Last year’s news that the Pentagon was running a secret $22 million-dollar UFO program took the UFO community by storm. It turns out that the New York Times article which broke the story, and Tom DeLonge’s To the Stars UFO project, seems to have gotten one key fact wrong; the name of the program itself.

The UFO research community has become quite excited and agitated in the last few days over a recent revelation made by UFO researcher Paul Dean.

According to Dean, he was contacted by an anonymous tipster in “a senior defence program leadership role” who aided him in discovering that the now infamous Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), the famous $22 million-dollar UFO hunting Pentagon program, is a loose in-house ad hoc term, and actually part of a larger military program aimed at the study of advanced weaponry. In other words, there is no formal AATIP.

Dean learned that the actual name of the program, of which AATIP was a part, is the Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program (AAWSAP). Why does this matter? It turns out that after the original story broke, hundreds of Freedom of Information Act requests were made seeking information on AATIP. However, since there formally is no AATIP, those FOIA requests began to come back with letters stating that no information existed regarding the program. This all begs one question. How did the New York Times and DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy (TTSA) get this wrong?

I asked Dean what he thought about such an error in reporting,

Whether the New York Times was told about the original name, being Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program, but evidently chose not to publish it, is unknown to me.

Researcher Roger Glassel has attempted, on several occasions, to contact To the Stars and the writers of the New York Time’s article concerning their documentation for the UFO information and videos they’ve released so far. A critical concern his article raises is that neither To the Stars, nor the writers of the NYT article, seem interested in sharing the paperwork used to gain access to their information.

Furthermore, Glassel points out the obvious elephant (or UFO) in the room. If the Department of Defence did release these videos to DeLonge’s To the Stars Academy via FOIA requests, then has To the Stars been lying about the program’s name the entire time? Or, if To the Stars was truly looking under the AATIP rock, it would have found nothing, so where are these videos coming from?

Dean has similar concerns. When To the Stars released its three videos, the so-called “Tic-Tac” video, the “Gimbal” footage, and the “Go-Fast” video (above), it did not release how it managed to gain access to this information. Dean writes,

…the manner of how these audio-visual records were declassified, processed, released, whatever has been open to some debate.

However, according to Dean’s anonymous contact, the Department of Defense did release the footage, and that To the Stars’ employee and former intelligence man, Luis Elizondo, did use FOIA documents to gain access to the videos and be able to publicly release them. Strangely, the Department of Defense has been rather coy regarding the release of these videos and has denied releasing them. Dean’s contact stated that somehow “corners were cut” and the DoD’s Public Affairs people had their “noses put out of joint” because of it. Perhaps the individual or individuals within To the Stars who asked for this information were able to sidestep a few hurdles due to their connections?

Whatever the case, the UFO community is pretty divided here. John Greenewald of The Black Vault is not too thrilled with this recent news. Concerned that Dean’s source is anonymous and that some of the documentation Dean mentions were posted a year ago on a dubious website, he poignantly pointed out that,

…although it could be partially true, nothing is ‘official’ yet — and at the root — only muddies the water, it does not help to clean it up.

Dean himself has stated that he is reserving judgment for now and waiting for more information to arrive via his most recent batch of FOIA requests seeking information on AAWSAP.  This has not stopped the Ufological speculation mill to already begin grinding out some wild rumours.

Some researchers are claiming that the program was not named purposefully due to some wild conspiracy, suggesting that the various high-level players in To the Stars are engaged in an active disinformation campaign, similar to the infamous MJ-12 documents or the counter-intelligence operation run by the Air Force and intelligence agent Richard Doty. Others are claiming that To the Stars wants to have a complete hold on the information and keeping the program’s name quiet would allow for them to ensure only they can access the data.

Regardless of where one stands, the only thing anyone can agree on is that the UFO community seems to thrive on the chaotic nature of the enigma. On forums and social media platforms, Ufological charges of conspiracy and hidden agendas are already being laid, and lines of allegiance seem to be forming. UFO "experts" and "gurus" are already posting their personal stance on the matter. Various UFO podcasts and radio shows are already covering the story, often spinning their speculative yarn without any real data or evidence. It just feels good to pick a side and yell. Conclusions are already being made and the evidence has yet to be totally presented. Indeed, Dean and Glassel have found a skeleton in a closet, but no one actually knows who owns the closet, nor the identity of the dead guy inside it. This will require some detective work and plenty of patience and diligence.

As for Paul Dean, he will let those overzealous UFO pundits duke it out while he patiently and diligently checks his mailbox on a daily basis. Only time will tell if his anonymous source is right, and if he is, you can guess how the UFO community will react.

At the end of the day, there is only one way to really establish the truth behind this confusing acronymic swap. When you make an FOIA request, make sure you ask for the #1 Ufologist recommended brand of exotic military grade weaponry research, the Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program.

UPDATE: May 17th, 2018.
I was contacted by Danielle Rhoades-Ha, a VP of Communications at The New York Times regarding this article on May 4th, 2018. She provided this formal response.

"Advanced Aerospace Weapons Systems Application Program (AAWSAP) was the name in 2007 when the program started. In 2008 the name was changed to Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), which remains the program's formal name today. We are confident our story is accurate."

I responded to Ms. Rhoades-Ha's e-mail with several follow up questions. I asked how the New York Times knew the program was still in operation today since the program ran out of funding in 2012. Was it purely the testimony of Mr. Elizondo, or did they possess documentation or other testimony stating that the program was still being run?

Since the publication of this article, new information has come to light regarding the AATIP/AAWSAP program which confirms the position of the New York Times. George Knapp of the I-Team at Las Vegas Now (CBS Channel 8) released a lengthy series with the latest formal information regarding the Pentagon program.

-MJ Banias

MJ Banias

MJ Banias is the author of “The UFO People: A Curious Culture” and curates the popular Fortean blog “Terra Obscura" and YouTube channel. He has appeared on multiple radio shows and podcasts including Coast to Coast AM, and his work has appeared in Fortean Times Magazine, FATE Magazine and in the book, “UFOs: Reframing the Debate."

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