Newly Revealed Emails Shed Light on Release of Navy UFO Videos

The UFO community has made much ado about the release of three videos captured by Navy jet fighters showing alleged UFOs. The New York Times first released two of the videos in their December 16, 2017 article Glowing Auras and ‘Black Money’: The Pentagon’s Mysterious U.F.O. Program. The videos along with a third were soon also released by To the Stars Academy (TTSA). According to Luis Elizondo, who ran the Advanced Aerospace Threat Program (AATIP) which looked investigated military UFO cases, these videos demonstrated some of the cases AATIP studied.

Via correspondence with researcher John Greenewald who runs theblackvault.com, a spokesperson with the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) had denied the Department of Defense (DoD) “released videos related to [AATIP].”

Soon after making that claim, KLAS investigative journalist George Knapp released a leaked document (Form DD1910) that showed otherwise. Form DD1910s are used in the DoD to request the public release of DoD information. Greenewald asked OSD Public Affairs to verify the veracity of the document and received confirmation the document was real.

This was not the first time OSD Public Affairs got it wrong. They had claimed AATIP had nothing to do with UFOs. Later they recanted that claim telling the New York Post that AATIP “did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena.”

You can read more about the DD190 in my previous article: DoD Confirms They Released Navy F-18 FLIR UFO Videos.

However, the full statement given to the New York Post, and the statement given to Greenewald about the videos sowed more doubt. Although the New York Post did not include the full statement in their article, researcher Roger Glassel was able to get a copy from the OSD Public Affairs office.

The full paragraph confirming the veracity of the DD190 reads: 

“I can confirm that the form DD1910 you asked about is a valid DD1910. The standard procedure is for blocks 1-7 on the form to be filled out by the submitter before sending to DOPSR [Defense Office of Prepublication and Security Review]; however, occasional exceptions have occurred. The submitter is responsible for any disclaimers on the form as approved, and also abiding by any amendments that may be included in additional communications from DOPSR to the submitter as part of the approval process. Per block 3 of this form DD1910, the submitter requested release of the videos solely for research and analysis purposes by the US government agencies and industry partners, and not for general public release.”

The last sentence caused some concern that the videos being released via The New York Times and the TTSA website violated the conditions of the DD1910 as they were not intended for general public release. Under the section titled “PRESENTATION/PUBLICATION DATA” appears the verbiage: “Not applicable. Not for publication. Research and analysis ONLY and info sharing with other USG and industry partners for the purpose of developing a database to help identify, analyze, and ultimately defeat UAS threats.”

I suggested that the idea the videos were not released for public consumption is not clear. There is a large stamp on the form that says “CLEARED For Open Publication.” The instructions for submitting DOPSR requests states that the status of “Cleared” means “The information may be released without restriction by the originating DoD Component or its authorized official.” If the information is not for public release, it is stamped with “Not Cleared for Public Release.”

I also suggested that TTSA might qualify as an industry partner. As for The New York Times, I noted that although many assume Elizondo provided the videos to them, one of the authors of the AATIP article, Leslie Kean, told me Elizondo was not their source. 

Greenewald disagreed with my suggestions and asked for clarification. OSD Public Affairs responded that “The New York Times and To The Stars Academy of Arts & Sciences would not have been considered an industry partner to the USG for the research efforts identified in [the PRESENTATION/PUBLICATION DATA section] of the DD 1910.”

However, OSD also added “At this time, I am not aware of any document or reference that defines the term, ‘industry partners.'”

I feel the last sentence negates the prior response. If OSD Public Affairs is unsure what defines an industry partner, how can they determine who is and who isn’t one? Earlier comments on AATIP have demonstrated they have had little information on how AATIP operates, and their previous assumptions have turned out to be wrong. They seem to be overstepping their bounds by presuming they would be able to answer this question.

The responses given to Greenewald and Glassel also imply the videos have been mishandled and released in a manner the DoD did not intend them to be released.

Fortunately, Glassel has received more information that appears to clear some of this up. In response to a FOIA request, Glassel received a set of emails (I also received the emails via FOIA. My copy can be found here) that clarifies a few points. The emails are between Elizondo and other DoD employees regarding the release of the videos. In the emails, it is clear Elizondo was the one who requested the release of the videos and submitted the DD1910. The DOPSR official Elizondo was in contact with was Michael Russo.

The emails show that after Elizondo submitted the DD1910, Russo was confirming with the agency responsible for the videos, referred to as the Original Classification Authority (OCA). The emails reference a Navy point of contact (POC) whose name is redacted.

The emails included an interesting exchange that seems to show that the DoD had no issues with a full public release. The conversation indicates that Elizondo was the one who wanted to restrict access to the videos, not the DoD.

Elizondo clearly outlines his intentions for the videos. He writes, the “data” is “to be accessible by stakeholders such as DIA, the Navy, Defense Industry partners, and perhaps even State, Local & Tribal authorities to catalog and identify specific UAS threats to national security and/or DoD equities.”

This is slightly different than the verbiage used on the DD1910, but similar in intent.

Russo did not appear to be concerned about any restrictions.

“If it is easier for you or more streamline, then please consider our request for unrestricted release,” Elizondo suggested. “However, my intent is to maintain positive control but I know it’s a bit unique of a situation so whatever is easier for you and quicker.”

Russo responded: “If the Service-level OCA verifies to me (simple one-sentence email is fine) that removing the metadata from the videos makes them UNCLASSIFIED,” writes Russo, “please feel free to move forward with release.”

Ultimately, the DD1910 was stamped “CLEARED For Open Publication.” Given this conversation, it would appear there was not an issue with an open release of the videos on the DoD side of the exchange. 

I think that resolves any issue with the release of the videos. I think it also gives us an idea as to who would be the best person to determine who would qualify as an industry partner. I do not believe that responsibility would lie with the OSD Public Affairs department, it would lie with the person who defined the restrictions for the release of the videos, Elizondo.

There is one more outstanding issue that was brought up in the full statement provided the New York Post that Glassel released. The statement admits “The AATIP program did pursue research and investigation into unidentified aerial phenomena.” However it continues, “Mr. Elizondo had no responsibilities with regard to the AATIP program while he worked in OUSDI, up until he resigned effective 10/4/2017.”

So Elizondo was not part of AATIP, just like the DoD never released these videos (sarcasm). This is an especially strange statement by OSD Public Affairs given that Elizondo is the one who exposed the existence of AATIP, and all involved have confirmed his participation. A document created by AATIP sponsor Harry Reid lists Elizondo as member of AATIP. This DD1910 email string further acknowledged Elizondo’s involvement in AATIP.

It is hard to say why the OSD Public Affairs department has been making statements that have later been contradicted by official documentation. In their defense, Reid told The New York Times the program was secretive, and its creators did not want its existence known. It is tough to find details about AATIP by design.

Correction: This story was corrected on 8/30/2019. John Greenewald pointed out that I had the order of one of the conversations wrong. The story originally read:

Russo did not appear to be concerned about any restrictions.

“If the Service-level OCA verifies to me (simple one-sentence email is fine) that removing the metadata from the videos makes them UNCLASSIFIED,” writes Russo, “please feel free to move forward with release.”

Lue apparently took that to mean Russo wanted to release the videos unrestricted and responded: “If it is easier for you or more streamline, then please consider our request for unrestricted release. However, my intent is to maintain positive control but I know it’s a bit unique of a situation so whatever is easier for you and quicker.”

Despite being accused of malintent and attempting to change the narrative, I point out this conversation because it demonstrates there was no pushback by the DoD for a full release. The change in order of the discussion does not change that point. Ultimately the document was stamped “CLEARED For Open Publication.”

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Discussion

  1. George Erikson

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