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In 1989, the world was given a glimpse into a secretive military installation in a remote swath of the Nevada desert, commonly known as Area 51.
With one interview, Bob Lazar, a physicist who worked at the military research site, made Area 51 a household name and raised questions about what’s really going on out there.
Lazar told investigative reporter George Knapp there were nine saucers located in a hangar that was built to blend in with the surrounding desert.
Lazar was thrust into public scrutiny, and there are people who believe he made up the entire story. In a 25-year anniversary interview with Knapp, Lazar said he wished he had never done the interview.
Next weekend, Knapp is speaking at the annual International UFO Congress in Scottsdale, Ariz., before a question and answer session with Lazar himself.
Knapp, a longtime reporter with a raft of journalism awards, including two Peabodys – the TV equivalent of a Pulitzer Prize – has also done his own research.
Knapp produced and directed a series of documentaries, “UFOs The Best Evidence,” which presents information from scientists, journalists and other researchers about UFO sightings and government cover-ups.
Even before Lazar started talking about Area 51, Knapp started pursing the topic and has always treated it like he does any other story.
“I’ve tried to approach it like any other news story,” Knapp said, “That is what it has always been to me. It’s not a campaign. It’s a news story and it’s a really good news story.”
The skepticism of his colleagues is one of the reasons he has stayed focused on the often-maligned topic. Although he admits much of what is talked about in the field is “complete nonsense,” he believes there is at the very least intriguing evidence.
Col. John Alexander, Ret., who authored “UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities,” agrees there is evidence of life outside the planet, but looking into it is “not a career builder.”
They both point out that many Americans and respected scientists believe in extraterrestrials but the science establishment does not, which shuts down research on the topic.
“I think we need to do this research without risk of losing your reputation and livelihood,” Alexander said.
The topic is a difficult one not only because of the almost religious zeal that supporters bring to it, but also because the pieces do not always fit together.
“You always come up with conflicting data and scientists frankly don’t like that,” Alexander said.
Knapp agrees the evidence of extraterrestrials exists. He points to a paper trail of documents and studies done by military and intelligence agencies.
“Those documents paint a pretty dramatic picture that they do take this stuff seriously, or they did at one point, that they do have a pile of information that they can’t explain,” Knapp said.
But he doesn’t believe there is one central figure or agency that is suppressing information.
In the end, despite his interest in the topic, when asked if he has personally seen a UFO, Knapp replied, “Not that I can remember.”
George Knapp, chief investigative reporter, KLAS Channel 8
John Alexander, retired U.S. Army Colonel, author, “UFOs: Myths, Conspiracies and Realities”
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