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The earliest citation of the term "MJ Twelve" originally surfaced in a purported U.S. Air Force teletype dated November 17, 1980. This so-called Project Aquarius teletype had been given to Albuquerque physicist and businessman Paul Bennewitz in November, 1980, by U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations counterintelligence officer Richard C. Doty as part of a disinformation campaign to discredit Bennewitz. Bennewitz had photographed and recorded electronic data of what he believed to be UFO activity over and nearby Kirtland AFB, a sensitive nuclear facility. Bennewitz reported his findings to officials at Kirtland, including Doty. Later it was discovered the Aquarius document was phony and had been prepared by Doty.
One sentence in the lengthy teletype read:
The official US Government policy and results of Project Aquarius is [sic] still classified TOP SECRET with no dissemination outside channels and with access restricted to "MJ TWELVE."
As Greg Bishop writes, "Here, near the bottom of this wordy message in late 1980, was the very first time anyone had seen a reference to the idea of a suspected government group called 'MJ Twelve' that controlled UFO information. Of course, no one suspected at the time the colossal role that this idea would play in 1980s and '90s UFOlogy, and it eventually spread beyond its confines to become a cultural mainstay."
As Bennewitz was the subject of a disinformation campaign, many investigators are automatically suspicious of any documents or claims made in association with the Bennewitz affair. Because the entire MJ-12 affair made its appearance only a year after Bray had made public the incriminating Canadian documents about the secret UFO committee, one theory is that the Project Aquarius teletype was part of a counterintelligence hoax to discredit the information in the just-revealed Canadian documents. Thus the various MJ-12 documents could be fake, but the secret committee described in the verified Canadian documents could still have been real. (See Arguments for below)