Oct 12, 2020

Declassified UFO Documents From NSA Create More Questions Than They Answer

The NSA isn’t the most publicly open of government organizations. The agency’s main goal is to collect intelligence from various signals, or SIGINT, and is by definition a clandestine organization. But on its website it does attempt to create a semblance of transparency. One particular section of its site contains the occasional declassified document, FOIA reports and somewhat relevant news articles regarding the topics at hand. Within this area there is a section that details the NSAs dealings with UFO reports and encounters. Here, one can find a mix of heavily redacted government reports, government and academic studies from the U.S. and abroad, and news reports ranging from tabloids to respected publications.

But some of these documents open up more questions than they answer. Many accounts are dismissive of UFO phenomena, while others provide instances of jets being scrambled and bizarre encounters with flying objects.


One of the more intriguing reports in the NSAs declassified trove is hardly declassified. It is a heavily redacted document that only contains snippets of a transcript detailing a UFO encounter. The document is titled, XXXXX COMINT UFO. Even a portion of the title is censored, which is represented by the five consecutive x’s. The document is two pages long with very few legible sentences.

“Aware of various unidentified objects”

“An unidentified silent light moving”

“The light was a satellite not an aircraft”

“An unidentified light”

“The light was subsequently identified as at least one aircraft”

“Three strange lights… one was stationary, blinking light; the other two moving, lights crossed paths”

“The UFO was at an altitude of approx. 300 meters… aircraft in the area”


Another compelling report details an instance of a UFO encounter in Tehran that was reported by numerous citizens just after midnight. The story is prefaced with a line saying that there is still no explanation to the account and that it will be, “filed away and probably forgotten, but it makes interesting, and possibly disturbing, reading.” 

When a bright light in the sky was reported to an Iranian military officer, he scrambled a fighter jet to intercept it. The jet pilot said the light was so bright it could be seen from 70 miles away. Upon its approach, within 25 nautical miles, the jet lost all power to its instrumentation and communication. The object was spinning and emitted red, green, blue and orange light at a rate where all of the lights could be seen simultaneously. When a second jet was scrambled, the UFO moved away, maintaining a 25 mile buffer between itself and the jet. It then fired a detachment that chased the jet for a few miles. During this time, the jet attempted to fire back a missile, but lost its controls and communications before the detachment returned to the original UFO. The object then shot off another detachment that hit the ground on a dry lake bed, emitting a massive white light, but with no explosion.


An article detailing a scenario for receiving and deciphering communication from an intelligent species can be found in the NSA’s index. Starting with the line, “We are not alone in this universe,” the article presents a method for decoding a hypothetical transmission from an intelligent civilization in a way that could describe their level of intellect. It proceeds with an introduction noting that there is almost certain probability that intelligent life exists beyond Earth. The paper acknowledges that there are likely to be a billion civilizations that have arisen by now, based on the number of stars in our galaxy alone.

This particular article comes from a panel discussion during a conference on military electronics in 1965. And while the discussion was more of a thought exercise, there is also a document detailing actual reception of radio transmissions with intermittent pauses, that could potentially be interpreted as punctuation in an encrypted message from another civilization. Although this signal supposedly never produced anything from decryption, other signals have been picked up more recently from areas where potentially habitable planets are thought to exist. 


In conjunction with the Air Force, the University of Colorado undertook a projectstudying various reports of UFOs in the late 60s. The tone of the Condon Report is largely dismissive and concluded that there was no definitive evidence that there were UFOs of extraordinary nature. It re-established the obstinate views of UFO detractors, while major news publications heralded the report as the end-all-be-all, closing the book on all unexplained UFO phenomena. But skeptics pointed out that the study only looked at cases which were easily debunked, while passing over the more inexplicable instances without giving sufficient interpretations.Some of those unexplained cases are listed on the NSA’s website, including one that describes an encounter between an Air Force pilot and a number of unidentified objects during a flight.“Approximately 0707z I made radar contact with a target in the reported position, and also with several other targets slightly closer to this station. The sighted object appeared to be moving very slightly at this time and excellent radar contact was maintained for several minutes. The other aircraft reported also, that at this time the object seemed to be hovering. The other group of objects detected on radar were moving very fast, sometimes in a cluster, then strung out in line formation. due to slow antenna rotation, high speed and changing course of these objects, speed check was not available. Estimate of speed would be 1,500 knots.”The Condon Report was the culmination of several projects established by the Air Force to examine a plethora of encounters its pilots had with UFOs as well as reports from citizens. Project Sign, Project Grudge and Project Blue Book ran between 1947 into the late 60s. These projects were transferred to Edward Condon, a physicist at the University of Colorado, amid backlash from politicians and the public that the Air Force reports weren’t sufficient and were a waste of resources, or that they were an attempt at a cover-up. Despite the controversy and apparent bias surrounding the report and its conclusion, one researcher who was part of the studies was so convinced by what he found that his entire perspective shifted.

Josef Allen Hynek, was the scientist who initially started Project Sign. Hynek was a skeptic whose aim was to debunk UFO sightings and he believed adamantly that reports of UFOs were a product of confusion or misinterpretations of natural phenomena. After concluding his research with the Air Force he became one of the most prominent figures in ufology and was completely convinced that there was validity to the multitude of claims. Along with famed ufologist, Jacques Vallée, Hynek dedicated his life to studying UFO phenomena, creating a method for studying sightings and contact with UFOs that became the namesake for Stephen Spielberg’s movie, Close Encounters of the Third Kind. One of the most convincing factors for Hynek was reports such as the one above, from reputable, experienced pilots, whom he trusted and knew had logged hundreds of hours in flight.Hynek wasn’t the only one who called out the shortcomings of the Condon Report and it’s failure to approach UFO phenomena from an objective standpoint.Another article listed on the NSA’s website details accounts by military personnel reporting a series of UFO sightings in the mid-70s around nuclear-weapon storage areas and nuclear-missile control facilities at Air Force bases across North America. The article excoriates the Condon Report for leaving out hundreds of government intelligence reports related to UFOs, unexplained radar transmissions and even the cases that were the motivation for starting the studies in the first place. 

While this index found on the NSAs website falls short of revealing anything radically new, it is a slight concession to the demand from the public for more transparency and disclosure. Is this really all that the NSA has to reveal or is there more that it’s hiding?

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