The Pentagon’s public relations officers have a terrible track record when it comes to recent UFO/UAP information.
There has been a lot of confusion generated by the responses the Department of Defense (DoD) has provided journalists and researchers regarding the secretive Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) that investigated Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon (UAP – aka UFOs). They have flip-flopped on several issues and provided information that conflicts with statements from individuals who worked with the program. In some cases, the DoD has given answers counter to what former Senator Harry Reid, who founded the program, has claimed.
“What has transpired, or more accurately what hasn’t transpired, over the last six months leaves me with no confidence or trust in this official representing the DoD on the issue [UAPs],” writes defense journalist Tyler Rogoway. “My experience is not unique in any way. Others who are working this story have had similar experiences almost to a laughable degree.”
Rogoway writes for The Warzone, a section of the online automobile magazine The Drive covering defense technology. He works with military public information officers regularly on a variety of topics. For the past few years, he has also taken an interest in recent UAP news and the potential that the unidentified objects spotted by jet fighter pilots could be extremely advanced technology developed in secret.
As Rogoway mentioned, other journalists have also found the DoD’s responses abnormal. In a recent interview, I asked senior national correspondent for Politico Bryan Bender his thoughts on the DoD public responses and backpedaling. He says, “It is strange, some of the things that the Pentagon put out publicly that just didn’t ring right and, as you said, they have backtracked.”
To set the stage, we should note that before media coverage on AATIP in December 2017, the U.S. government denied taking UFO encounters seriously. As I reviewed in a previous article about the decades of U.S. government gaslighting on the topic, when inquiries were made, the US Air Force (USAF) fact sheet on UFOs was often referenced.
“Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations by the Air Force,” according to the fact sheet. “Given the current environment of steadily decreasing defense budgets, it is unlikely the Air Force would become involved in such a costly project in the foreseeable future.”
Now let’s take a look at how the DoD has responded to some of the critical issues.
Was AATIP UFO related?
A December 16, 2017 story from The New York Times titled Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program and a subsequent article written by Bender for Politico titled The Pentagon’s Secret Search for UFOs first revealed details about the AATIP program. They both also referenced intelligence officer Luis Elizondo as the person who ran the program.
“[AATIP] 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,” The New York Times article reads.
The article explains how Reid had consulted an astronaut who advocated a government UFO program, and how he shared an interest in UFOs with his friend Robert Bigelow, who eventually won the contract to conduct UFO research with AATIP.
According to The New York Times, “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.”
The Pentagon also confirmed the existence of AATIP with Bender for Politico.
“Pentagon spokeswoman Dana White confirmed to POLITICO that the program existed and was run by Elizondo,” according to the article.
Politico added that White had 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.”
For two years, the news that the Pentagon had a secret UFO program that ran from 2007 to at least 2012 made headlines. Reid and Elizondo appeared in media interviews and commented on AATIP and its interest in UFOs. After all of the attention and analysis, the DoD called AATIP’s purpose into question.
According to John Greenewald of The Black Vault, in December of 2019, he received an email from Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough “claiming they want to correct the record and clear up some inaccuracies, the Pentagon now says AATIP was not a UFO or UAP program.”
“Neither AATIP nor AAWSAP [an acronym for a project that had included AATIP] were UAP related,” the email read. “The purpose of AATIP was to investigate foreign advanced aerospace weapons system applications with future technology projections over the next 40 years, and to create a center of expertise on advanced aerospace technologies.”
This statement confused a lot of people. As recently as May 2019, the Pentagon had confirmed AATIP did investigate UAP.
The New York Post reported on May 22, 2019: “In a statement provided exclusively to The Post, a Department of Defense spokesman said a secret government initiative called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program ‘did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena.’”
In April of 2020, an article posted by Vice revealed that the USAF had investigated the release of UFO videos related to AATIP. In the report, the USAF stated, “[Elizondo] disclosed his involvement (to several news outlets) with the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, which focused research issues on Unidentified Flying Objects.”
The next month, in response to Swedish researcher Roger Glassel on the definition of the acronym AAV, Gough seemed to change her story.
“Neither the Navy nor the Department of Defense (DOD) use the term ‘anomalous aerial vehicles,'” wrote Gough. “In DOD, the acronym AAV stands for amphibious assault vehicles. The contractors who prepared the 38 technical reports under AATIP occasionally used the term ‘anomalous aerial vehicles,’ but it is not a DOD term.”
AAV is another term used to represent UFOs. Although at this point it seemed apparent that AATIP investigated UFOs, Gough appeared to be revealing that despite her email to Greenewald, AATIP did indeed include research into UFOs.
Did Elizondo work on AATIP?
Elizondo’s work with AATIP was the primary focus of The New York Times article in December 2017. As mentioned above, the Politico article released the same day had also confirmed Elizondo ran AATIP.
However, in an article critical of Elizondo’s claims published in The Intercept on June 6, 2019, Pentagon spokesperson Christopher Sherwood called this into question.
He told The Intercept, AATIP “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena.” However, he added, “Mr. Elizondo had no responsibilities with regard to the AATIP program while he worked in OUSDI [the Office of Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence], up until the time he resigned effective 10/4/2017.”
This statement came over a year and a half after the articles that exposed the existence of AATIP, and after dozens of interviews with Elizondo in mainstream media. Not one person involved in AATIP questioned Elizondo’s involvement, including Reid.
Sherwood told The Intercept he could not confirm White’s previous statement to Politico. He claims to have established Elizondo did not work with AATIP with personnel who were “still there.”
The latter is an interesting statement given that the DoD claimed AATIP closed in 2012. But we will address that later.
Sherwood’s statement, like Gough’s, confused a lot of people following news on AATIP.
There was already an abundance of information confirming Elizondo worked on AATIP, and it kept coming. A government document leaked by KLAS 8 News Now in Las Vegas regarding AATIP listed Elizondo in a bigoted list. The DoD confirmed the document’s veracity.
Among a group of questions sent to the Navy by Glassel regarding Navy UAP investigations, Glassel asked, “In the Navy’s effort to study reports of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena, was former DOD/OUSDI employee Luis Elizondo involved in such effort?”
“While he was a U.S. government employee, Mr. Elizondo occasionally provided coordination and professional connections/liaison within DoD and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence,” the official spokesperson for the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, Joseph Gradisher, responded.
The USAF response to Vice in April of 2020 mentioned earlier also seemed to confirm Elizondo’s involvement with AATIP.
The DoD never checked with AATIP contractors. Dr. Eric Davis, and Dr. Hal Puthoff, both of whom worked very closely with Bigelow and AATIP confirmed to me directly Elizondo’s involvement with AATIP.
Puthoff responded to my inquiry via email: “Documentation [of Elizondo’s involvement with AATIP] is dense. I reported to him often in the Pentagon as an AATIP contractor.”
Did AATIP continue past 2012?
In the initial New York Times and Politico articles, the Pentagon maintained AATIP was closed in 2012.
According to The New York Times, Pentagon spokesman Thomas Crosson wrote the via email that the DoD “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 used the same verbiage when she told Politico, “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.”
“But Mr. Elizondo said the only thing that had ended was the effort’s government funding, which dried up in 2012,” according to The New York Times. “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.”
Elizondo has maintained over the years that after he left, the program continued under a different name.
In May of 2019, Sherwood confirmed the DoD still investigates UFOs.
“The Department of Defense is always concerned about maintaining positive identification of all aircraft in our operating environment, as well as identifying any foreign capability that may be a threat to the homeland,” Sherwood told the New York Post. “The department will continue to investigate, through normal procedures, reports of unidentified aircraft encountered by US military aviators in order to ensure defense of the homeland and protection against strategic surprise by our nation’s adversaries.”
The following day, Bender broke the news on Politico that the Navy stated, “there have been a number of reports of unauthorized and/or unidentified aircraft entering various military-controlled ranges and designated air space in recent years.”
They went on to say they were “updating and formalizing the process by which reports of any such suspected incursions can be made to the cognizant authorities.”
Further, they revealed, “in response to requests for information from Congressional members and staff, Navy officials have provided a series of briefings by senior Naval Intelligence officials as well as aviators who reported hazards to aviation safety.”
In Glassel’s list of questions to the DoD in May of 2020, he received a surprising response that an AATIP type “task force” did exist.
Glassel asked, “In the Navy’s effort to investigate sightings of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) is there a centralized office, program or council, that analyse such sightings?”
Gough responded, “Under the cognizance of the Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence (USD(I)), there is an interagency team charged with gathering data and conducting investigations into range incursions. As the preponderance of recent/reported sightings are from naval aviators, the Navy is leading much of the effort. All reports of range incursions are sent to this team for inclusion in the overall effort, thus maximizing the data available for analysis.”
The Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence is the office where Elizondo worked before resigning.
Glassel also asked, “Are the Navy proactively investigating UAP, or are investigations only being done after a reported observation?”
Gough responded, “The U.S. Navy and the Department of Defense take these reports very seriously and investigate each and every report. Documented reports of sightings by military personnel form the basis for the investigation process. The investigation of UAP sightings by the multi-agency task force is ongoing.”
The real shocker came on June 23, 2020. UFO tweeter and founder of Sky Hub – an effort to track UFOs using cameras and AI software – Steve McDaniel, discovered some unexpected information. The Senate Intelligence Committee on Intelligence (SSCI) had voted to request that the Director of National Intelligence “in conjunction” with the Secretary of Defense put together a report on “unidentified aerial phenomenon [UAP].” The SSCI says the report is to include information from the “Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force.”
Did anyone catch this gem from the Select Committee on Intelligence? https://t.co/hdRDNJ9G0o Lot’s of references to Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon and a new UAP Task Force? Looks like policy makers are getting involved @marcorubio @Spacecowboy781 @ChristopherKMe4
— Steve McDaniel (@nibbleshift) June 23, 2020
Elizondo claims this task force is the one he was talking about when he said AATIP continued under a different name.
Why the games?
There has been a lot of speculation about why the Pentagon has denied what appears to be self-evident facts, such as AATIP’s focus on UFO research and Elizondo’s involvement in the program. Some try to give the DoD the benefit of the doubt and ascribe the problem to a lack of internal communication. Others believe the DoD is retaliating against a rogue agent who usurped normal processes to spill the beans on information the DoD did not want out.
There is no definitive proof as to why the DoD has been such a poor source of information on this topic. But the problem doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon.
In his article outlining the difficulty he has had working with DoD Public information Officers on this issue, Rogoway writes, “Simply put, my experience with Susan Gough has been the worst I have had with any of the Defense Department’s public affairs personnel, ever.”
“The reason why so many journalists are interacting with her at all on this issue is that she now holds the entire media/public affairs portfolio on UFOs within the DoD,” Rogoway continued. “Sometime shortly before I submitted my questions, the decision was made to funnel every request regarding this issue to her and her alone. The services no longer had control of their own messaging on the matter. Why this decision was made has not been made clear.”
Article updated 8/12/2020
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