Jul 16, 2022 I Jazz Shaw

The Legend of Lue Elizondo

As the United States Congress continues to move ponderously forward with the establishment of a new office dedicated to the study of UFOs (with the unfortunate acronym AOIMSG for now), it has grown increasingly clear that we're still not entirely sure how we arrived where we are now. The entire saga began unfolding in the public eye when the New York Times released its bombshell article on the Pentagon's mysterious, 22 million dollar UAP (unidentified aerial phenomena) study program. Through the diligent work of many journalists and ufologists, we were soon introduced to a dizzying cast of players who had been involved in multiple programs dating back to the early 2000s. 

Key among these figures was Luis "Lue" Elizondo, who was identified as the former soldier and counterintelligence officer who ran the program known as AATIP (Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program) until his departure from government service in 2017. The reason he cited for his resignation was his frustration with the lack of serious attention being paid to the UAP topic and the potential threats it might imply for national security at the highest levels of the Pentagon. After joining and later leaving To The Stars Academy for Arts and Sciences, Elizondo quickly became the most recognizable face in the battle for greater government transparency regarding this subject and congressional action. Most readers are no doubt already familiar with this story.

Below the surface of the intriguing headlines, however, questions quickly arose. The Pentagon has been flooded with thousands of FOIA requests seeking details as to how this saga had played out. Inconsistencies were noted and not all of the stories told by the key players seemed to match up. One thing we can say definitively after four and a half years on this journey is that the Times got some of their facts quite wrong in their initial report. And many of the conflicting accounts of the program's history seemed to center around Elizondo himself.

One thing that became clear, particularly after the release of the book Skinwalkers at the Pentagon (by Colm Kelleher, James Lacatski, and George Knapp), was that AATIP was not the original UFO investigatory program inside the Pentagon. That would have been AAWSAP (the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program), and Lue Elizondo was not in charge of it. Further, AAWSAP was looking at a lot more than just UFOs, including paranormal phenomena such as skinwalkers, bulletproof wolves, and "dinobeavers," but that's a story for another day.

So what was Elizondo up to? When did he enter the story and what part did he play? Lacatski was provably in charge of AAWSAP and admits that he knew and respected Lue and had interactions with him. But it seems that Elizondo was more involved with the government side of the equation over at the Pentagon while the AAWSAP crew was busy chasing orbs on Skinwalker Ranch. So does that mean that Lue Elizondo was running AATIP inside the Pentagon while all this was going on?

That's a complicated question based on what we know thus far. The earliest requests send to the Department of Defense Public Affairs office indicated that Elizondo was indeed in charge of or at least involved in AATIP. But when the responsibility for fielding UAP questions at the DoDPAO was handed over to Pentagon spokesperson Susan Gough, the story changed. We were told that Elizondo "had no assigned responsibilities with regard to the AATIP program while he worked in the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence" (OUSDI). This is a line they have stuck to until this day.

Then there is the question of precisely how much of a "program" AATIP actually was. We were later informed that AATIP was originally just an acronym for a "nickname" for the AAWSAP program. It later apparently morphed into an unfunded effort inside the Pentagon to investigate military encounters with UFOs, and Elizondo was indeed involved in that effort. But it was totally unfunded to the best of our knowledge and may have been something that Lue worked on, perhaps with a few other people, in his "spare time" while still attending to his primary duties at the OUSDI. Further, the 22 million dollars famously appropriated for the project by the late Senator Harry Reid did not go to AATIP. It all went to AAWSAP and it ran out after only two years. 

So was AATIP really a "program" inside the Pentagon? That word usually (though admittedly not always) suggests there would be an "office" associated with it, either physically or at least on paper. It also suggests the existence of a mission for the office, as well as staffing. Elizondo himself has seemed to vacillate on these details. In a 2019 letter he sent to the DoDPAO asking them to correct the "misinformation" they had been putting out regarding his role (very likely sent to Susan Gough, though that has not been definitively established), he referred to AATIP using the phrase, "call it an 'activity' vs a 'program' if you will." Elizondo would later go on to launch a complaint with the Inspector General's office over the treatment he had received.

But if there was nothing official about AATIP, why would Gough continue to insist that Elizondo had no assigned responsibilities regarding "the AATIP program" while working at OUSDI? Some of us who follow this story closely have found these revelations to be amazing, potentially heralding a new era of government disclosure and transparency. But when these disconnects show up in the stories we are told, we can face moments where we wonder, 'what if none of this is real?' That phrase is typically applied to questions as to whether or not humanity is living in a simulation, but the same could be applied here. What if there never were any UFOs and this is all some tremendous smokescreen or effort at gaslighting the world? But if so, to what end? And would the military dare to pull such a stunt against the members of Congress? You can see how such questions can quickly run into conspiracy theory territory.

While the overall story arc of the entire AAWSAP and AATIP effort may seem solid at first glance, there remain serious discrepancies in the finer details. And details are important when documenting and reporting on something as eye-catching and historic as a Pentagon UFO program. We're not talking here about sensitive questions concerning UFOs or classified weapons systems. These are simply issues regarding the timeline of events and the bureaucratic history of these programs. Why couldn't the players involved - both inside and outside of the government - get together and provide a coherent timeline of all of this? Neither program was technically classified in the official sense. They were simply unannounced. So revealing those types of bookkeeping details shouldn't have posed any sort of national security threat. And yet these discrepancies persist to this day. And that undermines the confidence of both journalists and readers who struggle to understand precisely what has been happening in this enigmatic tale. 

Jazz Shaw

Jazz Shaw is a U.S. military veteran and journalist who has written for and appeared on multiple outlets including Salem Media, National Review, and MSNBC, along with many American radio outlets. His quest for the truth revolves around both the paranormal and the perfect martini.

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