U.S. admits to running secret UFO programme

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The programme reportedly cost the Department of Defence more than $20 million (€17 million), but was brought to an end in a cost-saving effort.

The Pentagon has confirmed that the Department of Defense funded a £16.5million secretive programme investigating the existence of aliens on Earth.

The Pentagon spent US$22 million (AU$18.2m) a year on investigations into unidentified flying objects between 2007 and 2012, reports the New York Times. However others, including Elizondo, say while Pentagon funding for the program ended at this time, the program does still exist.

The shadowy program ended in 2012, according to the Defense Department, but the New York Times reported that it is still up and running - with officials continuing to study incidents brought to their attention by U.S. military service members while performing their regular duties at the Pentagon.

The newspaper said its initial funding came largely at the request of former Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, long known for his enthusiasm for space phenomena.

Reid enlisted support of two other lawmakers, Ted Stevens, the late Republican senator from Alaska, and Democrat Daniel K. Inouye, representing Hawaii.

"This was so-called black money", Reid admitted to the Times.

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Program officials also examined video of encounters between unknown objects and United States military aircraft. Elizondo also claimed that he quit in protest because the program had not been taken seriously.

Speaking at the conference in October, Elizondo told the public that during the years of managing the program he became convinced that "the [UFO] phenomena is indeed real".

On an undated video of another incident, provided by Pentagon and published by the Times, an oval-shaped object the size of a plane is seen rotating in the air at a high speed to the apparent disbelief of the pilots, who say that there was "a whole fleet of them".

"If you've talked to Harry Reid for 60 seconds then it's the least surprising thing ever that he loves UFOs and got an earmark to study them", former Reid spokeswoman Kristen Orthman said in a message on Twitter. He said the program was "one of the good things" he did while in office. "I've done something that no one has done before".

An ex-member of Congress staff told Politico that the objective of the programme may have been to surveil the technological developments of rival foreign countries.

"We tried to work within the system", Elizondo said to Politico.