This is an exclusive interview of Luis Elizondo, the former head of a secret Pentagon project to investigate UFOs. The project was called the Advanced Aerial Threat Identification Program (AATIP).
An article on Dec. 16, 2017 in the New York Times revealing the program made worldwide headlines. Thus far, mostly short media interviews are all Elizondo has participated in. In this exclusive interview, Elizondo answers questions from UFO Congress social media followers and friends. See the entire 2018 International UFO Congress presentation, including a review of how this revelation came about, and insight from Nick Pope, who ran a similar UFO program for the UK’s Ministry of Defense, at the UFO Congress Video-on-Demand page.
IUFOC Video-on-Demand: https://www.ufocongressvideos.com
Thank you to To The Stars Academy for filming this interview.
The following is a transcript of the video interview. The questions are presented as they are in the video.
Pursuit of the truth is the fundamental endeavor of mankind. The truth, whether it’s for knowledge, enlightenment, or even love. The truth is the only thing that allows us to ensure our azimuth remains true and our destination assured. It is my experience that the success of any journey relies on the people who are along for the trip. As with every expedition, each person plays a critical role and serves a purpose on that trip. And yes, that includes healthy skepticism and even dissenting views and opinions. Only with all views and voices heard will we be able to plot a course that represents the best chance of our success for reaching far off shores. So I say to you, here and now, let’s not be afraid to ask the hard question or challenge the words of our experts. Let’s not be shy to own our passion, and push the boundaries of our horizon. In conclusion, thank you for your courage and your time and your audience today. You are the true heroes, and the ones who deserve awards. Thank you again.
How did you first get involved with AATIP?
My first involvement with the advanced aerospace threat identification program began back in 2008. The former program manager at the time was looking for somebody to provide dedicated counter intelligence support to the effort, which I wasn’t aware of at the time. So in 2008, a couple folks came to my office and they asked to have a conversation with me, and usually as a fed in our line of work when strange people come to your door and they want to talk to you, it’s usually not a good thing. In this particular case, we had several meetings, they asked me a little bit about my background, and after the third meeting I was introduced to the program manager. At that point it became apparent to me why they were asking me the questions they were asking me, so in 2008 I was asked to come on board. I did and I worked for the former program manager at the time, and in 2010 upon his departure, I was asked to take over the program formally as the director.
Did you work with Bigelow? If so, what was that like?
My personal experience with Mr. Bigelow has been nothing but unbelievable. A complete privilege and honor to work with such a titanic force in the aerospace industry. Mr. Bigelow is not only a commensurate professional, he is also a true gentleman. I found working with Mr. Bigelow’s folks, all his folks, to be extremely rewarding. These individuals are truly some of the best of the best that we have, working in areas that very few individuals have really any understanding of the complexity involved. You’re talking about putting space vehicles in orbit around earth and potentially around the moon. So any time you have an opportunity to work with individuals like that, it’s always a privilege and an honor.
Where did AATIP receive its cases from?
AATIP receives the cases from various different channels, so where our office sat at the top of the office of the secretary of defense, we had multiple avenues of approach, so you had in some cases reporting would come up through navy channels, in other cases it would come up through air force channels, in other cases it would come through the intelligence community, and as the focal point, if you will, for this capability, all roads I guess lead to Rome in this particular case. All roads led to our office regarding the phenomena.
How did AATIP continue without funding after 2012?
So AATIP did continue, continued in earnest after 2012, and additional funding was provided to our organization. Unfortunately the congressional verbiage was a little bit vague and so the funding was diverted to another office but the funding was intended for us. It was supposed to go from 2013 to 2014 and then at that point fiscal constraints became increasingly tight within the department and we were forced to do more with less or in some cases more with nothing. So we very quickly continued our efforts and we started to dual use a lot of what we were doing, so as an example, one may be interested in putting out a requirement looking for let’s say advanced ICBM technology. So you would go out and you would ask folks, I want you to be able to give me a paper that helps me understand anything coming into Earth’s orbit with these particular profiles. So hypersonic velocities, loads over ability et cetera, and what might be useful for let’s say identifying North Korean ICBM missiles coming into continental United States could also be useful in identifying other objects, things that are coming in with that same flight pattern but not necessarily a ballistic missile.
So we got very clever at dual using and the reporting continued to come in through our office, and quite frankly the program never went away so we became very clever as everybody else in the department of having to manage our resources I think in an increasingly constrictive way that still allowed us to obtain the data we were trying to obtain, but in the same respect not require additional resources to come in for new projects. I guess in short, in lay terms, we got very clever at managing our money and our time and our resources. We learned to confederate a lot more so rather than us shouldering the burden of everything, we learned to leverage our partners in the intelligence community and within the services to help us do a lot of the functions that we were trying to do in house.
How were the videos released? Was it under false pretense, or a trick as the Washington Post suggests?
No, there was no trick and there was no false pretense. The videos were released in accordance with the strict manner that DOD prescribes to DOD manuals and regulations involving the release of information. It went through the official DOPSR process and then furthermore an additional step was taken to have the videos reviewed by foreign disclosure representatives. In fact, the most senior foreign disclosure representatives in the department, and ultimately required OCA or original classification authority approval and review to release the video. So in essence, I didn’t release anything, the department of defense released those videos. The documentation is held by the department of defense and the justification for releasing those videos were exactly as stated, and that was to create an unclassified database that people could then access and help us identify the signatures we were seeing.
Will we ever get more information about the GIMBAL video?
I suspect we will always get more information, as people with additional expertise and experience and backgrounds continue to look at the videos, and not just well I think any and all videos, we will begin to put together more pieces of the puzzle. There are experts I would submit now that are out there, perhaps within this audience that is watching this video now that have the ability to look at some of these videos and help us have a better understanding of what exactly we’re looking at. I think it’s important to understand that what people chalk up as atmospheric anomalies or fear phenomena resulting from infrared glare, I think it’s important that the audience understand that we already have the equipment. When this information is being collected, we can ascertain very, very quickly whether or not this is infrared heat glare or an atmospheric disturbance. I think it’s important to know that you can’t get a radar lock on an atmospheric disturbance, I think it’s important to recognize that we have already the technology that will tell us very, very quickly if something is simply FLIR fuzz or IR Haze if you will. So these things are certainly beyond our understanding at this point but it is not as some have stated, just some sort of atmospheric anomaly or reflection that we’re seeing.
Why are the videos so short and why do we not have more information about them?
So videos can be short for many reasons just like audio or anything else. Keeping in mind there’s a legal requirement to protect sources of method within the US government and classified information and even some unclassified information that remains sensitive. It is important to note if someone is looking at a video, it is highly probably that the portion you’re watching is what has been cleared for public dissemination and release, but there may be portions of audio immediately following that clip that gets into classified sources and methods. Perhaps it starts talking about the operating AOR at the time that the film was taken, or by precise capabilities and technologies that the US government would want to understandably protect. So a lot of these videos and audios and things that people are seeing are short because of the fact that it’s quite possible the government is protecting sources and methods, plain and simple.
How did you discover To the Stars Academy and did it have anything to do with your decision to leave the Department of Defense?
My decision to leave the US government was before I ever knew anything about to the stars of academy of arts and sciences. My initial plan was to frankly fade off into the sunset, take a job working something that I could enjoy, one that was completely unrelated to the US government, and if you will like I said fade off into the sunset. It was actually the to the stars of academy of arts and science that found me. Through some colleagues of mine in the intelligence community, once they found out that I was leaving had suggested that maybe I should talk to some of the folks at to the stars who were interested in talking to me.
Do you think the story of the pilots and the aviation threat program has “sunk in” enough with the masses?
I can’t answer on behalf of the masses, I sure hope so. Sad to say that I’ve been doing this for long enough where we have a lot of compelling information and data and documentation, eyewitness testimony and there is still for some reason this hesitation, this blockage, that prevents people from having an open and honest dialogue and conversation about the phenomenon. I think from my perspective that’s actually more troubling than the phenomena itself.
How can I best bring up the UFO subject without being scoffed at? And what is the best way to get non-believers to take it seriously?
So one sure statement, the best way to not get scoffed at and ridiculed is not to have a conversation, sadly enough. That’s the truth. However, cowardice will never get us where we need to go, so we have to have a conversation. I think the best way to have a conversation is having it where we allow the science and the data to speak for itself. Opinions, suppositions, things to that nature aren’t overly helpful. In the end it doesn’t matter what me, Luis Elizondo thinks. What matters is what the data says, then you formulate your own opinion, and I think that is the strength and when we’re using the scientific method, it is imperative that we strictly adhere to those rules, because ultimately in the end the data is going to speak for itself and it doesn’t’ really matter what I think. What matters is what you think based upon the data. So the easiest way to have the conversation, let the data speak for itself. Sometimes data, the truth sometimes she whispers and sometimes you have to really listen hard, but if you listen carefully you can hear what she has to say and that was my job for the last 10 years.
Were you previously subject to a non-disclosure order and have you been released from it?
First of all, I was never released from any non-disclosure between me and the US government. In fact, I still maintain a security clearance or at least I think I do, and so I’m obligated to protect classified information at which point until information becomes unclassified or I die. So I have not been released from any non disclosure agreement and I am legally bound by those, and that’s why sometimes when I’m asked questions what may come across as being vague or in general terms a bit evasive, it’s not on purpose. The problem is I’m legally bound to protect that information. So in short, no I haven’t been relieved of that obligation at all.
Is it possible that the evidence and analysis for each case will be made available to scientists like us?
I think it’s more than a possibility, I think it’s an imperative. That conversation needs to occur between the American people and our lawmakers, and if the American people insist on it, then it’ll happen. I think it’s a matter of time. I’m not sure we can put, at this point the cat back in the bag. I think the conversation has already been started, and I think it’s inevitable. At least that’s my hope.
What are your day to day activities and involvement at To the Stars Academy of Arts & Science?
Well, I was hired to be the director of global security and special programs, so right now it’s pretty simple. My job is to protect people, places, and things. So as any person in the security realm is aware of, it’s a pretty basic function and I think pretty important. Keeping in mind that this is not just a function where we’re worried about traditional acts of crime, someone stealing something or something like that, there is potentially some counter intelligence perspective to this, there is some personnel security, there’s a whole spectrum of issues and things that we need to I think keep a handle on, especially if this company is going to grow, which hopefully it does. Those equities that the company has will have to continue to be protected.
What would you say to those who are skeptical because of your intelligence background and suspect that you are spreading disinformation and falsehoods mixed with some truth?
I would say remain skeptical. Healthy skepticism is very important, in fact it’s imperative. In fact, in my job as an intelligence officer, I was paid to be skeptical. I think you should always question all the information that comes before you by anybody who says anything, and I think that’s true not just with people like me, I think it’s true with government, religion and everything in between. However, in this particular perspective, I don’t really care if you believe me, that’s not my intent. My intent is for you to listen to the data, and look at the data yourself, and allow you to come to that conclusion. In the end it doesn’t matter if you believe me or not, what matters is if you have access to the data then you can formulate your own opinion. The one thing I’ve learned long ago as an intelligence officer is I could be absolutely sure and certain of something, and I could still be absolutely wrong. In the end, those of you who are healthy skeptics remain skeptical. I think you need to ask the hard questions, continue to push the boundaries, because that’s how we find the truth. The truth has nothing to fear. If you don’t believe something, then keep asking the question. Keep doing the research, keep demanding the data and hopefully you then can come to the same conclusion that some of us came to.
Why do you think these crafts are likely extraterrestrial and not from another country that has discovered more advanced physics?
So let’s look at the term extraterrestrial. I don’t like to use that term very much but in a definitive way, when you look at the definition of extraterrestrial, it just means beyond terra forma, beyond terrestrial, beyond this thing that we call Earth. The question is, do they come from outer space, inner space or the space in between. I don’t know. I have my own personal opinions on it, but it would be very misleading to give you those opinions because in the end we don’t have enough data. It would be great if we could point our finger and say ah, it was the Russians, or the Chinese or someone else. The problem is, the data that we’re seeing we’ve been seeing for a while, and it’s so advanced that by now, it is hard enough by now for us to replicate our observations with our understanding of quantum mechanics.
But for this type of technology to be available when we first started seeing it, I think is beyond improbable. I’m not going to say impossible, but it is really, really, really unlikely. So that leads then to the next question, if it’s not ours and it’s not theirs then who’s is it? I don’t know who’s it is, that’s why we’re asking the hard questions, that’s why we did what we did for the last 10 years and why we need to continue doing what we’re doing, because we need to ask those questions. We don’t know who they belong to, we don’t know who they are or what they are, but we know that they’re real. So I would submit to you that because of that, we need to continue to explore, we need to continue asking the hard questions.
Why is the running time of the two released videos (NIMITZ and GIMBAL) so short? Was there was additional footage captured?
It’s important to know that the US government has a responsibility to protect classified information or sensitive information to include sources and methods, by law. Often times when you see information before you, you are looking at a snapshot in time, under a very particular set of circumstances, keeping in mind the information that may have come before that or after that, could be very classified. It could discuss things for example of who took the footage, or under what circumstances were they in combat, was it in peace time, was it an exercise. Things that would give away what we call tactics, techniques and procedures, TTP in the department of defense and in the intelligence community. So to protect that information from getting in the wrong hands, what you are seeing is information that has been deemed by the department to be unclassified and that way everybody can look at it. What comes before that or after that, I can’t discuss that, I’m not at liberty to discuss that because frankly that’s the government’s call to make that determination not mine.
Regarding the Gimbal video, do you know anything about the chain of custody documentation?
The chain of custody documentation is the province of the department of defense. I think if anybody wanted to see it, it would be up to the department of defense to release it. It is a DOD form. It is not classified, but unfortunately as a DOD form you have to go through DOD to ask for a copy of it.
What are the possibilities of additional releases of information from these incidents? Are you still working to release additional information? How can we help?
Now that I’m in the private sector, my intent is to push the envelope as hard and as fast as I can. I know what I’ve been privy to, and I think we need to have the information available so the American people can have the discussion amongst themselves and with our lawmakers and then make a determination if it should be a national security imperative. That shouldn’t be a decision that I make, that should be a decision that you make and then you tell your leadership what you want to do and then your government does that.
Is there any reason to believe UAPs may be dangerous? Have there been any incidents where UAPs were aggressive, or defensive in a way that could cause harm?
So, no outward aggression, but please allow me a moment to provide you a very rudimentary analogy. I’ve used it before but I think it’s fitting. I think most people, not all but most people, would agree that locking your front door is probably a good idea to do before you go to bed at night, so most people do. It’s not that they expect something bad to happen, but we do it as a precaution. So imagine every night now you lock your front door, you go ahead and you secure your windows and you lock your windows and right before you go to bed you go to your keypad, you punch in your keypad and now your house, the alarm is armed and everything is secure. But for some reason, every morning you wake up, you go downstairs to have your coffee, you look in your living room and there’s muddy boot prints in your living room and they’re not your boot prints. Now, nothing’s been taken from your house, no one has been injured or harmed, and nothing is out of place and yet, here you go every night, locking your front doors, you secure your windows, and you turn on your alarm and still these muddy boot prints continue to show up day after day.
The question is, how do they get there? The question is, is it a threat? Well, I think you have to presume it could be a threat until you’re sure it’s not a threat, and that was my job when I was in the department of defense was to make sure things were not a threat, and until I could prove they were not, I had to make the presumption that they could be.
Given the history of misinformation, disinformation, lies, concealment, omissions and other cover ups in the past regarding this subject… what gives you and your associates more credence compared to the past talking heads to give us faith?
I think in the past it was just that, you had talking heads. You had people that had political motivation for one reason or another, some of them had political allegiances. My organization when I was in the department of defense were apolitical. We didn’t care if you were democrat, republican, independent, or anything in between. Our job, our loyalty was to the American people and that’s who we took an oath to defend. Keeping in mind all of us, whether military or national security, took an oath to defend this country from all enemies foreign and domestic and that’s exactly what we did. To this point, even after I left government, I’ve never been officially relieved of that responsibility. So is this some massive effort for misinformation, if it is, it’s probably the worst effort to do so because there would be holes all in it.
I think from my motivation to come out, I gave everything to do this. I gave up a fantastic job, I was at the top of my career doing very well, financially had a great 401K plan, great benefits, pension, everything. It’s easy to sit back and armchair quarterback and on a weekend go through blogs and say this or that or this or that, it’s another thing to give up every single thing you have going to pursue this in order to have the conversation with the American people. This I can tell you was not a financially good decision for me, it was not a good decision in any way because I had spent my entire career living in the shadows. In fact, to some degree my survival depended on it. Coming out in this way, if anybody were to ask my opinion, I would say this is the last thing you’d ever want to do. But at the end of the day, I believe in what I’m doing. I believe it is the right thing to do and if albeit for nothing but us to have the conversation, at least have the conversation now where we can do it and you can hold your heads up high and not worry about the social stigma that’s attached to this and the labels that have been given to you, then I think I’ve accomplished my mission.
What articles of evidence can you and your colleagues provide that you are willing to submit for independent scientific review?
Oh my goodness, I think I’m going to have to leave that question to some of our smarter folks in the organization, some of our scientists, some of the folks like Steve Justice and Hal Puthoff and some of the folks out there who have probably forgotten more about physics than I’ll ever know. As far as releasing that type of data and those types of theoretical arguments, that’s not really my forte, and the problem is if I try to pretend to be that person, I would probably do a terrible job at it, so I’m going to leave that question to far smarter people than myself and hopefully they can give you a better answer than I can.
You have said in interviews that AATIP has made significant progress in understanding the advanced physics of UAP. Are you going to share this knowledge freely?
That’s what we’re trying to do, I think before you share any information we first need to make sure, we need to ensure the veracity and the valid information is what it is. The last thing you ever want to do and you would reinforce the whole misinformation campaign notion, if we put out information prematurely that has not met a rigorous standard of the way we look at information, then we would actually be doing a disservice to you and everybody else. When we were in AATIP we applied the same level of rigor to these incidents investigating these incidents as we would to any other type of investigation, espionage, or terrorism investigation and I think you need to have that level of scrutiny when you’re doing this type of thing to make sure that the data is real and it’s pure. Because what we don’t want to do is get into a situation where we don’t want to either inadvertently or on purpose mislead anybody. We have to make sure that we preserve the integrity, the information, to the very best of our ability, so sometimes it’s not necessarily on the time line, but our hope is to get it out there eventually in a way that is clear and makes sense and preserves the data in a way that anybody could look at, and if this was a court of law, say yes that information has been preserved according to the way it should be preserved.
What are two or three books on the subject that you think most accurately represent the phenomenon as you currently understand it?
Wow, so people are going to hate me for answering this way. I have deliberately for the last 10 years not read any books, any blogs, any movies, anything related to UFO’s. I’ve done that on purpose, not because I don’t like anything about it, it’s because as I understand from a scientific perspective, and as an investigator I want to, if you will, sequester the jury. I want to preserve the information the best I can and if that means ensuring I don’t have any type of subconscious thought about something because I may have read an article where now all of a sudden subconsciously there’s this idea or notion in my head that will then cloud my judgment of looking at the data that I’m looking at. So in order to prevent myself, protect myself from even being tempted to have some sort of conclusion before I have the data, I have purposely steered away from reading books … and it’s not that they’re not good books and they’re not worth reading, I am absolutely certain they are, now that I am out I plan to do so. But it was critically important for me to make sure I remain as unbiased and objective as possible while collecting and processing this data with my colleagues. So for that reason I avoided as much as possible trying to read anything that could somehow bias my approach.
You say “not from any nation” but have not used the word “Alien”, why?
Well because I think alien means a lot of things to a lot of different people. We’re here in San Diego and right now people are trying to build a wall to keep out aliens, so I hesitate to use aliens because what does that mean? Alien just simply means something not from here, so by definition, there’s a lot of aliens that we have. I prefer to keep it without labels, for that exact reason because I think we prejudice, if we say aliens, we immediately assume outer space or out there and when we could be talking about inner space or as I said the space in between. The bottom line is we just don’t know, and by putting a label on something I think we prematurely prejudice the jury and our objectivity when we’re talking about the subject. So that is why I hadn’t used the term aliens because I’m not sure that’s even accurate. We truly don’t know what’s behind the wheel, or at least I don’t so for that reason I’m not going to speculate.
There have been claims that the audio of the GINBAL video does not seem to be original. Professional pilots on duty would not use language like “Dude” and “Bro”. Also, the sentence, “The wind’s a hundred knots out of the west” would not be pilot jargon. What would you say in response to such claims?
I would say these videos have been pulled off of US government systems, and they are absolutely indeed from pilots on US military platforms and capabilities. I will tell you in stressful situations, whether it’s a combat situation or not, sometimes radio discipline goes out the window. I’ve been guilty of it myself. Stress does things to individuals, it does different things, I think if one were to ask commander Fravor or any of his colleagues if they ever talk like that, they’d probably tell you yes. I’m not going to answer on their behalf but they will absolutely talk like that and that’s just unfortunately the way sometimes stress we react to it as human beings.
Your background includes “Microbiology, Immunology and Parasitology, with research experience in tropical diseases.” Where did you study these subjects and for what purpose?
So I attended University of Miami, probably spent less time studying than I should have. But I realized very quickly after nearing the end of my education there, that I wanted to serve my country and I wanted to serve my country in a way that I could use some of my education in microbiology, immunology, and parasitology in a productive way, so I joined the United States Army. Best decision of my life. Hardest decision of my life, but the best decision. And I quickly realized, initially I wanted to go in and do some sort of biomedical intelligence, perhaps maybe dealing with WMD, but after I came into the Army I realized that my true passion lied in the intelligence discipline at large. It was less the medical side of it and it was just intelligence. To me, intelligence was an awful lot like playing a game of chess against an enemy you may never see, and so to me that was very intriguing.
Can we expect more footage and/or classified documents to be released anytime soon?
Classified information, no. I don’t think we’ll ever get classified information released. I think you can get classified information declassified, and once that information is declassified then absolutely it can be released. But the government is usually not in the habit of releasing classified information, so if the expectation is for people that classified information is going to be revealed, I think they’re going to be sadly disappointed. But on the good side of it, there’s plenty of opportunity to have information that may be sensitive or considered classified now, have that information stripped of sources and methods and have it downgraded and declassified. And yes, I do think intelligence community does this all the time, in fact I know they do, and I think this is something that can be done in this area no differently than anything else. Look what just came out recently with the papers on the Kennedy assassination et cetera, so it is possible and I think it’s certainly within the realm of reality, and if you ask me I would certainly champion that effort myself.
What specific actions can regular people take to help the government release more UFO information to the public?
I think we need to engage our leaders. I think we need to engage those individuals we put in office, to represent us and our equities and our interests. We need to let them know it’s okay to have a conversation. It’s okay to support things like Harry Reed and Senator Stevens in what they did, and have the courage to ask the hard questions and pursue doggedly the things that we don’t understand. In fact I think that is one of our sacred missions as mankind, is to pursue those deep dark recesses that we have a hard time understanding and a hard time reaching. I think it’s in our nature, I think it’s in our spirit, and I think it’s in our DNA, so I would encourage everybody to reach out to their elected officials and keep asking the hard questions. Insist that the truth be made public.