documents, real or not, that validated Bennewitz’s most paranoid conclusions. In one example, Moore received an Air Force memorandum known as the “Hilltop Document”. The memo, stamped with a “Secret” classification, outlined a purported UFO landing in November 1982 and made reference to physical evidence that would suggest the event occurred at or near Kirtland Air Force base.
Moore’s original plan was to use the military in the same way it had used him, so he may have received a few real documents during his participation in the disinformation campaign. He could have even disclosed some of this information to others, slipping a few facts in among his many lies. Was Moore granted access to any classified information? Per a report from Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) agents, after a discussion with Moore in March 1983: “Moore declared that he has never had in his possession any classified documents from any government agency. Moore did admit, however, that individuals had made unauthorized verbal disclosures to him; however, Moore denied ever using that information or passing it along to anyone.”
Michael Seligman has denied any interference by the intelligence community or military in the production of UFO Cover-Up? Live! since 1988. Speaking with UFO Magazine ahead of its air date, he stated that the program was not being controlled by anybody. Yet, in spite of this, he has been unwilling to confirm the identities of Falcon and Condor for over three decades. Timothy Good, in his 1990 book Alien Contact: Top Secret UFO Files, noted that Seligman refused to disclose information that might identify the two during an interview beyond stating that Condor was a military scientist in some capacity.
Seligman’s reticence on this subject should be no indication that this information is secret. In the years since UFO Cover-Up? Live! left its mark on the UFO community, individuals, including members of the show’s crew, have come out on their own to disclose the startling truth.
Timothy Good also spoke with UFO Cover-Up? Live!’s consulting producer Curtis Brubaker in preparation for Alien Contact, at which time Brubaker stated that Falcon, contradicting claims made by Bill Moore, was Air Force Office of Special Investigation agent Richard Doty. In an interview conducted in the fall of 2021 for this article, Brubaker maintained this position. The show, in his words, changed once Bill Moore put Michael Seligman in contact with Doty and another intelligence contact he could not remember. “Seligman,” he began, “became more and more secretive as he was exposed to Doty and the other guy—there were two guys, or maybe one in the same, who were disclosing.”
Tracy Tormé, the producer of the Gulf Breeze segment, would not outright confirm Doty appeared as Falcon, saying only that, “It makes a lot of sense.” Tormé expressed a similar sentiment in Mirage Men, a 2013 documentary on UFO disinformation by fortean researcher Mark Pilkington, stating, “Doty was representing himself, as I recall, as basically this sort of Deep Throat.”.
The question of Falcon’s identity has been an issue of controversy in the UFO community for over 30 years. Four books cover the subject, one of which was written by Pilkington as he developed the documentary. In his book, also titled Mirage Men, Pilkington devotes only a few lines to UFO Cover-Up? Live!, observing that it was a “tacky production.” He is, however, unequivocal when it comes to the identities of Falcon and Condor: “And who were these feathered fiends? None other than Rick Doty, aka Falcon (though not, apparently, Bill Moore’s original Falcon), and Robert Collins, aka Condor, who would reunite in 2005 as the authors of Exempt from Disclosure.”
The references to Robert Collins, an Air Force intelligence officer and scientist with a background in theoretical physics, and Exempt from Disclosure, a lurid tell-all memoir, would appear to clear up some details in the mystery behind UFO Cover-Up? Live! Collins, credited as Exempt‘s primary author, admits that he was Condor and Doty acted as Falcon for the period of UFO Cover-Up? Live!’s production. He even goes on to describe a meeting on a lake with Doty and Seligman (inexplicably in Ohio) in one of the more unusual passages.
Doty, for his part, has denied that he ever acted as Falcon, had any kind of relationship with Collins, or participated in UFO Cover-Up? Live! But in Saucers, Spooks, and Kooks: UFO Disinformation in the Age of Aquarius, a detailed chronology of the Bennewitz affair, author Adam Gorightly highlights a number of errors in Doty’s denials. Quoting Doty directly from a 2001 edition of Jim Moseley’s Saucer Smear, Gorightly points to a statement where the AFOSI agent claimed he was no longer in the military by the time of the airing of UFO Cover-Up? Live! Statements made by Doty in his personnel file from the New Mexico State Police, released by website The Black Vault in 2021, appear to confirm this: a 1992 memo references body armor issued to him by the department in the same month and year UFO Cover-Up? Live! aired.
However, as Gorightly notes in his book, another issue of Saucer Smear, published on October 20, 1987, described footage shot by Moore and Shandera that was eerily similar to the Falcon segment in the TV special. As Moseley observes: “There are also several videotapes. We were allowed to see one 20-minute tape and most of another. These consist of a supposed agent talking in a totally disguised voice, answering a list of questions from a supposed newsman. The agent is disguised, and the newman has his back to the camera. The proven identities of these two are known to Moore and Shandera, they say. No one was present at the tapings except these two, plus Moore, Shandera, and the producer.”
The footage of Falcon was shot in a remote location well before Moseley saw it in 1987 or its broadcast the following year. UFO skeptic Phillip Klass, in a 1991 issue of his newsletter, identified a report issued by Bill Moore and Jamie Shandera, titled “The MJ-12 Documents: An Analytical Report”, which referenced the footage in question. Klass states: “According to the [Moore and Shandera] report, on Jan. 28, 1983, Falcon–allegedly a highly placed intelligence official–agreed to fly to Los Angeles and be video-taped revealing highly classified UFO secrets–providing his voice and appearance were electronically disguised on the tape. The taping was done in the presence of an unnamed ‘CBS executive and an investigative reporter,’ according to [Moore and Shandera]. (The tape was never used on CBS’s ’60 Minutes.’)”
We can be certain the Falcon shoot in 1983 and another meeting in 1987 occurred because of a third party. The Saucer Smear issue and Moore and Shandera report alternately reference a producer and/or CBS executive/newsman. This, unsurprisingly, is the same person. Late in UFO Cover-Up? Live! we meet a man named Peter Leone, identified as an “executive producer of news for the CBS station in Los Angeles.” Leone goes on to state that he met with and verified Falcon’s identity on two separate occasions: 1983 and 1987.
Given that a video shoot occurred before production began on UFO Cover-Up? Live!, Richard Doty’s presence would have been unnecessary at the live broadcast. Based on statements Doty himself has made across multiple sources, he was stationed at Kirtland Air Force Base in 1983 (both he and another UFO researcher, Linda Moulton Howe, claim to have met there in April of that year), and according to his service record, released by the National Personnel Records Center in 2013, he separated from the Air Force in September 1988, with his last duty-station also being Kirtland. Moore was based out of Arizona and California during this period.
This also calls into question statements made by Moore and Shandera. While Moore introduced Shandera to Falcon in 1982, per Shandera’s claim on the matter in UFO Cover-Up? Live!, Shandera stated in interviews he did not receive the initial MJ-12 documents until 1984, but if the duo had already recorded footage of Falcon talking about the program, as Moseley and Leone confirm, then they would have known its most intimate details a year prior to receiving the original classified documents outlining its configuration. And Moore, contrary to his statement to the FBI, would have knowingly passed along classified information in two cases, to Shandera and Leone—if the MJ-12 information was legitimate, of course.
(Michael Seligman did not respond to requests for comment via phone or email during the writing of this article.)
UFO Cover-Up? Live! set out to reveal the startling truth of a government cover-up of the UFO phenomenon but it ended up participating in one of its own. While the program may seem innocuous today given its many failures and low viewership, it had far-reaching consequences.
The year after it aired, Bill Moore, under pressure from UFO researchers Barry Greenwood and Robert Hastings, stated for the first time publicly, at the 1989 symposium for the Mutual UFO Network (MUFON), that he had worked as a disinformation agent for the government. Greenwood had pegged Doty as Falcon in an article for his Just Cause newsletter as early as 1987, and Hastings, in a June 1989 article for the MUFON Journal, claimed that two anonymous producers connected to UFO Cover-Up? Live! had confirmed Doty’s identity. Following his admission, Moore published a series of defenses of his work as a UFO researcher in the MUFON Journal and his own FOCUS newsletter. While much of this writing focused on his critics, Moore seemingly allowed yet another detail about the show’s production to slip through the cracks. In the March 31, 1989 issue of FOCUS, Moore published a letter from the father of a “staffer” on UFO Cover-Up? Live!, allegedly sent to him a month before its October 1988 air date, where the man identified himself as an ex-Navy officer who had been privy to information on UFOs while working for the Office of Naval Research. If we take Moore at face value and believe the letter is not a fabrication like so many of his other documents in the period, if did in fact diclose some real information during this period, then it would indicate that two branches of the military were monitoring the show from the inside.
Moore would later confirm many of the details regarding UFO Cover-Up? Live!’s production problems, even as he continued to deflect criticism. Speaking with Greg Bishop for his book Project Beta: The Story of Paul Bennewitz, National Security, and the Creation of a Modern UFO Myth, Moore stated that “producers” scripted everything during production with the assistance of a “hack writer.” Moore elaborated on this, telling Bishop, “Some of the stuff on the show was real, and some was disinformation.”
The disinformation campaign, spanning the entirety of the eighties, was devastating for UFO researchers. The community, already a hotbed for cranks and paranoiacs, schismed into camps, with many embracing the government cover-up narrative and stretching it to its most deranged ends. Bill Cooper, then a recent convert to the UFO disclosure movement via the ParaNet BBS, connected with John Lear, a former pilot for the Central Intelligence Agency and a ParaNet poster who had been developing Paul Bennewitz’s concept of a war between the greys and humans on his own. According to Mark Jacobsen in the Cooper biography Pale Horse Rider, Lear developed a theory he called “The John Lear Hypothesis” which incorporated elements of Bennewitz’s research and Moore and Shandera’s MJ-12 disinformation but added an important caveat: the collaboration between the government and the greys allowed for the abduction of U.S. citizens. Cooper further developed this idea in his 1991 book Behold a Pale Horse, where he argued that the Illuminati, a 16th-century Bavarian secret society, was running the government and had struck the deal with the aliens. Cooper’s book went on to become one of the most influential texts in the worlds of conspiracy theories and ufology, grafting the previously right-wing obsession with a One World Government to pre-existing anti-government UFO paranoia and directly politicizing a UFO community that, for the most part, had sought to avoid such entanglements.
Another researcher deeply committed to Moore and Bennewitz’s UFO mythology was Phil Schenider. Schneider came to prominence in the nineties when he claimed to be one of only three human survivors of Bennewitz’s Dulce Base war. He, too, confirmed a secret treaty, dubbed the Greada Treaty, that allowed for alien abductions of humans. Depending on whom you believe, Phil Schneider either committed suicide in 1996, after struggling with schizophrenia for most of his life, or was murdered by the government.
And then there was Paul Bennewitz, the man responsible for many of these ideas and Bill Moore’s original target. As UFO Cover-Up? Live! was in the middle of production, Bennewitz’s family had him committed to a mental health facility in New Mexico. By this time, he had come to believe that he was an abductee and the greys were injecting him with an unknown drug at night so they could spirit him away to a secret facility in the desert for experiments. Bennewitz became the very thing he feared most, a victim—of the greys, of the government, of the UFO community.
On Tuesday, May 17, 2022, Congress held its first hearing on the subject of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena in nearly 50 years. Much as UFO Cover-Up? Live! sought to pull back the shroud of secrecy over UFOs, so, too, did the elected officials and military personnel who spoke that day. But a funny thing happened. Nothing. History repeated itself and the hearing played out in a fashion similar to UFO Cover-Up? Live! The officials asked scripted questions, the military provided vague answers, and disclosure, as always, remained far out of reach. Is there anything that can be learned from these repeated failures?
Disclosure is not coming. Not now, not tomorrow, not ever. Governments are not in the business of the truth, startling or otherwise. The truth, such that it exists, is a weapon not unlike the defense secrets tested at the Manzano Weapons Storage Area in the seventies and eighties. Sometimes it aligns with the public interest, as in Watergate, and other times it does not, such as with the rise and fall of Paul Bennewitz. The thread connecting these two points is that, whatever the truth may be at that time, it will always serve the goals of those in power, even if it drives the rest of us mad.
Paul Bennewitz passed away on June 23, 2003, leaving behind his wife and children. If he is spoken of today, it is to retell the trauma he experienced at the hands of the government. He is now a cautionary tale to UFO researchers: don’t go too far down the rabbit hole. But the man may have been more prescient than his decline would suggest, because even at the height of his mania he understood the truth is not what it seems. Writing in “Project Beta”, he explains:
IT IS IMPORTANT TO NOTE AT THE OUTSET THAT THE ALIEN IS DEVIOUS, EMPLOYS DECEPTION, AND HAVE NO INTENT OF ANY APPARENT PEACE MAKING PROCESS AND OBVIOUSLY DOES NOT ADHERE TO ANY PRIOR ARRANGED AGREEMENT.
IN TRUTH THEY TEND TO LIE, HOWEVER THEIR MEMORY FOR LYING IS NOT LONG AND DIRECT COMPARATIVE COMPUTER PRINTOUT ANALYSIS REVEALS THIS FACT. THEREFORE MUCH “DROPS THRU THE CRACK” SO TO SPEAK; AND FROM THIS COMES THE APPARENT TRUTH.
Paul Bennewitz understood there is a force greater than the truth—time—because in time all truths will be taken apart and reassembled. What we understood as the truth yesterday is not regarded as fact today and what we accept now will one day change. Bennewitz knew something (or someone) was lying to him. As we reflect on his life and those of the various parties involved, we should not look to the government or official channels for the truth, but instead keep an eye out for those things that drop through the cracks. Disclosure be damned!