As they say on “The X-Files,” the truth is out there.

Apparently it is still out there, because no one has revealed it. Maybe that is because it is classified. Yeah, that’s the ticket. It’s classified.

In December, The New York Times revealed that former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid had secretly managed in 2007 to direct $22 million in taxpayer money to a secret UFO study, with much of the money going to Reid crony and contributor Robert Bigelow of Las Vegas.

The program was called the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), apparently the linguistic avatar for UFO studies.

According to the Times, money was spent by Bigelow’s company, Bigelow Aerospace, to hire subcontractors and solicit research, as well as modifying buildings in Las Vegas for the storage of metal alloys and other materials “recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena.”

The Defense Department told the Times the funding dried up in 2012, but Reid told the newspaper that only he and Sens. Ted Stevens of Alaska and Daniel Inouye of Hawaii knew about the funding to begin with. So how do we know it ended?

“This was so-called black money,” Reid was quoted as saying. “Stevens knows about it, Inouye knows about it. But that was it, and that’s how we wanted it.” And you thought it took a majority vote.

Both Stevens and Inouye have since died. Reid retired from office this past year.

The Times further noted that in 2009 Reid wrote a letter to William Lynn III, a deputy defense secretary at the time, requesting the creation of a highly secret, severely limited access program, because “much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings.”

The paper also reported that a 2009 Pentagon briefing on the study claimed “what was considered science fiction is now science fact” — without explanation as to what that might be — but Reid’s request for the super secret squad reportedly was denied.

Recently a Las Vegas television station got its hands on that 2009 letter and posted a copy online.

The letter is a buzzword- and jargon-filled screed claiming extraordinary findings without a shred of supporting documentation or evidence. It never mentions unidentified flying objects or UFOs. Instead it talks about “emerging disruptive aerospace technologies … in regard to advanced lift, propulsion, the use of unconventional materials and controls, signature reduction, weaponry, human interface and human effects.”

The second paragraph, which was partially quoted by the Times, reads: “Since the Advanced Aerospace Threat and Identification Program (AAITP [sic]) and study were first commissioned, much progress has been made with the identification of several highly sensitive, unconventional aerospace-related findings. Given the current rate of success, the continued study of these subjects will likely lead to technology advancements that in the immediate near-term will require extraordinary protection.”

What progress? What rate of success? Extraordinary protection from whom? The taxpayers?

In fact, Reid’s letter specifically states that it is critical for industry partners to be protected, lest public awareness of such folly discourage industry participation.

Reid’s letter further states, “Associated exotic technologies likely involve extremely sophisticated concepts with the world of quantum mechanics, nuclear science, electromagnetic theory, gravitics, and thermodynamics. Given that all of these have the potential to be used with catastrophic effects by adversaries, an unusually high degree of operational security and read-on discretion is required.”

Gravitics? That’s not science. It is science fiction.

The Las Vegas television station also posted what is reportedly a list of studies funded by Reid’s largesse with our money. Titles include “Wormholes in SpaceTime,” “Antigravity Studies,” “Vacuum Energy Applications,” “Warp Drives, Dark Energy, and Dimensions,” “Quantum Entanglement Communications,” “Brain-Machine Interfaces” and “Quantum Tomography of Negative Energy States in the Vacuum.”

The word quantum merely means a specified quantity.

At least two people who have been identified as woking without Bigelow on the materials “recovered from unidentified aerial phenomena” have declared they could not talk about their “findings” because they are classified.

Precisely how is the public ever to find out if their money — being spent in secret and producing only secret findings — has been well spent? That is the definition of unaccountability with the potential for chicanery and tomfoolery.

The truth may be out there, but how are we to know?

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at He also blogs at