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Report Details Secret Pentagon Program To Study UFOs

The Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington on March 27, 2008.
Associated Press
The Pentagon is seen in this aerial view in Washington on March 27, 2008.
Report Details Secret Pentagon Program To Study UFOs
Report Details Secret Pentagon Program To Study UFOs GUEST: Leslie Kean, contributor, The New York Times

You are listening to "KPBS Midday Edition". I am Alison St. John on for Maureen Cavanaugh. A Navy Captain could not believe what he saw out of his, picked -- his cockpit, a fast swirling UFO.The wind is 120 nights. 20 knots.That's just one of many. The New York Times broke the story this weekend talking about the classify project. New York Times Jupiter Leslie King is with us today. Thank you for being with us today to I am very glad to the with you.In 2004, maybe Yemen across the coast of San Diego were sent out to investigate something. What did they see?I will describe what one of the pilot saw. He saw more than the other. His name was Dave and he described seeing, looking down over the water and seeing what looked like something cute underneath the water but very near the surface. He could see the water boiling with all of the Whitecaps even though the sea was calm that day. It might be like if there was a rock under the water. That's not what it was. There was activity and the waves breaking over something. About that there was a whitish oblong shaped object that was above that and moving around very erratically as if it wasn't going in any particular direction, but just hovering around and darting around on top of this area of the water where there was this disturbance.Fascinating! Your reporter at the New York Times said the Pentagon into that case. What was the mission of this secret group?Their mission was to actually study cases such as this one and try to learn more about what to the actual phenomenon is that we were observing and try to collect as much data as possible, and put it all together, to see what kind of characteristics are consistent from one event to another, and see what we could learn about it. It appears that these things are demonstrating some kind of very advanced technology that no one, and no country actually processes. Their goal was to try to understand what it was and possibly try to understand how the physics -- what the physics are behind the objects and how they do what they are doing. There is also some kind of national security involved as well. If there's a phenomenon it's very advanced that we have no control over, we need to understand what it is.Were they investigating UFO sightings by members of the military or by anybody?Just by members of the military, very sophisticated, highly trained pilots who were defending our country, pilots who were very well trained to recognize things in the sky. These were the only cases they dealt with but they didn't deal with average people having sightings.How did this Pentagon group that started in the first place?They got started by Senator Harry Reid to only left the Senate this year. He, back in 2007, he was interested in this, space issues as well. Along with a couple of his colleagues, the provided funding for a program to be set up initially with any defense intelligence agency. One of the reasons it was kept secret was not only is information very sensitive but there is a stigma around this. He obviously didn't feel like he could make this public or he would never have been able to be successful in what he was doing. That's why the program has the name, advanced aerial threat identification program. You can be open about what you are actually studying, unfortunately because of the stigma against it.You reported that the Pentagon said back in 2009 that the United States is incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered. What kind of technologies are they talking about?I am not personally saying it's technology. I am saying that's how the officials have described it. What they have described is things like objects that will hover, absolutely in dead space, hover for a while and zoom off so fast that they describe it as a blink of an eye. The object can zoom off with acceleration that the living being could ever withstand. They will also do things like go massive distances in very short times. There were reports of the incident you described off of San Diego where the objects were seen at 80,000 feet going down to, I believe it was 20,000 feet or maybe even lower in a matter of seconds. That's absolutely incredible speeds, hovering, zooming at right angles, and also the objects don't have any visible means of propulsion. They don't have wings or anything that would explain how they are maneuvering. That's another thing. If technology is maneuvering them around, how does it do that. There is no -- there is nothing that shows it's obeying any of the aviation laws that we understand, for how things fly.Are these dispassionate military experts or do they genuinely believe in the possibility of extraterrestrial life?I would say that the head for 10 years has acknowledged it's possible but certainly feels we don't know. We need to learn more. When you see something coming in from what looks like outerspace, coming in and hanging around and going back out, it is heart -- hard to at least not entertain that idea. I think it's not just him. In the initial years of the program when it was funded between 2008 and 2011, when there was a budget for the program, there were contractors that were hired out and many of them study different aspects of the phenomenon and they have written papers about it. They have labs and they look at various things. There's a lot of people behind this other than just a person who headed that out. All of them, I think, they can't explain it so they are open to the possibility, but nobody is saying that is what it is. We don't want anybody to think this is about studying aliens or something like that, which a lot of the book and misinterpreted as. The government is looking for aliens. We have seen headlines that have come out since our story. That's not what it's about. It's what we can observe and what we can document and trying to understand what that might be and what's behind it.Thank you Leslie for your story.Thank you for having me.That's New York Times contributor Leslie Kane.

A Navy pilot about 100 miles off the coast of San Diego found it difficult to believe what he was seeing. Commander David Fravor was dispatched in 2004 to check a mysterious aircraft that seemed to be hovering on radar. He eventually saw a whitish oval about 40 feet long that zoomed away when he got close.

“I have no idea what I saw,” Fravor said, according to the New York Times. “It had no plumes, wings or rotors and outran our F-18s.”

Fravor’s sighting is just one of many investigated by a secret Pentagon program to study unidentified flying objects, the Times reported Saturday. The Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program started in 2007 and received $22 million over the next five years to interview military service members who reported UFO sightings and perform other analysis. Though funding was cut off in 2012, Pentagon officials continue to investigate these incidents, according to the Times.


“A 2009 Pentagon briefing summary of the program prepared by its director at the time asserted that ‘what was considered science fiction is now science fact,’ and that the United States was incapable of defending itself against some of the technologies discovered,” reporters wrote.

New York Times contributor Leslie Kean joins KPBS Midday Edition on Tuesday with more on the shadowy program.