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The last few days have seen a flurry of UFO news, sparked by recent articles in the New Yorker, the New York Post, and Politico surrounding the upcoming Pentagon report on UFOs this June required by Congress. The articles, collectively, sought to legitimize the question of flying saucers as a serious issue of national security, relying on the same small group of sources, and they appear to have achieved that goal. Yesterday, the Department of Defense’s Inspector General opened an investigation into “the extent to which the DoD has taken actions” regarding UFOs. They did so, according to an article in The Debrief, because senators on the Armed Services Committee requested the investigation. The wording suggests that senators read recent media reports and want to know if the Pentagon is doing anything about flying saucers—a strange request since Congress itself required the Pentagon to investigate UFOs back in the 2000s. Apparently, senators are outraged by the Politico article claiming the Air Force has not fully cooperated in Congress’s required UFO report.
The connection between media and politics is a good reason to consider the slippery conclusion that former Pentagon UFO investigator and cable TV UFO hunter Luis Elizondo gave when the Post interviewed him about flying saucers. Elizondo let slip two key facts. The first is that the UFO investigative office he worked for hadn’t been established by the Pentagon itself but was instead created by Congress—by Sens. Harry Reid and Ted Stevens, UFO fans in ultrawealthy UFO fan Bob Bigelow’s orbit. This strongly suggests that the military wasn’t terribly interested in UFOs but that Congressional appropriation of, basically, $22 million for Bigelow to hunt demons, goblins, and aliens on Skinwalker Ranch led to an office to oversee the contract.
The second thing Elizondo said that is of deep importance is that he doesn’t actually think of flying saucers as traditional metal spaceships darting between planets. Here is how the Post put it:
When confronted with the question of whether UFOs are simply Earth-bound vehicles or from another galaxy, Elizondo offered a third unsettling option. He started by emphasizing, “This is important,” then explained how humans can only perceive “a narrow band” of reality. A lot of stuff (infrared, radio waves, cosmic radiation) is invisible to the human eye. There are “things that are right in front of your eyes, but you can’t see them.”
Elizondo seems to be leaning here toward Hal Puthoff’s and Jacques Vallée’s idea of interdimensional or psychic UFOs, which operate beyond the traditional three dimensions of space and one of time. After leaving the Pentagon, Elizondo worked with Puthoff at To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science, along with other former Bigelow personnel. Elizondo, Puthoff, and former defense official Chris Mellon have all left TTSA. Elizondo and Mellon announced plans to become full-time UFO “disclosure” advocates, while Puthoff reunited with Bigelow to investigate the supernatural.
Whether Elizondo is imagining metamaterials that turn spacecraft invisible or vehicles crossing between dimensions, the fact that he answered a question about whether UFOs come from outer space by speculating about the nature of reality shows just how far from mainstream science the Bigelow-adjacent UFO industry has diverged. It is no coincidence, for example, that several of the people who investigated UFOs and space poltergeists for Bigelow, including Puthoff, now serve on the board of the Bigelow Institute for Consciousness, putatively looking into supernatural dimensions of reality and life after death.
Vallée, for his part, canceled publication of his self-published new eBook The Best Kept Secret on the day of its May 4 publication. According to the description, the book was supposed to have been adjacent to the Pentagon/Bigelow research into UFOs, presenting the results of tests on alleged flying saucer debris that Vallée had collected, some of which was also the debris the now-defunct science arm of To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science had contracted with the Pentagon to examine, led by the same people who claimed to have conducted similar research for Bob Bigelow when he was the main contractor for the Pentagon’s UFO investigation. (Bigelow recently denied having any debris.) It’s all of a piece, and the only bits of TTSA’s supposed debris ever independently tested by non-UFO believers was determined to be industrial waste back in the 2000s. Vallée had planned to analyze the Ubatuba UFO fragments, magnesium debris which the U.S. government and independent researchers analyzed repeatedly from the 1950s down to the 2000s and determined had no evidence of extraterrestrial origin. (The fragments may have been part of a U.S. or Soviet project.)
According to the canceled book’s description, Vallée hoped to frame his research as a continuation of the Pentagon studies:
Following the New York Times bombshell reports on the U.S. government’s secret UFO program, classified Defense Department briefings regarding “off-world vehicles not made on this earth,” and the Pentagon’s recent formation of the new Unidentified Aerial Phenomenon Task Force, Dr. Jacques Vallee has collected materials from close encounter sites on two continents and uncovered shocking new facts about our history with UFOs.
Vallée did not immediately explain why he pulled the book, though Tim McMillan of The Debrief tweeted that “sources close” to Vallée said it had to do with recent developments, particularly former Sen. Harry Reid’s allegation in The New Yorker that he had “been told” (he didn’t say by whom) that defense contractor and aerospace giant Lockheed Martin held crashed UFO debris and that the Pentagon refused to grant Reid permission to view the wreckage. (This seems to be a slightly garbled version of the classic UFO conspiracy theory that the Roswell flying saucer had been sent to Lockheed to be reverse engineered, a conspiracy theory that appeared, in recycled form, in the spurious “Adm. Thomas Wilson leak” documents involving Hal Puthoff and Eric Davis, members of the Bigelow team. Wilson denied the authenticity of the documents.)
It’s all rather ingenious, really, though perhaps not fully intentional. The Bigelow circle, and those adjacent to them in TTSA, generated UFO hysteria by leaking alleged Pentagon UFO videos and sweet-talking their way into the New York Times through receptive journalists like John Mack acolyte Ralph Blumenthal and abduction researcher Budd Hopkins’ ex-girlfriend, UFO disclosure advocate Leslie Kean, later a member of the Bigelow Institute board of directors. Then, the Times story generated outrage among the soft-minded in Congress, who met with TTSA officials, particularly Mellon, and became receptive to their lobbying for a UFO report. Congress duly authorized TTSA’s wish-list, and this in turn sparked more media coverage in elite publications, which carefully omitted questionable parts of UFO advocates’ pasts. The news reports created still more Congressional outrage, with each step further legitimizing UFOs as a subject for serious minds. It’s a classic propaganda campaign.
And there still aren’t any flying saucers or space aliens to show for it.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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