Dan Vergano: you are listening American scientist‘s Science, quickly. I’m Dan Vergano.
Over the past decade, reports of UFO sightings have filled headlines and news broadcasts, and some of them come from a surprising place: the Pentagon. Former defense officials have made a number of claims and released videos of strange sightings by military pilots.
Today, the objects are officially called UAP (Unidentified Anomalous Phenomena).
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But regardless of the new brand, Congress has demanded answers about these objects, especially after a former official claimed this summer that he believed the United States possessed “non-human” spacecraft and possibly their “dead pilots.”
We’re talking today with physicist and former intelligence official Sean Kirkpatrick, who, until last December, headed the All-Domain Anomaly Resolution Office, the Pentagon office tasked by Congress with finding some answers to all of this. He recently published an opinion piece in American scientist titled “This is what I learned as a US government UFO hunter.”
Hello Sean. Welcome to the podcast.
Sean Kirkpatrick: I’m glad to be here.
Vergano: Can you tell us a little about finding your office in previous records? What did he find in…what did Congress ask him to look for?
Kirkpatrick: Sure. Congress really gave us two main missions. There was an operational mission, which is to investigate contemporary sightings with military pilots, operators (and) sensors to understand what is happening in our domain. You can think of that as the current moment in the future.
The second mission was a historical mission, which consisted of observing everything that the United States government has done on this issue, dating back to 1945, as well as observing if there has been any type of hidden program on the part of the government that has been carried out. kept. of Congress on UAP/UFO research or reverse engineering such things.
On that second mission, on that historic mission, anyone who had previously signed confidentiality agreements protecting classified information was allowed in, if they thought what they had access to was evidence supporting this investigation, to come and tell us all about it. . And then we would go and research what they had to say.
Then we had the National Archives; we had all the military service files; we had some of the combatant command files, the intelligence community files, NASA… We would investigate what they would have to say, going back as far as those files go, to identify, “Hey, if you went in and named a program, would Whose program was it? What was it? How does that relate to what the person was describing? and document all of that, which we did, and that was the last report I signed when I retired.
So, in it there are a lot of programs that were named. They are all classified. We find out what all those programs are and report them to Congress. Congress’s concern is that there was a program that they were not aware of, and that is not the case.
What we have found is that everything that has been named or identified has a legitimate oversight committee. Has been reported. These may be cutting-edge capabilities that if someone saw them, they wouldn’t understand, but that’s the extent of the research.
Vergano: It’s fair to say that you had access to everyone classified that people have previously pointed out as hiding some kind of program like this in the past, and you looked there and found no evidence of this story that the government has somehow been sitting on aliens for the last 60 years.
Kirkpatrick: That’s how it is. So we looked into everything people have pointed out and found no evidence to support it. Again, a lot of this stuff is actual R&D or actual cutting-edge programs, not aliens, but it’s completely understandable why someone who didn’t know would jump to that conclusion.
Vergano: You know, there’s been a lot of concern that overclassification is playing a role here, that people can’t even shoot down these claims. Is this a fair complaint or how would you describe it? For example, you can’t tell someone they didn’t see something they shouldn’t see because you’re not allowed to talk about it. Has that been a factor here?
Kirkpatrick: Uh, in some cases, yes, obviously, because if someone inadvertently had access to something or had unauthorized access to something, you can’t go and explain everything to them about it. And that’s where we get into another question of who actually has access to that information on Capitol Hill. Most people don’t understand that not all members of Congress have access to everything.
Vergano: We must point out that none of these people who call themselves whistleblowers are or are describing this alleged conspiracy, came to you with evidence of hidden technology.
Kirkpatrick: Good. Almost everyone who came (now, there are some who had first-hand eyewitness accounts of something, but that turns out to be something else), but for the whistleblowers to the public, not everyone came.
So I really have two groups of people. I have a group of people who legitimately have something to say and share. Have others that they would rather go to the public or the Capitol and not come and share that information, which to me is an immediate red flag about the viability of anything they have to say.
So I had to get a lot of the information that those other people were sharing through seconds and third parties, because it all comes down to the same group of people, you know, recirculating this story, and the story has been around for decades.
Vergano: And it just seems like a tremendous game of telegraph that’s been going on for a long time. And now it’s gone from the world of ufology to entertainment, to Congress, to genuine congressmen, who are not in the intelligence world that you describe, banging on the table and demanding answers about this. Is that unfair?
Kirkpatrick: No, that’s not unfair. We have legitimate concerns from some of the more rational members of Congress, primarily on the Senate side, about contemporary observations. I have trained military pilots, intelligence sensors that detect things that we do not identify. Now, just because we don’t identify him, we shouldn’t say “he’s an alien.” There are many things that we cannot identify and that is part of the problem.
And that’s one of the things we were trying to characterize and analyze. But there are also others who have no oversight role and none of those members ever asked for a briefing. So it’s very difficult for me to understand how a policymaker doesn’t ask for that data.
Vergano: I mean, from the outside, it looks like grandstanding congressmen talking about UFOs and distracting you from the other mission, your primary mission, of determining what these things are that are affecting our pilots.
Kirkpatrick: That’s how it is. So everything we’ve been talking about from the historical perspective of whistleblowers is important because we need to investigate and document it, but it certainly detracts from the most salient and concerning mission: the operational mission of the here and now.
Vergano: I have to say, as someone who has interviewed a lot of people (in) the Air Force, in the Army (over the) last three decades, it seems a little insulting and crazy to think that they would hide a technology that would protect soldiers. and the life of the pilots. I mean, is it kind of unfair to say that or… I mean, just, is it…?
Kirkpatrick: It’s not at all, but you’re trying to put logic and reason into a conspiracy. Part of the argument is, “Oh, well, you know, there are 12 of these that crashed in the United States.”
Then a lot of people point out, “Are you telling me that 12 of these vehicles traveled through interstellar space, found Earth, got to Earth, and all crashed in the United States in the last mile?” That’s just not rational, right? But to your point, if I am a military man or a woman today, yes, I would be very outraged to discover that this technology exists that would undoubtedly enhance our capabilities and prevent the loss of life. There is no.
This is really just a microcosm of a really big problem of distrust in government, distrust in how we conduct operations, investigations, how we govern and our ability to do so. And I think some of the sentiment publicly expressed by policymakers that is completely lacking in any kind of rational thinking or common sense just reinforces that concern.
Vergano: You wrote that this is one of the things that led you to retire from your position. Could you talk a little more about that? How?
Kirkpatrick: So when I began this task, I established a series of milestones. I kept track of that on a scorecard. I reported it to Congress. And when I reached my goal, that’s when I was done. It would probably still be there if it weren’t for this irrationality and this cloud of conspiracy that detracts from the real mission.
I am both an intelligence officer and a scientist, so the search for the unknown is actually the sweet spot of my career. This would be a lot of fun if that was all I had to worry about, but it’s not, is it?
So I spent most of my time trying to figure out how to investigate the conspiracy, and you can’t prove a negative, right? So now you’re faced with presenting as much evidence as possible, but you find out that policymakers have this belief that is completely unfounded and irrational… I’ve had senior leaders sit in my office and accuse me of being part of the cover-up for years. the last 40 years. I’m not that old. So, you know, this is just not rational.
Vergano: Is there anything you would say to the more general reader, who thinks, “Okay, well, people aren’t talking about UFOs; the government must know something,” meaning that maybe they’re more susceptible to a reasonable argument?
Kirkpatrick: Well, what I would say is that the government spends a lot of time and effort developing advanced technology for a variety of reasons. Part of this is simply because people have observed or seen things or had access to things that they shouldn’t have, that they don’t understand. And just because they don’t understand it, they seem to jump to “it must be alien,” instead of, well, it could just be that the United States has an advantage. So that would comfort me a little.
We have established a very clear, science-based plan that is being executed to do everything from calibrating our sensors and training our operators on known objects to researching what cutting-edge technologies are happening around the world that we may not know about. or not recognize. So my team and I implemented all of that, and all of that was executed, analyzed, and made into a rational sanction.
What happens with that is what frustrates me because that goes beyond that and “Does it fall on deaf ears of these policymakers?” You know, I have better things to do. So I hope that once this report is delivered, there will be an unclassified version that will be made public that will help clear up at least some of this.
Vergano: Sean, thank you very much for your time. I really appreciate you talking to us.
Kirkpatrick: My pleasure. I hope to do it again.
Vergano: Science, Quickly is produced by Jeff DelViscio and Tulika Bose.
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For Science, quicklyI’m Dan Vergano.