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Retired Congresswoman Lynn Woolsey of Petaluma will help preside over a five-day media event aimed at revealing evidence of an "extraterrestrial presence" and a decades-long government effort to cover it up.

Woolsey, who retired last year after representing Sonoma and Marin counties for 20 years on Capitol Hill, is among six former federal lawmakers tapped as panelists for the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure, starting April 29 at the National Press Club in Washington.

The $600,000 event, put on by the Bethesda, Md.-based Paradigm Research Group, will offer — and film for a future documentary — 30 hours of congressional-style hearings devoted to the premise of an ET-like presence "engaging the human race."

"This event is a milestone; this has never been done before," said Stephen Bassett, executive director of Paradigm, a lobbying organization formed in 1996.

More than 30 witnesses will testify over five days during the Citizen Hearing on Disclosure, focusing on what Bassett's group calls "the most important issue of this or any other time."

The event's international spokesman is Edgar Mitchell, a former Apollo astronaut and moonwalker who asserts that alien visits to Earth include the 1947 crash at Roswell, N.M.

One of the witnesses, Chinese scientist Sun Shili, believes that extraterrestrials live on Earth and could hold keys to research on high-speed travel, renewable energy and fast-growing crops, according to the hearing's website.

Woolsey, reached at home on Friday, said she was not commenting on the event until it was over. Asked if she would talk about it then, Woolsey said: "Maybe."

The six panelists are being paid $20,000 each plus their expenses for participating, which Bassett said was "totally appropriate."

Bassett said the six-figure cost of the event is being covered by a backer who will be identified later. The backer is "someone who wants to see this issue resolved," Bassett said.

Invitations were sent to about 50 former members of Congress, and Bassett said it "took longer than I expected" to get six commitments.

None was selected based on their personal opinion on extraterrestrial life, he said.

"We clearly felt she would be highly respected," Bassett said, calling Woolsey "a wonderful choice."

A liberal Democrat, Woolsey was best known for her vocal opposition to the Iraq war. Extraterrestrial life was never one of her expressed interests, said David McCuan, a Sonoma State University political scientist.

Another panelist, former Alaska Sen. Mike Gravel, a Democrat who served from 1968-80, opposed the Vietnam war.

The other four are former Reps. Carolyn Cheeks Kilpatrick, D-Mich.; Darlene Hooley, D-Ore.; Roscoe Bartlett, R-Md. and Merrill Cook, R-Utah.

Kilpatrick did not respond to a request for comment from The Detroit News.

"Credible evidence for the extraterrestrial presence is overwhelming," said Bassett, who blames both Congress and the media for failing to investigate the matter.

The hearing and Bassett's group are intent on exposing what he calls the "Truth Embargo," a decades-long government campaign to not only deny the existence of extraterrestrials but to discredit believers.

"It's no longer about lights in the sky; it's about lies on the ground," Paradigm Research Group's website says.

Congress is culpable for having failed to address the subject since a hearing in 1968, Bassett said.

"Congress is not committed to bringing the truth to the American people," he said, likening it to the Catholic Church's reluctance to agree that the sun was the center of the solar system.

Bassett said he hatched the idea for the hearing in 2001 and it took 12 years to bring it to fruition.

The hearing will be webcast live in multiple languages and filmed for inclusion in a documentary, called "Truth Embargo," that will cost another $600,000 to produce.

Bassett said he hopes the documentary, distributed worldwide, will do for the extraterrestrial cause what Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" did for global warming.

(You can reach Staff Writer Guy Kovner at 521-5457 or guy.kovner@pressdemocrat.com.)