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UFO-Forschung - The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program -Update

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17.12.2017

WASHINGTON — In the $600 billion annual Defense Department budgets, the $22 million spent on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was almost impossible to find.

Which was how the Pentagon wanted it.

For years, the program investigated reports of unidentified flying objects, according to Defense Department officials, interviews with program participants and records obtained by The New York Times. It was run by a military intelligence official, Luis Elizondo, on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, deep within the building’s maze.

The Defense Department has never before acknowledged the existence of the program, which it says it shut down in 2012. But its backers say that, while the Pentagon ended funding for the effort at that time, the program remains in existence. For the past five years, they say, officials with the program have continued to investigate episodes brought to them by service members, while also carrying out their other Defense Department duties.

The shadowy program — parts of it remain classified — began in 2007, and initially it was largely funded at the request of Harry Reid, the Nevada Democrat who was the Senate majority leader at the time and who has long had an interest in space phenomena. Most of the money went to an aerospace research company run by a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid’s, Robert Bigelow, who is currently working with NASA to produce expandable craft for humans to use in space.

On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth.

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Harry Reid, the former Senate majority leader, has had a longtime interest in space phenomena.CreditAl Drago/The New York Times 

Working with Mr. Bigelow’s Las Vegas-based company, the program produced documents that describe sightings of aircraft that seemed to move at very high velocities with no visible signs of propulsion, or that hovered with no apparent means of lift.

Officials with the program have also studied videos of encounters between unknown objects and American military aircraft — including one released in August of a whitish oval object, about the size of a commercial plane, chased by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Nimitz off the coast of San Diego in 2004.

Mr. Reid, who retired from Congress this year, said he was proud of the program. “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going,” Mr. Reid said in a recent interview in Nevada. “I think it’s one of the good things I did in my congressional service. I’ve done something that no one has done before.”

Two other former senators and top members of a defense spending subcommittee — Ted Stevens, an Alaska Republican, and Daniel K. Inouye, a Hawaii Democrat — also supported the program. Mr. Stevens died in 2010, and Mr. Inouye in 2012.

While not addressing the merits of the program, Sara Seager, an astrophysicist at M.I.T., cautioned that not knowing the origin of an object does not mean that it is from another planet or galaxy. “When people claim to observe truly unusual phenomena, sometimes it’s worth investigating seriously,” she said. But, she added, “what people sometimes don’t get about science is that we often have phenomena that remain unexplained.” 

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A video shows a 2004 encounter near San Diego between two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets and an unknown object. It was released by the Defense Department's Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

 By Courtesy of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE on  Publish Date December 16, 2017. Photo by U.S Department of Defense.

James E. Oberg, a former NASA space shuttle engineer and the author of 10 books on spaceflight who often debunks U.F.O. sightings, was also doubtful. “There are plenty of prosaic events and human perceptual traits that can account for these stories,” Mr. Oberg said. “Lots of people are active in the air and don’t want others to know about it. They are happy to lurk unrecognized in the noise, or even to stir it up as camouflage.”

Still, Mr. Oberg said he welcomed research. “There could well be a pearl there,” he said.

In response to questions from The Times, Pentagon officials this month acknowledged the existence of the program, which began as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Officials insisted that the effort had ended after five years, 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,” a Pentagon spokesman, Thomas Crosson, said in an email, referring to the Department of Defense.

But Mr. Elizondo said the only thing that had ended was the effort’s government funding, which dried up in 2012. From then on, Mr. Elizondo said in an interview, he worked with officials from the Navy and the C.I.A. He continued to work out of his Pentagon office until this past October, when he resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition.

“Why aren’t we spending more time and effort on this issue?” Mr. Elizondo wrote in a resignation letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.

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Pentagon officials say the program ended in 2012, five years after it was created, but the official who led it said that only the government funding had ended then. CreditCharles Dharapak/Associated Press 

Mr. Elizondo said that the effort continued and that he had a successor, whom he declined to name.

U.F.O.s have been repeatedly investigated over the decades in the United States, including by the American military. In 1947, the Air Force began a series of studies that investigated more than 12,000 claimed U.F.O. sightings before it was officially ended in 1969. The project, which included a study code-named Project Blue Book, started in 1952, concluded that most sightings involved stars, clouds, conventional aircraft or spy planes, although 701 remained unexplained.

Robert C. Seamans Jr., the secretary of the Air Force at the time, said in a memorandum announcing the end of Project Blue Book that it “no longer can be justified either on the ground of national security or in the interest of science.”

Mr. Reid said his interest in U.F.O.s came from Mr. Bigelow. In 2007, Mr. Reid said in the interview, Mr. Bigelow told him that an official with the Defense Intelligence Agency had approached him wanting to visit Mr. Bigelow’s ranch in Utah, where he conducted research.

Mr. Reid said he met with agency officials shortly after his meeting with Mr. Bigelow and learned that they wanted to start a research program on U.F.O.s. Mr. Reid then summoned Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye to a secure room in the Capitol.

“I had talked to John Glenn a number of years before,” Mr. Reid said, referring to the astronaut and former senator from Ohio, who died in 2016. Mr. Glenn, Mr. Reid said, had told him he thought that the federal government should be looking seriously into U.F.O.s, and should be talking to military service members, particularly pilots, who had reported seeing aircraft they could not identify or explain.

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Luis Elizondo, who led the Pentagon effort to investigate U.F.O.s until October. He resigned to protest what he characterized as excessive secrecy and internal opposition to the program. CreditJustin T. Gellerson for The New York Times 

The sightings were not often reported up the military’s chain of command, Mr. Reid said, because service members were afraid they would be laughed at or stigmatized.

The meeting with Mr. Stevens and Mr. Inouye, Mr. Reid said, “was one of the easiest meetings I ever had.”

He added, “Ted Stevens said, ‘I’ve been waiting to do this since I was in the Air Force.’” (The Alaska senator had been a pilot in the Army’s air force, flying transport missions over China during World War II.)

During the meeting, Mr. Reid said, Mr. Stevens recounted being tailed by a strange aircraft with no known origin, which he said had followed his plane for miles.

None of the three senators wanted a public debate on the Senate floor about the funding for the program, Mr. Reid said. “This was so-called black money,” he said. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that’s how we wanted it.” Mr. Reid was referring to the Pentagon budget for classified programs.

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Robert Bigelow, a billionaire entrepreneur and longtime friend of Mr. Reid, received most of the money allocated for the Pentagon program. On CBS’s “60 Minutes” in May, Mr. Bigelow said he was “absolutely convinced” that aliens exist and that U.F.O.s have visited Earth. CreditIsaac Brekken for The New York Times 

Contracts obtained by The Times show a congressional appropriation of just under $22 million beginning in late 2008 through 2011. The money was used for management of the program, research and assessments of the threat posed by the objects.

The funding went to Mr. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.

Under Mr. Bigelow’s direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Mr. Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena. Researchers also studied people who said they had experienced physical effects from encounters with the objects and examined them for any physiological changes. In addition, researchers spoke to military service members who had reported sightings of strange aircraft.

“We’re sort of in the position of what would happen if you gave Leonardo da Vinci a garage-door opener,” said Harold E. Puthoff, an engineer who has conducted research on extrasensory perception for the C.I.A. and later worked as a contractor for the program. “First of all, he’d try to figure out what is this plastic stuff. He wouldn’t know anything about the electromagnetic signals involved or its function.”

The program collected video and audio recordings of reported U.F.O. incidents, including footage from a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet showing an aircraft surrounded by some kind of glowing aura traveling at high speed and rotating as it moves. The Navy pilots can be heard trying to understand what they are seeing. “There’s a whole fleet of them,” one exclaims. Defense officials declined to release the location and date of the incident.

“Internationally, we are the most backward country in the world on this issue,” Mr. Bigelow said in an interview. “Our scientists are scared of being ostracized, and our media is scared of the stigma. China and Russia are much more open and work on this with huge organizations within their countries. Smaller countries like Belgium, France, England and South American countries like Chile are more open, too. They are proactive and willing to discuss this topic, rather than being held back by a juvenile taboo.”

By 2009, Mr. Reid decided that the program had made such extraordinary discoveries that he argued for heightened security to protect it. “Much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings,” Mr. Reid said in a letter to William Lynn III, a deputy defense secretary at the time, requesting that it be designated a “restricted special access program” limited to a few listed officials.

A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact,” and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered. Mr. Reid’s request for the special designation was denied.

Mr. Elizondo, in his resignation letter of Oct. 4, said there was a need for more serious attention to “the many accounts from the Navy and other services of unusual aerial systems interfering with military weapon platforms and displaying beyond-next-generation capabilities.” He expressed his frustration with the limitations placed on the program, telling Mr. Mattis that “there remains a vital need to ascertain capability and intent of these phenomena for the benefit of the armed forces and the nation.”

Mr. Elizondo has now joined Mr. Puthoff and another former Defense Department official, Christopher K. Mellon, who was a deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence, in a new commercial venture called To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science. They are speaking publicly about their efforts as their venture aims to raise money for research into U.F.O.s.

In the interview, Mr. Elizondo said he and his government colleagues had determined that the phenomena they had studied did not seem to originate from any country. “That fact is not something any government or institution should classify in order to keep secret from the people,” he said.

For his part, Mr. Reid said he did not know where the objects had come from. “If anyone says they have the answers now, they’re fooling themselves,” he said. “We do not know.”

But, he said, “we have to start someplace.”

Quelle: The New York Times

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The Pentagon, at the direction of Congress, a decade ago quietly set up a multi-million dollar program to investigate what are popularly known as unidentified flying objects—UFOs.

The “unidentified aerial phenomena” claimed to have been seen by pilots and other military personnel appeared vastly more advanced than those in American or foreign arsenals. In some cases they maneuvered so unusually and so fast that they seemed to defy the laws of physics, according to multiple sources directly involved in or briefed on the effort and a review of unclassified Defense Department and congressional documents. 

The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program, whose existence was not classified but operated with the knowledge of an extremely limited number of officials, was the brainchild of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nevada), who first secured the appropriation to begin the program in 2009 with the support of the late Senators Daniel Inouye (D-Hawaii) and Republican Ted Stevens (R-Alaska), two World War II veterans who were similarly concerned about the potential national security implications, the sources involved in the effort said. The origins of the program, the existence of which the Pentagon confirmed on Friday, are being revealed publicly for the first time by POLITICO and the New York Times in nearly simultaneous reports on Saturday.

One possible theory behind the unexplained incidents, according to a former congressional staffer who described the motivations behind the program, was that a foreign power—perhaps the Chinese or the Russians—had developed next-generation technologies that could threaten the United States.

“Was this China or Russia trying to do something or has some propulsion system we are not familiar with?” said a former staffer who spoke with POLITICO on condition of anonymity.

The revelation of the program could give a credibility boost to UFO theorists, who have long pointed to public accounts by military pilots and others describing phenomena that defy obvious explanation, and could fuel demands for increased transparency about the scope and findings of the Pentagon effort, which focused some of its inquiries into sci-fi sounding concepts like "wormholes" and "warp drives." The program also drafted a series of what the office referred to as "queried unverified event under evaluation," QUEU reports, in which pilots and other personnel who had reported encounters were interviewed about their experiences. 

Reid initiated the program, which ultimately spent more than $20 million, through an earmark after he was persuaded in part by aerospace titan and hotel chain founder Bob Bigelow, a friend and fellow Nevadan who owns Bigelow Aerospace, a space technology company and government contractor. Bigelow, whose company received some of the research contracts, was also a regular contributor to Reid’s re-election campaigns, campaign finance records show, at least $10,000 between 1998 and 2008. Bigelow has spoken openly in recent years about his views that extraterrestrial visitors frequently travel to Earth. He also purchased the Skinwalker Ranch in Utah, the subject of intense interest among believers in UFOs. Reid and Bigelow did not respond to multiple requests for comment. 

According to a Pentagon official, the AATIP program was ended “in the 2012 timeframe,” but it has recently attracted attention because of the resignation in early October of Luis Elizondo, the career intelligence officer who ran the initiative. In his resignation letter, addressed to Secretary of Defense James Mattis, Elizondo said the efforts of his program were not being taken sufficiently seriously. The Pentagon official could not confirm Mattis had actually seen the letter.

"We tried to work within the system," Elizondo told POLITICO in a recent interview. "We were trying to take the voodoo out of voodoo science."

He described scores of unexplained sightings by Navy pilots and other observers of aircraft with capabilities far beyond what is currently considered aerodynamically possible. The sightings, Elizondo told POLITICO, were often reported in the vicinity of nuclear facilities, either ships at sea or power plants. "We had never seen anything like it."

But, in his view military leadership did not appear alarmed by the potential threat. "If a Russian 'Bear' bomber comes in near California, it is all over the news," he said. "These are coming in the skies over our facilities. Nothing but crickets."

Shortly after his resignation, Elizondo was listed as one of the key players in a for-profit company called To The Stars Academy of Arts and Sciences, co-founded by Tom DeLonge, an entertainment mogul and former guitarist and vocalist for the rock band Blink-182. An April 2016 profile of DeLonge in “Rolling Stone” magazine described his fascination with theories about extraterrestrial space travel as an “obsession.”

In a video advertising the company, DeLonge describes To The Stars as a “public benefit corporation” that has “mobilized a team of the most experienced, connected and passionately curious minds from the U.S. intelligence community, including the CIA, Department of Defense, who have been operating under the shadows of top-secrecy for decades.”

The founders say they believe “there is sufficient credible evidence of UAP [unidentified aerial phenomenon] that proves exotic technologies exist that could revolutionize the human experience.”

The goal of the academy’s researchers, it says on its website, is “to use their expertise and credibility to bring transformative science and engineering out of the shadows and collaborate with global citizens to apply that knowledge in a way that benefits humanity,” adding “without government restrictions.”

Also helping drive the effort is Chris Mellon, a former Democratic staff director for the Senate Intelligence Committee and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence. Other members of the company include a former high-level CIA official and the former director of advanced systems at Lockheed Martin’s super-secret Skunk Works facility in California.

“I think we’re all frustrated by the fact that our government and science neglects some of the most interesting and provocative and potentially important issues out there,” Mellon says in the video.

POLITICO learned of the Pentagon program earlier this fall, shortly after Mellon and his colleagues rolled out their new private effort, which is now seeking investors with a minimum purchase of $200 in common stock shares. Its website claims 2,142 investors, who have purchased slightly more than $2 million worth of shares.

At a recent press conference for To The Stars in Las Vegas, Mellon described one of the sightings reported by U.S. Navy pilots: "It is white, oblong, some 40 feet long and perhaps 12 feet thick…The pilots are astonished to see the object suddenly reorient itself toward the approaching F/A-18. In a series of discreet tumbling maneuvers that seem to defy the laws of physics. The object takes a position directly behind the approaching F/A-18. The pilots capture gun camera footage and infrared imagery of the object. They are outmatched by a technology they’ve never seen."

“They did not exhibit overt hostility,” Elizondo, listed as director of global security and special programs for To The Stars, explained in a recent published interview of the series of reported encounters. “But something unexplained is always assumed to be a potential threat until we are certain it isn’t. On the bright side, I believe we are closer than ever before in our understanding of how it operates.”

The Pentagon’s AATIP program marked a 21st century effort to replicate some of the decades of inconclusive research undertaken by the Pentagon in 1950s and 1960s to try to explain thousands of reported sightings of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs by military and civilian pilots and average citizens—particularly an effort known as Project Bluebook that ran from 1947 to 1969 and still a focus of intense interest for UFO researchers. 

The more recent effort, which was established inside the Defense Intelligence Agency, compiled “reams of paperwork,” but little else, the former staffer said.

Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed to POLITICO that the program existed and was run by Elizondo. But she could not say how long he was in charge of it and declined to answer detailed questions about the office or its work, citing concerns about the closely held nature of the program.

“The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program ended in the 2012 timeframe,” White said. “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.”

White added: “The DoD takes seriously all threats and potential threats to our people, our assets, and our mission and takes action whenever credible information is developed.”

But some who were aware of the effort in its earliest days were uncomfortable with the aims of the program, unnerved by the implication that the incidents involved aircraft that were not made by humans.

“I thought it was a little bizarre at the time,” recalled a former senior intelligence official who knew about Reid’s role first-hand. He asked those in the know: “Tell me what this is, and what we are doing and what is going on and that we aren’t doing something that is nonsense here.”

“I was concerned the money was being funneled through is to somebody else who was an associate of Harry Reid’s,” added the former official, who asked not to be identified. “The whole circle was kind of a bizarre piece.”

Reid enlisted the support of Inouye, then chairman of the powerful Appropriations Committee, as well as Stevens, who two sources involved in the effort were told had related to Reid that as a pilot he had personally witnessed similar unexplained aerial phenomenon.

There was also interest among some analysts at the DIA who were concerned that the Russians or Chinese might have developed some more advanced systems. Reid’s views on the subject were also shaped by a bookabout the Skinwalker Ranch, co-authored by his acquaintance George Knapp, the former congressional staffer said. 

“When this was brought to Senator Reid he said, ‘There is enough here and I am obligated if this is a national security issue to invest some money in this,’” he explained. “Stevens and Inouye agreed with this.”

“I still remember coming back from that meeting and thinking of the implications of what Reid said,” the former senior official said. “I remember being concerned about this. I wanted to make sure it was supervised and we were using the appropriation to do actual research on real threats to the United States.

He said he was assured that the research being done was valid. “It was not a rogue individual out of control.”

The former staffer said that eventually, however, even Reid agreed it was not worth continuing. 

“After a while the consensus was we really couldn’t find anything of substance,” he recalled. “They produced reams of paperwork. After all of that there was really nothing there that we could find. It all pretty much dissolved from that reason alone—and the interest level was losing steam. We only did it a couple years.”

“There was really nothing there that we could justify using taxpayer money,” he added. “We let it die a slow death. It was well spent money in the beginning.”

Quelle: POLITICOMAGAZINE

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Update: 18.12.2017

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Im Fokus: A video shows a 2004 encounter near San Diego between two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets and an unknown object.

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Mystery UFO video supposedly from USS Nimitz fighter jet intrigues researchers

LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -

UFO researchers around the world have been abuzz in recent weeks about a video supposedly shot in 2004 from a Super Hornet fighter jet based on the carrier USS Nimitz.

The video shows an object in the distance that doesn’t act like a typical aircraft – and it veers out of sight as a fighter jet closes

The story first came to light in a 2015 article in fightersweep.com – and the tale was rekindled exponentially when former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge referenced it Oct. 11 during his announcement about the creation of his To The Stars Academy of Arts and Science.

Author John B. Alexander of Las Vegas believes the incident happened, but he hasn’t confirmed the video. Alexander – whose books include “UFOs” Myths, Conspiracies, and Realities” -- told FOX5 he believes the video originated with the U.S. Navy.

Alexander said in an email that he “asked one of the guys who saw it in a classified version,” and that his source “was very highly placed, and I mean very highly placed.”

He added: “The update is they believe the video to be real, but do not-- do not -- confirm the authenticity. Others videos are likely soon to similar incidents.”

DeLonge didn’t show any video from the 2004 incident with the Nimitz and various UFOs about 100 miles from San Diego but he has teased that one of the group’s goals is to release such previously classified video and documents.

Since the announcement, what could be described as video from the display the pilot sees has popped up in several places on Youtube and other internet sites.

The origin of the video is uncertain, although two UFO researchers say it first appeared in 2007 on what they describe as a website run by German film students.

Researcher Isaac Kol lives in London and sometimes posts on the Web forum Above Top Secret.

He recently posted:

Back in 2007, I tracked the first online copy of the video back to the website of a group of German film students that specialized in creating science fiction movies with lots of special effects (Vision Unlimited).

His post also included, “in 2007, I was inclined to reach the tentative conclusion that it was a hoax... I find it very interesting that the current rounds of discussion seem to ignore the provenance of the footage…”

Kol told FOX5 in an email, “I don’t claim to have debunked that footage – merely shown that the place that it was originally posted raises red flags pending further evidence.”

Robert Powell lives in Austin, Texas, and publishes on the Facebook page Scientific Coalition for Ufology.

He said: “The video was first found on a German film site back in 2007 I believe. That makes one suspicious, but there is no proof that the video was doctored by the German film students. I'm not aware that anyone has looked at the video and made a determination that it was edited in some fashion.”

Powell has filed a freedom of information requests to obtain all the documentation he can about the November 2004 incidents with the Nimitz.

Alexander noted he believes audio tapes of the pilots communicating with flight control also exist.

One reason researchers found this video so intriguing is the way the UFOs baffled the Navy’s best fighter jets and radar systems in the days around Nov. 14, 2004.

The story on fightersweep.com described the anomalous aerial vehicles as dropping from above 80,000 feet, according to radar returns and then hovering 50-feet off the water within a matter of seconds.

The objects then moved away at “speeds, turn rates and accelerations faster than any known friendly or threat aircraft.”

Quelle: FOX5 KVVU_TV

 

 

 

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