Monday, 1 January 2018

Extraterrestrial Fascinations: The Pentagon and UFOs

By Dr. Binoy Kampmark
Conspiracies in the extraterrestrial department have always constituted the residue of superstition in a secular age.  Chase away a Christ figure, or ward off God, and the mind still wanders, hoping to be bewitched.  If something cannot be explained, ignorance furnishes an often poor substitute.
The concept of extraterrestrial phenomena straddles scientific probabilities, faith and the sense that governments might not be telling their citizens the whole truth.  Rarely, for instance, does speculation on extraterrestrial research feature in the mainstream press, though the New York Times decided to dabble in the business of UFOs this month. 
The paper noted, quite rightly, that the US Defense Department, known to most others as the Pentagon, had put aside $22 million of its $600 billion annual budget on the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP).  Identifying exactly where it was in the bureaucratic apparatus remained a contrived challenge, and it had its opponents.
The program, run by Luis Elizondo on the fifth floor of the Pentagon’s C Ring, was deeply concealed within the structure itself.  Supposedly concluding in 2012, supporters are certain that funding continues to, if not flow then certainly trickle to it.

A video shows an encounter between a Navy F/A-18 Super Hornet and an unknown object. It was released by the Defense Department’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. By Courtesy of U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE on Publish DateDecember 16, 2017.
The study of UFO phenomena in US bureaucracy is a study of bureaucratic quirkiness itself.  Shadowy and opaque, the connections stretch across from Nevada Democrat Harry Reid, himself a fan of all things space, to billionaire friend, Robert Bigelow, who happily received government sponsorship for his aerospace venture.
The official record on US interest in the extraterrestrial research has been sketchy and speculative.  The US government, officially at least, claimed to have stopped gathering information on the subject of UFOs in 1969 with the cancellation of Project Blue Book by the US Air Force.  As the National Archives describes on a sombre note,
“The project closed in 1969 and we have no information on sightings after that date.”
Project Blue Book itself concluded after examining UFO reports since 1948 that no such entity reported, investigated or evaluated by the USAF posed a threat; that such sightings did not suggest “technological developments or principles beyond the range of present-day scientific knowledge” and that, perhaps most damningly of all, no sightings filed as “unidentified” could be deemed extraterrestrial vehicles.
Such reports, far from dissuading, have quite the opposite effect.  In May, Bigelow told Lara Logan of 60 Minutes about his absolute conviction about alien life forms, and “an existing presence, an ET presence. And I spent millions and millions and millions – I spent probably more as an individual than anybody else in the United States has ever spent on this subject.” (Bigelow, typically, confuses expenditure and dedication with verifiable sightings.)
In of itself, Bigelow’s interest is admirable. But curiosity finds idiosyncratic ways of making a mark.  It is not merely the scientific level that matters but one of induced faith, a Damascene conversion that turns a figure into a devotee. 
Interest in investigating the existence of other life forms, Bigelow contends, arose after his grandparents encountered an UFO outside Las Vegas. (Those aliens really have a thing for that part of the world.)
“It really sped up and came right into their faces and filled up the entire windshield of the car.”
That particular object conformed to caricature, darting “off at a right angle and shot off into the distance.”
For Reid, a vital figure behind creating the AATIP, nothing but pride comes to mind.
“I am 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.”
Reid, however, doesn’t stop there. He speaks about the findings of the Pentagon unit with a dazed piousness, telling Las Vegas news channel KLAS Channel 8, about the inherent dangers. This is the technology imperative, one constantly manifested during the Cold War: the fear that somewhere, something or someone, is so advanced as to strike terror in the human species.  Behind every ET phenomenon and unidentified object is a primordial fear that another earthly being is doing better and just might be a threat. Forget the ETs: the darkness lies within.
As Reid himself explained,
“If China, Russia, Japan, other countries are doing this and we’re not, then something is wrong because if the technology, as described and the way people see this movement took place in anything we have available to us, it would kill everybody.”
The technology imperative, one which acts as a discouragement for certain scientists in contacting potential alien forms, also finds voice in Stephen Hawking’s concerns that aliens could be “vastly more powerful and may not see us as any more valuable than we see bacteria.”
There will always be alien boffins.  Some, like Douglas Vakoch, president of the Messaging Extraterrestrial Intelligence (METI), envisage a planet or planets in the universe with liquid water, hosting life.  Such grounds do not sound merely sensible but probable.  Then there are the Reids and the Bigelows, a mixture of political and personal enchantment, part crazed part curious.  But to date, the sceptics on the current record of sightings seem to be holding the reins. The truth might be out there, but it remains happily inscrutable.

Spacing Out Ep. 112 Alternate Beatles History and UFOs with Bryce Zabel

By Rogue Planet TV

Mystery over top secret UFO program deepens

By Emma Parry

The mystery of a top-secret UFO program has deepened after government officials claimed there was confusion about its purpose — while experts accused them of backtracking.
The Pentagon last week confirmed the existence of a $22 million program called the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP) which investigated sightings of UFOs between 2007 to 2012, The Sun reported.

The revelation excited UFO fans around the world as it was the first time the US government had admitted investigating UFOs since 1969.  The organisation’s work was outed by Luis Elizondo when he told The New York Times he ran the shadowy Department of Defence program from 2007 to 2012 and continued to look into the issue until he resigned in October this year.

Two bombshell videos of unexplained UFO sightings by US military personnel — investigated by the AATIP — were also published. However, when contacted by Sun Online, the spy organisation Defence Intelligence Agency claimed there had been some misunderstandings. A spokesman said: “There is some confusion about this program and claims about its purpose in press reporting ... the Defence Intelligence Agency has not released any information, files or videos.” But Department of Defence officials disputed this, saying they did not know what “confusion” the Defence Intelligence Agency was referring to, and stating they had been “clear” about the program’s aims.

A Department of Defense spokesman said: “The AATIP’s mandate, when it existed, was to assess far-term foreign advanced aerospace threats to the United States.” It is claimed the program ended in 2012, however Mr Elizondo said that he had continued to work with officials from the Navy and the CIA on the program until he resigned from office in October.

UFO experts have claimed that this disagreement could be the government trying to back-pedal because it isn’t “ready or willing” to disclose the information. Ufologist Alejandro Rojas from Open Minds TV, which is dedicated to extraterrestrial life, said: “It does seem to me like they might be backtracking. “They haven’t clarified exactly what the confusion is, but I’m not surprised that they are scrambling over this now.

“According to The Washington Post, Luis Elizondo essentially got the videos under somewhat false pretences. “He claimed he wanted to use the videos for training pilots. He didn’t say he wanted to use the videos to demonstrate that UFOs are real, which is what’s happening. “I think that’s why the clips are so short and — especially with the second one. There is so little information attached to it. “I think perhaps they thought just in case somebody gets a hold of this and tries to turn it into a big UFO thing, we just won’t give them much information. “It puts them in a spot because perhaps they’re not ready or even willing to come out and talk about this. “And they didn’t intend these videos to be used for this purpose. “It wouldn’t be the first time the government has tried to spin things in a different direction on this topic. “But we’ve got Elizondo who led the program going on the record to talk about it — so it’s clear that they were investigating UFOs.”

Sun Online has now lodged a Freedom of Information request with the Defense Intelligence Agency for any other UFO files or videos related to AATIP.

The real X-Files: Is the truth really out there?

By David Barnett

UFOs are big news again as public imagination runs riot with another flying saucer flap. But is the truth really out there? David Barnett investigates

Just a little over 40 years ago, in February 1977, a group of children at Broad Haven Primary School in Pembrokeshire, Wales, were excited by a mysterious sighting on their school fields. The teacher in their class didn’t see what got the children so wound up, but they would not be calmed down, so their headteacher ordered the class to be split up and for the children to draw what they thought they’d seen.

With a few expected variations, the 10-year-olds pretty much turned in this unusual assignment of one mind and accord. What they had seen, and what they drew, was a long, cigar-shaped object with a silver or glass dome on top.
It was the start of what would become known as the “Dyfed Triangle”: a UFO “flap” that lasted several months and saw the media descend on Wales as more and more sightings of mysterious objects in the sky were reported. A local hotelier even claimed a close encounter with humanoid creatures with pointed heads.
There were official investigations, reports and theories. Some suggested it was the work of pranksters, others thought the children at Broad Haven had confused a distant sewage tank for a visiting spaceship.
Common sense tells us that explanations such as these are the sensible ones. And yet we persist in seeing unexplained lights in the sky, in reporting phenomena we just can’t account for.
People with no axe to grind, no profit to be made — but, indeed, reputations to lose — talk of coming up close and personal with beings who cannot be of this Earth.
And the Dyfed Triangle flap is by no means an isolated event. UFO sightings are constantly being reported, compiled and collated and it’s only when the media takes one of its periodic interests that the topic comes to the fore again. Like now.
The latest resurgence of interest in the prospect of there being life other than on Earth and that they’re criss-crossing the vast, trackless wastes of space to visit us, is not based just on a clutch of sightings of indistinct lights in the sky, though.
If recent reports are to be believed, we’ve had confirmation of ET’s existence straight from the horse’s mouth.
Earlier this month, after a probe by The New York Times, the Pentagon finally admitted the existence of something UFO investigators (both amateur and professional) had insisted for decades had existed in top secret: the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP).
This highly covert department, based in the Pentagon’s building, sucked up $22m (£16.4m) of the US’s annual $600bn defence budget and was devoted to doing what innumerable films and TV shows have always proclaimed the American government is doing, from the Project Blue Book to the X-Files to Independence Day: taking the idea of a potential threat from outer space very seriously indeed.
The Pentagon insisted that the department had been closed in 2012. But in the wake of the story, the former head of the AATIP, Luis Elizondo, who said he had quit his post just two months ago, did a series of media interviews telling the Daily Telegraph (among others) that his department had logged descriptions of aircraft travelling at incredible speeds with no known method of propulsion being used.
“In my opinion, if this was a court of law, we have reached the point of ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. I hate to use the term UFO, but that’s what we’re looking at,” Mr Elizondo said. “I think it’s pretty clear this is not us, and it’s not anyone else, so one has to ask the question where they’re from.”
The modern interest in UFOs can be said to date back to 1947, when private pilot Kenneth Arnold made his celebrated sighting of nine saucer-shaped objects in the skies over Washington state. 
Arnold’s initial thought was that they were some form of experimental military aircraft, and he spoke of his sighting to other pilots and the Press. But something captured the imagination in Arnold’s report, and people quickly began to believe he had seen something of extraterrestrial origin.
A woman who saw him in a cafe a few days after the story broke ran sobbing into the street, saying she had to save her children from an impending invasion from Mars. A preacher called Arnold and said that what he had seen were harbingers of doomsday and the end of the world was nigh.
Arnold said in a newspaper interview a few days later: “This whole thing has gotten out of hand. I want to talk to the FBI or someone. Half the people look at me as a combination of Einstein, Flash Gordon and screwball.”
From that point on, UFOs were a part of modern life. Around the same time as Arnold’s sighting, an incident occurred at Roswell in New Mexico, when what the authorities said was a weather balloon crash-landed near a ranch.
The Roswell incident has entered popular culture as nothing so mundane; for years people have believed that what the military recovered was actually a crashed alien spaceship, held and probed at the infamous Area 51 highly secure section of the Edwards Air Force Base in Nevada.
The government has issued many denials over the decades, but nothing has satisfied the public as much as the idea that it was an alien spacecraft. 
In the aforementioned X-Files, the long-running TV and movie series featuring Fox Mulder and Dana Scully as two FBI agents tasked with investigating paranormal phenomena, Mulder is famous for having a poster with the legend “I want to believe” on the wall of his broom-cupboard office.
We do, it seems want to believe. We would much rather let our imaginations fly and consider the idea of life elsewhere in the universe than accept that we are alone. 
And the internet, of course, has given much more power to those who believe not only that aliens are among us, but that the authorities are hushing things up.
MUFON is one of the biggest online presences of UFO hunters across the world. Originally begun in 1969 as the Midwest UFO Network in the US, it is now an international organisation under the banner Mutual UFO Network.
They utilise technology like never before to take UFO spotting out of the bedrooms of enthusiasts sharing sightings and theories in photocopied newsletters and magazines and put their data in the hands of everyone.
On the organisation features a live UFO tracker map, where sightings are uploaded as they happen. As I write this, the very latest sighting on the map is from Newcastle in the UK, reported on Thursday morning.
According to the witness report uploaded to the map, “I looked out my window and I saw this white trail that wasn’t moving, so I zoomed in on my camera and there was a black object in front of it, I am used to seeing planes with white trails; however, I checked flightradar24 and there were no aircrafts I thought it could be.
“It left about 20 minutes after by fading out then it returned 30 minutes later and stayed for 30 minutes then left. I’m not sure if this was some sort of military project, so I would like to know in the comments whether you guys think this is a UFO. There were also other objects near it I’m not too sure what they are, as well.”
The previous sighting logged was on December 27 in Oxford: “I was travelling southbound on the a34 from Oxford (UK) in the direction of Newbury when I saw a bright white light appear from my right (the west), move steadily over both carriageways to my left (the east) and once over a small line of trees which run along the length of the A road, it disappeared.”
And the one before that was in Melbourne on Boxing Day: “Some dark grey to black-coloured objects were observed appearing, congregating in random shaped groups, becoming more visible (darker) then either moving away or fading away from sight.”
Despite the internet and all the new technology at our fingertips, there’s something these latest sightings have in common with the Dyfed Triangle flap in 1977 (and no, it isn’t as a more cynical person might suggest, that they occur around the release of a Star Wars movie). 
It’s the sense of wonder that we have when confronted with something beyond our ken. Like Fox Mulder, we want to believe.
Given that a high-ranking Pentagon official has apparently broken ranks and spoken of UFO’s being “beyond reasonable doubt”, might 2018 finally be the year that we find out once and for all that we are not alone?