A classified report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence on “unidentified aerial phenomena” (UAP), or UFOs in Pentagon-speak, analyzed 366 sightings. It included videos shot by Reaper drones depicting anomalous orbs and close encounters between Navy F-18 fighter pilots and objects that defied the known laws of physics. Only half of them could be explained. Delivered to Congress on October 31, 2022, the briefing was a follow-up to the June 2021 “Preliminary Assessment: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena.” The takeaways were hazy at best, underscoring that UAP “may pose a challenge to U.S. national security” and that further investment in research and development was necessary. While these investigations seemed to mark a shift in the government’s willingness to take UFOs seriously, they were hardly the revelatory disclosure UFO enthusiasts had long pined after.

A major turning point had come in December 2017, when The New York Times revealed that the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) had financed UFO research with “black money” (off-the-books covert funding) for a decade. The cloak-and-dagger initiative was called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid, AATIP’s key sponsor, insisted the program’s research was in the name of science. But he privately justified it in hawkish terms: it would “directly benefit Department of Defense in ways not yet imagined. The technological insight and capability gained will provide the U.S. with a distinct advantage over any foreign threats and allow the U.S. to maintain its preeminence as a world leader.”

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