But there is no disputing the role DeLonge played in moving UFOs into the realm of more serious discussion. When DeLonge was setting up To the Stars Academy five years ago, he began to assemble a team of consultants not unlike the group Bigelow had brought together some two decades before, who had connections in the shadowy recesses of the national security agencies needed to unearth new information to help prove his theories. In some cases, they were the exact same people.
“From day one, I figured I needed knights of the round table,” DeLonge told me. “I needed a whole Camelot of scholars and each of them had a different piece that really helped me. It was the military, it was intelligence, it was engineering. It was executive branch.”
One of the first people DeLonge recruited as the academy’s vice president for science and technology was Puthoff, the former Stanford engineer who had carried out experiments in the ’70s for the CIA. After NIDS shut down in 2004, Puthoff became one of the top consultants for Bigelow Aerospace, which, in time, became the primary contractor of Reid’s secret Pentagon program. On Bigelow’s behalf, Puthoff commissioned 38 technical reports, worth a total of $22 million, with sci-fi-like titles such as “Warp Drive, Dark Energy, and The Manipulation of Extra Dimensions” and “Traversable Wormholes, Stargates and Negative Energy.”
“There’s a lot we don’t know,” Puthoff recently told me in a telephone interview from Austin, Texas, where he runs a consulting firm EarthTech International. “But on the other hand, there’s a lot we do know, even if it’s not public.”
Another of DeLonge’s recruits was Jim Semivan, who retired in 2007 after 25 years in the CIA’s clandestine service, where he helped spy on adversaries such as Russia, China, North Korea and Iran. Semivan met DeLonge through Alexander, the Army officer who helped found NIDS with Bigelow. Semivan says he had no official role in studying UFOs for the government, “but I ran into a lot of things that were very strange.” He also told me he had a UFO encounter with his wife that he has never discussed publicly.
Semivan wrote the introduction to DeLonge’s book Sekret Machines: Chasing Shadows, the first volume in a series that DeLonge published in 2016. “UAPs are real. The Phenomenon is real,” Semivan wrote. “There is no way to deny or refute all the evidence accumulated over just the last few decades alone. But what is the Phenomenon, exactly?”
“No one knows what the real story is,” Semivan, who is vice president of operations of DeLonge’s company, told me. “Everyone is in the dark on this.”
DeLonge also enlisted Steve Justice, an aerospace engineer who had spent decades overseeing classified development programs at Lockheed Martin’s famed Skunk Works. Over the years, fellow engineers and other colleagues Justice respected in the cloistered world of the Pentagon’s “black” programs shared with him their experiences with UFO sightings—“some people that I would trust my life with that saw something they could not explain.” But he told me that he remained dubious: “I was in the eye-roll category on this.”
Then in the mid-1990s, after the Skunk Works moved from its original 320-acre location in Burbank to Palmdale, Justice took it upon himself to become its unofficial historian. During the move, he recalled, he came across files from the late Clarence Leonard “Kelly” Johnson, a legendary aeronautical engineer who had helped design the U-2 spy plane and the SR-71 Blackbird.
“There was this one memo that was stapled together, dated from the 1950s,” Justice said. “It was titled something like ‘sighting of an unidentified flying object by certain Lockheed personnel.’ So I flipped it open. The first page is a memo from Kelly Johnson to somebody, I believe, at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, saying ‘Some of us saw this, wanted to send it to you in case it is of interest.’ It was several pages of Kelly Johnson where he was at his ranch and had seen something and drew sketches of it.”
There were other eyewitnesses, too. “What I found really interesting was there were like three or so memos written by members of his flight test team, who were [flying] up in a Constellation and they say the same thing that Kelly did,” Justice said. “Each one of them kind of noted that they were skeptics of this and they had to go back and think about this some more because they couldn’t explain what they saw.”