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“Somehow that question hasn’t come up in our back-and-forth over the last couple days.”
On any given day, one may receive push notifications for any of the following events: Donald Trump tweeting a declaration of war with North Korea; banning refugees and citizens from Muslim-majority countries; or firing his F.B.I. director (or Anthony Scaramucci or Omarosa Manigault). So volatile is the news cycle in 2017 that a shocking story in The New York Times, regarding a $22 million Pentagon program that allegedly collected video and audio recordings of unidentified flying objects, potentially of extraterrestrial origin,got lost in the shuffle. One of the videos was even published on the Times website in grainy black-and-white, as recorded by a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet.
Though the story was easy to miss in the usual tidal wave, by Monday morning it was all anyone wanted to talk about. Fortunately, one member of the White House press corps, keeping the public interest in mind, took it upon himself to ask about the president’s stance on aliens.
During Tuesday’s press briefing, The Hill’s Jordan Fabian asked Sarah Huckabee Sanders about the Times’s U.F.O. report, including whether Trump believes in their existence and whether he plans to restore funding to the Pentagon program. As he finished his question, what appeared to be a recording on his phone began to play. “I don’t know if that’s a coincidence or not,” Sanders joked. “I feel like I already want to pass on this question given that you have aliens sitting among you.” She ultimately demurred, telling reporters that she hadn’t discussed the question with Trump. “Somehow that . . . hasn’t come up in our back-and-forth over the last couple days,” she said. “But I will check into that and be happy to circle back.”
The triple-bylined Times story profiled the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, a clandestine Pentagon initiative that ran from 2008 until its funding ran out in 2012, although it reportedly continues under the auspices of the C.I.A. The program was intended to study U.F.O.s, and even allegedly retrieved unknown alloys that may be extraterrestrial in nature. It was funded at the behest of then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, whose penchant for space phenomena has been well-documented and, apparently, turned up verified military accounts of encounters like this one from 2004:
The two fighter planes headed toward the objects. The [U.S.S.] Princeton alerted them as they closed in, but when they arrived at “merge plot” with the object naval aviation parlance for being so close that the Princeton could not tell which were the objects and which were the fighter jets—neither Commander Fravor nor Commander Slaight could see anything at first. There was nothing on their radars, either.
Then, Commander Fravor looked down to the sea. It was calm that day, but the waves were breaking over something that was just below the surface. Whatever it was, it was big enough to cause the sea to churn.
Hovering 50 feet above the churn was an aircraft of some kind—whitish—that was around 40 feet long and oval in shape. The craft was jumping around erratically, staying over the wave disturbance but not moving in any specific direction, Commander Fravor said. The disturbance looked like frothy waves and foam, as if the water were boiling.
The object, the pilot told the Times, “accelerated like nothing I’ve ever seen,” adding that he was “pretty weirded out.”
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