The United States Defence Intelligence Agency has one great fear: that someone, somewhere, has an unknown advantage … a secret weapon that could topple the world's sole superpower from its perch. So when it hears talk of UFOs, stargates and warp drives — it takes it seriously.
Seriously enough to spend some serious money on.
Documents released under a freedom of information request confirm the DIA went full "X-Files" and established teams to examine almost every seemingly outlandish idea it encountered.
Just in case.
Now Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy director Steven Aftergood has gotten his hands on some previously classified papers that reveal just how far the DIA was prepared to go.
The declassified documents don't reveal a whole lot more than the titles assigned to 38 secret research programs. But they do detail some of the speculative subjects that were being investigated.
Aftergood wasn't impressed.
"I think anyone who looks at these titles will scratch their heads and wonder what on earth the Defence Intelligence Agency was thinking," science and technology blog Motherboard reports Aftergood as saying. "These are the kinds of topics you pursue when you have more money than you know what to do with."
Nuclear-powered deep space propulsion. Invisibility cloaking. Wormholes through space. Biomaterials.
The existence of research projects involving the likes of NASA, DARPA and private firms probing these subjects are already widely known. But their potential ties to US Defence Department 'black money' was not.
For example, in 2008 it was revealed NASA had engaged in serious studies of the potential for interstellar warp drive engines. Another science paper was released by researchers Harold White, titled Warp Field Mechanics 101. But a follow-up project to create a warp field by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in 2013 produced "inconclusive" results.
From the outset it seemed a far fetched idea for NASA to be studying. But not so much if prodded — and funded — by the DIA.
And they have competition.
Icarus Interstellar director and theoretical astrophysicist Richard Obousy is also looking into the idea of interstellar warp drives powered by dark energy through alternate universes. But he's also branching out into the slightly more practical idea of nuclear propulsion, among others.
Stargates leapt into the public conscious out of nowhere with the release of the 1994 movie Stargate, and the follow-up long-running TV series of the same name.
We don't even know if wormholes actually exist. But EarthTech International Inc hasn't hidden the fact it's been looking into the idea of creating one capable of traversing space and time. "Our research interests include theories of space-time, gravity and cosmology; studies of the quantum vacuum; modifications of standard theories of electrodynamics; interstellar flight science; and the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, specifically as these topics may apply to developing innovative space propulsion and sources of energy," its website boasts.
And a multitude of studies, from just as many sources, have been exploring ways of turning Harry Potter's invisibility cloak into reality.
'ANOMALOUS AEROSPACE THREATS'
"I loved science fiction when I was younger," Aftergood told Motherboard. "Today I love good government. So I was not especially amused."
US politics is a murky affair. Particularly when it comes to spending defence funds. For example, military bases aren't necessarily placed where they're needed. Instead, they often go into the electorates of the most powerful lobbyists.
And the DIA's secret research funding appears no different.
The New York Times reported in 2017 that much of the Pentagon's $US22 million of 'black money' research into UFOs was untraceable.
The Anomalous Aerospace Threats unit lasted just five years before it was shut down in 2012. And not all of its spend was classified 'top secret'.
Turns out, much of the money was channelled through then Senate majority leader Democrat Harry Reid to his close friend, Robert Bigelow — an alien visitation conspiracy theorist also involved in developing space habitats for NASA.