For the first time, the Pentagon has acknowledged the existence of a recent, secretive program to investigate reports of UFO sightings, The New York Times reports. While the Defense Department says it ended the mysterious Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program in 2012, Luis Elizondo, the former head of the program, told the Times it continues to operate with the help of officials from the Navy and CIA, albeit without federal funding. Elizondo said he appointed a successor to take over after his resignation in October. The program, which began as part of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2007, was launched with backing from former Senate majority leader Harry Reid and his longtime friend, Robert Bigelow. Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, received just under $22 million in government funds from late 2008 until 2011, according to the report. The company used the funds to modify buildings for the storage of materials recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena and study people who’ve reported unexplained encounters. The program also collected video and audio recordings of reported UFO sightings, including one in which Navy pilots can be heard expressing shock as a “fleet” of rotating, glowing auras follow them at high speeds.
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