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THE HENRY X FILE
As Armen Victorian - Henry - told it, the Aviary comprised select, eschatologically-minded Intelligence officers, retired US Army colonels, wealthy philanthropists, government scientists, writers like Tim Good, and others "in the audience" (including a priest) - all united by a belief that the world had become terminally burdened by an over-dependence upon technology. Space aliens, amassed somewhere deep in the New Mexico desert, were unhappy; their 40-year-old 'earthling-tissue for technology' pact was under threat; its secret about to be uncovered by rogue investigators like Dodd, Birdsall, and, of course, Henry.
The Aviary's plan was twofold: by amplifying the public's misconception of the paranormal, attention could be diverted from ultra-secret weapons testing and other sensitive projects, like the CIA's increasing proficiency in remote viewing, the Space Defence Initiative and its annual manifestations in the wheat fields of southern England. This would discredit the New Age movement by promoting stories certain to attract public ridicule.
The most effective method, of course, was in manipulating the media. During periods with a high incidence of UFOs, for example, they would subdue potential panic with headlines like 'I WAS RAPED BY ALIENS' - stories no one in their right mind would believe. More astute researchers risked corruption by equally insidious tactics; crop circle and UFO hoaxing, fake films and photos. There was only one way to defeat this, implied Henry... and only one man.
Azadehdel's approach, like the Aviary's, was multifaceted. He explained to those listening that the techniques he used were those "usually deployed" by the intelligence services. Using a host of assumed identities, Henry plagued the Armed and Intelligence Services, and assorted scientists with telephone calls, his tape recorder running and well stocked, and flooded the US government with requests for sensitive records under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
Sometimes professional information gatherers were approached to make requests on his behalf. Henry showed one BBC producer a selection of passports to impress his role as researcher, consultant, or "eminent" physicist, or as an agent of our own Secret Services. This was social engineering at its finest.
"Henry definitely had an Intelligence background," remembers Birdsall, "because there were certain numbers and certain places and certain people that he could get in touch with that ordinary folks just couldn't. It was unbelievable."
Henry and Birdsall had arranged to meet one afternoon at a motorway service cafe near Nottingham. As Birdsall tells it, when Azadehdel opened his briefcase, beneath the passports - 'Well, one was British, and one looked like it might be Iranian... I didn't look too closely, and I didn't ask, but he made sure I saw them" - were "several hundreds of documents, not just those released under the FOIA," Birdsall told me later. "Not copies, but originals ... from the USA and all over the place. It was just incredible."
Henry's documents would eventually turn up in the undertow of paranoia-based sub-cultural magazines - such as Lobster, Third Eyes Only, Nexus, and Conspiracy. His taped telephone conversations were compiled for sale through a mail order directory run by Birdsall's Quest International. If the contents were particularly controversial - and they usually were - a 'special edition' would be advertised: For example "MESSENGERS OF DECEPTION, The Tape Which Proves That an Intelligence Organisation Exists to Provide Disinformation about crop circles. Armen Victorian Interviews a Member of That Security Service (UFO Audio Tape #15)."
The first tape played at the 1992 Leeds conference featured the voice of a young American sociology student, based at Lincoln College, Oxford - that traditional aegis of spies - whom Azadehdel believed to be operating undercover for the CIA. As The Guardian rightly predicted, it featured the getting-to-know-you banter of recruitment:
STUDENT: "NATO? Well, Germany is involved, and this country and the US... also the Vatican."
HENRY: "I see, I see... are we talking about..."
STUDENT: "We're talking about a supra-national organisation with ties to these countries."
HENRY: "Oh, good God! Are we talking Trilateral Commission, that sort of thing?
STUDENT: "It's just very dangerous to talk about, and I hope you will... you know..."
STUDENT: 'Are you a Christian?"
HENRY: "I am a Catholic."
STUDENT: "Yes, good ... so am I"
Gasps were heard from the audience as Azadehdel revealed that the student/agent lived within a short distance of the Oxford' headquarters of the right-wing Jesuit order Opus Dei.
The next tape was of a bewildered but service-polite officer at the US Space Command's Space Surveillance Centre, buried deep inside Colorado's Cheyenne mountain. A craft of some kind had crashed into the Rockies and the surrounding area sealed off, and Henry was ferreting details about an alleged film of the wreckage... "I'm afraid I can't tell you that, sir," replies the officer. "Ah, I see, I see...," hisses Henry - an ingratiating Mr Moto - "yes, I understand," he says, "not on the telephone." And what about the colour? "Sorry?" The colour of the craft? "Er, it was grey, sir." And the occupants? "Pardon me, sir?" Like the officer, 400 people in the hall strain to hear the words - but there's too much background noise - screaming and squawking like children playing nearby, or a cage full of endangered birds. "The occupants?," repeats Azadehdel, competing with the din. "They were grey, sir," reports the officer. "Aliens?" shouts the caller, barely able to contain himself. "Yes sir... it was alien."
Henry sits in stunned bedlam. Tension builds with the noise. The audience leans further forward, straining to hear what comes next. Then the officer's voice rises above it all, "Er... you have me on a speaker phone don't you, sir? It's just that I'm getting so much feedback." Silence for a moment, then: "No, no," answers Henry, "you see... it's because my phone is connected to my fax... If I tape something, I always ask permission beforehand."
Closer to home, Henry applied pressure on Lloyd Turner, then-deputy editor of Today newspaper. Alternatively posing as 'Dr Alan Jones' (media consultant), and 'Dr Armen Victorian' (eminent physicist), he bombarded Turner and his staff with questions concerning the 'Copyright MBF Services' notice appended to the paper's exposure of Doug and Dave, the sexagenarian crop circle makers. While Turner maintained that the squib was devised to discourage other papers from picking up the story prematurely, to Henry and the remains of a dwindling fraternity of cerealogists, it was further evidence of a concerted campaign to discredit the circles - the slip they had been hoping for.
Eventually the dispute reached the attention of the Press Complaints Commission. Azadehdel, now describing himself as a "prominent researcher into crop circles", accused the newspaper - specifically Turner, editor Martin Dunn, and Graham Brough, who had written the story - of "tricking people and seriously undermining research into the phenomenon".
Henry was confident of a favourable judgment: "I'm eighty per-cent sure we will win." he told Dr Terence Meaden, a former physics professor and editor of the Journal of Meteorology. With Meaden also recording the call, Azadehdel clarified his true intention in bringing the action. 'And when we do win," he said, "I will sue Today for damages."
Exactly what would have constituted damages in a case such as this was never established; judgement went in favour of the paper. Meanwhile, Cerealogist editor George Wingfield - whose code-name for Henry was 'Snowdrop' - and other crop-commandos continued to investigate the mysterious 'MBF Services', dividing their attention between a tiny defence industry contractor in a sleepy Somerset village where windowless stables looked a lot like laboratories, someone noted, and a Scottish rubber stamp manufacturer of the same name.
Henry's comeuppance began when he obtained and widely published the classified personnel records of Dr John B Alexander, a former US Army colonel and Director of the Non-lethal Weapons Division at Los Alamos National Laboratories, New Mexico. Azadehdel's FOIA request for Alexander's military records was initially turned down by the Los Alamos Public Office but his follow-up for more details hit pay-dirt; the office mistakenly returned the unadulterated file.
Azadehdel's subsequent article - 'Non-Lethality: John B Alexander, The Pentagon's Penguin", published in Lobster (June 1993) and republished in Nexus (Oct/Nov 1993) as 'Psychic Warfare and Non-Lethal Weapons' under Henry's "hobby" name of Armen Victorian - focused upon Alexander's supposed leadership of a top secret DIA-sponsored 'UFO Working Group', said to have held monthly meetings deep in the lead-lined bowels of Defence Department headquarters.
How much, asked Henry, of Alexander's input as head of the Army's Advanced Concept Division - his Ph.D. in Thanatology (the study of near-death experience); his involvement in the military's ESP experiments with dolphins; his interest in pre-cataclysmic civilizations (once diving in the waters off the Bimini Islands in search of the lost city of Atlantis); and his active interest in UFOs - was actually integrated into official defence policy?
Alexander's attempts to thwart Henry's probing brought only defiance. Henry circulated a letter on the Internet, stressing: "My true identity is and has always been A. Victorian," and hinting at his preparations for more legal shenanigans. "I await with great anticipation Mr Alexander's legal action in this regard." But it never came. Nevertheless, Alexander had done his homework, posting a selection of the juicier details from Henry's past. These included The Sun's lurid 'Sex Secret of Orchid Smuggler' which reads in part: "We had some particularly nice epithytics hanging from our bedroom ceiling," blushed [Mrs Azadehdel].'
Even more mind-boggling were the news reports of Henry's £4million appeal for 'aid' to Kurdish refugees, organised in 1991 with the assistance of the British and Iranian governments. Later, in an impatient moment, Henry suggested to me that its real purpose was reparation for Iran's costly war effort against Iraq.
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