Many are anxiously awaiting the release of a report on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP), set to be provided to the Senate Intelligence Committee by the Director of National Intelligence sometime this month.
In an article just published by The New York Times, unnamed intelligence officials say the highly anticipated report is expected to say there is no evidence that the aerial phenomena being described in recent years are alien spacecraft. However, scientists and the military officials are still mystified and cannot explain unusual movements of the objects being reported by military aviators.
As The Debrief recently reported, The Department of Defense Office of the Inspector General announced in early May they would be launching a formal evaluation into The Pentagon’s actions regarding UAP. In a memorandum provided to The Debrief, “The objective of this evaluation is to determine the extent to which the DoD has taken actions regarding Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP).”
As an independent, objective agency, the Office of Inspector General functions as the official Pentagon watchdog, providing administrative and criminal investigations, audits, and oversight for programs and operations falling under the Department of Defense.
Now, if the IG’s original intention was to merely scrutinize existing DoD policies and procedures and offer recommendations, the Pentagon watchdog may find itself in for an unexpectedly wild ride.
Many who have accused the U.S. government of a “UFO cover-up” have long been labeled by the mainstream to be conspiracy theorists. Yet, the DoD’s inexplicable and chaotic handling of the whirlwind of UFO news in the last few years has been so bizarre it could cause even the most committed pragmatic to stop and ask, “What the Hell is really going on here?!?”
Confusion over these UFO or UAP encounters includes The Debrief recently uncovering official Navy reports of encounters with unidentified aircraft that appear to have been previously withheld from Freedom of Information Act requests by other media outlets.
So while the June UAP report is unlikely to meet the lofty expectations some may have, as an unlikely dark horse, the Inspector General’s Office may end up playing the most significant role in this whole UFO saga.
The IG Suddenly Finding Itself in a UFO Horse Trade
A recent report by Politico suggested that the Inspector General’s sudden decision to look into UAP may have been spurred by a formal complaint filed by former senior Pentagon official Luis Elizondo. In December 2017, Elizondo revealed a secret UFO program called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). On May 3, Elizondo filed a “64-page complaint to the independent watchdog” with the help of his lawyer, Daniel Sheehan.
“A day after Elizondo filed his complaint,” Politico reported, “the IGannounced a probe into Pentagon ‘actions’ on UFOs, which is being undertaken by the assistant inspector general for evaluations on space, intelligence, engineering, and oversight.”
Speaking with The Debrief, Chief of Communications for the DoD Office of Inspector General, Dwrena Allen, declined to comment on Elizondo’s formal grievance and referred back to a statement previously provided to Politico.
“I cannot speculate or deliberate about complaints that our office may have received [and] I certainly cannot confirm or deny the existence of an investigation to the same,” Allen said.
Speaking on behalf of the Inspector General’s Office, Allen would only acknowledge that the IG’s current involvement relates to the May 3rd memorandum announcing the launching of an evaluation into DoD’s overall handling of the UAP. However, suggesting the decision to weigh in on UAP was unrelated to any allegations of misconduct, Allen provided The Debrief with clarification on the differences between the stated “evaluation” vs. an “investigation.”
“The main differences between evaluations and an investigation are that investigations have subjects and complainants, witnesses and allegations,” explained Allen. “Evaluations assess processes, policies, and procedures to identify, verify or review whether compliance gaps exist and if so, provide recommendations on how to address them.”
Two sources familiar with the matter told The Debrief in early May that the IG Office’s decision to launch the evaluation was triggered by some concerns expressed by congressional leadership regarding the DoD’s handling of the UAP topic.
The Inspector General’s office likewise declined to comment on any congressional influence, saying only that decision on an evaluation was made internally. “The DoD OIG conducts its oversight work based on [a] myriad of factors. Our evaluation of the DoD’s actions regarding the unidentified aerial phenomena is a self-initiated project,” Allen told The Debrief.
While the IG’s initial involvement may not have been inspired by specific grievances, that’s not to say things cannot quickly turn into a formal investigation into misconduct. “We may revise the objective as the evaluation proceeds, and we will consider suggestions from management for additional or revised objectives,” reads the May 3rd memo by Randolph R. Stone, Assistant Inspector General for Evaluations Space, Intelligence, Engineering, and Oversight.
Undoubtedly, the formal complaint filed by Elizondo through his attorney Daniel Sheehan will add a new wrinkle to the IG’s assessment.
Documents reviewed by The Debrief confirm that in the complaint, Elizondo makes explicit accusations against his former employer, including claims of “malicious activities, coordinated disinformation, professional misconduct, whistleblower reprisal and explicit threats perpetrated by certain senior-level Pentagon officials.”
Elizondo’s complaint aside, there has been an abundance of bizarre actions by the DoD regarding UFOs that should give the DoD Inspector General pause and make the oversight agency wonder what kind of horse trade it has gotten itself into.
UFOs? Yes… No… Maybe So. What the hell is going on?
“Early statements to the press, which shaped the opinion of the public, didn’t reduce the confusion factor. While ATIC was grimly expending maximum effort in a serious study, “certain high-placed officials” were officially chuckling at the mention of UFOs.” – Edward J. Ruppelt, First director of Project Blue Book, 1956.
Since coming out in late 2017 and saying that as a senior official with the DoD that he worked on an approved portfolio to examine military UFO or UAP encounters, Elizondo has faced push back from his former employer and criticism by some of the media and public.
Initially, in December of 2017, then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Dana White confirmed the existence of AATIP and that Elizondo had formally headed the effort to examine UFO data collected by the DOD. However, after White resigned in early 2019, the DoD reversed course, saying while AATIP “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena,” Elizondo had no assigned responsibilities within the program. Months later, in December 2019, DoD public affairs did a complete 180, issuing a public statement “in effort to correct the record,” saying AATIP “was not UAP related.”
In February 2020, Popular Mechanicspublished a technical report showing at least some elements of AATIP involved the study of UAP. Up to this point, the report–which examined claims of injuries after encounters with purported UFOs–had not been made public. However, in a January 2018 letter to members of Congress, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) explicitly listed the report titled, “Clinical Medical Acute & Subacute Field Effects on Human Dermal & Neurological Tissues” alongside 38 other technical papers as being “products produced under the AATIP contract.”
In light of the apparent contradiction, the DoD public affairs office ignored numerous requests for clarification on AATIP’s involvement with UFOs or UAP by multiple media outlets, including The Debrief, for over a year. When the Pentagon finally commented, two weeks after the IG’s office announced their evaluation, it only added more confusion and indecision to the mix.
In a May 22 statement to Swedish researcher Roger Glassel, Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough affirmed the purpose of AATIP was to “investigate foreign advanced aerospace weapon system applications, with future technology projections over the next 40 years, and to create a center of expertise for advanced aerospace technologies.” However, in contrast to the previous stance, Gough said, “In developing the reports and exploring how to create a “center of expertise,” the contract allowed for research drawn from a wide variety of sources, including reports of UAPs. However, the examination of UAP observations was not the purpose of AATIP.”
When asked why UAP was now being included in the latest iteration of statements on AATIP, Gough told The Debrief this was, “To clarify that while some of the contractors working in AATIP looked at reports of UAPs, [however] the examination of UAP observations was not the purpose of AATIP.”
The DoD Pirate Code on UAP
According to current Department of Defense directives, “It is the policy of the Department of Defense to make available timely and accurate information so that the public, Congress, and the news media may assess and understand the facts about national security and defense strategy.”
Yet, when it comes to UFOs or UAP, the DoD seemingly considers policy to be like the pirate code, a mere set of suggestions rather than a set of rigid formal directives.
In a set of emails obtained through the Freedom of Information Act by Douglas Johnson of the Scientific Coalition for UAP Studies (SCU) and provided to The Debrief, on September 23, 2019, senior strategist and Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough told Major Malinda Singleton of the Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs office that the “Navy got Mr. Hoffman to agree to OSD(PA) being the lead rather than them, all of this has to go through me (for now anyway).” The “Mr. Hoffman” referenced in the email was then-Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Johnathan Hoffman.
Gough’s inclusion of “for now anyway” implies that her stint as UFO spokesperson might have been short-lived initially. However, nearly two years later, Gough remains the lone czar for UFO or UAP information across all of the DoD’s sprawling appendages.
Rather than improving Pentagon messaging and providing a unified front for UAP information, Gough has become a symbolic focal point for public frustration over the DoD’s handling of the UFO topic.
“Simply put, my experience with Susan Gough has been the worst I have had with any of the Defense Department’s public affairs personnel, ever,” wrote defense journalist Tyler Rogoway in a March 23, 2020 article published by The WarZone.
When not offering conflicting UAP statements, Gough’s inclination has been to refuse to comment or simply ignore media requests for statements. “Calling the situation disappointing and bizarre would be a huge understatement,” said Rogoway.
In December 2020, spokeswoman Susan Gough refused a request by The Debrief for DoD’s current media posture as outlined by the official public affairs guide for UAP and dictated by Department of Defense policy (DoDI 5405.03).
The willingness to ignore requests for statements has led many in the public and media to turn to mass-filings of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to gain a semblance of clarity on the DoD’s interest and involvement with UFOs. Many of these FOIA requests have been outstanding for years now. However, some that have trickled out have suggested attempts by the DoD to circumvent open records laws and only made the Pentagon look worse.
In the same September 2019 email chain between Gough and Major Singleton, Gough tells the Air Force public affairs officer she needs to reach out and coordinate with the Air Force FOIA office. “We need to keep a very, very close eye on FOIA requests for release of UAP videos, to ensure consistency of what does/doesn’t get released. Generally so far, at least with Navy vids, we’re not releasing them,” said Gough.
Contrary to how Gough’s comments make it appear, all executive branch government agencies are bound by federal law to comply with public requests for information provided requested materials don’t fall within nine FOIA exemptions. The conditions for an exemption to FOIA are established at a record’s inception, pre-existing requests, therefore public affairs officers do not have lawful discretionary authority to determine what “does/doesn’t get released.”
Just how many Navy UFO videos the DoD has in its archives remains unknown. However, three purported UFO films were unofficially released by To The Stars Academy, a UFO-centric company founded by former Blink-182 rocker Tom DeLonge, in late 2017 and early 2018.
In light of the video’s “unofficial” release, going back to 2017, numerous individuals, including The Debrief, filed FOIA requests for copies of the videos. In the email exchange, Gough seemed to be aware of these open records requests. As indicated, by September 2019, none had so far been officially released.
According to the report, in April 2018, AFOSI and the DoD’s Unauthorized Disclosure Program Management Office closed their inquiries, saying it was determined the videos were “unclassified” and did not contain any sensitive information.
With AFOSI effectively determining the videos did not meet any of the nine FOIA exemptions in spring of 2018, it begs the question: What basis was Gough saying the Navy was not releasing the videos nearly 17 months later?
Rather than ever answer this question, two weeks after Vice published the AFOSI report, on April 27, 2020, the DoD publicly released the 3 videos, acknowledging, “the aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified.”
Another chain of July 2020 emails obtained by French researcher and writer for The War Zone, Marc Cecotti, offers insight into the disdain DoD public affairs officials have for discussing the UAP issue.
In the email exchange, Deputy Director for Safety Promotions for Navy Safety Center, Jeff Jones, inquires on who is the point of contact for interviews related to UAP. Spokesperson and Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare, Joseph Gradisher replies, “…from a Public Affairs perspective, all media inquiries on UAPs go to DOD Public Affairs, Sue Gough (cc’d) … keeping in the loop, as we coordinate closely.”
Gradisher goes on to instruct Jones, “Make no comment. The nuances of all this are such that any deviations from the statement that DOD makes result in multiple news stories and additional FOIA requests at various levels. If we need to, we’ll coordinate with you on specific responses, depending on the questions asked.”
Once more, raising questions about public affairs influencing the FOIA process, Gradisher closes his email by mentioning, “Also, generally speaking, we let the normal FOIA process work as it is supposed to but we have been requesting that FOIA offices coordinate with us on UAP-focused FOIA responses before they hit “reply” so that new terms/language/etc. aren’t introduced that complicate the overall messaging efforts.”
UAP Reports Mysteriously Withheld, While New Ones Slip Through the Cracks
Ironically, a little over a month after Jones and Gradisher’s email exchange, The Debrief filed a FOIA request for all hazard safety reports (HAZREPS) filed by the Navy from 2004-2020. The Navy Safety Center responded by providing a spreadsheet detailing thousands of hazard reports filed by Naval aviators in the past 16 years.
Curiously missing from the database of nearly 11,000 reports were eight HAZREPS detailing hazardous incidents with unidentified aircraft in restricted airspace from 2013 to 2019 that had been previously published by The WarZone.
When asked why the eight HAZREPS were not included, a spokesperson for Navy Safety Center told The Debrief, “After consulting with our legal team who provided you with the requested FOIA information, it was determined that the eight possible Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) hazard reports were not listed in your request. If you are interested in copies of these reports, we ask that you submit a FOIA request, specifically citing these eight hazard reports.”
Pressed as to why the “UAP hazard reports” would not be covered under The Debrief’s request for “all” HAZREPS, Navy Safety Center reversed course, saying the UAP reports were not initially included in the spreadsheet due to clerical error. “The missed information on the spreadsheet you were provided is the result of an administrative oversight,” said a spokesperson for Navy Safety Center.
Still unresolved is why the UAP HAZREPS would have not been included in the initially provided spreadsheet. Outside of the missing reports, the worksheet appeared to have been directly taken from the case management database of the Navy’s Web-Enabled Safety System (WESS), Aviation Mishap, and Hazard Reporting System (WAMHRS).
Equally mysterious, and unanswered, is why a handful of HAZREPS describing pilot encounters with unidentified aerial vehicles that were included in the initial spreadsheet was not labeled as UAP by the Navy.
In one incident in October 2004, an aircrew operating seven nautical miles off the coast of Virginia reported that an aircraft whose “type/model could not be determined” passed within 100 feet of their MH-53 Pave Low helicopter. “The controller reported one contact at 1500 feet, and ATC [air traffic control] was not in communication. PNAC [pilot not at controls] reported this was not accurate, and the MH-53E had been directly flown over by no more than 100 feet,” the pilot wrote in their report.
In another report from June 2014, an MH-60 helicopter crew reported a near mid-air collision with an unidentified 6-8 foot “silver and white object with red lights at the corners,” also off the Virginia coast. “Hazard UAV (HUAV) passed down the left side of HAC [hazard aircraft] at approximately .5 nm and 100 to 150 feet below HAC altitude,” the report reads.
Just shy of a year later, in May 2015, an instructor pilot with the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet Fleet Replacement SquadronVFA-122 flying Beechcraft T-34 reported a near mid-air collision with a similar unknown aerial system over central California. “Pilot executed a 70 right AOB [angle of bank], 4G pull for ~40-50 degrees of heading change to avoid the object. Pilot then rolled wings level in time to see an orange/white Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) pass approximately 100-200 ft off the left wingtip,” said the reporting pilot.
In the later report, the pilot describes performing a reversal turn to regain sight of the unknown object. However, after a 120-degree turn, the pilot says they could not see the aircraft and resumed their initial flight path. Air traffic controllers similarly report having no “situational awareness” of the orange and white UAS.
Another intriguing report that emerged from the thousands of HAZREPS, was a safety complaint filed December 12, 2004, by the crew of a P-3 Orion anti-submarine warfare plane operating near the Southern California training range. In the report, pilots complain about having no contact with the nearby Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, which caused the aircrew to inadvertently enter the marshalling airspace for the USS Nimitz.
The report also notes that the P-3 crew had been passively tracking a submerged “target of interest” (TOI) when the communications mishap occurred. How long the P-3 was tracking the underwater target of interest isn’t clear. However, the aircrew wrote they received the track in a “hot turnover from [an] off-going P-3,” suggesting the submerged object had been tracked by multiple aircraft for some time.
The sub-hunter’s mention of tracking an underwater target becomes potentially interesting when it is realized that weeks earlier, the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group operating nearby was having mysterious encounters with purported “Tic Tac” shaped UAP, in what is has now famously known as the “Nimitz Encounters.” Previously, The Debrief revealed that intelligence officials were particularly interested in the supposed “transmedium” observations of UAP, or the ability for the objects to operate both in air and underwater without noted diminishment in performance.
(See links for Full HAZREP reports below)
There aren’t any apparent differences between these reported encounters with unidentified aircraft and the 8 “UAP hazard reports.” The Navy Safety Center and the DoD likewise declined to comment on what would constitute a “UAP” encounter instead of pilot encounters with unidentified or unknown aircraft.
“Providing an answer to your question is not within our scope,” Jones told The Debrief in an email. The DoD similarly parried requests for clarification. “To maintain operations security and to avoid disclosing information that may be useful to potential adversaries, DOD does not discuss publicly the details of either the observations or the examination of reported incursions into our training ranges or designated airspace, including those incursions initially designated as UAP – that also includes any details of the UAPTF and its activities,” said Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough.
Unlikely UFO Advocate, Turned IG Complainant
While the DoD seems unable to make up its mind on the UFO situation, the rare exception of consistency has been the Pentagon’s three year commitment to saying that Luis Elizondo had no “assigned responsibilities” in the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP). For his part, Elizondo has been unwavering in saying that both AATIP was a UFO-focused endeavor and that he headed up the effort.
Some have criticized Elizondo for not providing more evidence to substantiate his claims. Elizondo has been similarly steadfast in refusing to name names or provide information that could back up his role with AATIP, which he says would be at the expense of defense officials who have not wanted to go on-record in having an association with the government’s study of UAP.
“Although I could easily name people who could put this issue to bed, immediately; doing so would require me to break promises to individuals who I swore to protect from the media until they are comfortable stepping forward. It’s simply not worth the cost just to save my own reputation,” Elizondo told The Debrief. “The DoD IG is already aware of this information. Revealing people’s names at this point for the purposes of saving my own skin, simply isn’t worth the price of losing a friendship or compromising a promise I made. One thing people who know me will tell you, I am fiercely loyal.”
One reasonably prominent person who has been willing to speak out in support of Elizondo has been former Senate majority leader Harry Reid.
In 2008, Reid with late-Senators Ted Stevens and Dan Inouye helped secure funding for the Advanced Aerial Weapons Systems Applications Program (AAWSAP), the claimed progenitor of AATIP.
In an April 26, 2021, letter to NBC News, Reid wrote, “As one of the original sponsors of AATIP, I can state as a matter of record Lue Elizondo’s involvement and leadership role in this program. Mr. Elizondo is a former intelligence officer who has spent his career working tirelessly in the shadows on sensitive national security matters, including investigating UAPs as the head of AATIP.”
In another now public letter, in a June 2009 letter to then-Deputy Secretary of Defense William Lynn, Reid requested Special Access Program (SAP) designation for AATIP. Lue Elizondo’s name appears on the letter amongst the preliminary government personnel who should have SAP access to AATIP. The letter was first published by KLAS Las Vegas reporters George Knapp and Matt Adams in 2018.
In 2019, Pentagon spokesperson Gough confirmed to FOIA researcher John Greenewald of The Black Vault that Reid’s letter requesting SAP status for AATIP was authentic. “DOD received it and responded to Sen. Reid. I cannot provide you with the response; we do not release correspondence between DOD and members of Congress,” Gough told Greenewald in an email.
Though the Pentagon confirmed the authenticity of Reid’s letter, Greenewald reports that after a two-year FOIA battle, the DoD is now saying they have effectively lost the memo and can’t find it. Of course, Reid’s letter isn’t the only piece of the UFO puzzle the Pentagon claims they have “lost.”
Inexplicably, Greenewald recently reported that the Secretary of Defense’s office has said copies of Elizondo’s emails during his tenure with DoD have been destroyed with no backup available.
According to the Office of the Secretary of Defense records disposition schedule, Elizondo’s emails should have, at minimum, been retained for seven years after his resignation or until October 4, 2024. Greenewald says that beyond saying they are effectively lost forever, the DoD has not offered an explanation on when or why Elizondo’s emails would have been destroyed.
The willingness to discredit him, while unexplainably “losing” evidence that could support his claims about AATIP and UFOs, is one of the reasons Elizondo says he’s decided to formally request intervention by the IG.
“What he is saying is there are certain individuals in the Defense Department who in fact were attacking him and lying about him publicly, using the color of authority of their offices to disparage him and discredit him and were interfering in his ability to seek and obtain gainful employment out in the world,” Daniel Sheehan, Elizondo’s attorney, told Politico. “And also threatening his security clearance.”
Sheehan is a well-respected public interest lawyer and activist. With a long pedigree of fighting the federal government on behalf of his clients, he has also taken an active interest in the UFO subject, which includes ideas about making peaceful contact with aliens.
Sheehan told The Debrief that he believes the IG’s office is “looking for reasons not to investigate” Elizondo’s complaint. Sheehan explained that the department within the IG’s office that handles whistleblower complaints has already said that Elizondo’s complaint does not fall under their jurisdiction.
“It’s a very narrow organization,” Sheehan explained over the telephone. If the complaint doesn’t fit inside the exact boundaries of the various departments, they won’t even look into it. “It’s tight.”
Contrary to what he’s been willing to say publicly, in the documents reviewed by The Debrief, Elizondo goes into great detail, providing dates, times, locations, and numerous names of individuals, in his formal complaint, which means the Inspector General should have plenty of info in its pursuit of the truth.
Organized UFO Cover-up or Bureaucrat Ineptitude?
“The ‘experts’ in their stories of saucer lore, have said that these brush-offs of UFO sightings were intentional smoke screens to cover the facts by adding confusion. This is not true; it was merely a lack of coordination. But had the Air Force tried to throw up a screen of confusion, they couldn’t have done a better job.” – Edward J. Ruppelt, First director of Project Blue Book, 1956.
Given recent examples of how “deep state” beliefs can have dramatic real-world consequences, coupled with the conspiratorial undertones of government cover-ups that have intertwined with the entire UFO topic for the last 70-years, affirming public faith in government would seemingly be of utmost importance for the Pentagon. However, after nearly four years running and two presidential administrations, the DoD’s handling of the UFO renaissance has only gotten worse.
Adding to the Inspector General’s potential woes, the DoD’s officially recognized UAP Task Force appears to be leaking like a sieve.
Remarkably uncharacteristic, the DoD’s public affairs office has been willing to confirm Corbell’s leaked images as being authentically taken by Navy personnel and as materials examined by the UAP Task Force in breakneck speed. At times, confirming leaks less than an hour after they’ve been published.
Speaking on background, several active U.S. government intelligence officials familiar with the DoD’s current UAP endeavors expressed to The Debrief that all of the chaos surrounding the Pentagon’s handling of the UAP topic stems from bureaucratic ineptitude and willful apathy, rather than an organized government cover-up. However, these same persons acknowledge that a handful of senior officials emphatically do not want to discuss the UFO issue as part of the DoD’s daily operations.
One former Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs described the Pentagon’s inability to form a coherent message on UAP as “an interesting—and valid—story” without elaborating further. The now-retired official agreed to speak with The Debrief under the condition they were not named because they wanted to “stay under the radar” since leaving public service.
“Government public affairs officers are about two things: giving vetted information and not making a mistake. Often the latter more than the former. They are inherently very cautious and risk-averse. The military folks most of all. The military comes at it from a perspective of reluctance, of why do we have to do this at all. Especially about information they consider sensitive,” explained the former public affairs chief. “They want to convey the least amount of information and still satisfy the need for public disclosure.”
The failed messaging and confusing information put out by the DoD may indeed be a testament to the Pentagon’s limitations in the modern information age, rather than evidence of the military being allergic to UFOs. However, the remarkable number of oddities surrounding these reported encounters with mysterious airborne objects have been significant enough that if it involved any other topic but UFOs, the story would likely be reaching “Russiagate” proportions by now.
As many anxiously await the release of the DNI’s UAP report to Congress due out in June, based on what the last four years have shown, the Inspector General and the office’s statutory authority may be precisely what is required to detangle this mess before any meaningful answer can be brought to the UAP situation.