“I have no idea what I saw. But I want to fly one.” – Commander David Fravor
Head of Pentagon’s secret ‘UFO’ office sought to make evidence public
by Joby Warrick / December 16 2017
“Just before leaving his Defense Department job two months ago, intelligence officer Luis Elizondo quietly arranged to secure the release of three of the most unusual videos in the Pentagon’s secret vaults: raw footage from encounters between fighter jets and “anomalous aerial vehicles” — military jargon for UFOs.
The videos, all taken from cockpit cameras, show pilots struggling to lock their radars on oval-shaped vessels that, on screen, look vaguely like giant flying Tic Tacs. The strange aircraft — no claims are made about their possible origins or makeup — appear to hover briefly before sprinting away at speeds that elicit gasps and shouts from the pilots.
Elizondo, in an internal Pentagon memo requesting that the videos be cleared for public viewing, argued that the images could help educate pilots and improve aviation safety. But in interviews, he said his ultimate intention was to shed light on a little-known program Elizondo himself ran for seven years: a low-key Defense Department operation to collect and analyze reported UFO sightings.
“We all thought the Axis powers had something really special and fantastic. The Axis powers saw the same craft, and thought they belonged to us.”
The existence of the program, known as the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, was confirmed officially for the first time Saturday by a Pentagon spokesman. The acknowledgment came in response to media inquiries, which were generated in part by a start-up company Elizondo has joined since retirement. The private company specializes in promoting UFO research for scientific and entertainment purposes.
Current and former Pentagon officials confirm that the Pentagon program has been in existence since 2007 and was formed for the purpose of collecting and analyzing a wide range of “anomalous aerospace threats” ranging from advanced aircraft fielded by traditional U.S. adversaries to commercial drones to possible alien encounters. It is a rare instance of ongoing government investigations into a UFO phenomenon that was the subject of multiple official inquiries in the 1950s and 1960s.
Spending for the program totaled at least $22 million, according to former Pentagon officials and documents seen by The Washington Post, but the funding officially ended in 2012. “It was determined that there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding and it was in the best interest of the DOD to make a change,” Pentagon spokesman Tom Crosson explained in a statement. But officials familiar with the initiative say the collection effort continued as recently as last month. The program operated jointly out of the Pentagon and, at least for a time, an underground complex in Las Vegas managed by Bigelow Aerospace, a defense contractor that builds modules for space stations.
It generated at least one report, a 490-page volume that describes alleged UFO sightings in the United States and numerous foreign countries over multiple decades. Neither the Pentagon nor any of the program’s managers have claimed conclusive proof of extraterrestrial visitors, but Elizondo, citing accounts and data collected by his office over a decade, argues that the videos and other evidence failed to generate the kind of high-level attention he believes is warranted. As part of his decision to leave the Pentagon, he not only sought the release of videos but also penned a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis complaining that a potential security threat was being ignored.
“Despite overwhelming evidence at both the classified and unclassified levels, certain individuals in the [Defense] Department remain staunchly opposed to further research on what could be a tactical threat to our pilots, sailors and soldiers, and perhaps even an existential threat to our national security,” Elizondo said in the letter, a copy of which was provided to The Post.
The first public revelations of the program came in a video conference aired in October by To the Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, the firm Elizondo joined as a consultant after retiring from his Pentagon job. The New York Times and Politico reported the existence of the program on their websites Saturday. The Washington Post conducted several confidential interviews over two months with Elizondo and Christopher Mellon, a former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence who also is an officer of the private firm.
Documents provided by the former officials included letters of support by former Senate majority leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.), a key backer of the initiative who helped secure funding for the program and sought to ensure a high degree of secrecy. Elizondo said knowledge of the program was limited, even within the Pentagon itself. He said the program had multiple enemies at senior levels of the department, from officials who were either skeptical or ideologically opposed to AATIP’s mission.
“I was honored to serve at the DOD and took my mission of exploring unexplained aerial phenomena quite seriously,” Elizondo said. “In the end, however, I couldn’t carry out that mission, because the department — which was understandably overstretched — couldn’t give it the resources that the mounting evidence deserved.”
It is difficult to draw conclusions about the nature of the unidentified vessels from the videos alone. Experts generally urged caution, explaining that reported UFO sightings often turn out of have innocuous explanations. A retired Navy pilot contacted by The Post who was involved in a 2004 encounter depicted in one of the videos confirmed that the images accurately reflected his recollection of the events. The pilot would only speak on the condition of anonymity.
Elizondo, a 22-year veteran of the department who has held top security clearance and worked on secret counterintelligence missions, said he chose to join the private venture because he believed it was the best way to continue the work he was unable to complete as a government employee. “I left to find an environment where investigating these phenomena is priority number one,” he said.”
UNIDENTIFIED AERIAL PHENOMENON
UFO Cover-up? A Government Insider Speaks Out
by Leslie Kean / 05/09/2016
“About six months ago, our board at UFODATA was privileged to welcome Christopher Mellon as the newest member of our team. Chris spent nearly 20 years in the federal government serving in various national security positions. For the first time, he has agreed to speak publicly about his experiences within government as they relate to UFOs. It is unusual for a man of Chris’s stature to speak openly about UFOs, which gives his statements great weight.
His positions during the Clinton and Bush administrations involved high clearances; in fact, there are few people who have enjoyed such deep and wide-ranging access to compartmented programs in both the Defense Department (DoD) and the intelligence community. Chris is the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Reconnaissance Office Gold Medal and the Defense Intelligence Agency Director’s Medal. At DoD, Chris served on a small committee that provided oversight of all DoD special access programs, in order to eliminate potential waste and duplication.
The oversight included visits to Area 51 and other sensitive facilities. He also spent over a decade on the Senate Intelligence Committee, involved in oversight of NRO, CIA, NSA and other intelligence organizations. He became the first Congressional official to review all of the NSA’s compartmented programs.
“Chris (right) with former Secretary of Defense Bill Cohen in 1995. Note the inscription: “The Other Man who kept all the secrets.” Chris drafted the bill for Cohen that established the US Special Operations Command.” [photo Chris Mellon]
Q: Do you recall any incidents involving UFOs while you were in government?
A: Yes, there were a handful of incidents. Knowing of my interest in UFOs, a breathless naval aviator called me one day to report that he was present minutes earlier when a Navy jet landed after being circled by a UFO in broad daylight. The Navy did not pursue the issue as far as I could tell.
I also recall the Maui Optical Tracking Facility, which tracks satellites, recording a flight of four or five fiery UFOs traversing the night sky. Nobody knew what to make of it. But no government official expressed the slightest interest even after the tape was featured on ABC’s Nightline. I found the utter lack of scientific curiosity due to political correctness highly frustrating.
Q: The taboo against taking UFOs seriously is a huge problem. How can we get more government officials to change this ingrained attitude?
A: I think we have to ask ourselves a key question, and then bring it forward. “Are there UFO cases that are sufficiently well-documented to warrant a scientific investigation of the phenomenon?” In my view, the answer is yes. The patterns in the data are too strong; the reports from credible witnesses separated widely by time and place too similar; the evidence from videos and trained military and law enforcement observers too extensive; and the independent radar data in select cases correlates too highly with visual observations to safely ignore. Finally, when someone you trust and respect, like a naval aviator, looks you in the eye and tells you he saw something truly extraordinary at close range, it’s hard not to take his testimony seriously. It is arrogant, unreasonable and unwise to dismiss such reports. We should simply and impartially follow the trail wherever it leads.
Q: Which credible UFO incidents have you found particularly impressive and convincing?
A: A few stand out in my mind. In November 1989, 13 police officers and hundreds of other witnesses saw two silent triangular craft gliding over Belgium. This was the beginning of a wave of sightings there lasting well over a year. Ground and air radar data were acquired as well. The Belgian Air Force investigated the events in cooperation with a team of scientists and consulted with the U.S. and NATO countries, but could not find a conventional explanation.
On the night of March 30, 1993, over a hundred witnesses in England, including police officers and military personnel, saw a triangular-shaped craft able to rapidly accelerate in seconds from a hovering position. The British Ministry of Defense stated that “none of the usual explanations put forward to explain UFO sightings seem applicable” and concluded that the evidence showed that “an unidentified object (or objects) of unknown origin was operating over the UK.”
Similarly, multiple police officers in Southern Illinois saw an object in January 2000 that looked and behaved very similarly to the Belgian and British UFOs. In fact, the Illinois police officers’ drawings of the craft are uncannily similar to the depictions of triangular craft produced by Belgian law enforcement officers a decade earlier, as well as many others since.
In 2006, pilots and airport personnel witnessed a disc-shaped object hovering over O’Hare airport for over five minutes, yet no government investigation was undertaken. And, while most sightings have conventional explanations, I think it is stunning how many reports come in regularly to groups like MUFON, with impressive detail, including photos or videos. I often hear from skeptics, “If UFOs are out there how come nobody ever gets a video with all the smartphones around?” That is ignorant, it happens all the time!
Q: Some people believe the more recent sightings in cases such as those you mentioned may simply be US government tests of experimental aircraft. Is that possible?
A: I can understand why this may seem the most plausible explanation. But I can assure you, those objects did not belong to US Department of Defense. Just before the 9/11 terrorist attacks, I was contacted by the DoD Office of Congressional Affairs. They were in a tizzy because Robert Byrd, the powerful Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, was challenging them over reports appearing in magazines such as Aviation Week and Space Technology describing an alleged super-secret US aircraft program dubbed “Aurora.”
Senator Byrd would use his budget power to punish the department severely if we lied to him or withheld information. We pursued all possible options, double-checking with the appropriate officials while reminding them of the imperative of providing an accurate response. We quickly confirmed what we already knew – that while there are always things on the drawing board, there was nothing remotely resembling such aircraft being operated by the department.
We had nothing with the capacity to hover and then silently accelerate at massive speeds. Also, it is totally uncharacteristic of the US military to conduct experimental tests of new vehicles over populated areas where security would be compromised and innocent civilians placed in harms way. That’s completely contrary to military DNA. Alien visitation is actually easier to believe than that level of stupidity being exhibited by the brilliant people developing new aircraft technologies for DoD.
Q: Some inside sources have proposed that retrieved hardware from a UFO may exist within a private aerospace company which has become independent from the DoD. In this way, it would be exempt from government oversight and known only to a few people. Do you think this is possible?
A: I find it hard to imagine something as explosive as recovered alien technology remaining under wraps for decades. So while I have no reason to believe there is any recovered alien technology, I will say this: If it were me, and I were trying to bury it deep, I’d take it outside government oversight entirely and place it in a compartment as a new entity within an existing defense company and manage it as what we call an “IRAD” or “Independent Research and Development Activity.”
Q: So where does this all leave us, and what is to be done?
A: In my view, calling for the end to an alleged government UFO cover-up is almost certainly a dead end, and does not help inspire anyone in government to become more open to the topic. The UFO mystery is a scientific problem. A true scientist seeks and follows the data no matter how politically incorrect the facts may be. The greatest scientific breakthroughs occur when we verify information that challenges conventional wisdom. That’s why I joined the board of UFODATA.
Q: I’m so glad you did. What kinds of new data are you hoping we will collect?
A: Our team of scientists and engineers are designing and will build a large network of automated surveillance stations with sophisticated sensors to capture a wide range of data. The stations will house cameras to record both an image and spectra, a magnetometer, instrumentation to detect radiation, a gravimeter, and more. They will be mobile so that we can readily deploy them to areas that become hotspots of UFO activity. We can then make the data available to the scientific community for analysis.
Q: Do you think UFOs could be visitors from civilizations elsewhere?
A: I’m certainly intrigued by the possibility. But I don’t think we will find out without a deeper scientific inquiry. I would like to invite the public to participate and support this lean but potentially groundbreaking effort, staffed by volunteers. UFODATA’s findings, one way or another, can help us to resolve this perennial mystery and perhaps even help us to better understand the universe and mankind’s place within it.”
the UFO ECONOMY
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