The CIA Has Declassified 2,780 Pages of UFO-Related Documents, and They’re Now Free to Download

Every­body knows that UFO stands for “uniden­ti­fied fly­ing object.” Coined by the Unit­ed States Air Force in 1953, the term has come to stand for a wide range of phe­nom­e­na that sug­gest we’ve been con­tact­ed by alien civ­i­liza­tions — and in fact has even spawned the field of ufol­o­gy, ded­i­cat­ed to the inves­ti­ga­tion of such phe­nom­e­na. But times change, and with them the approved ter­mi­nol­o­gy. These days the U.S. gov­ern­ment seems to pre­fer the abbre­vi­a­tion UAP, which stands for “uniden­ti­fied aer­i­al phe­nom­e­non.” Those three words may sound more pre­cise­ly descrip­tive, but they also pro­vide some dis­tance from the decades of not entire­ly desir­able cul­tur­al asso­ci­a­tions built up around the con­cept of the UFO.

Yet this is hard­ly a bad time to be a ufol­o­gist. “Buried in the lat­est fed­er­al omnibus spend­ing bill signed into law on Decem­ber 27, 2020 — notable for its inclu­sion of coro­n­avirus relief — is a man­date that may bring UFO watch­ers one step clos­er to find­ing out whether the gov­ern­ment has been watch­ing the skies,” writes Men­tal Floss’ Jake Rossen.

That same site’s Ellen Gutoskey fol­lowed up with an announce­ment that the CIA’s entire col­lec­tion of declas­si­fied UFO doc­u­ments is now avail­able to down­load. You can do so at The Black Vault, a clear­ing house for UFO relat­ed-infor­ma­tion run by ufol­o­gist John Gree­newald Jr. These doc­u­ments come to 2,780 pages in total, the release of which neces­si­tat­ed the fil­ing of more than 10,000 Free­dom of Infor­ma­tion Act reports.

Samir Fer­dowsi at Vice’s Moth­er­board quotes Gree­newald describ­ing the process as “like pulling teeth,” with results more impres­sive in quan­ti­ty than qual­i­ty. “The CIA has made it INCREDIBLY dif­fi­cult to use their records in a rea­son­able man­ner,” Gree­newals writes. “They offer a for­mat that is very out­dat­ed (mul­ti page .tif) and offer text file out­puts, large­ly unus­able,” all of which “makes it very dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to see the doc­u­ments, and use them, for any research pur­pose.” He’s thus also made avail­able a ver­sion of the CIA’s declas­si­fied UFO doc­u­ments con­vert­ed into 713 PDFs. The Black Vault advis­es down­load­ers to bear in mind that “many of these doc­u­ments are poor­ly pho­to­copied, so the com­put­er can only ‘see’ so much to con­vert for search­ing.”

But even with these dif­fi­cul­ties, UFO enthu­si­asts have already turned up mate­r­i­al of inter­est: “From a dis­pute with a Bosn­ian fugi­tive with alleged E.T. con­tact to mys­te­ri­ous mid­night explo­sions in a small Russ­ian town, the reports def­i­nite­ly take read­ers for a wild ride,” writes Fer­dowsi. “One of the most inter­est­ing doc­u­ments in the drop, Gree­newald said, involved the Assis­tant Deputy Direc­tor for Sci­ence & Tech­nol­o­gy being hand-deliv­ered some piece of infor­ma­tion on a UFO in the 1970s.” This doc­u­ment, like most of the oth­ers, comes with many parts blacked out, but as Gree­newald recent­ly tweet­ed, “I have an open ‘Manda­to­ry Declas­si­fi­ca­tion Review’ request to HOPEFULLY get some of these redac­tions lift­ed, so we can see what was hand deliv­ered, and what his advice may be.” Ufol­o­gy demands a great deal of curios­i­ty, but an even greater deal of patience. Enter the Black Vault here.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

The CIA Puts Hun­dreds of Declas­si­fied Doc­u­ments About UFO Sight­ings Online, Plus 10 Tips for Inves­ti­gat­ing Fly­ing Saucers

12 Mil­lion Declas­si­fied CIA Doc­u­ments Now Free Online: Secret Tun­nels, UFOs, Psy­chic Exper­i­ments & More

What Do Aliens Look Like? Oxford Astro­bi­ol­o­gists Draw a Pic­ture, Based on Dar­win­ian The­o­ries of Evo­lu­tion

The Appeal of UFO Nar­ra­tives: Inves­tiga­tive Jour­nal­ist Paul Beban Vis­its Pret­ty Much Pop #14

Richard Feyn­man: The Like­li­hood of Fly­ing Saucers

Carl Jung’s Fas­ci­nat­ing 1957 Let­ter on UFOs

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall, on Face­book, or on Insta­gram.

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