UFOs, the Pentagon, and the enigma of Bob Lazar

Will a Senate report solve a Nevada UFO mystery? 

"Go Fast," was one of three videos selected for release after official review by multiple government organizations. (U.S. Navy video screengrab)

This month, a highly anticipated report is slated to be delivered to the United States Senate on the subject of Unidentified Aerial Phenomena (UAP) — what we used to call Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs). The report is to be made public (although it may have a classified annex) and was requested as part of the Intelligence Authorization Act attached to a COVID-19 relief bill. Its purpose is to provide lawmakers with the best information available from the Pentagon and the intelligence community about incidents that appear to involve vehicles with amazing flight characteristics far beyond those of our most advanced aircraft. 

But, this report should also shed light on — and, in theory, resolve — a thirty-year old, major UFO puzzle with Nevada origins: did a young physicist named Bob Lazar actually work on captured extraterrestrial spacecraft at a secret government facility called S-4, in Lincoln County near Area 51? 

Lazar surfaced publicly in 1989, when he was interviewed by my former colleague George Knapp of KLAS-TV, Las Vegas. At first, Lazar spoke only in silhouette, and used the pseudonym “Dennis”. Later, he came forward under his own name and with no disguise. Lazar’s claims were fantastic: that the U.S government had, in its possession, nine crashed or captive spacecraft from another world — at least one of them shaped like an actual saucer. Lazar claimed he’d been part of a team hired by the government to “reverse-engineer” the craft, which would unlock for American scientists the propulsion secrets they needed to pave a path to the stars. 

Lazar said he was fired from his job at the clandestine military base because he brought some friends into the desert near Area 51 one evening to surreptitiously watch a saucer being test flown. A Lincoln County deputy caught the group leaving the area and the deputy ratted Lazar out to the government. 

Lazar’s story combined the most compelling elements of alien abduction stories and shadow-government conspiracy theories. The tale had a profound influence on popular culture from cartoons like American Dad to movies like Paul & Independence Day. 

While publicity surrounding Lazar’s amazing claims literally put Area 51 on the map, it also shined a spotlight on himself, and it wasn’t long before people started picking apart his story. Places where Lazar claimed to have gone to college — like CalTech and MIT — said they’d never heard of him. About a year after his initial TV interview, Lazar found himself criminally charged for helping operate what prosecutors described as an illegal “high-tech whore house.” That didn’t help his credibility much. 

As his case worked through the legal system, Lazar produced one of the few bits of physical evidence that he’d worked at a secret base in Nevada. It was a W-2 form, reflecting income of less than one thousand dollars, purportedly paid to him by the Department of Naval Intelligence.

Even that form was questioned over its authenticity. Skeptics pointed out that there’s an Office of Naval Intelligence within the Department of the Navy — but not a Department of Naval Intelligence. 

I covered Lazar’s criminal case as a reporter for KTNV-TV in 1990. I remember him pleading guilty to pandering and I recall thinking: if his saucer stories were true, and he’s typical of the scientists we have working on the most significant scientific project in history — then our planet might be in deep doo-do. 

Yet, credibility issues aside, and despite a dearth of physical evidence and lack of corroboration from other scientists, Lazar’s astounding tale has not only survived over three decades — but thrived. 

His claims received renewed attention in 2018 thanks to a documentary produced by movie maker Jeremy Corbell. The documentary — widely viewed on Netflix — led to Lazar appearing on the Joe Rogan podcast, possibly the most popular podcast on the planet (this planet, anyway). Corbell, meanwhile, has been interviewed multiple times recently on network news talk shows. He is the source of at least one, recently leaked UAP video that depicts what appear to be triangular shapes moving through the sky. 

Corbell — in the interviews I’ve seen — has not claimed the UAP videos show alien intelligence at work. But he did say in his documentary that he believed there was more evidence Bob Lazar was telling the truth than there was that he was lying. 

Far be it from me to suggest these aerial objects could not be of extraterrestrial origin. They may very well be. But, I would caution people inclined to rule out earthly explanations not to jump to conclusions. Just because you don’t know what something is doesn’t mean it is what you wish it was. UK science writer Mick West has provided very plausible terrestrial interpretations of the most recent UAP videos making rounds on TV, including the video of flying triangles

The request for the Senate UAP study makes no mention of alien intelligence or extraterrestrial space vehicles. But the language of the request calls for such a comprehensive study that the results should either confirm or debunk Lazar’s claims. 

The Director of National Intelligence, working with the Secretary of Defense and other agencies, is directed to provide a report that includes (in part): 

“A detailed analysis of unidentified aerial phenomena data and intelligence reporting collected or held by the Office of Naval Intelligence, including data and intelligence reporting held by the Unidentified Aerial Phenomena Task Force;

A detailed analysis of unidentified phenomena data collected by: 

  1. geospatial intelligence; 
  2. signals intelligence; 
  3. human intelligence; and 
  4. measurement and signals intelligence; 

A detailed analysis of data by the FBI, which was derived from intrusions of unidentified aerial phenomena data over restricted United States airspace”

Also to be included in the report:

“Identification of potential aerospace or other threats posed by the unidentified aerial phenomena to national security, and an assessment of whether this unidentified aerial phenomena activity may be attributed to one or more foreign adversaries; 

Identification of any incidents or patterns that indicate a potential adversary may have achieved breakthrough aerospace capabilities that could put United States strategic or conventional forces at risk.”

Thus, the upcoming Senate report has the potential to paint Lazar as an unfairly maligned interstellar whistleblower with more impact than Edward Snowden, Karen Silkwood and Daniel Ellsberg combined — or suggest he’s either a liar or a loon. 

Assuming Lazar has been telling the truth — can the report avoid conceding that? Wouldn’t the Pentagon have to say, at the very least, “Well, Senators, we’re not sure what’s causing all these recent UAP sightings, but we can tell you that we have an alien technology in our possession capable of performing the same kind of high-speed, gravity-defying maneuvers we’re seeing in these videos.” 

Of course, such news would be the biggest story since Genesis. 

I’m not getting vibes that a world-shattering revelation of that scale is about to be made. For example, former President Barack Obama, who was this nation’s commander-in-chief and presumably should know what’s going on, was asked point-blank about UFOs in a recent interview with CBS-TV’s James Corden. 

While Obama said he was aware of real incidents involving unknown objects in the sky making incredible, unexplained maneuvers — he also addressed the issue of aliens and captive alien spacecraft, saying: 

“When I came into office, I asked (about aliens), right? I was like, alright, is there the lab somewhere where we’re keeping the alien specimens and spaceship? They did a little bit of research and the answer was no.”

So, if the upcoming Senate report does not vindicate Lazar, what will it say about him? Will he even be mentioned? Or mentioned as a mere minor player who made extraordinary claims but was an ordinary employee at Area 51 who never got near a saucer because there weren’t any? 

My suspicion is the report will contain new details about many incidents already reported, and new reports of other sightings that have been previously secret. There will likely be some events that seem to defy conventional explanation. 

But, I think people who are expecting the military to finally provide evidence validating Lazar’s resume as a saucer mechanic will be disappointed. 

One thing you can say about Lazar after all these years: he was unequivocal. Lazar did not drop vague, tantalizing hints (as some have recently done in the media) that American scientists have possible “exotic materials” that need further testing to determine whether they’re of alien origin. Lazar flat out said our scientists have nine captive alien craft (nine!), that they’ve been studying these craft for more than thirty years, and that he personally wrenched on the machines. 

Based on Obama’s comments, though, I don’t think we’ll see evidence of that in the upcoming report. And if Lazar’s case remains unconfirmed, I fear true believers may decry the Senate report as just another whitewash, a 21st century redux of “Project Bluebook”– which looked at more than 12,000 UFO sightings between 1952 and 1969 and concluded there was no evidence any of them involved extraterrestrial vehicles. 

At the very least, the request for the report indicates the government and military are finally taking a serious and urgent look at what’s causing these phenomena and whether they pose a threat to our security. That’s progress, and that’s good. 

But, if the report comes up short for those expecting proof-positive of alien contact, all I can say is this: the truth is out there. And watch the skies. Keep watching the skies. 

Glen Meek
Glen Meek is an Emmy award-winning former Las Vegas investigative reporter and author who currently lives in Cairo, Egypt.