Open the DIA files -- now

Would American culture be able to tell the difference if Uncle Sam announced the UFO phenomenon also creates “profoundly altered perceptual environments”?

Journalism, the sausage factory that produces history’s first drafts, is a sloppy hot mess in the healthiest of competitive environments. You know your beat, you know the rules, you know the players and their agendas, sort of, but you’re not an insider and there are always unknown unknowns. So you trust your sources, let ‘er rip – and then steel yourself for that imminent cringe-inducing voice on the phone, telling you what you got wrong.

But consider a more anemic media climate: The object of your pursuits resides in a journalistically barren landscape, a cultural ghetto stigmatized by decades of official derision and Bat Boy tabloids. Your quarry has nothing in common with the stock market or the delta variant or the latest papal encyclical or the fascist rally down the street or any other event with designated institutional wisdom standing by to provide meaningful context. There are no omniscient village elders who speak in instructive riddles, no libraries of record from the directors and stage managers who erected the walls and bolted the locks.

Should you muster enough curiosity to peek inside, you wind up squinting into a blizzard of arcane acronyms and secret agencies and anonymous sources and spiderwebs of staggering anecdotes and X-Files tropes and bureaucratic obfuscation and the repellant odor of conspiracy culture. Once you organize this chaos into a narrative and tap the send button, a storyline this complex will inevitably goad insiders into telling you how you screwed up.

Thus, last month, nearly four years after the New York Times and Politico raced each other to blow the lid off the Pentagon’s secret UFO program, the chief architect behind that project stepped forward to produce the first official response to how that $22 million was spent – “to correct the record,” in his words. But in so doing, Skinwalkers at the Pentagon: An Insiders’ Account of the Secret Government UFO Program has complicated the big picture even more. It is fearless in scope, and perhaps even reckless in its regard for image-conscious lawmakers voting on budgets. It has provoked another spasm of internecine vitriol, and its aftertaste leaves at least one taxpayer who thinks accountability matters feeling cheated.

The big fish here is co-author Dr. James Lacatski, a former Defense Intelligence Agency physicist with its Defense Warning Office. Lacatski’s writing partners – investigative reporter George Knapp and microbiologist Dr. Colm Kelleher – have been jointly working this high-strangeness angle for decades. Skinwalkers at the Pentagon also bears the imprimatur of former Sen. Harry Reid, who delivers this whopping understatement in the foreword: “Some of the scientific findings you will read in this book may be hard for you to accept or understand.”

In fact, some of Skinwalker’s more mundane but not insignificant corrections began dribbling into the public domain shortly after the NYT and Politico delivered their groundbreaking reporting in 12/17. Top of the list, according to the authors: Contrary to the early reporting, the congressionally approved funding to study the UAP/UFO puzzle didn’t go to the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program. AATIP, they state, was an unfunded euphemism designed to conceal the real deal. The real deal was the DIA’s Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Application Program – and that study was funded from 2008-2010, not outside those margins, as originally implied.

(Luis Elizondo, the former AATIP director who sacrificed a career as an intelligence officer in 2017 in order to speak freely, maintains AATIP did in fact receive financial support, “from the original funding stream” as well as others. But that’s another conversation.)

Much of the book fills in some gaps on the origins and accomplishments of AAWSAP, which employed 50 researchers during its two-year investigation. Program architect Lacatski claims the study “yielded arguably one of the most comprehensive UAP databases in the world.” Crammed into three-ring binders, which included more than 200,000 sighting reports alone — historical and contemporary, foreign and domestic, indexed with credibility ratings — the paper stack literally stretched six feet high. Compressed into an electronic “Data Warehouse” divided into 11 separate categories, the themes go far beyond the typical lights-in-the-sky/radar reports, and include surprises like “the hematological, immunological, neuro-anatomical, and biochemical sequelae of close encounters in witnesses.”

Lacatski went on to personally brief Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on AAWSAP’s progress. Exactly which details Lacatski shared remain unanswered, but we’d all love to hear what the SecDef thought about the Skinwalker Ranch portion. Because if the stories are true, whatever else this phenomenon involves, it’s managed to churn practically every aboriginal legend and lizard-brain archetype into a witches’ brew potent enough to scare the living shit out of any God-fearing member of Congress contemplating investing additional federal dollars in the deep dive. UFOs, poltergeists, cryptids, orbs, interdimensional portals – you name it, this 480-acre spread is the Lollapalooza of paranormal activity. And the authors don’t duck it.

Located in northeastern Utah, Skinwalker Ranch was ground zero for AAWSAP’s full-court press into the void. The DIA employed a spectrum of resources — from state-of-the-art recording devices to the “biosensors” of imported seeds and plants — in order to measure the electromagnetic dynamics at play and assess their impact on DNA.

The darkest material takeaways from Skinwalker Ranch, alongside the accompanying and related UAP studies, are somewhere between Black Mirror and Stephen King. Writes Lacatski of the final analysis, submitted to the DIA in September 2010: “The report stated bluntly that the UAP phenomenon is a threat to human health and well-being. The AAWSAP-BAASS Data Warehouse comprised many hundreds of UAP-human interactions that were classified as the close encounters involving injury or death to the witness.”

Furthermore, Lacatski adds, documenting the associated eruptions of Sjogren’s syndrome, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis, Myasthenia Gravis and a mouthful of other autoimmune disorders I can’t begin to pronounce “can be considered one of the signature advances from the AAWSAP program.” Because not only did these maladies strike field researchers at Skinwalker Ranch, “participants have transmitted the contagion to family members …”

Quantifiable medical diagnoses, however, weren’t the only shadows to follow “five out of five intelligence professionals” out of Utah and back to their families scattered across the country. The Skinwalker authors raise the prospect of an “infectious agent model” haunting the ranch, a “hitchhiker” mystery that apparently induces “profoundly altered perceptual environments” among the afflicted. In addition to witnessing UFO/orb activity and poltergeist rabble, “infected” family members have reported multiple sightings of “dogmen,” bipedal werewolf-looking phantasms stalking their residences, in darkness and in broad daylight.

Needless to say, these assertions have evoked quite the buzz, much of it in awe of the balls it takes for a former DIA operations manager to put cards like these on the table (Lacatski retired in 2016).  The book’s revelations have also placed Skinwalker researchers under a microscope. Of special note is Dr. Eric Davis, the physicist at the center of the “Core Secrets” notes debate.

In that controversy, a former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2002 allegedly confides his frustration to Davis over being iced out of a UFO special access program in the custody of an unnamed defense contractor. Davis, who has neither confirmed nor denied the authenticity of those conversation transcriptions since they emerged online in 2019, went on to make news again in 2020. That’s when he told the NYT he’d given a classified meeting to Defense Department officials about crash retrievals of “off-world vehicles not made on this earth.”

Shortly after Skinwalkers at the Pentagon published, John Greenewald, founder of the massive online repository of government documents called Black Vault, attacked Davis’ credibility. “No,” he declared in a podcast, “I don’t believe Dr. Eric Davis is as connected as some people want us to believe.” Greenewald dismissed Davis’ claims of giving hush-hush testimony on recovered UFOs to the Pentagon as fantasy, maintaining that such an explosive secret couldn’t even make it to a classified hearing.

Davis’ acidic riposte on social media was stunning in its ferocity. He called Greenewald “a know-it-all liar” who “needs to seek medical attention right away to get treatment for his ongoing dick-in-mouth disease.”

Yep, there’s a lot of incendiary and target-rich content to unpack in Skinwalkers at the Pentagon, so expect the aftershocks to linger. And in touting the diligence of the AAWSAP effort, the authors contend that researching UFOs without also examining the phenomenon’s impact on human consciousness is a fool’s errand. Therefore, given the culturally volatile issues raised by the Skinwalker side of AAWSAP’s research, Lacatski, Kelleher and Knapp also advocate scrapping congressional funding altogether and turning exclusively to private-sector financing.

That scenario raises myriad transparency obstacles for the public interest, although the DIA has hoarded AAWSAP’s Data Warehouse for more than a decade now without showing any results to the taxpayers who made it possible. Going forward at this point without an honest and open evaluation of what we’re already sitting on is a travesty of scientific inquiry. We paid $22M for this stuff, and we deserve to know who made the call to hide it from us. What is their justification? What or who are they trying to protect? Before deciding to support additional research for data nobody wants to share, we’d better get some answers from the DIA first.