L. Neil Smith's

Number 8, May 1996

Circular Reasoning

By L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

          And now for something completely different.
          I was watching my second-favorite Harrison Ford movie, Patriot Games, for the 57th time the other night, having just remote-surfed past a channel running Sightings or some other such program, when it occurred to me in what I call a blinding flash of the absurdly obvious:
          The CIA knows who's making the crop circles.
          Crop circles, in case you've forgotten (or never knew, or never wanted to know), are pretty geometric designs -- usually perfectly circular, but commonly with variations and embellishments -- tramped into ordinary English grain fields, for reasons and by methods and parties unknown. They're quite real. I've seen lots of high quality aerial photos of them. They're one of the less-significant among life's many "unsolved mysteries", but very interesting (and a trifle annoying) nevertheless. And before anyone else mentions it, I don't think anybody with all his marbles doubts for a minute that they're being made by perfectly mundane human beings, as opposed, say, to UFOsies.
          The question is, who and why.
          As usual, my dear Watson, Scotland Yard is baffled. Which seems a little peculiar, considering what's involved. Somebody is traipsing out, presumably in the middle of the night, and stomping around and around and around in circles for hours on end to make these patterns. Could be it's several somebodies, but that only makes it harder to understand why they aren't getting caught green-footed, as it were. They're using string or something like that to keep the shapes right. They might be using boards to mash the stalks down. They have to arrive from somewhere, by foot, bicycle, or car, then they have to go home.
          Unless Scotty is beaming them back and forth from the USS Enterprise.
          Maybe Inspector Lestrade's traditional methods have no forensic application here, but I'd sure appreciate it if somebody would explain why.
          But as usual, I digress.
          The CIA knows the answer.
          They can't not know.
          I've been told, by people I believe, that the kind of satellite surveillance technology shown in Patriot Games is comparatively primitive compared to that agency's genuine capabilities in this area. Even if this weren't the case, what we see in the movie, or even in The Hunt for Red October, should be more than adequate. Devices that can read a license plate from low Earth orbit, or distinguish one brand of cigarette pack from another, ought to be of some modest utility.
          Wouldn't you think?
          I don't believe for a minute that the CIA doesn't keep -- as a purely protective measure, mind you -- an eye upon our closest ally. And I don't believe for a nanosecond that they aren't at least as inquisitive as I am. If I'm writing this column, then they've gotta be peeking.
          Of course I could be wrong.
          Yes, I'm perfectly aware that there are those in positions of authority who believe that "our" real capabilities in this and other technical areas should remain unknown to potential enemies -- which means that it must remain unknown to those who were compelled to pay for it, as well. I've never agreed with this. You tell the Russians openly that we can count each of the hairs on Boris Yeltsin's drunken head, and they'll be one hell of a lot friendlier to us and to our friends.
          Their knowledge that the Reagan Administration was determined to construct the "Star Wars" strategic defense system -- which their civilization was neither technologically nor economically capable of emulating or countering -- brought an abrupt end to any aspirations to world conquest they may still have been nurturing in their own 70- year-old bosoms. And that was the finish of the Marxist-Leninist dream.
          As I say, I could be wrong, but I don't think so. It was freely flowing information, as much as anything else, that killed the Evil Empire. I think it's slowly killing Red China, even as you read this. And I think authoritarian politicians like James Exon are aware that the 95% of the US government that's blatantly unconstitutional won't fare any differently. That's why he and others like him detest and fear the internet and continue striving, at any cost, to get it under control.
          And to get this essay back under control, here's a chance -- in this brave new post-Cold War world we suddenly find ourselves living in -- for the CIA to do something useful for a change. There is no reason whatever for a phenomenon like English crop circles to remain classified. Damn it, George Bush, not just as a former President, but as a former head of the CIA, knows what's going on here, and we don't. Does that make any sense? It's time for them to cough up all their idiotic secrets, and this is as entertaining a place to start as any.
          Then maybe we can have them look into that pesky business in Loch Ness.

Science fiction author L. Neil Smith actually thinks it's likelier (or at least more logically parsimonious) that UFOs are time machines than spacecraft. But please don't tell anyone -- especially the CIA.

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