The Pentagon's secret UFO-hunting program

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid

Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid

The $22m (£17m) Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Programme (AATIP) was established in 2007, and only a small number of senior officials knew about its activities, according to a report in the New York Times.

For the first time, the Defense Department is acknowledging the existence of this covert program, which the Pentagon says ended in 2012 but which The New York Times reports is still in existence.

The program produced documents describing sightings of unidentified flying objects that reportedly moved very fast with no clear sign of propulsion or hovered with no readily apparent means of lift. "I've done something that no one has done before".

The $22million is part of the US$600 billion annual Defence Department budgets, coming under the mysterious Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

While the body of (still mostly classified) evidence that the program has gathered does suggest that there are things going on that we don't know about, it's still now too much of a leap of faith to assume that all of these unidentified objects are alien in nature. "I've done something that no one has done before".

The Pentagon said in a statement the program was now over.

Although government funding for the program was gutted in 2012, the program continued operating under the leadership of Luis Elizondo, a military intelligence official.

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Because many intelligence programs by the CIA, FBI and military are deeply classified, information that could explain possible UFO sighting often continues being "unexplained" until the intelligence programs are declassified.

But I feel like the story could have had a completely different emphasis: Three senators - Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, Hawaii Democrat Daniel Inouye, and Alaska Republican Ted Stevens - sent $22 million in taxpayers money to Reid's buddy Robert Bigelow could research UFOs. He said the programme had multiple enemies at senior levels of the department, from officials who were either skeptical or ideologically opposed to AATIP's mission.

What is unusual is when members of the military publicly come forward, such as a group of former Air Force officers who in 2010 asserted their belief that UFOs visited the bases they were stationed at and caused nuclear-weapons systems to temporarily malfunction.

Videos of such sightings have been released in recent months - such as one in November showing a freaky white object being chased by two Navy F/A-18F fighter jets.

Bigelow told the Times that, "Internationally, we are the most backward country in the world on this issue".

Under Bigelow's direction, the company modified buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that Elizondo and program contractors said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.

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