The Skinwalker Ranch's Legacy

2017: The genesis of a disclosure, Part 2


Published 2023-09-18 at 01:47

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In 2007, Defense Intelligence Agency program manager Dr. James T. Lacatski, but most importantly contracting officer representative (COR), security coordinator, and counterintelligence coordinator for the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP), was looking into strange stories and sightings in and around a property known as Skinwalker Ranch in northeast Utah.

Lacatski and some Pentagon colleagues read and discussed a book, Hunt for the Skinwalker, and wondered if the unusual activity studied by a scientific team at Skinwalker Ranch could pose both a threat and an opportunity for national defense. In the summer of 2007, Lacatski met with the owner of the ranch, Las Vegas businessman Robert Bigelow. Before NIDS was disbanded in 2004, Bigelow conducted research on a variety of paranormal subjects, such as cryptid encounters, cattle mutilations, and especially UFOs. NIDS' most famous research site was the Skinwalker Ranch. 

Picture by Christoph Partsch, Pixabay

James Lacatski

During his visit, Lacatski, made a strange observation that shook him to the core. This experience led directly to the creation and funding of AAWSAP.

In an interview with ufologist Joe Murgia, former AAWSAP contractor and astrophysicist Eric Davis shared what his colleagues had told him about the DIA ((Defense Intelligence Agency)) scientist's experience: “In the double-wide observation trailer where the NIDS staff was housed, a 3D object appeared in the air in front of him and changed shapes like a topological changing figure. It went from a pretzel shape to a Mobius strip shape. It was 3D and multicolored. Then it disappeared ».

According to Senator Harry Reid, everything that happened at Skinwalker was enough to convince the DIA to properly investigate paranormal phenomena and UFOs. "'Something had to be done about it. Someone should study it. I was convinced he was right," Reid told New York Mag

The solution came from James Lacatski himself : “Any terminology related to UFOs or UAPs has been deleted from the AAWSAP solicitation. Instead, as originally stated in the supplemental appropriations bill, "The primary focus is on breakthrough technologies and applications that create discontinuities in current evolving technology trends. The focus is not on extrapolations of current aerospace technology. (...) According to Reid, Lacatski told him, "What I'm going to do is prepare something for you that anyone can look at, it's strictly scientific”.

The purpose of AAWSAP - as well as AATIP - was indeed the study of UFOs, but in accordance with a common practice within the intelligence agencies, and in order to conceal the interest in UFOs, the terms are not clearly stated, probably to prevent FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests from uncovering secret UFO study programs...

Statements of Ojectives for the AAWSAP, USG

Skinwalkers at the Pentagon

Lacatski shared the story of this secret study in a book, Skinwalkers at the Pentagon, co-authored by Dr. Colm Kelleher, a biochemist with a fifteen-year research career in cellular and molecular biology who worked for contractor BAASS (Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies) and Nevada-based star journalist George Knapp.

Kelleher was responsible for selecting and hiring more than 50 scientists, investigators, data systems experts and others who spent three years studying UFO cases, interviewing eyewitnesses, collecting and analyzing physical evidence and building what could be the world's largest UFO/UAP database for the D.I.A.

In an exclusive conversation with George Knapp, Dr. Kelleher describes the breadth of information collected by the BAASS team.

"Yes, we had multiple streams of UFO-related cases coming in," Kelleher says. "We were also looking at multiple databases, some of which were pilot databases, military pilots, civilian pilots. And we were recording a very large number of cases. We had what we call the data warehouse which has 11 separate databases of UAP cases from around the world and the United States. And we actually have a database of several hundred cases involving individuals, both here and outside the United States, who had encountered UFOs and had had physiological effects, pathological effects, and medical effects, some of which were quite serious."

In addition to the general topic of UFO/UAP cases, AAWSAP was able to also study other mysteries, some of which are directly related to national security and public safety. Encounters with UFOs often led to strange phenomena "attaching" to military personnel and other visitors who frequented the Ranch, and took "something" home to their families - a phenomenon dubbed the hitchhiker syndrome. Kelleher reports that DIA personnel deployed to the ranch all experienced profound anomalies while on the property.

A naval intelligence officer, quoted under the pseudonym Jonathan Axelrod in "Skinwalker at the Pentagon" (Lacatski, Kelleher & Knapp, 2021), a seasoned engineer who was to be promoted to the rank of two-star admiral in naval intelligence and who held a Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information (TS SCI ) clearance, encountered an anomaly on the ranch that greatly frightened him and his teammates. But this incident was only the first in a series of very strange occurrences. Less than a month after his return to Virginia, numerous paranormal phenomena erupted in Axelrod's home.

For several years after his July 2009 trip and subsequent trips to the Ranch, his wife and teenage children were confronted with nightmarish "dog-men" appearing in their garden; blue, red, yellow and white orbs; black shadows standing over their bed, and loud, unexplained footsteps emanating from the staircase of their home.

Review of special access program request, USG


In July 2009, according to the Washington Post, BAASS provided a comprehensive report to DIA at the end of the first year option of the AAWSAP contract. The 494-page "Ten Month Report'' consisted of strategic plans, project summaries, data tables, graphs, descriptions of biological effects in the field, physical characteristics, detection methods, theoretical capabilities, witness interviews, photographs, and case synopses - each explicitly concerning unexplained aerial phenomena.

Throughout the report, although a "sponsor" is mentioned, DIA is never explicitly named.

The first few pages of the Ten Month Report list the names of every contractor working for BAASS with the appropriate security clearances to access the program. Among dozens of cleared names, some of those listed are very familiar to the UFO community, including Puthoff, Davis, Jacques Vallée and Kelleher. 

Some of the most mind-blowing contents of the 2009 BAASS Decadal Report include : 

● An overview of the BAASS Physics Division's efforts to conduct research on advanced aerospace vehicles, including the development of standardization for measuring physical effects and signatures associated with UAP.

● An overview of BAASS research to measure effects on biological organisms from UAP.

● The mention that Skinwalker Ranch in Utah is a "possible laboratory for studying other intelligences and possible interdimensional phenomena."

● Strategic plans to hold a series of intellectual discussion forums for a wide audience regarding "potential disclosure of an extraterrestrial presence."

● Plans to create a "program on the medical and physiological effects of UAP".

● A request for Project Blue Book files that have not been made public.

Throughout the report, an unusual terminology takes over from the traditional UFO: UAP, a less problematic acronym, free of the ufological cultural baggage that the term UFO carried with it. However, no direct references to foreign advanced aerospace weapons systems (terrestrial), or to proposed technological innovations based on current industry trends - perhaps a clever way of sidestepping the question of reverse engineering, which had not yet resurfaced...

What’s more, at the end of the two-year program, more than 100 separate technical reports, some of which were hundreds of pages long, were submitted to the Defense Intelligence Agency. Among them was a 149-page report on the Soviet Union UAP investigation, and the Russian Federation's that followed. Another detailed the design and construction of a working prototype for an autonomous platform for monitoring unidentified aerial phenomena.

The idea of using an aerospace research project as a cover for a secret UFO program is not new, according to Neil Gordon, an investigator for the POGO (Project on Government Oversight), a U.S. NGO that monitors U.S. projects and the use of public funds.  “It all sounds very familiar" he said. Gordon, whose area of expertise is federal contractor misconduct, contractor accountability and government privatization, says running the commercial-in-confidence program through AATIP is consistent with the way DoD handles programs it wants to keep secret. "Whether it's fair or not is another story," Gordon said, "but it all seems very common for the way black budget programs work."

“DIA may have had extensive access to UFO materials, but because all the data technically belonged to BAASS, under the Economic Espionage Act of 1996, disclosing proprietary materials provided to the government in confidence is a federal crime. The DIA UFO program was essentially set up to circumvent FOIA requests and avoid having to discuss UFOs publicly."

In the New Yorker, Gideon Lewis-Kraus recounts: "As one former government official told me, “The report came in here and I read it all and immediately concluded that releasing it would be a disaster”. In November 2009, the Department of Defense peremptorily denied the request for SAP status”. Special Access Programs in the U.S. federal government are security protocols that provide highly classified information with safeguards and access restrictions that exceed those of ordinary classified (collateral) information. SAPs range from black projects to routine but particularly sensitive operations.

The Nimitz

In 2010, Lue Elizondo restricted the overall program to its military ufological component via the Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program, or AATIP, focusing on the national security implications of military UAP encounters. According to Elizondo, the program studied a number of incidents in depth, including what later became known as the Nimitz incident.

Previous part: AAWSAP, the Predecessor of Lue Elizondo’s Advanced Aerospace Threat Identification Program.

Next week, Part 3 : The Nimitz UFO Incident

Translated from French by Guillaume Fournier Airaud

Main picture: Personne Sous Une Arche Délicate La Nuit, by pixabay

Thibaut Canuti

Thibaut Canuti is a contemporary historian and a graduate of the École Nationale Supérieure des Sciences de l'Information et des Bibliothèques. He has written several books, including "Un fait maudit" and the two-volume "Histoire de l'ufologie française," authored numerous articles, and participated in various conferences. Thibaut is interested in all aspects of the UFO phenomenon and ufology and serves as an editor and writer.