Monday, November 12, 2007

Chronology of Events - The Empire Strikes Back

The following is the first in a series of posts to provide viewers of this blog a specific chronology of events surrounding Dr. Ken Johnston’s involuntary termination from JPL’s Solar System Ambassador Program.

The entire sequence of events which led to Dr. Johnston’s termination began with an email from NBC science reporter James Oberg to Kay Ferrari of JPL’s SSA program on October 19th, 2007. As you can see from the signature, Oberg sent this email in his capacity as an NBC science reporter.

Here is that initial email:

From: "Jim Oberg" To: Cc: , ,"james oberg" Subject: question re ambassador Ken JohnstonDate: Fri, 19 Oct 2007 06:45:04 -0500X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 6.00.2900.3138X-Source-IP: []X-Source-Sender: jeoberg@comcast.netX-JPL-spam-score: 0.00%To: Kay Ferrari:

Hi! I'm checking out some stories attributed to New Mexico Solar System Ambassador Ken Johnston, described at<>, that NASA photos from Apollo show alien structures on the Moon which NASA is covering up, and that Richard Hoagland is correct about NASA and its astronauts lying to the public.See <> and<>

and <> etc etc

Some criticism here: <> Noory, ;Coast to Coast' (all night show, formerly 'Art Bell' show)<>
"Ken Johnston, who worked for NASA for 23 years, appeared in Hour 2, and described screening Apollo footage and seeing a cluster of lights in a moon crater accompanied by a plume of steam. But then two days later when he showed the footage to some officials, the crater material had been seamlessly removed. Perhaps even more surprising was Johnston and Hoagland's supposition that astronauts who went to the moon may have had their memories altered or blanked in order to suppress their knowledge of what they saw there."

Is he still an 'ambassador' in good standing, and did you ever make any effort to verify any of his professional/educational claims as published on your website?If he was 61 in 2007, as the data indicates, he was born in 1946, so "in the 1960's" he would have been about 20. To learn to fly jets in the Marines, and then serve out his service commitment (3 to 4 years), and then become a Grumman LM pilot instructor by 1969, he'd have had to begin flight training at about the age of 17, I figure -- which doesn't seem credible, since he's have had to have been a commissioned officer before that step. What am I overlooking here?He also says he examined original Apollo imagery in the Lunar Receiving Lab at JSC. Please correct me on this as needed, but I thought that film was transferred from the quarantine facility (and LRL) to the regular Bldg 8 photoprocessing lab for development and printing -- NOT handled by a temporary facility within the LRL area? Have I got that wrong?


Jim Oberg<
NBC News space consultant

As stated in the Enterprise Mission press release of 10\30\2007, Ferrari stated that it was Oberg’s email which prompted her to call Johnston and request his resignation. To quote: “JPL’s ultimate decision to fire Dr. Johnston was initiated, according to Ferrari’s phone call, ‘by an initial inquiry to JPL from James Oberg, of NBC News.’ Oberg is a former NASA contractor and a colleague of Johnston’s at NASA’s Manned Spacecraft Center during the Apollo Program in the 1970’s. According to Ferrari, Oberg, in his e-mails, raised ‘serious issues regarding Johnston’s credentials’ and his ‘crackpot accusations’ against the agency.”

Ferrari then went on to state that it was Johnston “being quoted [as] criticizing NASA in Hoagland’s new book, ‘Dark Mission,’” that prompted her to ask for Johnston’s resignation from the SSA Program.

In other words, were it not for Oberg’s email to Ferrari (and several other JPL press officers), Johnston would still be part of the SSA program. The fact that Oberg hides behind the following statement: “Fact. I did not ever urge anyone to alter in any way Ken's status in the Solar System Ambassador program” does not change the reality that his email is the sole reason Ken is no longer with the SSA program.

Even though Oberg did not specifically call for Johnston to be terminated from the SSA program, he certainly knew what would happen when he sent his email to Ferrari and the JPL press people. As the email shows, he called into question Johnston’s credentials without bothering to check them himself.

If Oberg was acting as a responsible, impartial reporter, the obvious move would have been to simply go directly to the source – Dr. Johnston himself – about his credentials.

Oberg, however, instead of going to Johnston, went to his “bosses” at JPL in an obvious attempt to get him trouble, if not overtly fired. He certainly knew when he sent the email to various JPL sources that they would launch an investigation prompted solely by his email.

We leave it to readers to decide if a responsible journalist would seek to undermine the position of an employee by questioning his credentials in a prejudicial letter to his bosses rather than inquiring directly to that person as a first step.


robert said...

I'd like to know why Mr. Oberg had to go all the way to some Swedish website to find criticism of Mr. Hoagland and Mr. Johnston?

And the JPL beaurocrats bought this? Well what can we expect when this administration beaurocrats altered WMD intellgence on Iraq and King Georgie Jr himself once stated AFTER missing him Tora Bora that "He couldn't care less where Osama Bin Ladden is".

Seems the same mindset got infected with Mr. Oberg's "Swedish Obessions".


Mr. Oberg you signed that email as a "NBC News space consultant"...tell me did YOU have permission from NBC to send that email as a represenative for NBC?


would be appreciated Mr. Oberg. You still have not answered my four bulleted questions...and you have been PROVEN wrong in your assertions about the selection of the Apollo landing site 'authority' in this matter...and there is still NO apology or reply from you on this point from either YOU or NBC.

I for one would like some answers too Mr. Oberg.


JimO said...

Good work on your research -- glad to see that you publish an email message which does NOT say what you earlier CLAIMED it said. Instead, you revert to mind-reading to try to prove your original complaints. Sigh...

When I talked with Ferrari later, she told me she did NOT ask for Johnston's resignation, but that when asked about his credentials, he suddenly surprised her by offering to resign.

I'll verify that with her, but as of now we have a conflict between two versions of what SHE said on the phone.

There is the version that is consistent with Johnston's subsequent email asking to rescind his voluntary resignation (the way I thought I heard her tell it), and your version of a demanded resignation, that seems to me to be hard to reconcile with Johnston asking the next day to withdraw it.

We'll follow up on that.

Bigger issue -- Mike, you can't be serious in asserting that if I hadn't brought Johnston's role in the book up with JPL, they would never have noticed?

Another way -- since it's pretty clear that Johnston's being a volunteer public relations program for an organization that he was also publicly alleging has lied to the public about its major programs, that's sort of a conflict-waiting-to-erupt at any moment. Do you really think that JPL would have been happy with the arrangement no matter how, and when, they found out?

This strikes me as inconsistent in your evaluation of the sequence of events. For you, NASA is this nefarious, malignant brain-control cabal intent on foisting fraud on the public, but somehow -- now, explain to me what I'm missing here -- overlooks Johnston's association with JPL while also associating with your own activities, EXCEPT for MY email?

What a bunch of clumsy conspiratorial clowns, if your model of NASA is correct! You were expecting, maybe, to pull one over on the conspirators by stunning them with the unexpected revelation of your 'whistle-blower' at the press conference, catching them by utter surprise?

And only my email to them, alone among all their spies and agents and computer monitoring of the internet, and who knows what mind scanning devices they brought back from the moon, all of these resources proved inadequate to make that connection -- until my email arrived?

I'm genuinely curious how you can possibly expect such an interpretation to have any credibility to rational people.

I also note you still seem to think I was secretly in Houston, being a colleague of Johnston's during the Apollo program, when my other associates in Albuquerque and Washington DC seemed to believe I was actually with THEM, doing work for THEIR projects.

I guess it's hopeless to expect you to voluntarily admit the mistake -- imaginative delusions seem far more comforting.

The folks at NBC who initially expressed mild curiosity about the authenticity of your experts are no longer interested in a news story -- this happens with most topics I check out for clients, don't take it personally. I'm working a dozen different leads at any one time, most don't check out -- but one did today and I posted the story on msnbc's space page so you can see the kind of real work I do kissing up to NASA.

JimO said...

Bara: "As the email shows, he called into question Johnston’s credentials without bothering to check them himself. If Oberg was acting as a responsible, impartial reporter, the obvious move would have been to simply go directly to the source – Dr. Johnston himself – about his credentials."

This deserves an explanation.

First, you assert that my email to JPL was sent 'without bothering to check' Johnston's credentials. You don't KNOW whether I had made any other checks, or not, you are just IMAGINING that I didn't, and then asserting it here as FACT. You do that a lot. It's not fact-based evidence, it's fantasy-based pseudo-evidence.

Just like your persistent, fact-defiant delusion that I already KNEW all of Johnston's credentials from back in the alternate universe you have invented where I was "a colleague of his during the Apollo program" -- despite never having BEEN in Houston during that period.

I had actually done background checking, before emailing JPL -- and emailing them was just another step in this checking. You find it objectionable that I check up on a person's advertised credentials and views BEFORE talking directly with them as a potential news subject... but actually, that's the way I always do it, when I can.
Most journalists of my acquaintance do it this way, it saves the interviewee's time, it shows seriousness on the part of the interviewer, and it provides a good roadmap for questions, including validation questions -- when you let somebody know you've already checked up on a subject, as a rule they are flattered, first, and second, are less prone to think they can foist off half-truths and evasions if there's a good chance you already know enough about them to detect these gimmicks.

Now, this might not be the way YOU do interviews, Mike, but I would advise you to consider it -- rather than mocking people with a lot more investigative experience than you, for doing something different from the way YOU learned to do it.

And people with a whole lot better reputation for credible, sensible, ground-breaking investigations and explanations. Learn from them, don't lecture them.

Mike Bara said...

Nice try, Jim.

Your email to Kay Ferrari shows that you were not "checking" Ken's credntials, you were questioning their legitimacy. Do you always start your fact checking by going to the bosses of a person and questioning their intgrity by implying their credentials aren't legit? That's what they taught you in journalism school?

And you never once went to the source who could clear it all up for you -- Ken.

Again, nice try. But the only people who will believe your tripe are the CSICOP crowd.

PS - And if you MUST keep bringing up Apollo, fine. When exactly DID you start at JSC? If you don't have a date, at least a month and year?

JimO said...

Bara: "And if you MUST keep bringing up Apollo, fine. When exactly DID you start at JSC? If you don't have a date, at least a month and year?"

Yes, I M-U-S-T....because it's central to your defiant delusion that I was a colleague of Johnston's during Apollo, thus already knew his credential claims were valid, and hence was operating unethically to 'pretend' to inquire about them and express confusion over the claimed timeline...

For years, under the presumably unambiguous heading "Aerospace Career Resume", the information refuting your assertion has been on my home page,, but I guess you just couldn't find it. Try looking it up now.

My first duty day that year was Monday, July 28.

JimO said...

Mike, you keep harping on how my questioning Johnston's advertised credentials was phony, with ulterior malevolent motives. This is an argument that you may regret opening.

For example, "Dr." Johnston (as you regularly refer to him, with the clear indication of advanced scientific study fitting to somebody put in charge of all Apollo mission photography (at age 27) cited on the NASA site a PhD in "Meta Physics", as in some kind of advanced physics. Elsewhere, he spells the word correctly, 'metaphysics' as in the citation on your blog:

Saturday, October 6, 2007
Ken Johnston Answers Commentors Questions
"I hold a BS in Aerospace Engineering from Oklahoma City University and two advanced degrees from the Reformed Baptist Seminary, one in Theology and the other PhD in Metaphysics."

Now, Mike, help me out on this, because as part of my calibration I took what must seem to you to be an unethical, unjustified, and extraordinary step, I checked out the 'Reformed Baptist Seminary'.

Their website makes no mention of a PhD program in metaphysics, or any PhD programs in anything, or any degrees in metaphysics. It states:

"RBS exists primarily for the purpose of preparing men for the gospel ministry. Therefore, training men who aspire to the pastorate, as well as providing further training for men who are already engaged in pastoral labors shall be the main focus of the seminary. As an extension of the local church’s teaching ministry, the seminary exists secondarily to provide further instruction for laymen who desire to enhance their understanding of Scripture.

"Degrees, Diploma & Certificates -- RBS currently offers the Bachelor of Divinity (B.Div.) and Master of Divinity (M.Div.) degrees. As part of our “Marrow of Theology” program, we also offer the 32-credit Master of Theological Studies (M.T.S.) or Diploma of Theological Studies (D.T.S.) and the 24-credit Certificate of Theological Studies (C.T.S.) for foreign pastors and students for whom an extended theological education is not presently feasible.

"According to the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, “institutions whose sole purpose is religious or theological training” are exempt from state licensure. “Religious or theological training” is defined as “the awarding of nonacademic degrees, diplomas, or certificates with a specific theological, biblical, divinity, or other religious designation.”"

Curious if this was only a reflection of a changed program, I telephoned Bob Gonzales, academic dean. He told me his seminary has never offered a PhD, and he is aware of no other seminary of similar names that may have, either.


Now, I can use my imagination and anticipate how you may respond to this.

The first option is to claim that there is some other institution, no longer existing, that was once called the 'Reformed Baptist Semnary", that DID grant PhD diplomas, but it vanished long before the internet was invented so there is no trace of it on current search engines...

The second option is to claim that the RBS does indeed grant such a degree but it is kept secret to discredit Mr. Johnston.

Another option is to concede that perhaps Johnston misremembered or 'misspoke' about his claimed PhD.

But wouldn't that be to concede that my 'checking up' was the proper investigative strategy?