By Billy Cox – Herald Tribune

As the nation pauses for 9/11, let us also remember that, despite billions of dollars invested in a new security bureaucracy, American airspace is no more secure today than it was seven years ago.

Federal Aviation Administration radar records indicate that the U.S. Air Force was powerless to stop a mysterious aerial incursion from surging toward President Bush’s ranch in Crawford, Tex., in January. The 77-page analysis posted by the Mutual UFO Network in July has been neither challenged nor rebutted by military officials. Nor have any scientists emerged to take issue with any of the technical points raised by the MUFON study.

Nor have government authorities bothered to refute last year’s study assembled by the National Aviation Reporting Center on Anomalous Phenomena. That 155-page report described how a UFO parked itself over the United Airlines terminal at Chicago’s busy O’Hare International for 18 minutes while ground crews watched the object burn a circular hole in the cloud cover upon its departure.

Our government’s refusal to acknowledge these meticulously detailed reconstructions, along with the media’s failure to press for answers, creates a vacuum that can only be filled by vigilant taxpayers demanding accountability from this Potemkin Village. Maybe the citizens of Arizona are best positioned to elevate this conundrum into what it’s been all along — a political issue.

Long before the “Phoenix Lights” incident drew international attention in 1997, Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater made repeated and now well-publicized attempts to flesh out the UFO mystery. But not even the lion of modern conservatism could get past the locked doors of Gen. Curtis LeMay, the former Air Force Chief of Staff.

Several months after countless Arizonans were startled by the massive UFO cruising their skies 11 years ago, Goldwater’s successor, John McCain, defended the military cover story that warplanes were conducting routine maneuvers that night in a letter to a constituent (at http://bp2.blogger.com/_PXeDY3KOwgA/R7XBpEcLPnI/AAAAAAAABic/XiYKW7nikQU/s1600-h/Phoenix+Lights+McCain+Ltr+Pg+(1).jpg):

“I believe that these exercises, culminating in the release of many flares simultaneously, provide a reasonable explanation for the appearance of the peculiar lights that evening.”

Several years later, however, when asked at a press conference about UFOs, McCain wasn’t laughing (see http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-4686586251683588658): “I think it’s of great interest. I would point out to you that there was a case a couple of years ago in Arizona of some lights that were seen over Arizona and that has never been fully explained.”

So which is it? What does McCain know?

In 2007, fellow Republican Fife Symington, the former Arizona governor who initially ridiculed the Phoenix Lights, admitted he’d seen the damned thing himself. He called it “enormous. It just felt otherworldly. In your gut, you could just tell it was otherworldly.”

It’s time for the “maverick” presidential candidate to figure out what’s going down in his own back yard. There’s never been a better moment for the folks who put McCain in office to demand a little more straight talk at the next town hall forum.