The Pentagon on Monday released three declassified videos that show US Navy pilots encountering what appear to be unidentified flying objects.

The grainy videos, which the Pentagon says depict “unexplained aerial phenomena”, were previously leaked, with some believing they show alien unidentified flying objects (UFOs).

The Pentagon said it released the footage to “to clear up any misconceptions by the public on whether or not the footage that has been circulating was real or whether or not there is more to the videos,” a statement on the Department of Defense website said.

“After a thorough review, the department has determined that the authorized release of these unclassified videos does not reveal any sensitive capabilities or systems, and does not impinge on any subsequent investigations of military air space incursions by unidentified aerial phenomena,” the statement said.

The videos had been “circulating in the public domain after unauthorized releases in 2007 and 2017”, the statement said, adding that “the aerial phenomena observed in the videos remain characterized as ‘unidentified’”.

The three videos show what the pilots saw during training flights in 2004 and 2015. Two of the videos were published by the New York Times in 2017. The other video was released by the To the Stars Academy of Arts and Science group, a media and private science organization.

The release of the videos by the Pentagon adds to the legitimacy of the the videos and will spur more speculation that humans have recently interacted with extra terrestrials. The Navy has guidelines for reporting UFO sightings.

In response, former Senate democratic leader Harry Reid, who hails from Nevada, tweeted the three videos “only scratches the surface of research and materials available”.

I’m glad the Pentagon is finally releasing this footage, but it only scratches the surface of research and materials available. The U.S. needs to take a serious, scientific look at this and any potential national security implications. The American people deserve to be informed. https://t.co/1XNduvmP0u

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