In recent months, we have seen renewed interest in FOIA appeals to the U.S. government about its interests in unexplained aerial phenomena. This was particularly the case since news of the existence of a semi-secretive (and more recently, a controversial) Pentagon UFO study, the Advanced Aerospace Threat and Identification Program or AATIP, became public knowledge. 

Although AATIP may be one of the latest manifestations of governmental UFO study, it is not the first. And despite what little new information current FOIA requests have managed to glean about the program, a look at past releases and disclosures made by various intelligence agencies shows one thing with utter clarity: while the government has certainly taken interest in the subject of UFOs, there is little evidence to suggest that they know more about them than they are letting on, or are hiding such information. 

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So what kinds of things do past examples of declassified government data on UFOs show? Not a lot that offers definitive proof of anything, per se, although there have been at least a few occasions where unusual reports have appeared. What follows is one such example. 

A Central Intelligence Agency document published on March 29, 1952, under the subject of “Military; Scientific – Air” details a very unusual sighting of a pair of disc-shaped “fiery” objects seen over uranium mines near the Elizabethville District, in the southern part of the Belgian Congo.

The details of the sighting were given as follows:

“The discs glided in elegant curves and change their position many times, so that from below they sometimes appeared as plates, ovals, and simply lines. Suddenly, both discs hovered in one spot and then took off in a unique zigzag flights to the Northeast. A penetrating hissing and buzzing sound was audible onlookers below. The whole performance lasted from 10 to 12 minutes.

“Commander Pierre of the small Elizabethville airfield immediately set out in pursuit with the fighter plane. On his first approach he came within about 120 meters of one of the disks. According to his estimates, the saucer had a diameter of from 12 to 15 meters and was discus-shaped. The inner core remained absolutely still, and a knob coming out from the center and several small openings could plainly be seen. The outer rim was completely veiled in fire and must have had an anonymous speed of rotation. The color of the material was similar to that of aluminum.

“The disks traveled in a precise enlightened manner, both vertically and horizontally. Changes in elevation from 800 to 1,000 meters could be accomplished in a few seconds; the disks often shot down to within 20 meters of the tree tops. Pierre did not regard it possible that the disc could be manned, since the regular speed as well as the heat would make it impossible for person to stay inside the stable core. Pierre had to give up pursuit after 15 minutes since both disks, with the loud whistling sound which he her despite the noise of his own plane, disappeared in a straight line toward Lake Tanganyika. He estimated their speed it about 1,500 kilometers per hour.”

The report detailed above is certainly interesting, considering its sources. However, it should not come as a particular surprise that the CIA would have been involved with the study of UFOs. At the outset of the 1950s, concerns about UFOs primarily fell under a number of areas of concern to central intelligence: namely, that an enemy power might be utilizing advance aircraft for surveillance or other purposes over America and other parts of the world, in addition to the idea that various civilian UFO organizations might serve as fronts for Communist groups, seeking to recruit U.S. citizens.

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However, beyond these initial concerns, the CIA seems to have had little further interest in the subject. “The idea that CIA has secretly concealed its research into UFOs has been a major theme of UFO buffs since the modern UFO phenomena emerged in the late 1940s,” noted CIA historian Gerald K. Haines in his 1997 essay “The CIA’s Role in the Study of UFOs, 1947-90.” Haines further noted, “while Agency concern over UFOs was substantial until the early 1950s, CIA has since paid only limited and peripheral attention to the phenomena.”

Haines’ entire essay, originally published in the CIA’s Center for the Study of Intelligence publication Studies in Intelligence, can be read here. The CIA documents quoted above in this article can also be viewed online at the CIA’s online reading room.

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Author: Micah Hanks

Micah Hanks is a writer, researcher, and podcaster. His interests include areas of history, science, archaeology, philosophy, and the study of anomalous phenomena in nature. He can be reached at

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