WASHINGTON, U.S. – In revelations made by two media publications, it has emerged that the Defense Department secretly set up a program ten years ago to investigate unidentified flying objects, or UFOs.
The program, Politico and The New York times revealed had been set up at the urging of then-Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
The reports that revealed the existence of the Pentagon’s now-defunct Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program said that Reid, who was then a Nevada Democrat, helped steer money under the program to a donor’s aerospace research company.
Commenting on the revelations, a Pentagon spokesman said the UFO program ended in 2012, even though The New York Times said the Defense Department still investigates potential episodes of unidentified flying objects.
Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White was quoted as saying in the Politico report, “The Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program ended in the 2012 timeframe. 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 said, “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.”
According to the report, the program was not classified but few officials knew about it.
Reid reportedly secured the funding for the program in 2009 with the help of former Hawaii Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye and former Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens, who have both since died.
However, both the reports said that Reid’s interest in UFOs was the result of friend and donor Bob Bigelow, who owns Bigelow Aerospace and has said before he is “absolutely convinced” aliens exist and UFOs have visited Earth.
In the report, The New York Times said the program had a $22 million annual budget and “most of the money” went to Bigelow’s research company, which hired subcontractors and solicited research for the program.
Reid was quoted as saying, “I’m not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going. 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.”
According to both the reports, the person who ran the program, Luis Elizondo, resigned in October and complained about a lack of interest from top officials about it.
In a letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, Elizondo reportedly wrote, “Why aren’t we spending more time and effort on this issue?”
Further, the report noted that a former staffer argued the effort created “reams of paperwork” but little else of value.
According to the revelations, Reid wasn’t the only Democrat in Washington with an apparent fascination with UFOs.
John Podesta, the former Obama White House adviser and chairman of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, is also known to have an interest in the subject.
In 2015, on his last day in the White House, , Podesta tweeted, “Finally, my biggest failure of 2014: Once again not securing the #disclosure of the UFO files. #thetruthisstilloutthere.”
During the 2016 presidential race, hacked emails published online by WikiLeaks revealed that Podesta exchanged emails with NASA astronaut Edgar Mitchell, who wanted to set up a meeting with Obama about UFOs.
Podesta’s assistant told Mitchell that he wanted to take the meeting himself before involving Obama.