By Douglas Dean Johnson
@ddeanjohnson on Twitter
Original publication: May 1, 2023
You are in the Crash Story Files, a series of investigative reports examining claims that a UFO crashed and was recovered near San Antonio, New Mexico, in August 1945. To go back to the Crash Story hub story and index, click here.
“There isn’t much of a sense of history in America.” – Jacques Vallee, The Paracast, September 5, 2021
Lately, it seems like hardly a week goes by without at least one major news story being generated by the mishandling of classified documents. As a result, more and more Americans are becoming cognizant of the very serious consequences that can follow when persons with responsibility for classified information and documents fail to honor the obligations that they assume when they receive security clearances.
To claim that a person holding a security clearance has been cavalier or worse with respect to classified matters, is a serious allegation. With respect to a living person, it is a defamatory accusation that could engender civil liability.
In Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret (Second Edition), there appears on pages 172-173 a snippet of an interview transcript between Paola Harris and Jose Padilla. Harris asks, “But did Reme ever tell you that he saw the file on this case? That the Governor of Washington State let him see the file, because he helped get her elected. So she pulled out a document, and it's in the Atomic Energy Commission Files." [Italics in original] Harris did not include Padilla's response—oddly.
We learn more about the “the file” in a discourse by Harris, part of an interview on The Alien UFO Podcast, broadcast October 17, 2022 (at 25:48).
I don't know if one of your questions is about where the file is. But Reme Baca then moved to Gig Harbor, Washington, and worked for Democratic Governor Dixy Lee [sic—her name was Dixy Lee Ray], who was the head of the Atomic Energy Commission. And Jacques and I figured that that’s where this case went. It didn’t go to Blue Book. There was no Air Force, it was Army Air Force [Army Air Corps].
And what Reme told me was that to thank him for getting her elected, because he was the head of the Hispanic Community, she let him see the file, and it is in the Atomic Energy Commission files. He said she brought in the file, she opened it up, and there they were. There was the file that nobody will ever get hold of, because the Atomic Energy Commission files are so top secret--they are even more top secret than anything the president can see. So, I have to believe that Reme saw the file, as a thank you for getting her elected. And she WAS the head of the Atomic Energy Commission at that time, in Washington.
So you know, the people that want to, you know, just debunk it without ever reading the book--anybody that wants to talk to us, please read the book and have some details or data, because I don't want to discuss anything with people that don't read. But the thing is, that he had TOLD me that. I don't know if you read that in the book. Because everybody wants to know, "Where’s the file? Where’s the file?"
Paola Harris offered a similar account in a June 6, 2021 appearance on A Different Perspective, a podcast hosted by veteran UFO investigator-writer Kevin Randle.
PAOLA HARRIS: When I was talking to Reme [Baca], he explained to me that he had gotten the governor of Washington State elected. Her name was Dixy Lee. [sic] And that she worked for the Atomic Energy Commission. And as a "thank you" to him, she showed him his file... In 1945, that file went into the files of the Atomic Energy Commission. He said, "She turned over the pages and there was my case."
So in summary, this is what Reme Baca wanted Paola Harris to believe—and she did believe it, and Jacques Vallee also believed it: Dixy Lee Ray, a nationally known figure with a distinguished record in science and government service, after serving in appointed subordinate positions for years, is just sworn as chief executive of a state, with big plans – now putting everything at risk by committing federal felonies showing “Ray Baca” (a political ally with no security clearance) an ultra-classified file.
In her discourse quoted above, Harris made several notable claims: that Baca was “head of the Hispanic Community” [in Washington State]; that Baca got Dixy Lee Ray elected governor [in 1976]; and that in gratitude for that service, Ray showed Baca a federal government UFO file that is among the files so highly classified that even presidents cannot see them.
I researched the first two claims and determined that they were false – grossly exaggerated claims built on small nubs of truth. I present this documentation in Crash Story File: Remigio (Reme) Baca ("Ray Baca”)—Fantasy Kingmaker and Fabricator of Tall Tales.
The third claim, that Governor Dixy Lee Ray showed Baca an ultra-secret file, is utterly implausible. It is also an example of Baca’s practice committing a sort of literary identify theft – pasting real deceased people into his crude fictional creations as characters. It is a reprehensible practice that the hoaxers also employed elsewhere in service of the Trinity hoax. (See Crash Story File: Eddie Apodaca, the Real Policeman Who Cracked the Trinity UFO Crash Case.)
Jacques Vallee also has propagated the defamatory story about the long-dead governor. For example, in an October 21, 2021 interview with broadcaster George Knapp, Vallee said:
So again, the craft was taken over, it would have been taken over by Project Manhattan. That’s the Atomic Energy Commission. And we have one more proof of where it went. Reme Baca was a little kid, grew up and went to Washington [State], he became involved in politics. And he was instrumental in getting the governor of the state of Washington elected. And one time when he was with her, she showed him the report from the Atomic Energy Commission about the object, she didn’t let him keep it or read it. But she showed him the official report.
Another example of the dissemination of the defamatory claim is found in an “exclusive interview” with the UK Daily Mail, published December 29, 2022:
Reme Baca assisted Dixy Lee Ray in winning the election as governor of Washington in 1976. She had been chair of the Atomic Energy Commission [1973 to 1975], he [Vallee] said. “She showed Reme when he was helping her in the campaign, a record of the recovery of the craft. It was secret, she did not leave it with him. But she indicated that there was a record in the files of the Atomic Energy Commission."
Baca apparently first told Harris this story in the 2009-2010 period; she referred to it, although in vague terms, in her earliest radio appearances on the case in late 2010.
WHAT'S WRONG WITH BACA'S SECRET-FILE TALE?
So, what is wrong with this Dixy Lee Ray secret-file story? Well, everything is wrong with it.
First, these stories implicitly attribute to Dixy Lee Ray the commission of multiple federal crimes, in order to do a favor to a man merely because he supposedly had provided important political services to her. To assert that a long-dead public servant violated her oaths and committed felonies as a favor to a political crony is defamation of the dead. If Dixy Lee Ray were still alive, she would have a basis to sue for slander and/or libel anyone who published such defamatory allegations, and she would likely prevail.
There has never been a shred of evidence to support Baca’s claim. Baca and his co-disseminators avoided legal peril because they disseminated the defamatory tale only after Ray’s death, which occurred on January 2, 1994.
I have reproduced here an image showing of some of the provisions of the Espionage Act that could be applicable to Baca’s scenario. For example, under 18 U.S. Code Sec. 793(f), anyone entrusted with information “relating to the national defense” who permits it to be delivered to any unauthorized person “shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than ten years...”
I also reproduce below two pages from the Atomic Energy Act, in the form that the law was re-enacted in 1954. It appears that the provisions that I display here all would have been applicable at the time of the Baca scenario in the late 1970s, except that Congress removed the death penalty from the Atomic Energy Act on December 24, 1969 (but it is still applicable under certain circumstances under the Espionage Act). Even under the most benign interpretation of Ray’s actions as described by Baca to Harris, she would have violated Section 227, and probably Section 223 as well, the latter being subject to imprisonment of up to two years per offense.
Far heavier penalties would be applicable under both the Espionage Act and the Atomic Energy Act for violations intended to injure the United States or aid a foreign nation, but I am not referencing those heavier provisions because they do not fit Baca’s story.
WHO WAS DIXY LEE RAY?
Dixy Lee Ray, a Washington State native, was a very well-known public figure in the 1970s. She was a scientist (zoology, oceanography) an idiosyncratic and colorful figure who was known in the state as an environmentalist, but who came to adopt positions on various issues that were deemed controversial, such as vigorous challenging critics of nuclear power. She gained a high profile in the news media.
The date that Vallee and Harris settled on for the Trinity UFO crash was August 16, 1945. The Atomic Energy Commission was not created until enactment of the McMahon Atomic Energy Act on August 1, 1946, nearly a year after the purported Trinity UFO crash.
The new agency, headed by five commissioners – nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate-- took control of nuclear secrets and nuclear weapons effective January 1, 1947, about a year and one-half after the purported UFO crash. Harris understood that the U.S. Air Force did not yet exist as a separate service in August, 1945, but she seemed not to grasp that the Atomic Energy Commission did not exist, either. Chronological confusion is reflected in Trinity: The Best-Kept Secret as well, in which Vallee-Harris refer to "the newly created Energy Department" as existing in 1947 (on page 85); the Department of Energy did not exist until 1977.
But the chronological confusion is a minor matter, compared to the rest.
President Nixon appointed Dixy Lee Ray to the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) in 1972. She became chairperson of the AEC on February 6, 1973. She was the last chairperson, because the AEC which was abolished by legislation signed by President Ford on October 11, 1974. Effective January 18, 1975, the AEC’s functions were transferred newly created entities, the Energy Research & Development Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Additional legislation enacted in 1977 created the current Department of Energy, of which a component (the National Nuclear Security Administration) since 2000 has been responsible for the production and security of nuclear weapons.
After the dissolution of the AEC, Ray accepted a newly created position in the State Department, as Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs. Ray soon soured on that job, complaining that the Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, paid her no heed. She then decided to run for governor of her home state, Washington, and she was elected to that office in November 1976. She served as governor from January 12, 1977 through January 14, 1981.
In the October 17, 2022 podcast interview, excerpted above, Harris revealed her serious confusion about the time line that events occurred in the real world. At the time Ray showed Baca the secret file, “She was the head of the Atomic Energy Commission at that time, in Washington [State],” Harris asserted. But by the time Ray was back in Washington State as the just-elected governor, she had been departed from the Atomic Energy Commission for two years, and the AEC itself no longer existed.
Consider the proposition, then: Harris and Vallee would have you believe that there existed a secret file on the August 1945 UFO crash-recovery, and that for some reason that file was held by the Atomic Energy Commission in the 1970s (although the AEC did not exist in 1945, or after January 17, 1975). Although they believe (wrongly) that there are files so secret that not even presidents are allowed to see them, they also want to you believe that Dixy Lee Ray, an official appointed by a president, and subject to being removed by a President at will “for inefficiency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office,” was allowed to view the file, and also to somehow access it even after she left the federal government.
For the Governor Ray to show a classified AEC file on any subject to someone without clearance, one of two things would have had to occur: (1) When she left the AEC in 1975, she would have had to take with her a copy of the highly classified file. Both the copying and the removal would have been federal felonies, with severe penalties attached. Or, (2) since Ray probably retained some level of the clearance for a time after she left the federal government, she would had to request that an armed government courier bring a highly classified file at the Governor’s Mansion in Tacoma—but unless she could have demonstrated a compelling need, such a request would have more likely produced a visit from the FBI than delivery of a secret file.
PROF. ALEX WELLERSTEIN’S COMMENTARY ON THE REME BACA SECRET FILE SCENARIO
I shared the Harris account of Baca’s secret-file tale with Alex Wellerstein, assistant professor of science and technology at the Stevens Institute of Technology in New Jersey. Wellerstein is an expert on nuclear secrets, and author of the highly regarding book Restricted Data: The History of Nuclear Secrecy in the United States(University of Chicago Press, 2021).
In a recorded interview on March 29, 2023, Wellerstein explained multiple reasons why the tale Baca told to Harris was completely unbelievable. In the first place, Wellerstein said, Ray could not have taken an original highly classified file with her when she left the government.
Whenever you take a document out of ...the storage, it gets logged, who has it...they’ve been doing this since the 1940s-- so that later, if a document did show up, say in enemy hands or was missing, you knew where to go looking for it. You know who had it last. You know how many copies there are. You can’t even destroy a classified document without doing paperwork and making a log of its destruction... by and large, it would be illegal by itself for her to take classified documents from this facility without express permission to do so, which would only be granted under really specific circumstances, all of which would be logged... And if she's not the commissioner, there wouldn't be any reason for her legally to have these old documents.
[extraneous material omitted]
The higher you go up the [classification] chain, the more regulations there are.... If it’s “top secret,” a guy with a gun has to carry that document, right? Like when you’re moving it between facilities, right? That’s part of the regulations. You can’t just do things with that document. And so, if this is a top secret document, this is going to be, or much less anything more than that, it’s going to be part of a very highly monitored system. The level of casualness which is being alleged [in the Baca story], it’s just unlikely on the face of it. That is not the regime of, and it’s also not the mindset of, these people.
I asked Wellerstein what levels of penalty he thought might attach to the actions imputed to Governor Ray in Reme Baca’s account.
Bare minimum, if it's a classified document, you're talking about the Espionage Act. Depending on the level of classification and the willingness of a prosecutor to go for the maximum, you're talking about...likely, some years in prison, and fines. Minimum, losing of job, right?...It would be taken very seriously. It would be a serious legal problem for Dixy Lee Ray, were this to be true.
And, she would know this. She would’ve been told this a million different ways. The AEC was extremely “by the book” when it came to classified information. Not all agencies are quite as “by the book.” The CIA has more leeway to be discretionary about telling people things, if they think it's part of their mission. AEC basically does not. They would be a hundred percent by the book. They control access and knowledge of where all documents are and who has them...
[extraneous material omitted]
The political scandal alone, the damage to their professional and personal reputations, even separate from potential criminal matters-- I mean, they reallytook that kind of stuff seriously. Every little, even perceived violation of security, even not even real ones, like them giving information that they knew was declassified, that had the feeling that maybe somebody might think it was secret-- that could be a scandal. So this is one of the reasons why I say they're really by the book. They were totally always very careful about not having any kind of disclosure that could be seen by anybody later as a problem.
Which is one of the reasons I find this story so absurd [laughs], because even if he [Baca] did do all these things that were very helpful, there's no universe in which they would give somebody access to classified information just to say, “thanks.” That isn't how these people work.
I suggested to Wellerstein a second hypothetical scenario, in which Governor Ray does not copy the classified file and take it with her, but rather viewed the hypothetical file while on the AEC, left the federal government without any classified documents, but retained a security clearance for a time even after she left the federal government. Once elected governor, she would have had to call the successor agency that now had custody of the ultra-secret file and said something like, “Hey, please send the file on the 1945 crash out here to the Governor’s Mansion in Olympia—you’ll find it in the safe with the other files too secret for presidents to see.” Wellerstein answered:
It's not necessarily the case that her clearance would've been just like immediately canceled. But they do need to be renewed. You need to be reinvestigated and re-interviewed every few years. I don't know exactly when her clearance would’ve expired. But separate from her level of clearance, she would’ve been under a “need to know” sort of situation. So [as governor] she would not have been able to access any documents that were classified, unless she could demonstrate that she needed the access to them for some legitimate reason, which would not include thanking somebody who helped you politically, obviously. The documents themselves would not have been in her possession. I mean, they kept classified documents in extremely regulated facilities...
TIM McMILLIAN’S COMMENTARY ON THE REME BACA "SECRET FILE" STORY
On April 15, 2023, I exchanged emails with Tim McMillan, Executive Director of The Debrief, who has written extensively about laws and practices pertaining to classified information. I asked him to comment on what Governor Dixy Lee Ray would have been risking, in the scenario described by Reme Baca to Paola Harris. He said:
It doesn't matter whether you're the director of the Department of Energy or the Secretary of Defense--no matter who you are, if you unlawfully disclose classified information, you're violating the law. You are violating the Espionage Act... And in this instance, since we are supposed to be dealing with the Atomic Energy Commission, we presumably would be talking about what the Atomic Energy Act defines as “Restricted Data,” which pertains to nuclear matters, and which are the most closely guarded secrets and material classified documents that exist. Dixy Lee Ray would have been running the risk of potentially life in prison for giving somebody unauthorized access to that kind of material. That's such an enormous risk that I can't fathom why anyone would do that. And I don't think that anyone could physically do that.
I also asked McMillan, what about Reme Baca – would he too have been committing felonies, if his story were true? McMillan said:
As it pertains to Restricted Data under the Atomic Energy Act, it doesn't matter how they got ahold of it—anybody who shares Restricted Data is criminally liable and could be charged. In this story, that would include Governor Ray, but also Reme Baca, because he later shared the Restricted Data with Paola Harris—and by the way, the way the law is written, it is especially harsh on anyone sharing Restricted Data with a foreign national. [Author's note: Paola Harris is Italian. Jacques Vallee holds citizenship in both France and the United States.]
Since then, Harris and Dr. Jacques Vallee have shared this information with many other people. So, if this information was really what they apparently believe it was – then technically they too could be charged criminally by the Department of Justice.
At this point, I want to state plainly that I do not believe (and Tim McMillan clearly does not believe) that Governor Ray, or Reme Baca, or Paola Harris, or Jacques Vallee really violated the Espionage Act or the Restricted Data provisions of the Atomic Energy Act--but that is only because we recognize that this is an utterly implausible story that was invented by Reme Baca, an inveterate fabricator of stories about himself. For the same reason, I have no concern about further disseminating the story in this article, which I would never do if I believed that Governor Ray had really disclosed Restricted Data to Reme Baca, which he then passed on to others.
However, since Harris and Vallee apparently really do believe that they have been disseminating data taken from an ultra-secret file that was specifically within the purview of the Atomic Energy Commission and the Atomic Energy Act, I will be interested to learn why they believe that they should not be subject to the enforcement provisions provided in federal law with respect to Restricted Data (Ray and Baca now being deceased and beyond the reach of the law.) The question is not whether they feel that the government is “likely” to pursue such charges. Rather, the question is: Do Vallee and Harris believe that they are obligated to comply with the security requirements of the Atomic Energy Act and the Espionage Act – and if not, why not?
DIXY LEE RAY WAS ESPECIALLY POORLY SUITED TO THE ROLE CAST BY REME BACA IN HIS MADE-UP STORY
While Baca’s story would be grossly implausible as applied to any former AEC commissioner and any governor, there was probably no political figure of that era who fits more poorly into Baca’s work of fiction than Dixy Lee Ray. Once of her acknowledged attributes was her impatience with many conventional political practices. As longtime associate Louis R. Guzzo wrote in his admiring biography:
Within the first two years of her administration as governor, she found it necessary to fire several persons who had once been good friends or campaign workers. They made the mistake of misjudging her loyalty to principle. Some of her critics called her actions barbaric and insensitive; they didn’t know how difficult those actions were for her; she agonized over the loss of a friend, but she had the gumption to right things, bite her lip, and move on. I think the firings were the most conspicuous examples of her courage. She placed principle above all other considerations and never could accept the term "crony" as a cover for incompetence or chicanery. How many politicians have the moral courage to fire a friend who has “screwed up"? (p. 224)
This characterization, while from an admirer, is not inconsistent with the personality that comes through in many other more neutral sources. It is inconceivable that Dixy Lee Ray, by all accounts a very principled person and zealous critic of many conventional political practices, would have violated oaths and laws in order to reward a political crony, Reme Baca (the fictional kingmaker).
ARE THERE REALLY SECRETS THAT PRESIDENTS ARE NOT "ALLOWED" TO SEE, BUT THAT LOWER-RANKING EXECUTIVE-BRANCH OFFICIALS MAY SEE?
Contrary to Harris’s claim, there are no files so secret that a President of the United States is not allowed to see them. Both under the Constitution, and under applicable federal laws governing state secrets, the President is at the top of the pyramid.
While there may be many things that any given president never delves into, and there are things that subordinates or career bureaucrats may keep from his attention, there is not now and never has been any person or entity in the government who has legal authority to tell any president that he may not see certain classified material because he has no "need to know," or for any other reason. That is merely an ufological urban legend.
I asked Alex Wellerstein about this. He said:
There certainly is no level of official clearance that the president cannot access. The way in which the classification system in the U.S. works is that the definitions of the classification categories, and the system itself, is defined by the president through executive order. So, there are some laws which are basically like the punishment for what happens, but the definition of what is the classification system, what is “top secret,” what is “secret,” that comes from the president...the idea that the president would set up a category that he couldn't access is also absurd. The system is, if anything, an extension and overreach of presidential power...