In 2007, former senator Harry Reid-along with former senators Ted Stevens and Daniel Inouye-used "so-called black money" to secretly fund a program inside the Defense Department to study and investigate reports of UFOs, particularly from U.S. military personnel. Military intelligence officer Luis Elizondo stepped down from his post heading the Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP)-the program created to investigate unidentified flying objects-in October, citing lack of government support.
Much of the money reportedly went to Robert Bigelow, the Nevada real-estate billionaire who has long held aliens were visiting Earth in UFOs. That's according to two reports released Saturday by the New York Times and POLITICO.
Most of the program's 22 million dollars a year - within the USA military budget of some 600 billion dollars - went to Bigelow Aerospace, based in Reid's home state of Nevada.
The study was followed by Projects Grudge and Blue Book, both of which had similar objectives of collecting UFO data and analyzing potential security threats. Bigelow was also a longtime supporter of Harry Reid.
Defense officials told the New York Times that funding for the program ended in 2012 but the program's backers say the program is still in existence.
The records included UFO sightings and a collection of reports on flying saucers.
Reid, for his part, expressed pride in the program, stating that he's "not embarrassed or ashamed or sorry I got this thing going" and he thinks "it's one of the good things I did in my congressional service". Pentagon spokesperson Thomas Crosson told the Times the reason AATIP's funding ran out was because "there were other, higher priority issues that merited funding".