The CIA released thousands of UFO documents online. Here’s how to read them
The CIA has declassified a massive, long-awaited trove of documents related to UFO sightings over the last 70 years, stoking excitement among those who want to believe in aliens — and frustration among those who want to actually find the proof.
Now the truth is (perhaps) out there in a .ZIP file, though it might take some dedicated digging to find it. The documents deal primarily with UFOs, which by definition remain a mystery.
The Black Vault, a UFO enthusiast site and clearing house for related government files, recently published approximately 2,700 pages of the declassified documents provided by the CIA. The new disclosure amounts to over 2,700 pages of scanned documents involving Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), which is the U.S. government’s term for UFOs.
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The CIA told the Black Vault that the disclosure includes its “entire” collection of UAP documents, though there’s no way to know for sure.
Site founder John Greenewald, Jr. spent decades trying to get his hands on the documents through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) laws, and he finally succeeded last year. The CIA dumped the files onto a CD-ROM, so Greenewald uploaded everything to his website on Jan. 7.
The full archive is available for download through the Black Vault site. It consists of 713 PDF files with sequentially numbered titles. Specific cases are impossible to find without opening each document, and some of the documents are decades-old scans that are hard to read.
Nevertheless, the Black Vault has done its best to make each document searchable.
“Many of these documents are poorly photocopied, so the computer can only ‘see’ so much to convert for searching,” Greenewald writes on his website. He also suggested that the CIA had deliberately made the documents hard to parse, perhaps to slow people down.
Greenewald and other eager ET hunters have already started combing through the documents and posting their suspicions online.
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The Black Vault hosts more than 2.2 million pages of government documents obtained through approximately 10,000 FOIA requests, Greenewald says.
The site also has a history of obtaining high-profile disclosures. In 2019, for example, a U.S. navy spokesperson confirmed that three leaked government videos of UFOs were legitimate.
The Pentagon declassified the videos and released them to the public last year, citing the need for pilots to feel comfortable reporting such phenomena.
The disclosure stoked new excitement about the possibility that alien life might have visited Earth, though there remains no definitive proof of such claims.
Speculation flared up again late last year after Israel’s former head of space security claimed there was a “Galactic Federation” of aliens who didn’t want humans in their club. He also claimed that the heads of the U.S. and Israel were in touch with the aliens, and that the extraterrestrials had helped set up human bases on Mars.
He did not provide evidence to support his claims.
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Congress demanded last December that the Pentagon release some of its classified UAP-related documents within 180 days, as part of a bizarre add-on to the United States’ latest COVID-19 relief bill.
The Pentagon is due to brief Congress on the matter in the coming months.
As of this writing, the CIA has not commented on the Black Vault release.
© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.
The Pentagon Released U.F.O. Videos. Don’t Hold Your Breath for a Breakthrough.
On Monday, the Department of Defense formally released three Navy videos that contain “unidentified aerial phenomena.” Enthusiasts were encouraged, though there was nothing new.
The Department of Defense confirmed what seekers of extraterrestrial life have long hoped to be true: They’re real.
At least, these three videos are. What the videos show? The government isn’t so sure there.
On Monday, the Pentagon released three Navy videos that have driven speculation about unidentified flying objects for years, saying it meant to “clear up any misconceptions” about whether the unclassified footage was real or complete.
It’s real, the Pentagon said, including links so the curious could download the footage for themselves.
The videos, captured by naval aviators, show objects hurtling through the sky, one rotating against the wind, and pilots can be heard expressing confusion and awe. When they first appeared online, they breathed new life into the decades-long conversation about whether interstellar visitors had ever come to Earth.
The Pentagon’s release cheered enthusiasts in the search for extraterrestrial life, even though experts caution that earthly explanations usually exist for such sightings — and that when people don’t know why something happened, it does not mean it happened because of aliens. When the videos were published in 2017 and 2018 by The New York Times and a company called To the Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, they gave new hope to those looking for signs of extraterrestrial life.
Navy pilots spoke about objects that seemed to defy the laws of physics. Details emerged about a mysterious, five-year Pentagon program and claims of metal alloys said to have been recovered from unidentified phenomena. The former Senate majority leader Harry Reid, Democrat of Nevada, spoke about his long push for more research on unidentified flying objects.
For Mr. Reid, the officially released videos are only a glimpse of what the public might learn about U.F.O.s and other mysteries of space.
“I’m glad the Pentagon is finally releasing this footage, but it only scratches the surface of research and materials available,” he said Monday on Twitter. “The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed.”
The Pentagon has never made any assertion about what exactly is going on in the videos, recorded in late 2004 and early 2015 over the Pacific and off the East Coast. “The Navy has confirmed that the three videos that are in wide circulation are indeed recordings made by naval aviators,” Susan Gough, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said last year. “The Navy has always considered the phenomena observed in those videos as unidentified.”
The agency stood by that characterization on Monday. It added that, “after a thorough review,” it had determined the videos did not reveal “any sensitive capabilities or systems,” and did not “impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena.”
Nevertheless, some observers were encouraged that the Pentagon’s release was a move toward what Tom DeLonge, the former guitarist and singer for Blink-182, called “the grand conversation.”
In 2017, Mr. DeLonge and several former government employees founded To the Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences, a private company that collects and researches documents and materials related to unidentified aerial phenomena.
In an emailed statement, Mr. DeLonge called the Pentagon’s release “monumental news” that “removed doubt around the authenticity of evidence in the public domain.”
“We believe that this level of recognition is exactly what is required to eliminate the extreme skepticism surrounding U.A.P. events, so we can finally move forward to sharing and analyzing reliable data from respected institutions,” he said. “After 70 years of misinformation, it’s time that we make progress to understand the extraordinary technology being observed during these events.”
Luis Elizondo, the director of government programs with the company, echoed the former senator in a statement. “In these uncertain times, it is more important than ever that governments speak the truth to their citizens, as it is the most important pillar of a democracy,” he said. “We commend the leadership at the Department of Defense for sharing the truth and T.T.S.A. is optimistic that they will continue to share more information transparently as it becomes publicly available.”
“We are fueled by the Pentagon’s significant actions and hope this encourages a new wave of credible information to come forward,” he added.
Astrophysicists say there are many potential explanations for what appears in the Navy videos, including atmospheric effects, reflections, and bugs in the code of imaging and display systems of fighter jets.
The U.S. government has periodically looked into reports of unidentified aerial phenomena since at least the 1950s. In 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower told reporters the Air Force had assured him that flying saucers were not invading the Earth from outer space. For decades, NASA has searched for conditions that could allow life beyond Earth, and for evidence of any life itself. And for at least as long, bands of astronomers, scientists and enthusiasts outside the government have looked for signals in the silence and the noise of space.
US intelligence community releases long-awaited UFO report
Investigators stymied by 'unusual flight characteristics'
Report follows years of infighting
Report raises more questions than answers
CNN's Oren Liebermann contributed reporting
What’s Inside the Pentagon’s Long-Awaited UFO Report
Photo-Illustration: Joe McBride/Getty Images
One of the many curiosities packed into the $2.3 trillion omnibus spending and coronavirus-relief package passed by Congress in December was a stipulation requiring the Department of Defense and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to deliver an unclassified report on unidentified flying objects to Congress within six months, compiling what the government knows about about UFOs rocketing around over American airspace. The long-awaited first report was finally released on Friday, and though only nine pages, represents the most direct and substantive U.S. government account of of what officials call unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) ever made public. Below is a guide to what the report contains for those who want to believe — or at least understand what there is to learn from this unprecedented act of transparency from the Pentagon.
The Pentagon task force’s preliminary assessment is based on the review of 144 UAP reports involving observations made by military aviators between 2004 and 2021, but mostly from the last two years. The task force also considered but opted not to focus on “a range of information on UAP described in U.S. military and IC (Intelligence Community) reporting,” since it “lacked sufficient specificity.”
Of the 144 reports, the task force could only determine an explanation for one (a deflated balloon). The rest remain unexplained.
In a total of 18 events, witnesses “reported unusual UAP movement patterns or flight characteristics” — potentially demonstrating advanced, as-of-yet unknown technological capabilities. Per the report, that unusual behavior included UAP/EFOs, which “appeared to remain stationary in winds aloft, move against the wind, maneuver abruptly, or move at considerable speed, without discernible means of propulsion.” The report also notes that “in a small number of cases, military aircraft systems processed radio-frequency (RF) energy associated with UAP sightings.”
In 11 instances, U.S. aviators reported dangerous “near misses” with UAP.
Not much, at least regarding what these objects actually were or where they might have come from. The assessment says that the lack of “high-quality reporting” on the events “hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP.” In other words, they still don’t know what the UAP were, though the report suggests a range of possible explanations.
While the assessment says that available reporting on UAP is “largely inconclusive,” it nonetheless concludes:
- There is currently no evidence that any of the objects are related to a secret U.S. weapons program or were developed by foreign adversaries.
- The clustering of sightings near U.S. military bases may just be the result of several kinds of collection bias.
- Most of the UAP probably were physical objects, since most were detected in multiple ways, including via “radar, infrared, electro-optical, weapon seekers, and visual observation.” In addition, there are probably multiple types of UAP.
- Objects exhibiting unusual flight characteristics (like the ones which appeared to demonstrate advanced technological capabilities) could also “be the result of sensor errors, spoofing, or observer misperception” and “require additional rigorous analysis.”
- Regarding whether or not these objects represent a threat, the report says that UAP “clearly pose” a risk to flight safety in the increasingly crowded skies, and “may pose a challenge” to national security, particularly if the UAP were developed by foreign adversaries and indicate “a potential adversary has developed either a breakthrough or disruptive technology.”
- The U.S. needs to collect and analyze more information, consolidate reporting, develop a more efficient way of screening and processing the reports.
Nothing. The report makes no mention of extraterrestrial life and never even implies that any of the reported UAP could be of extraterrestrial origin. That doesn’t mean the task force has ruled that possibility out, however.
While the report does not offer much in the way of explanation for the objects, it offers five categories of possible explanations:
- Airborne clutter, including birds, balloons, drones, or airborne debris.
- Natural atmospheric phenomena, including “ice crystals, moisture, and thermal fluctuations that may register on some infrared and radar systems.”
- U.S.-developed technology, i.e., classified technology developed by the U.S. or its industry partners.
- Technology developed by foreign adversaries (on Earth), like Russia, China, or other government or non-government entities.
- Other, a catchall for encounters where there isn’t enough information to determine categorization (which could include UAP of extraterrestrial origin).
Americans have long been fascinated by questions about what their government knows about UFOs, but several recent developments have driven lawmakers to push for more transparency. The issue gained momentum in December 2017, when the New York Timesreported on a $22 million Department of Defense program established in 2007 and championed by Harry Reid, the former Democratic Senate majority leader. Known as the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, it was designed to examine military encounters with UAPs. (The story would have shaken the American public to its core in the UFO-obsessed 1990s, but barely rose above the din of daily news coverage in the first chaotic year of the Trump administration.)
Over the next few years, lawmakers and Defense officials began to take interest as more Navy pilots shared their accounts of frequent run-ins with UFOs, and several videos of the encounters were released. By June 2019, senators were reportedly “coming out of the woodwork” to be briefed on the phenomena, which resulted in a vote by the Senate Intelligence Committee in June 2020 that first green-lit the idea for a UFO report. A provision — which set the six-month timeline and added some additional funding for the project — was tucked into the Intelligence Authorization Act for the 2021 fiscal year, which passed as part of the December stimulus package.
As the senators on the Senate Intelligence Committee wrote last year, they were “concerned that there is no unified, comprehensive process within the federal government for collecting and analyzing intelligence on unidentified aerial phenomena, despite the potential threat.”
Science writer Mick West is generally considered the leading voice of the group asserting that the UFOs spotted by the military are likely technology we already understand. In an appearance on CNN last month, he summarized his argument: The images we see in the military UAP videos could easily be the result of mis-calibrated instruments or various camera distortions. While West thinks the videos released so far “can all be explained,” he does support further research on the subject.
“If pilots are reporting things that they can’t identify, then yes we need to figure out what’s going wrong there,” he said. “Is it something new or is it some failure of the system? Is it a failure of personnel or technology? Let’s figure that out.”
In a recent and exceptionally long story in TheNew Yorker detailing the history of the movement to take UFOs seriously, a former Pentagon official pushed back on West’s skepticism, saying that he “doesn’t have the whole story. There’s data he will never see — there’s much more that I would include in a classified environment.” (Of course, that argument isn’t very satisfying for those of us who will never have access to classified UFO data.)
On the left, a non-scientific reason for UAP skepticism has emerged: Perhaps after wasting over $1.6 trillion on the disastrous F-35, spending over $2.26 trillion on the war in Afghanistan, and facing a flat budget for 2021, the Pentagon simply wants a flashy reason to demand more money.
Shortly after the report’s release, New York’s Jeff Wise examined another potential explanation: electromagnetic warfare.
For many, aerial objects moving in impossible ways immediately brings to mind alien visitors. But for those working in the electronic warfare industry, strangely manifesting phenomena are their stock-in-trade. The field is tasked with the detection of adversaries across the electromagnetic spectrum, from visual light to infrared and radar, as well as manipulating signals so that your forces are not detected by the enemy. “By radiating electromagnetic energy, one can deny, deceive, disrupt, delay or deceive that energy to confuse an observer about what you’re doing,” says Glenn “Powder” Carlson, president of the Old Crows Association, the EW professional organization.
President Joe Biden has successfully dodged recent attempts to get him to weigh in on unidentified aerial phenomena. “President Obama says there is footage and records of objects in the sky … and he says we don’t know exactly what they are — what do you think?” a reporter asked the president at a May 21 press conference. Biden deflected, saying “I would ask him again,” before smiling and leaving the podium.
Since leaving office, Obama has been more open about his interest in the topic. Days before the question to Biden, the ex-president appeared on The Late Late Show With James Corden, where the show’s music director, Reggie Watts, asked him about his theories on the paranormal. “When it comes to aliens, there are some things I just can’t tell you on-air,” Obama quipped.
“Look, the truth is, when I came into office, I asked, ‘Is there the lab somewhere we’re keeping the alien specimens and spaceship?’ They did a little bit of research and the answer was no,” Obama continued. “But what is true — and I’m actually being serious — is that there’s footage and records of objects in the skies that we don’t know exactly what they are. We can’t explain how they moved, their trajectory, they did not have an easily explainable pattern. I think that people still take seriously trying to investigate and figure out what that is. But I have nothing to report to you today.”
For his part, Donald Trump never took UFOs all that seriously while in office. In the few instances when he commented on the matter, he usually deflected, promising to “take a good, strong look” at the matter, and telling George Stephanopoulos that if there was any evidence of aliens, “you’ll be the first to know.”
The report also dictates that another report will be delivered by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Defense within 90 days, informing Congress on how best to update data collection on UFOs. According to the New York Times, “officials said they would provide lawmakers with periodical updates beyond that.”
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The truth is out there … perhaps: CIA releases thousands of UFO files
The truth is out there. Well, maybe. Thousands of documents from the CIA on unidentified flying objects were released this week in a document dump that the agency says includes all their records on UFOs.
The documents are currently available on the Black Vault, an online archive of declassified government documents, after the site’s founder John Greenewald Jr, purchased a CD-Rom the CIA had made with its UFO documents. About 2,700 pages were included in the collection, what the agency says are all the files it has on UFOs, but Greenewald notes on his website that “there may be no way to entirely verify that”.
Some of the reports, including one about mysterious explosions in a Russian town and another with a first-hand account of a strange sighting of a flying object near Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, are the sort of reads that you might expect to find in a science fiction novel rather than official government documents. But some of the documents are difficult to read, and what exactly they were used for is unclear. Greenewald told Vice’s Motherboard that the intelligence agency put the documents together in an “outdated” format that makes it hard to parse the collection.
“The CIA has made it INCREDIBLY difficult to use their records in a reasonable manner,” he wrote to Motherboard. “This outdated format makes it very difficult for people to see the documents, and use them, for any research purpose.”
The document dump comes just as UFOs – or, as the US government calls them, unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP) – seem to have caught the attention of lawmakers in Congress.
The government funding bill Congress passed at the end of December, which included the $900bn coronavirus stimulus, instructed the director of national intelligence and secretary of defense to release a report on UAPs in six months’ time.
The Senate’s intelligence committee, which wrote the directive, said intelligence and defense agencies should note any “links to adversarial foreign governments” and “the threat they pose to US military assets and installations” in the report, suggesting that lawmakers are wondering if a US adversary could be in charge of strange UFO sightings.
Three videos that were leaked from and eventually released by the US defense department in April of last year showed unidentified objects in airspace that were captured on tape during pilot training flights. The pilots could be heard noting the speed and shapes of the objects.
The former US senator Harry Reid, who was at the helm of previous efforts to investigate UFOs, retweeted the video writing: “The US needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed.”
In August of last year, the defense department created a UAP taskforce to “detect, analyze and catalog UAPs that could potentially pose a threat to US national security” after lawmakers pressured the department to make more serious inquiries into UAP sightings following the release of the videos.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida who leads the Senate intelligence committee, suggested in an interview with a Miami news station that lawmakers are more concerned about technological advancement from US adversaries than signs of extraterrestrial life.
“Frankly, if it’s something from outside this planet, that might actually be better than the fact that we’ve seen some sort of technological leap on behalf of the Chinese or the Russians or some other adversary,” he said.
Classification 114: Alien Property Custodian Matter (Obsolete)
This classification was established in 1945, when the Department of Justice directed the FBI to investigate cases brought against the Alien Property Custodian under the Trading with the Enemy Act of 1917 and the first War Powers Act of 1941. Most investigations examined the ownership and control of unvested property and of vested property that was subject to claims and litigation. Additionally the FBI investigated suspected misuse or misapplication by private citizens of property under the jurisdiction of the Office of Alien Property. The Office of Alien Property became part of the Civil Division, Department of Justice in 1946. That division initiated FBI investigations into this area and received the results of such investigations. By 1960, investigative activity in this classification was very low. It was declared obsolete in 1972. Subsequent Alien Property investigations were to be opened under Classification 63: Miscellaneous Civil Suits.
NARA online catalog descriptions of holdings for Classification 114: Alien Property Custodian Matter (Obsolete)
Return to list of Classes of FBI Records in the National Archives
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You Can Now Explore the CIA’s ‘Entire’ Collection of UFO Documents Online
Approximately 2,780 pages of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) documents detailing the government entity’s findings on unidentified flying objects (UFOs) are now available for anyone to read and download.
As Brandon Specktor reports for Live Science, the Black Vault’s collection features UFO-related records declassified by the CIA since the 1980s. The site’s owner, John Greenewald Jr., obtained the newly digitized documents—said by the CIA to represent the entirety of its UFO collection—by filing a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.
“The Black Vault spent years fighting for them, and many were released in the late 1990s,” writes Greenewald in a blog post. “However, over time, the CIA made a CD-ROM collection of UFO documents, which encompassed the original records, along with the ones that took years to fight for.”
Greenewald purchased the CD-ROM in mid-2020 and has spent the past several months converting its contents into searchable PDF files. Per Live Science, highlights of the trove include a 1976 account in which the government’s former assistant deputy director for science and technology is handed a cryptic piece of information about a UFO and a document centered on a strange, late-night explosion in a tiny Russian town.
“Around 20 years ago, I had fought for years to get additional UFO records released from the CIA,” Greenewald tells Vice’s Samir Ferdowsi. “It was like pulling teeth! I went around and around with them to try and do so, finally achieving it. I received a large box, of a couple thousand pages, and I had to scan them in one page at a time.”
In other recent UFO news, the CIA itself separately uploaded dozens of downloadable records about UFO sightings and inexplicable events from around the world to its FOIA Electronic Reading Room. The files span the 1940s through the early 1990s, according to Nexstar Media Wire.
The agency’s data dump arrives one month after Congress’ passage of the 5,600-page Covid-19 relief bill, which included a provision calling for UFO-related documents’ disclosure. Within 180 days of the bill’s ratification, report Steven Greenstreet and Steven Nelson for the New York Post, officials from the Department of Defense and intelligence agencies must “submit a report … to the congressional intelligence and armed services committees on unidentified aerial phenomena” (the government’s preferred term for UFOs).
UFOs have long held a place in popular lore. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, the phenomenon became a major topic of public fascination after World War II, when rocket technology was first developed. Businessman Kenneth Arnold made the first widely recognized UFO sighting in 1947, when he claimed he’d seen nine objects flying through the air “like saucers skipping on water.”
As similar reports of unexplainable flying objects became more frequent, the U.S. government established multiple projects tasked with logging UFO sightings. Between 1952 and 1969, the most famous of these—Project Blue Book—recorded more than 12,000 sightings, per Encyclopedia Britannica. More recently, public interest in UFOs has grown thanks to the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a secret government organization that operated from 2007 to 2012.
UFO enthusiasts like Greenewald have long sought to make information about these mysterious objects more accessible.
Speaking with the Columbia Journalism Review’s Shaun Raviv last May, Greenewald said, “I like to give people the raw information, the uneditorialized version, so they can make up their own mind.”