The former director of the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (ATTIP), the secretive Pentagon unit that studied UFOs, says there is “compelling” evidence the flying objects exist and have been seen over U.S. airspace.

Luis Elizondo made the comments in a CBS interview aired on Sunday, weeks ahead of a government report on UFOs being released. After being asked by Bill Whittaker on CBS’s 60 Minutes whether UFOs—or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs)—were real, Elizondo said: “Bill, I think we’re beyond that already. The gov has already stated for the record that they’re real. I’m not telling you that, the United States government is telling you that.”

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UFOs, long dismissed and relegated to movies and science fiction, have begun to shed the farce label in recent years after the release of footage of high-profile U.S. military encounters with aircraft of unknown origin.

In June 2020, tucked into the 2021 Intelligence Authorization Act, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) added language requesting that the director of national intelligence and the secretary of defense create a report with “a detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence reporting.” Two months later, the Pentagon followed suit with the new, more serious approach, creating a task force to investigate the encounters by U.S. military aircraft. The report is due to be released by next month.

Rubio has previously told Newsweek he wants to get past UFO jokes to make sure the national security of the U.S. isn’t threatened.

In the Sunday CBS interview, Whittaker tells Elizondo that UFOs being real sounds “nutty, wacky.”

“Look, Bill, I’m not, I’m not telling you that, that it doesn’t sound wacky. What I’m telling you, it’s real. The question is, what is it? What are its intentions? What are its capabilities?” Elizondo said.

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“Imagine a technology that can do 6-to-700 g-forces, that can fly at 13,000 miles an hour, that can evade radar and that can fly through air and water and possibly space. And oh, by the way, has no obvious signs of propulsion, no wings, no control surfaces and yet still can defy the natural effects of Earth’s gravity. That’s precisely what we’re seeing.

Asked by Whittaker what he says to skeptics, Elizondo said: “In some cases there are simple explanations for what people are witnessing. But there are some that, that are not. We’re not just simply jumping to a conclusion that’s saying, ‘Oh, that’s a UAP out there.'”

“We’re going through our due diligence. Is it some sort of new type of cruise missile technology that China has developed? Is it some sort of high-altitude balloon that’s conducting reconnaissance? Ultimately when you have exhausted all those what-ifs and you’re still left with the fact that this is in our airspace and it’s real, that’s when it becomes compelling, and that’s when it becomes problematic,” he added.

The former official spent two decades running military intelligence operations in Afghanistan, the Middle East and Guantanamo Bay. In 2010, he took over the Pentagon’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program (AATIP), part of a $22 million program sponsored by then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to investigate UFOs. But many in the Pentagon dismissed Elizondo’s findings, and AATIP was dropped in 2012.

Elizondo said he and a few others continued to keep investigating independently.

Christopher Mellon, the former deputy assistant secretary of defense for intelligence for presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, grew concerned that nothing was being done about UAPs. Mellon then helped Elizondo elevate the issue in the department and actually get it to the Secretary of Defense by leaking three Navy videos appearing to show UFOs to the New York Times, thrusting UFOs back into the limelight.

In August 2020, the funding came back and AATTP was re-established—now under the banner of the UAP task force—and service members now are encouraged to report strange encounters.

Several navy pilots have reported sightings of suspicious objects that defied the laws of physics on some of their missions.

Former Navy pilot Lieutenant Ryan Graves told CBS his F/A-18F squadron began seeing UAPs hovering over restricted airspace southeast of Virginia Beach in 2014.

He says his pilots see them off the Atlantic Coast all the time. “Every day. Every day for at least a couple years,” he said.

The program played a video of one being spotted by Graves’ squadron off the coast of Jacksonville, Florida in 2015. Sounding shocked, the pilots are heard saying: “Look at that thing, it’s rotating! My gosh! They’re all going against the wind, the wind’s 120 knots to the west. Look at that thing dude!”

Graves said pilots believe these objects are secret U.S. or enemy spy technology. He said it was most likely a threat observation program, probably from Russia or China.

Another two pilots told the program that training about 100 miles southwest of San Diego, they saw Tic Tac-like object that mirrored their moves before disappearing abruptly. Just seconds later, the same object was detected by a navy ship 60 miles away, they said.

The government has mainly ignored UFOs since 1969, when it closed its Project Blue Book investigation. It logged 12,618 UFO sightings between 1947 and 1969.

This content was originally published here.