The Pentagon’s UFOs – – how a Multimedia Entertainment Company created a UFO news story

by Robert Sheaffer, June 6, 2019, The SKEPTIC Magazine:


On December 16, 2017, the New York Times published “Glowing Auras and Black Money—The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program,” a now-famous article about the previously unknown Pentagon UFO study program, as reported by TO THE STARS ACADEMY  (TTSA).  It was founded by a rock musician named Tom DeLonge, formerly of the band Blink-182, who describes TTSA as an “independent multimedia entertainment company.”  This set off a media UFO frenzy that still continues.

(ABOVE, Tom DeLonge, establisher of TTSA and Luis Elizondo, who works for TTSA)

To show how little TTSA’s people understand about what they are doing, the so-called “glowing auras” surrounding the objects in the widely circulated video shot by a military jet represent nothing more than a processing artifact of the infrared image.  But TTSA’s “experts,” as well as those who look up to them, don’t realize that obvious fact and think instead that it represents something deeply mysterious.

Most people didn’t notice that Leslie Kean, one of the authors of this piece, is a dedicated UFO promoter who has written a popular UFO book.  She is also very gullible, at one point promoting a video of a fly buzzing around as if it were some great proof of high-performance UFOs.  (And she still has not admitted that she was fooled by the fly.)

(CLICK ABOVE FOR ENLARGEMENT – – Leslie Kean and Christopher Mellon, both ardent supporters of TTSA)

Another author of the article, Ralph Blumenthal, has also been a UFO believer for years.  So this was not the customary news article written by New York Times journalists assigned to investigate a mystery and write an objective story.      Instead, it was crafted by UFO believers to appear neutral and objective when it is anything but.

Now the other shoe has dropped.  On May 26, 2019 the New York Times carried another article by Helene Cooper, Ralph Blumenthal and Leslie Kean – – the same three authors as the earlier piece – – headlined “Wow, what is that?’  Navy Pilots Report Unexplained Flying Objects.” They write:

The strange objects, one of them like a spinning top moving against the wind, appeared almost daily from the summer of 2014 to March 2015, high in the skies over the East Coast. Navy pilots reported to their superiors that the objects had no visible engine or infrared exhaust plumes, but that they could reach 30,000 feet and hypersonic speeds. “These things would be out there all day,” said Lt. Ryan Graves, an F/A-18 Super Hornet pilot who has been with the Navy for 10 years.

One seriously wonders why, if unknown objects were supposedly seen “almost daily” for nearly a year, and hung around “all day,” we don’t have overwhelming video, photographic, and instrumental evidence of them, removing all doubt about their appearance and behavior?  In reality, all we see are the same three blurry infrared videos promoted by TTSA, over and over again.  This makes no sense at all.  Doesn’t the Navy have any cameras, radar and other surveillance equipment?

As for the so-called “Tic Tac” video of 2004, serious fault lines are starting to appear in the differing accounts of various persons involved.  David Fravor is the pilot who was vectored to the supposed location of the Tic Tac UFO but didn’t see anything in the air at that location.  Looking down, he saw a disturbance in the water, which he presumed was caused by the object that apparently had just been airborne.  Of course, it is a big assumption that the two must necessarily be the same.

Fravor spoke at the recent UFO Fest in McMinnville, Oregon  (held annually to honor the famous Trent UFO Photos, taken just outside that town).  Reporter George Knapp and documentary filmmaker Jeremy Corbell were also on the panel.

(New York Times Magazine writer Mark Jacobson once aptly described George Knapp, above, as a “debonair raconteur“)*

“Knapp’s an  ‘investigative reporter’  when it suits him, but a shill for frauds and charlatans like Lazar, Lear, and Elizondo when there is a buck to be made.” – – a quote from Duke in Dreamland Resort

Fravor sharply criticized the accounts of certain other people who were involved and have been speaking about the incident.  He seemed to be singling out the account of the radar operator, Kevin Day, as being non-factual.  He dismissed claims of Air Force personnel coming on board the Nimitz and confiscating evidence as being untrue.  Fravor also referred to Dave Beaty’s “Nimitz UFO Encounters” documentary as a “cartoon.”  This prompted Knapp to say to Fravor, “I guess you’re being diplomatic, but some of the stories and claims that have been made by people, who may have been on those ships, are just bullshit.”  When people began commenting about these remarkable disagreements, Corbell pulled the video off YouTube.

There was little that was new or unexpected in the long-anticipated May 31 premiere of the series “Unidentified” on the History Channel.  Produced by Tom DeLonge, whose efforts have more or less dominated UFO news for the past two years, it repeated the same claims that I and others have have already written about many times.  Sandwiched between episodes of “Ancient Aliens,” the first of six episodes of “Unidentified” concentrated on the “Tic Tac” UFO.  Here are a few things about that episode that I found to be misleading or incorrect:

Much is made of the fact that reports were generated by highly trained military pilots, some with combat experience.  The implication is that their observations are far more credible than those of just ordinary folks. But longtime UFO researchers recall that Dr. J. Allen Hynek, the former U. S. Air Force Project Blue Book scientific consultant, wrote “Surprisingly, commercial and military pilots appear to make relatively poor witnesses” (The Hynek UFO Report, 1977, p. 271).  The pilot is, and must be, focused on keeping the aircraft safely aloft, and not on watching some strange-looking object.

The Pentagon did not “disclose” or “release” anything about UFOs.  This whole “disclosure” line came about from statements by TTSA’s Luis Elizondo and others, and not from any internal Pentagon activity.  The Defense Department’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP) came about because multimillionaire investor  (and longtime UFO believer)  Robert Bigelow, a frequent campaign contributor to Sen. Harry Reid, prevailed upon Reid, then the Democratic leader in the Senate, to set up the AATIP program. AATIP then funneled $22 million in contracts to Bigelow’s company (because that’s how things are done in Washington).  The only thing that AATIP is known to have produced are 38 papers in weird physics, like anti-gravity, wormholes, and negative mass propulsion.

“Believe as you wish, but the guy was a basically a pass through, a contract monitor, for a $4-5M/year program payed for with Congressional plus-up funds.  The project was an earmark by Harry Reid to his buddy/supporter Bigelow, with Elizondo being a glorified clerk.  He even admitted one night with Knapp ATTIP was not a full time job, just one of several projects he managed, and he had no dedicated staff.  Small dollar, cats & dogs projects in a basket program office.

In the DoD, $5M/year is round up error.  I had 2Lts work for me who managed programs worth more than that.  I have no doubt he was the PoC/focal point for the program, but he was a paper pusher who did not investigate anything himself” – –  a quote from Duke of Dreamland Resort)

TTSA has claimed from its inception that the Pentagon released the three blurry infrared videos that they ceaselessly show us.  They claim to have “chain of custody” documentation for the videos, but nobody has ever seen this documentation.  Elizondo recently released to George Knapp, a reporter friendly to TTSA (and it seems to anybody else making UFO claims) a copy of a document purporting to show the videos’ release.  But a careful analysis by John Greenewald of The Black Vault shows beyond any doubt that the document does not prove what Elizondo claims it does.  Greenewald notes,

We have no proof of any [official Pentagon] release, let alone what is being touted [the videos] is even the same evidence connected to this DD Form 1910.  If we see a blatant disregard for the truth by Mr. Elizondo on display with this DD Form 1910, and we see the same disregard for the truth by TO THE STARS ACADEMY as they have touted documents proving a public release—how can we believe everything or anything else from the same sources?

In the first episode, Luis Elizondo spoke again about his “five observables”, which I wrote about September of 2018. One of them was “Instantaneous acceleration,” supposedly shown by the Tic Tac UFO’s rapid disappearance from the IR video.  In a preview segment from “Unidentified” shown on Fox News, TTSA’s Chris Cooke attributes this movement to the object itself.  Elizondo has made this claim in his lectures many times. In reality, back in December, 2017 Mick West of the excellent site Metabunk showed that the “sudden acceleration” of the object was, in fact, due to a change in the zoom factor of the camera at that point. Surprisingly, Cooke’s comment about “acceleration” was cut from the final show; instead, Cooke is heard to say “Somebody changed the zoom.”  But Elizondo repeated the ‘instantaneous acceleration’ claim on Tucker Carlson’s show on Fox news just a few hours before the series premiere.  As for the other four “observables,” they are more accurately called “assumables” than “observables”.

One recent development that is significant, and is not mentioned on the program or by TTSA:  According to an article in The Drive by Joseph Trevithick and Tyler Rogoway:

the Times’ story doesn’t mention that between 2014 and 2015, Graves and Accoin, and all the other personnel assigned to Carrier Air Wing One (CVW-1) and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt, as well as everyone else in the associated carrier strike group, or CSG, were taking part in series of particularly significant exercises.  The carrier had only returned to the fleet after major four-year-long overhaul, also known as a Refueling and Complex Overhaul (RCOH), in August 2013.  This process included installing various upgrades, such as systems associated with the latest operational iteration of the Navy’s Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) and its embedded Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) architecture.  This is a critical detail. When the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group encountered the Tic Tac in 2004, it was in the midst of the first ever CSG-level operations of the initial iteration of the CEC.

In other words, in 2004 the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group got its radar upgrade, and soon was reporting “unidentified objects”, including the Tic Tac.  In 2014-15, Carrier Air Wing One got its radar upgrade, and soon they, too, were reporting UFOs galore.  One could interpret this to mean that the radars had finally gotten powerful enough to detect the UFOs that had long been knocking about.  But a more prudent interpretation is that the radars had gotten powerful enough to begin detecting birds, small balloons, insect clouds, ice crystals, windborne debris, and various other things found in the atmosphere.  Arguing in favor of the latter interpretation is that these radars are apparently no longer detecting anomalous objects, which itself is extremely significant.  It suggests that, in all likelihood, after being puzzled by anomalous objects appearing on the new radar, the operators finally figured out what was happening, and no longer are troubled by anomalies.

And in a last-minute bombshell, reporter Keith Kloor finally did what reporters are supposed to do, and ask tough questions about persons in the news making claims.  Writing in The Intercept on June 1, Kloor’s piece is headlined “The Media loves the UFO expert who says he worked for an obscure Pentagon program.  Did he?


The Pentagon’s UFOs How a Multimedia Entertainment Company created a UFO news story

Here is a comment from Jim Oberg:

June 5, 2019 at 7:21 am

The ‘5 observables’ allegedly demonstrated by the bizarre events reported by Navy pilots are NOT ‘observations’, they are INTERPRETATIONS of what the raw observations might mean.  What IS ‘observable’ is that the author of the list knows less than zero about the proper function of a military intelligence officer or any investigator of unknown causes of eyewitness perceptions, which is to observe and record, NOT to interpret or explain.  To jump to such interpretations preemptively is a notorious intellectual fallacy that REAL investigators have learned must be avoided because once formulated, an explanatory theory can subconsciously flavor the interpretation of new evidence, and even skew the direction of follow-on research, and through lines of questioning, even skew the memories of direct witnesses.  As NTSB accident investigators know, pilots are among the MOST susceptible witnesses to memory editing, probably because of their entirely proper professional instinct to reach fast assessments of unusual observations in terms of potential hazard to themselves.  This is a very valuable bias in terms of flight safety, at the cost of dispassionate intellectual curiosity.



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