Danny Sheehan: Before UFOs
— The Past Informs the Present
As counsel to Steven Greer’s Disclosure Project and Lue Eluzando, Daniel Sheehan is a familiar voice in UFOlogy. When I first saw his name I was somewhat surprised. Long before I renewed my interest in high strangeness, I was aware of Sheehan through his work on Iran/Contra, the Karen Silkwood case, human rights issues and other progressive causes. So what was he doing speaking about UFOs? I probably should not have been surprised. Sheehan helped defend John Mack at Harvard when Mack was under fire for using hypnosis and investigating alien abductions. Yet, I raised my eyebrows when I learned that he continued to issue statements after he had been replaced as counsel.
In many ways, it should not have been unexpected — not so much because of Sheehan’s interest in aliens but due to his embrace of conspiracy. I was in law school when Sheehan filed a $24 million civil suit on behalf of journalists Tony Avirgan and Martha Honey, alleging that there was a conspiracy responsible for the La Penca bombing that injured Avirgan. The case centered in Sheehan’s ability to prove that a CIA operative named Ted Shackley, Richard Secord, retired General John Singlaub and others were part of a secret team manipulating foreign policy.
Many of us were entranced with the story. Sheehan was a charismatic speaker and videos of him circulated throughout the student body. Benefits were held for Sheehan’s Christic Institute. There were regular discussion groups following the case and Iran-Contra. The case assumed mythic status. We hoped would it would bring Reagan down.
In support of his case, Sheehan wrote an affidavit (see the Christic Institute summary) to present to the court try to tie everything together. It was soon criticized for getting many of its facts wrong.
Investigative reporter Dennis Bernstein characterized Sheehan as 60-40. 60 percent might be true enough to investigate and half of that is earth shattering. Others, however, such as one of the victims of the bombing, could not collaborate Sheehan’s allegations at all.
Some journalists in the progressive media raised significant concerns. James Kwitny (The Nation, Aug. 29, 1987), author of Crimes of the Patriots, wrote
He may yet prove a case, but so far his evidence, if any, is well hidden. For a year I have repeatedly asked Sheehan to provide sources or documents to corroborate his contentions. On several occasions Sheehan has promised to make sources available, but has always backed out, citing danger to the sources or other complications.
This is reminiscent of the late 1970s, when Sheehan promised to provide reporters with proof that Karen Silkwood was killed because she had discovered an international plot to smuggle bomb-grade material out of nuclear fuel plants around the country. Sheehan did not produce a single witness.
In Mother Jones Magazine (Feb. 1988), James Traub wrote:
The upshot of the criticism, particularly on the Left, is not that Sheehan is dishonest, but rather that he leaps in where others fear to tread — that he reasons from faith to facts rather than the other way around. Sympathetic journalists and experts . . . tried to prevail on Sheehan to curtail his flights of imagination. Nothing doing. He’s spent a lifetime standing up for unpopular truths. Opposition only proves to him how right he is.
In an appearance before a House committee, with over 200 reporters in attendance, Sheehan declined to name any sources. Yet, perhaps because of his faith in himself, Sheehan managed to build awareness of the privatization of foreign policy that allowed others to follow.
Traub concluded that Sheehan was “a brilliant publicist with more than the shadow of a huckster” who enthralled some and frightened others. “To that extent he must be doing something right.” Indeed, the Friends of General Singlaub compared the Institute to the Red Guard. Considering the source, that amounted to high praise.
In an article in the Nation (July 2: 1988), David Corn asked Is There Really a Secret Team? Corn focused on the second affidavit Sheehan filed to support his case. He believed the Institute deserved credit for recognizing the significance of Iran/Contra early on, but found that there were factual and analytical issues that Sheehan glossed over. “If the Christic Institute has to depend on the second affidavit and similar material [in court] it will have a tough time.” This proved accurate. Although the court had given Sheehan opportunity to conduct discovery and amend his pleadings, the Judge Lawrence King dismissed the case (Avirgan v. Hull, 932 F.2d 1572) citing:
“The fact that the vast majority of the 79 witnesses Mr. Sheehan cites as authorities were either dead, unwilling to testify, fountains of contradictory information or at best one person removed from the facts they were describing.”
On February 3, 1989, Judge King ordered the Christic Institute to pay $955,000 in attorney’s fees and $79,500 in court costs. The fine was imposed under Rule 11 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure that allows penalties for frivolous lawsuits. The Christic Institute did not survive the judgment.
His client, Tony Avirgan complained about the way that Sheehan handled matters and even asked for Danny’s disbarment. He stated that there was no self criticism, and that those who raised issues were labeled as enemies and ignored.
There were, indeed, numerous undocumented allegations in the suit, particularly in Sheehan’s Affidavit of Fact. As plaintiffs in the suit, Martha Honey and I struggled for years to try to bring the case down to earth, to bringing it away from Sheehan’s wild allegations. Over the years, numerous staff lawyers quit over their inability to control Sheehan. We stuck with it — and continued to struggle —because we felt that the issues being raised were important. But this was a law suit, not a political rally, and the hostile judges latched on to the lack of proof and the sloppy legal work.
Many of us attributed the result to a hostile court run by a Nixon appointee — to that extent it helped to remind us of the importance of voting with judicial appointments in mind and and to prepare ourselves for the kind of courts we might face in our careers. Still, Sheehan bore responsibility. The type of warnings from progressive media and lawyers that were made then also raise red flags about the assertions that Sheehan makes about UFOs.
Certainly Sheehan has done some good work over the years. I have not researched his work on the cases he lists on LinkedIn, but I noted that he was not listed as counsel on the Pentagon Papers case, so his resume does not necessarily reflect the role he has played.He went on to co-found the Romero Institute that has done important work with the Lakota law project to protect people struggling for water rights and the traditional ways. Yet I am not sure I would single him out as the People’s advocate (to use the title of his memoirs). Legal advocacy requires being able to prove allegations. In his most far reaching case, Sheehan apparently believed that different standards were in play.
This is not to say that Sheehan is limited to the law. Sheehan’s underlying view of the universe has long inspired him. John Traub quoted his view, “We are alienated from the godhead. . . We’re afraid. We are seized by this cosmic angst and fear. . . The major opponent of the national security state is religious consciousness.” It has never, then, just been about the law or what he could prove in court. He appears to be a natural for the role he is now playing.
Sheehan started New Paradigm Institute to advocate for disclosure of what our government knows about Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena (UAP or otherwise UFOs). Disclosure itself is a kind of trap since people will not be satisfied unless the information mirrors what they already believe. Thus, it is not shocking that Sheehan has also become a major source of the kind of information that people want disclosed.
Through Sheehan we have learned
- The US has at least nine non-terrestrial craft
- More one or two dozen alien bodies have been recovered
- A death bed confession revealed that we have met with aliens and interviewed them in New Mexico
- A Special Access Program controls the information we receive.
- A retrieval insider reported once inside interior expands to around tge size of a football field with time and space effects.
Radiance Technologies is developing a first strike weapon with UAP propulsion technology that will destabilize global security.
Sheehan has also stated that we have engaged with at least five different species. We have missiles that can reach China in under two minutes using antigravity technology, which is how UFOs can traverse the distances of space. The laws of physics present no impediments.
I am willing to consider that that there is technology we know nothing about, but by the time that Sheehan claimed that reptilians are “oddly attractive” I realized he was moving into the territory of Captain Mark Richards. After all Richards claimed his father invented an antigravity drive and that at least certain alien raptors are our friends as long as we don’t take their chocolate.
Sheehan has also made a number of claims about the disclosure process which have found their share of critics.
At least some articles have pointed out that Sheehan has not offered any evidence. Given his history with the Christic Institute and his predilection for making unsupported claims it is important up be careful about accepting any of his claims that rise to extraordinary levels. Carl Sagan’s belief that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence should be the mantra of the UAP community. As James Carrion once said,
Make sure that you check their source. Make sure you check every single fact. You better be a fact checker, because if you’re not a fact checker, you’re gonna be at the recipient end of disinformation, hoaxes and just being led down the primrose path that a lot of ufologists find themselves.
(The UFO Trail, “James Carrion to Podcasters: Deception Inherent to Ufology.”) Or as Jack Brewer has often reminded prople, it begins and ends with the standards of evidence. As a lawyer, Danny Sheehan knows that, but even as an advocate some evidence is important.
Sheehan does not appear to have changed since the Christic days. To be sure I do not think he was being deliberately deceptive in either the Avirgan case or his belief in space aliens. It’s just that his view of both include an expansive interpretation.
Ross Douthat recently wrote in the New York Times that it is up to UAP advocates to put their cards on the table. Sheehan could do the same, but why start now?
There are several reasons why I chose not to open my blog to public comments, but when I linked to this page on Reddit I was not surprised that the most favorable comment simply advised about giving public attention to scammers. That is much of what I do here, beginning when I first took an interest in Mark Richards. The rest simply said that Sheehan should not be questioned.
I did think that it was worth replying to one.
To the one who wrote about his track record, isn’t that what the article was about?
The most entertaining comment about Danny may have been on a recent YouTube video where someone objected to his politics. I feel safe in saying that he doesn’t care about that any more than he cares about what I post. He is who he is. To that extent, he is almost endearing.
|I probably should not have been surprised. Sheehan helped defend John Mack at Harvard when Mack was under fire for using hypnosis and investigating alien abductions. Yet, I raised my eyebrows when I learned that he continued to issue statements after he had been replaced as counsel.
|I have not researched his work on the cases he lists on LinkedIn, but I noted that he was not listed as counsel on the Pentagon Papers case, so his resume does not necessarily reflect the role he has played.