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Real-life X-File

January 9, 1999
Web posted at: 8:36 PM EST (0136 GMT)

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) -- In the X-Files it would be called the case of the CEO and the UFO.

Joe Firmage, who at the age of 28 has made not one but two mega-fortunes as a computer pioneer in California's Silicon Valley, has quit the $2 billion company he helped found to promote what he calls "the most important news event in 2000 years"-- his belief that many of today's scientific advances came from space aliens.

"Why would a young, successful CEO risk his reputation on something this fantastic?" Firmage told Saturday's San Francisco Chronicle in announcing his departure from USWeb/CKS , an Internet marketing and consulting company based in Santa Clara, California.

"Because I believe so much in this theory. And I am in a unique position to communicate an extremely important message. I have the money, credibility, scientific grounding, and faith."

Firmage has been dubbed the "Fox Mulder of Silicon Valley" after the hero of the "X-Files" television series, and his own beliefs seem strangely parallel to the dark mix of UFO contact and government conspiracy that lie at the show's core.

Backed by his immense resources, Firmage has sought to prove a variety of theories regarding UFOs, including one which holds that many recent scientific advances including semiconductors, fiber optics and lasers can be traced to a purported alien spaceship crash in Roswell, New Mexico, in 1947 that was covered up by the government.

"Outright rejection of the evidence without comprehensive review of the research in print across hundreds of books is close-minded, unscientific and indeed irresponsible in the extreme," Firmage wrote in one recent essay.

"It is also quite understandable given decades of government disinformation which, right or wrong in its genesis and continuation, was specifically designed to create a 'giggle factor' surrounding the subject."

Firmage's credentials as a UFO buff are matched by his track record as a computer industry entrepreneur.

A physics major at the University of Utah, Firmage was 18 when he formed his first company, Serius, which specialized in writing computer operating system codes. That was sold to Novell in 1993 for $24 million, and Firmage served as Novell's vice president of networking strategy until 1995 when he left to form USWeb.

That company, which helped companies to develop Internet strategies, completed a merger with CKS Group Inc. last month to form a $2.1 billion powerhouse that employs 1,950 people.

During the merger, however, Firmage was edged out as CEO by a board of directors who did not see eye to eye with him on the UFO issue. Now, Firmage says, he is leaving the company for good to pursue his beliefs.

"I want to ensure that the company is not impacted in any negative way," Firmage told the Chronicle, adding that he was not pressured to give up his job as chief strategist.

Robert Shaw, who took over as CEO of USWeb/CKS, said Firmage himself had suggested the move "given the market exposure associated with his outside interests."

"Joe is a visionary and he should be quite proud of what he accomplished. This move should demonstrate to the public and the employees that he's always put the interests of the company first," Shaw told the newspaper.

Firmage has already laid the groundwork for a campaign to publicize his UFO beliefs. He has set up the International Space Science Organization to promote his views, sunk $3 million into an endeavor dubbed "Project Kairos" aimed at preparing humanity for alien contact, and posted a 600-page manifesto, entitled "The Truth", on his website (www.thewordistruth.org).

Included in "The Truth" are new documents from a source Firmage calls the "Deep Throat of Cyberspace" which he claims back up his space alien theories.

One of the documents is a purported 1947 memo from President Harry Truman to Secretary of Defense James Forrestal that sets up a secret U.S. government operation dubbed "Majestic Twelve" to investigate extraterrestrials.

Another is an alleged June 1947 letter from Albert Einstein and Robert Oppenheimer to scientist Vannevar Bush giving advice on how to deal with alien visitors.

Firmage's departure from USWeb/CKS was greeted with a shrug by many of his Silicon Valley contemporaries, who have long scoffed at his otherworldly beliefs.

"I've met a bunch of the valley's pioneers, and none of them I know are aliens," said John McLaughlin, a Silicon Valley historian. "The valley was built on ingenuity and hard work."

Even Silicon Valley's "official" UFO organization, the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute which is partly financed by high-tech heavyweights from Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard and Intel, is not lining up behind Firmage.

"Roswell has repeatedly been discounted as nothing more than a military experiment," SETI Institute President Frank Drake told the Chronicle. "It is constantly exploited by obsessive types who want to believe. If it's not Santa Claus, then it's aliens."

Firmage, however, was unperturbed by the lack of support from the high-tech world.

"It's the Flat-Earth society mentality all over again, and I'm here to prove my theory is real," he told the newspaper.

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