Released videos might give credence to secret search for UFOs

WASHINGTON — 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.

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 for 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 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.

ad-high_impact_4
News
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance blood drive on October 1
A blood drive was held at the Las Vegas Convention Center on the one year anniversary of the Oct. 1 shooting. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Remembrance Lights memorial unveiled at St. Rose hospital
A dedication ceremony was held at St. Rose to unveil a memorial and to read the names of those who died on October 1, a year ago. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like