PART VI. THE LEADER
After serving a stint as a counterintelligence agent for the U.S. Army, in the late 1990s, Elizondo would be recruited into the ranks of the enigmatic U.S. intelligence community.
Elizondo’s first stop as an intelligence operations specialist was running counterinsurgency and counternarcotics operations in Latin America. “We dealt with a lot of stuff, like coup d’etats, black market terrorism, violent drug cartels, all that kind of stuff,” Elizondo says.
Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, Elizondo was then redirected toward East Asia, where he served an advisor of a small intelligence unit assigned to support General James Mattis during his command of Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) Task Force 58 (TF-58) in the War on Terrorism. In a case study published by the Naval War College in 2016, Lt. Col. Damian Spooner describes the analysis and products produced by intelligence sections under Gen. Mattis as being “indispensable” in driving TF-58 planning and operations.
Later, while continuing to support the U.S.-led war on terrorism, Elizondo, the son of a Cuban exile, found himself in Cuba dealing with some of the most dangerous terrorists in the world at Guantanamo Bay’s infamous “Camp Seven,” the prison constructed for the sole purpose of housing 14 “high-value detainees.”
In early 2008, James Clapper, then the Deputy Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, asked Elizondo to come to the Pentagon to help coordinate information sharing and partnership engagement being run by the Secretary of Defense’s Office. Though the promise of cutting his daily commute in half was one of the biggest selling points, Elizondo’s decision to set up shop at the Pentagon would end up putting him directly in the path of recruitment for a special program the DIA had just started running: AAWSAP.
Though the BAASS Ten Month Report includes an abundance of UAP information, nothing within the text contains any data or information provided by the U.S. government. Conversely, there are a number of requests made by BAASS for access to specific UAP information being held within the DoD and other U.S. agencies. Sources say this is key to understanding how Elizondo entered the picture.
“If they [BAASS] wanted access to info that I’m not saying does exist, but it might have been highly classified, you need someone who had the tickets to make sure the contractors weren’t actually looking at Special Access Program(SAP) stuff thinking it was UFOs,” says an intelligence official who is not authorized to speak on the record.
“Plus,” the official tells Popular Mechanics, “I’m not saying it was, but they might have been looking into something that was of significant interest to foreign advisories and a high-value target for espionage. Bottom line, you needed a counterintel guy.”
Elizondo tells Popular Mechanics that he never wanted to be a part of AATIP. However, as a senior official at OUSDI with a background in counterintelligence, he found himself being recruited into the ongoing UFO effort.
“In 2008,” Elizondo says, “two guys came by my office and said, ‘Are you Lue Elizondo?’ The first thing I thought was, ‘Oh no, what did I do?’ They told me, ‘You came highly recommended as a former senior CI guy with some background in advanced avionics.’ Which is true—I worked some on the Open Skies Treaty. I worked with Raytheon, Boeing, and some other stuff. That was my portfolio.”
Elizondo was told AATIP needed a counterintelligence support and security guy for a very special program. Within a month, after a series of meetings, Elizondo finally met with the then-director of AATIP, who asked him what seemed like a strange question at the time:
“What do you think about UFOs?”
Elizondo was flummoxed. “I was like, ‘What the hell?’ I thought it was a test or something. So I told the truth: I don’t. I don’t think about UFOs. I don’t know if they’re real or not. I don’t think about them. I’m too busy trying to catch terrorists and bad guys.”
Elizondo’s ambivalence was evidently exactly what those running the program wanted to hear. Soon enough, Elizondo joined AATIP. “Seriously, for awhile, I still didn’t know if it was a test,” he says. “It wasn’t until I started examining the security posture of the portfolio that I suddenly realized these things are really unidentified.”
Not long after Elizondo was on board, in June 2009, Sen. Harry Reid submitted a letter to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn III requesting AATIP be granted restricted SAP status. Though ultimately denied, had Reid’s request been granted, it would have further tightened security and secrecy around AATIP.
Last year, KLAS Las Vegas reporter George Knapp published Reid’s letter showing Elizondo’s name on the list of “preliminary government personnel” who would have had access to AATIP. In addition to Elizondo, Reid, and the late Senator Daniel Inouye, seven other names of government employees (which have not been released) would have had access to the proposed AATIP SAP. Notably, only three “contractor personnel” made the cut.
According to a source with knowledge of the letter, the three contractor personnel Reid wanted to grant preliminary access to were Bigelow, Kelleher, and Puthoff. Puthoff confirms with Popular Mechanics that he was one of the three approved contractors on the list. The Pentagon later confirmed the letter published by Knapp was authentic.
Sources say the limited number of contractors listed with access is yet another breadcrumb left on the trail of secrecy showing AATIP was indeed slightly different from the AAWSAP contract.
According to multiple sources, including individuals working within the Pentagon—and confirmed by Elizondo—in 2010, when the DIA cut off funding for AATIP’s contract, a DIA program manager asked Elizondo if he would keep the UFO project running. “I wasn’t a DIA employee,” Elizondo says, “so I’d have to run it wearing my OSD hat at the Pentagon. We all agreed this was the best thing to do, so that’s what we did.”
By all accounts, Elizondo was now “bootstrapping” AATIP from the OUSDI, meaning he added the program to the list of his existing intelligence portfolios.
Popular Mechanics has learned the post-BAASS era of AATIP was an even more closely guarded program and consistent with how highly classified intelligence projects are conducted.
“Ninety percent of people don’t understand how the general government runs, and even less understand the intelligence community,” a former senior Special Operations and Intelligence Officer tells Popular Mechanics. “Because this program would have now been out of the Front Office, your guy [Elizondo] would have had the ability to muster up people from various areas of the Intelligence Community. You would have wanted to include the least possible, but best people for the specific mission. You could have had people from the DIA, ONI [Office of Naval Intelligence], and OSI [Office of Special Investigations] all working separately, but together on the same mission.”
Elizondo says when he took over the AATIP, he ran it like a traditional government effort. “We greatly reduced the number of contractors to just what we might have needed, but this was going to be government to government, looking on government systems at government data,” he says.
According to Elizondo, unlike most of the BAASS personnel, the post-2012 AATIP crew did have access to highly classified government information to adequately assess the situation. While the Pentagon denies that AATIP continued after 2012, Elizondo says the post-BAASS AATIP was notunsanctioned, and not just a group of government UFO enthusiasts. “Very, very few people in the building knew what we were doing, but the Front Office (Office of the Secretary of Defense) was in the loop,” he says.
Popular Mechanics has learned the ONI was one of the major backers that wanted to see AATIP continued, which sources say is why the Navy has been so willing to take the most public lead on the UAP issue today.
Elizondo’s critics have repeatedly asked an important question: If AATIP was such a secret program, why is Elizondo now talking about it publicly?
By denying AATIP SAP status back in 2009 and not ever officially blanketing it under a security classification, Popular Mechanics has learned that the government effectively allowed for the program itself to now be discussed.
“There’s a lot they can’t talk about, like sources, methods, etc., but the program itself is unclassified and fair game for public disclosure,” a source with knowledge of the program tells Popular Mechanics. Elizondo confirms this is correct. “I’ve never once violated, nor am I willing to violate my security oaths, so anything I’ve discussed is indeed unclassified,” he says.
In one of Elizondo’s employee performance evaluations, which Popular Mechanics obtained, it lists his primary “mission goals” as managing and administering information, access controls, and security of national-level SAPs for the Secretary of Defense. Elizondo confirms his position allowed him access to the most highly secretive and reclusive programs being run by the U.S. “The stuff we were seeing was truly unidentified. It wasn’t related to anything we were doing,” he says.
In October 2017, Elizondo resigned from the DoD to join former Blink-182 frontman Tom DeLonge’s UFO research group To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science, which would soon release the Navy’s “Flir1” video to the world and properly kick off a ufological renaissance. Elizondo now works as the company’s Director of Global Security and Special Programs.
Why did Elizondo leave his government job? Because he realized the Pentagon’s top brass would never treat UAP with the importance they deserved. A senior Pentagon official tells Popular Mechanics they were aware that Elizondo briefed a White House intelligence aide and two senior aides to Mattis, then the Secretary of Defense, in the spring of 2017.
The official, who is not authorized to speak on the record, says the White House aide was uncomfortable with the prospect of UFOs being real. To their knowledge, the White House aide did not pass the information along. The aides to Mattis, meanwhile, acknowledged UFOs were a real issue, but they were concerned with the political optics should it ever come out that the Secretary of Defense had been briefed about them. Elizondo confirms the accuracy of these accounts. “I resigned only after multiple attempts to brief the Secretary [of Defense] failed,” he previously told Popular Mechanics.
Finally, while the Pentagon has denied AATIP’s existence after 2012 and that Elizondo was never involved in looking into UFOs, Popular Mechanics has obtained documentation that seems to unambiguously show AATIP was active after the closing of the BAASS AAWSAP contract, Elizondo was running this extension of AATIP, and the efforts to examine UFOs are still currently underway.
Though the documents were unclassified, they contained sensitive information, and the person sharing them did so only under the guarantee that Popular Mechanics would not make them publicly available. The person said they only were willing to share the materials to support Elizondo’s claims, which they say have been unfairly challenged over the last two years. The individual, who is not a government employee, did approve the release of a small section from one of the documents showing the changing of responsibilities before Elizondo left the DoD.
F-35Bs begin night flights on HMS Queen Elizabeth.
PART VII. THE UNKNOWN
In June 2019, the Office of Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s office, confirmed that closed door meetings on UAP have occured. More recently, last December, when asked by Conway Daily Sun reporter Daymond Steer about the Navy UAP encounters, recent presidential candidate and current member of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Sen. Michael Bennet, was cautious in saying he wouldn’t share anything he’d learned on the Intelligence Committee. However, Bennet said, “Our guys are seeing stuff that’s unidentified. They don’t know what it is, I don’t know what it is … We’re trying to learn more about it. The Air Force is trying to learn more about it.”
Popular Mechanics has since learned in October 2019, staffers with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and the Senate Armed Service Committee were briefed on current UAP issues. According to people with knowledge of these briefings, some former BAASS contractors and current AATIP leadership were in attendance.
Insiders also say this past year, during a closed-door meeting with the Senate Intelligence Committee, Brigadier General Richard Stapp, Director of the DoD Special Access Program Central Office, testified the mysterious objects being encountered by the military were not related to secret U.S. technology. The Pentagon did not respond to requests by Popular Mechanics to confirm Stapp’s testimony before the Intelligence Committee.
In only the second time publicly discussing the event, Popular Mechanics spoke with the Navy fighter pilot who was Cdr. David Fravor’s wingman during the now-famous 2004 Nimitz UFO encounter. Agreeing to talk only under the condition of anonymity, the fighter pilot confirmed they testified in front of congressional leadership about their encounter. “I’ve been requested repeatedly to go to the Pentagon and asked, ‘Is this what you saw?’.”
During a series of email exchanges, Popular Mechanics provided specific information to Gough, the Pentagon spokesperson, in an effort to see if this might influence the DoD’s current position. Initially, Gough said she would examine the information and see if she could provide a statement in response. However, Gough has not responded to repeated follow-up requests from Popular Mechanics.
“IT WOULD BE HARD TO ARGUE THAT EITHER THE MILITARY OR THE PUBLIC GOT THEIR MONEY’S WORTH.”
On its own, the evidence showing the Pentagon is interested in UFOs is unlikely to change the minds of many who are skeptical of the idea that mysterious, apparently intelligent, and possibly otherworldly objects might be buzzing around the skies above Earth.
“The whole contracting process for this program was irregular from start to finish,” Steven Aftergood, Director for the Federation of American Scientists Project on Government Secrecy, tells Popular Mechanics. “[The AAWSAP contract] sounds like it was a good deal for the contractor. But it would be hard to argue that either the military or the public got their money’s worth.”
Meanwhile, William Culbreth, an engineering professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas who authored two of the 38 technical papers provided in the AAWSAP contract, offers a different opinion. He says he was unaware of the UFO background of AAWSAP, but very familiar with BAASS’s UFO interest.
“I had some graduate students who worked for BAASS during that time and I know Bigelow has an interest in the topic, but no one mentioned anything about UFOs when they asked me to write the papers,” Culbreth says.
Regardless of where the underlying motivation may have come from, Culbreth says his work on the two papers—“Detection and High Resolution Tracking of Vehicles at Hypersonic Velocities” and “Aneutronic Fusion Propulsion II”—led to his examination of new approaches to nuclear propulsion technology, which might not have been inspired otherwise.
“We’re looking into these propulsion technologies today, and this area alone led to several of my students pursuing PhDs who I don’t think otherwise would have,” Culbreth says.
With the wealth of data collected by BAASS, and almost assuredly more information being gathered by AATIP, it raises the question: Is the UAP issue being closely guarded because we don’t believe it’s real, or because we’re afraid we can’t understand it?
Mick West, the author of Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect, suggests the public availability and confirmation of rigorous empirical studies by AATIP could change the entire UFO dynamic. “It would be fantastic if there was some good evidence of something new to science. So far there isn’t,” he tells Popular Mechanics.
While he faces considerable angst for trying to debunk UFOs, West says he’d be as thrilled as anyone else if he was able to actually come across something that was truly unexplainable and unknown. “There’s no hard feelings,” he says. “I understand people are passionate—especially experiencers.”
So was this a matter of the government discovering something it didn’t understand, and therefore opting to avoid it altogether? Nick Cook, the former aviation editor of Jane’s Defense Weekly and author of The Grid, tells Popular Mechanics this idea reminds him of a conversation he had with Ben Rich, the former director of Lockheed Skunkworks and the “father of stealth.”
Cook says Rich told him when the ability for stealth aircraft was discovered, but not yet understood, there was considerable debate on what to do next. “Do you put a bunch of money into developing something and end up not being successful because you don’t understand it, or do you table the entire idea until you have more science, which runs the risk of someone else figuring it out first?”
With stealth technology, the U.S. military ultimately made the decision to move forward, which led to the development of the world’s first stealth aircraft, the F-117 Nighthawk. “I guess it would depend on how wide a knowledge gap you thought there was and how high was the risk for success,” Cook says. “Could I see how something could come up, and the decision would be made to tuck something away like the final scene of Raiders of the Lost Ark? Yes, I could see how it could be possible.”
“Throughout history, many inventions have preceded an understanding of the science that makes them work,” Matthew Hersch, a history of science and technology professor at Harvard University, tells Popular Mechanics. “Engineers often ‘do science’ in the course of their work, just as scientists ‘invent.’ It’s inevitable that we as a species will continue inventing things without a real understanding of how they work, at least until our science catches up.”
Being unable to explain something with current science, Hersch says, is merely an invitation to do more science—not a rejection of the scientific worldview as a whole. “Suppressing good, non-fraudulent science because it challenges our beliefs is extremely dangerous,” he says. “Nobody has a right to do that, and it is contrary to the interests of humanity—that’s what science is for. Fortunately, there is no vast scientific conspiracy to suppress divergent ideas. More often, good science is suppressed by non-scientists for political reasons.”
Any discovery of extraterrestrial science or technology, then, is no reason to flush our political norms down the toilet, says Hersch.
“Human beings have believed in the existence of extraterrestrial life for millennia,” he says. “I suspect that any revelation that [UFOs] exist would be met with something close to a shrug.”
Quelle: Popular Mechanics