In a New York Times piece that ran this week, the U.S. government essentially confirmed the existence of a top secret UFO program being run out of the Pentagon. The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program was largely funded at the behest of Nevada Senator and former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, a known space enthusiast. The $22 million program began in 2007 and was shut down in 2012, however the program itself continues to run and investigate aerial phenomenon brought to them by military personnel and the Department of Defense to this day.
The NYT obtained contracts related to funds appropriated by Congress that, between 2008-2011, showed about $22 million funding to Bigelow Airspace, a contractor that performs research and builds spacecraft for government and commercial use. The company reportedly modified buildings near Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials that the top secret program said had been recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena. The company’s CEO, billionaire entrepreneur Robert Bigelow, is a friend of Reid and fellow UFO enthusiast, and went as far as saying that he was ‘absolutely convinced’ of the existence of UFOs and that they have visited earth in a 60 Minutes interview in May of 2017.
In 2009 Reid believed that the program had made such extraordinary discoveries that in a letter to a deputy defense secretary the lobbied for heightened security to protect the “highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings” and requesting the program be designated a “restricted special access program”. His request was later denied. In a 2009 Pentagon briefing summarizing the program, the programs director asserted that “what was considered science fiction is now science fact” and that the US was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered. Officials were cautious to attribute the unidentified technology to an unknown alien civilization and were more concerned that the Chinese or Russians had developed a weapon or technology that outclassed anything the US had in development.
As a lifelong UFO conspiracist, I was surprised that this story didn’t turn into a complete bombshell. The Times, in their reporting, is essentially suggesting that the US government is confirming the existence of some super secure facility in Nevada that is housing unexplainable and unidentifiable technology that poses a significant national security threat. Furthermore, it can be implied that this technology is of an extraterrestrial origin. Why else would the program specifically charged with investigating military UFO encounters be in charge of technology of a known or terrestrial origin? This is straight out of science fiction, a top secret government skunkworks program specializing in researching UFOs that operates a secure facility that stores unexplainable extraterrestrial technology. This is literally the plot of Transformers.
I also think this story deserved more attention because it essentially approached the idea of the existence of UFOs from a national security perspective. Matters of national security are seemingly immune to the political posturing and bullshit that generally comes out of US government agencies. These issues tend to rise above the petty political squabbles of the day because national security is about as serious as it gets. Take climate change for an example. Despite all the politically motivated climate change denial coming out of the current administration, the DoD still asserts that climate change is a significant threat to US interests of national security at home and abroad. That’s why I was so surprised that the DoD official who spoke with the Times’ was willing to disclose the existence of the program.
I also think that Bigelow’s 60 Minutes appearance and assertion of the existence of UFOs takes on an entirely new context in light of the confirmation of the AATI program. Bigelow’s comments just seemed like the half-baked conjecture of yet another wacky billionaire with too much time and money on his hands. Like Peter Theil and his blood rejuvenation startup or Elon Musk and the Hyperloop, idealistic and optimistic ideas we all know are probably bunk and won’t work out anytime soon. But now we know that Bigelow was directly involved with a top secret government program specifically set up to investigate aliens and UFOs. He is an insider of the highest order, a man on the cutting edge and on the frontlines of this investigation. If he is convinced of the existence of aliens, it’s enough evidence for me.
So why did this piece seemingly come and go like any other story, when this is the closest we have ever got to the US government confirming the existence of physical evidence of unexplainable extraterrestrial objects. In theory, the discovery of UFOs would undoubtedly be the most significant event in recorded history. The confirmation that we are, in fact, not alone in the universe would send irreversible shockwaves across the world. Everything we thought we knew about science, religion, history, and, more generally, life itself will have to be reoriented around the existence of intelligent extraterrestrial life. The reality is that many people on earth would not be able to handle such an event in a constructive or positive way. Mostly likely, people are going to freak the fuck out. Never mind the existential threat aliens will pose to the survival of our species, which is a whole other can of worms. The simple fact that we all will have to rethink everything we thought we knew about the universe and about ourselves will be enough to plunge the world into chaos. And chaos, from a national security perspective, is our worst nightmare. Therefore if aliens do in fact exist and have visited earth, and the US is in fact the arbiter of alien technology, it is in their best interest to keep that information secret.
So how do you keep the most significant event in human history a secret? By hiding it in plain sight. We know that the US government actively uses tactics of misdirection and misinformation in order to keep secrets deemed to dangerous or radical for the American public hidden. One of the biggest takeaways from the otherwise disappointing October JFK file dump was the documents suggesting that is was in the government’s best interest to convince the public that it was Lee Harvey Oswald alone who killed the president. Theories suggesting multiple shooters or CIA or Russian involvement were systematically dismissed as conspiracy. Regardless of who actually killed or orchestrated the killing of JFK, the use of labelling theories as conspiracy proved to be an effective way of keeping secrets from the public. The easiest way to dismiss or discredit something in the face of evidence is to call it a conspiracy theory. There’s nothing to suggest that they haven’t continued this practice since it seemed to work so well in the JFK situation.
By that logic, does that imply the stigmatization of UFO theories and experiences are a directive from the US government in order to keep the public in the dark? Other powers like Russia and China speak openly about UFO sightings and discoveries and welcome the postulation and experimentation that goes along with it. In short, they take these claims seriously, or at the very least, the stimga surrounding them simply doesn’t exist. What’s so different about us? By all measures the US is a more diverse and inclusive society than that of China or Russia, especially when it comes to matters of free expression and the laws protecting it. But in the US, these topics can never be discussed seriously in public for fear of ridicule. Nothing can derail a researcher or concerned citizens efforts more than being labelled a conspiracy theorist. Part of the reason the AATI program was implemented in the first place was that many pilots felt as though if they approached their officers with experiences of extraterrestrial encounters they would be laughed off, dismissed, or worse, removed from duty. There needed to be a place where their experiences would be taken seriously and investigated properly.
I think that the truth lies somewhere in the middle. The US clearly understands the national security implications of revealing something like the existence of UFOs all at once. It;s like telling your friend their significant other is cheating on them. Dropping it all one them at once is sure to blow up in your face. But letting them slowly and definitively figure it out for themselves will minimize the damage of the inevitable blow-up. That’s why I think they are taking the JFK Assassination approach. Rather that dumping everything at once, they have over the years slowly and surely warmed the public up to the idea that we are not alone.
THey have also leveraged institutions of US culture like movie and television studios. Culturally speaking, the emergence of aliens in science fiction is a relatively recent phenomenon. And only recently have those bled from the fringes of culture into the mainstream. People in 2017 will assuredly be less freaked out by a legitimate alien encounter than people in 1947, when the first Roswell crashes supposedly occurred. There has been 70 years of cultural lubrication, from War of the Worlds to E.T. to 5 Alien movies, to prepare us for the inevitable reveal. Hopefully, its sooner than later. For all the negative and difficult externalities that will come with the realization that we are not alone in the universe, I think the world has an opportunity to unite in a way that it never could before. We have an opportunity to shed the ancient hierarchies and constructs of race and class and creed that have disenfranchised and alienated so many for so long, and unite as one species under the banner of humanity.